Who is Jhonen Vasquez?
The creator of the super hit animated series ‘Invader Zim’, Jhonen Vasquez, the cartoonist and comic book writer holds a very special place in the hearts of his millions of young fans who relive their lives through the adventures of their comic book superhero. He considers himself lucky that he gets to do what he loves for a living. Drawing is definitely his first love. Even as a school student he spent much of his class time in drawing and sketching. He frequently drew for his high school’s student newspaper and created his comic character Johnny C during this time. He submitted comic strips for publication in the school newspaper and created comical characters and stories for his friends. He was an avid reader of superhero comics and was especially influenced by ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ comics by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. A highly creative individual, he enrolled at De Anza College to study films but soon quit to become a professional cartoonist. His first comic book was ‘Johnny the Homicidal Maniac’ which was about the adventures of a young man named Johnny C. Jhonen went on to produce other comic books before moving on to create animated television series ‘Invader Zim’ which airs on Nicktoons.
Childhood & Early Life
Jhonen was born and raised in East San Jose, California.
Jhonen spent his childhood in California where he attended Mt. Pleasant High School. He loved drawing from a young age and spent a lot of his time in school doodling on his sketchbooks.
He designed the preliminary sketch of what would become the character Johnny C while at school. He created a number of comic strips that were published in his high school’s newspaper.
His friends used to ask him to draw comic books for them and he created the Happy Noodle Boy on one such request from a friend. He was an avid reader of his older brother’s superhero comics and was particularly influenced by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.
He graduated from high school in 1992 and went to study films at De Anza College. He dropped out before completing his degree.
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He started working as a professional cartoonist after leaving college. He became acquainted with Roman Dirge, Rosearik Rikki and Tavisha Simons at Alternative Press Expo in 1995. These people would work with Jhonen in some of his projects.
In August 1995, his first comic book series ‘Johnny the Homicidal Maniac’ (JTHM) began appearing. The protagonist was a young man named Johnny C who is possessed by supernatural forces which make him commit a string of murders.
The JTHM ran for seven issues which were collected in the trade paperback ‘Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut’ in 1997. The cover of the book had the logo “Z?” which refers to Question Sleep, a reference to insomnia that many of his characters suffer from.
The comic was printed in black and white and had stylized and geometric cartoon characters. One special feature of the comic was that the speech balloons would change according to the tone of the speech. Most of the characters wore T-shirts with messages.
The success of JTHM spawned the spin-off series ‘Squee!’ in 1997 which was published by Slave Labor Graphics. It revolved around an introverted and bullied kid called Squee. Four issues were published which were collected as a trade paperback book called ‘Squee's Wonderful Big Giant Book of Unspeakable Horrors’.
He wrote a doubleshot, full-color comic book, “I Feel Sick’ which revolved around the character Devi D. The book was coloured by his friend Rosearik Rikki Simons. Devi is a tortured artist who tries to maintain her sanity in an insane society.
He worked on a 16-page one-shot comic called ‘The Bad Art Collection’. He used the drawing he had made during his high school years to complete this project.
The success of his comic books made him a celebrity cartoonist and the television network Nickelodeon approached him to create an animated series for them. He created the series ‘Invader Zim’ which premiered in 2001. It was targeted at children in their early teens.
He worked in collaboration with Crab Scrambly to produce the storybook ‘Everything Can Be Beaten’ which was published by Slave Labor in 2002. It is about a strange person who lives in a room and beats kittens all day long.
He designed many of the characters that appear in the animated television series, ‘Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja’ in 2012. It was created by Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas for Disney XD.
He is the creator, character designer and voice actor for the television animated series, ‘Invader Zim’. The protagonist is an extraterrestrial who comes from a planet called Irk. The series aimed at younger teenagers was a hit during its first season and won several awards.
Awards & Achievements
His creation ‘I Feel Sick’ won an International Horror Guild Award in 2000 for Best Illustrated Narrative.
The television series, ‘Invader Zim’ won an Emmy, an Annie and the Award for Best Title Sequence at the World Animation Celebration Awards in 2001.
Personal Life & legacy
He is a very private person and does not share details of his personal life with media. All that is known to the public about his personal life is that he has an older brother.