Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Home  >  Features  >  Annihilating Potential - A Conversation with INVADER ZIM Creator Jhonen Vasquez



Starting out his career in the indie comics world with Johnny The Homicidal Maniac, Jhonen Vasquez rocketed into animation stardom with is very own Nickelodeon creation, Invader Zim! Hot on the heels of a brand new Zim comic from ONI Press, Jhonen sat down with MightyVille's Joe Kach to discuss many of life's finer points, including the unrelenting humor of exploding children.    


MightyVille: Jhonen, thank you for joining us today. It’s an honor for us to be here with you.

Jhonen Vasquez: Thank you for having me have a thing to join. We are all honored, regardless. 

What initially caught my eye about your art was the level of detail on each page. About how long did it take you to complete a page of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac?

On average, I would pencil a page the previous day and ink the next day. So, about two days per page. 




I picture this teenaged, mad genius who was up all night drawing in the gutters of the panels and in the corners of the pages...

Yeah, it was pretty nonstop, even back then. But I had to devote a lot of my time to video games and movies too. And it was exclusively at night. I would start drawing pretty much at night, maybe from like 10PM or midnight, and then I’d be up all night. The sun would come up and then I would sort of move it on to the next day and ink it. But yeah, on average it was about two days – two days per page.  

You coined some interesting colloquialisms – terms I still use. “I stab my head,” “The stink of clean,” “Ride the pig,” “The beast what licked me" ... Where did all that stuff come from?

Dude, it was like mostly with the Johnny books, they weren’t scripted, they were just outlined. So when it came time that night to actually do the writing and fill up the bubbles, it was whatever was going through my head at that moment. It really was. Every now and then it’d be something that I myself would say and just made its way into the book. But for the most part, the weird shit like that was just the first thing that popped into my head and I would giggle at, alone in my room.  




How old were you when you started Johnny?

Around 19...

That led to Invader Zim, as well as other work for Slave Labor Graphics. So, when Nickelodeon approached you to create an animated series, did you have the concept of an inept alien conqueror or was that something they brought to the table?

That was me, growing up pretty much obsessed with Time Life Books and paranormal stuff. You know, Mysteries of the Unexplained. I just love aliens. They had aliens, they had robots, they had science fiction, horror. It was just this big mess of everything that I was obsessed with and still am obsessed with, for the most part, and I just put it into a show. The idea came up pretty much just one night. It was like, “Yeah, that’s all stuff that I want to do.” 




It works remarkably well. As an adult, I laugh. I watch it with my son, and he laughs. It’s phenomenal how you are able to transcend multiple age groups with that show. 

That’s awesome. Yeah, I hear that from people who watch it with their families. People who started watching it when they were teenagers, and then they had kids and then their kids are watching the show. It’s bizarre to think about. I love that it just keeps going. It just keeps spreading like some kind of virus. It’s fifteen years later and it’s still a thing. That’s a huge compliment.  




You’ve worked on M.O.D.O.K., Wolverine, and of course, Zim. If all three were in a cage death-match, who would win?

Oh man ... I mean, Zim really doesn’t have anything that can top Wolverine’s regenerating. But, if you obliterated Wolverine, he can’t heal from being nothingness! The whole point of Zim is that he doesn’t win, though. So, by the rules, he wouldn’t win ... unless he accidentally blew one of them up or something. I’d say Wolverine. How would Wolverine even fight M.O.D.O.K. though? There’s a lot of giant head to stab! My Wolverine wouldn’t win though. He was real pathetic.  




I’ve noticed a certain trend in some of your stories. What do you have against children? [Laughs]

You know, I don’t really have anything against children. I just think it’s really funny watching them get blown up. Not in real life!! If I was walking by a bus and it had a bomb on it, and it blew up and a bunch of kids got hurt, I would not be laughing. I would be like, “Oh no! The kids!” But writing about it, that’s just comedy, dude. That’s just hilarious. I think the annihilation of all that potential, that’s just comedy. 




The Invader Zim comic seems to do some arc building, rather than and individual episode-by-episode or issue-by-issue breakdown. Is that intentional?

A little bit. No, you know what, just the first two issues. After that, it’s pretty episodic. I mean, there’ll be nods to jokes and stuff. But it’s kind of important that we just go for the joke and not for the big story. It might get weird to put that kind of emphasis on the character-building with those characters. They’re just funny things. I don’t want to see a whole story arc, issue after issue of ... it’s not that involved. It’s not that kind of universe.  




Last question: what are you checking out these days, whether it’s comics, movies, television, etc.?

For comics ... I just picked up Image’s anthology comic Island #1 and #2. The stuff looked really nice. I was just at a comic shop and it looked really good.  

Thank you so much.

Thank you!


What's been your favorite moment from the new Invader Zim comic? Let us know below! And be sure to check out our FULL VIDEO of Jhonen's Panel at the 2015 Alternative Press Expo here.


More Interviews on MightyVille:

Creative Spike: The James Marsters Interview, Part 2

Ghost of the Vampire: The James Marsters Interview, Part 1

Mighty Artist Spotlight: Ruairi Coleman


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