You wouldn’t assume that a comic strip/short would have a real message, one that could inspire you to think about the world around you in any deep or serious thought, right? Mainly because of the short form these works adhere to, getting something besides a quick chuckle is not only difficult, but nearly impossible as well.
However, with its dark and disturbing setting and wacky characters, “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut,” written & illustrated by Jhonen Vasquez is able to deliver an interesting message about humanity and society.
At the same time, it’s simultaneously scary and entertaining.
Imagine if Tim Burton taught a behavioral science class and that’s ultimately what this trade is- a dark comedy full of Vasquez’s thoughts on the state of humanity.
Regardless of all of that though, reading through this book of shorts, which don’t provide any real continuity, is sometimes a tough endeavor. At times, it becomes difficult to read, mainly because of the long sentences and lack of real action. For a serial killer, Johnny does way too much talking and not enough killing. While there are some treasures to be found in this book, many of the stories have the same message- Johnny is crazy, but he understands that humanity is just as insane as he is, but is scared to show it. Therefore, they must die.
As a result, the stories tend to drag along.
Visually, the character himself is an ode to Burton’s work on “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” yet is rougher, edgier and grittier. Anyone who grew up on Burton and the works of Robert Crumb will find the look of “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac” incredibly pleasing. Above all else, Vasquez proves throughout the course
In spite of that, it feels at times that the words take over the art. Johnny is a wordsmith and a speaker; because of that, there are often a plethora of words flooded on the page, taking away from the visceral, shocking and beautiful black and white pencils on most of the pages. Sometimes cluttered, Vasquez is a solid writer, but needs to work to his strengths more and let his art do more of the talking.
While it may be a nice diversion from mainstream comics, “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut” ends up more as an intriguing experiment than a fleshed out work that can be enjoyed by the masses.