So recently I’ve been looking into getting a dog, and put in an application to meet a few. Got a call back from a woman from a shelter who, without even letting me say more than oh hello, launched into a personal attack on my character because of how unprofessional and disrespectful my voicemail message was.
I explained to her that she was maybe thinking she was in a dimension where a dog who needs a home gives a shit about answering machines, but to no avail. Immediately received a call back from the shelter apologizing for the insane monster woman they were apparently fostering.
Here’s the voice message that drove her to madness.
I've seen you mention working on a JtHM Animated project a few times, and it's gotten me wondering. Is that your new 'pet project', or is there something else you're working on that you're more excited about?
The JTHM feature is a waiting for us to reach it at this moment, what with the things that have to happen before it, like the completion of the SQUEE! animated short.
I’m excited about all these things, and each of them for slightly different reasons. SQUEE! and Johnny, those are all pretty much in our hands, myself and the people making it possible, so that’s great, but we all have to find the time to work on them in between other projects.
There’s another thing going on, bigger in scale but constrained by a more traditional/glacial animation setup. Can’t say much about it, but I’m looking at a character that’s been mostly in my head for the past two years taking her first animated test steps and it’s one of the best feelings of late.
It’s possible you’ll see more in the future, but for now, just be happy I’m seeing some really cool stuff while not telling you what that stuff is!
I notice that the characters Johnny and Squee have names that could be seen as derivations of portions of your own name. Is there some symbolic meaning there or is it just coincidence?
I’m not gonna lie, man: I am shocked. Johnny’s name, yeah, pretty obvious, but I had never, not once ever even connected Squee’s nickname with my own last name. Not kidding. I know people will read this and think I’m being sarcastic, but seriously, what the fuck?!
I know you probably get asked this a lot, but how do you pronounce your name?
Phonetically, the closest approximation would be : SHHREEEEEEEKROOOOOOZzzzzzzz555SKREEEEEEEEZwwoowWW(dub step sounds)MWEEEEEEEZzzhhhchroooooogggg(sound of thumb pressing through fontanelle)SKWAAAASKWAAAA†œ∑´shmeeeeeweeeeeep.
Jhonen, I just want to thank you for making Devi. I've been looking for a female character that I relate to since I was little. I always liked characters like Buttercup or Spinelli, but they never quite clicked with me. Devi is just perfect. She seems like a person rather than someone going "What do women like/do?" Anyone else would have had Tenna try to get Devi to go out by taking her shopping or something. You didn't. So thanks.
Hey, thanks. Not sure she started out as such a great idea, though. Hell, initially the gag was that she was going to be this character, kind of like Squee, who was just a focus for terrible life-events, only specifically dating events.
Seriously, a female character defined by her disastrous interactions with guys, ya know? Now, it’s not like people like that don’t exist but I didn’t exactly want to be doing that kinda thing by the time I Feel Sick Came around. There’s still a bit of that bad date stuff in there, but I hope that it doesn’t color the character as being one note in that way. Ultimately I Feel Sick was just me having fun with a far more confident, more badass kind of fuckup than Johnny’s kind of fuckup.
Johnny was more of a joke on people who think they know everything and deal with being treated like shit by only becoming more shit, and even worse, god-like, untouchable, pretentious shit. Devi was just a bit more grounded while hopefully not being boring. I think it’s easy to WANT to be Johnny, superficially anyhow, but Devi was probably the more realistic option, or at least slightly less absurd.
I always like when people say I Feel Sick is their favorite work of mine, and it’s always a little funny when they tell me I wrote a cool female character. It’s funny because I sure as hell wasn’t even trying to convincingly portray any kind of female experience so much as just write a character I’d like. She’s just another way of telling a condensed version of a situation Johnny probably went through, with a slightly happier outcome.
I have a very good question (or at least I think it's good. The goodness of this ask is purely subjective). Do you read fanfiction? If so, what's the fanfic that left you thinking "Good god, these people must be crazy"
No, I don’t read any fan fiction, not in any way where I pursue it anyhow, but now and then a friend will send me something particularly awful and I’ll read a paragraph or so and be done with it. I think it’s great for people to be writing in general, and in some ideal scenario it’s actually some kid doing the writing and then moving on to their own thing at some point. Inspiration, no matter what kind of hideous product it inspires, is still a good way to start on your own shit down the road.
As for people doing fan fiction of my stuff, yeah, I’m aware of it being out there but I just don’t really care past what I’ve already said. I’ll have people, usually girls from their mid teens to early 20’s, come up to me at conventions and tell me about some ZIM fanfic they wrote or read, and they’ll tell me to my face that it would make me furious or disgusted. There’s like this standard face and attitude these people have when conveying this stuff to me, like they’re barely able to contain their glee at being the person two bring this mind-blowing craziness to my attention and I’m not sure I’m ever really capable of impressing upon them how much I don’t give a shit.
I think it’s because I look and often act a lot younger than my age that they think I exist in the same realm of interests as they do. like they think I’m trolling fan fiction pages and gaining rage power by checking out all these things people are writing up as they say stuff like “Jhonen would KILL me if he knew I was writing thisssAAHAHAHHAHAH!!!” They’ll confuse me shitting my pants with shock and awe instead of what it really is, just me not knowing how to use the toilet.
I just nod and, sincerely tell them it’s cool they’re writing at all, which it is, but if I’m gonna read anything myself it’s not fan fiction. Not enough time in the world to add that to my list of things to consume.
Hey, you may or may not have been asked this question before, and you may or may not know the answer but I believe it's worth it to ask. What's your status on attending Invadercon III? My sister and I live very far away from where it's being held but we're willing to cross oceans in our birthday suits to get there. Well, that's if you're going of course. You should go, it's the last Invadercon, a convention all about you! (This is the Devi from those B&W cosplays a while back btw THANK YOU SO M)
No I don’t think I’m going to this new Invader Con, but don’t let that stop ya! I wouldn’t say it’s a convention dedicated to me so much as a convention for some of the fans, and that’s cool, yeah? The last thing those people need is me there mucking up their enjoyment.
Dude! DUDE! DUUDE! Kaos from Skylanders is Zim! Like... not just the same Voice Actor (which it is) but the same voice/tone/phrasing/love of Doom... so what I'm trying to say is that you don't need to make any more Zim because someone else already has. You're FREE!
Yeah, I heard about that, though I haven’t actually heard it with my ears. It was funny, before ZIM I had known Richard’s voice from Power Rangers and Angry Beavers, but after getting him in to do ZIM’s voice, I’d come across things that I didn’t even know he was in and hear him doing a sorta ZIM thing. It was odd to realize people were probably directing him to do that ZIM-style thing even though ZIM is such a specific character.
One of the things I would do with Richard in the recording sessions was waver my hand up or down like I was playing a theremin, and Richard would adjust the quaver of his overly dramatic line read. There was no “just do ZIM” back in those days! We had to MAKE him, dammit! People these days have it easy! Grumble.
This one's been bugging me for a while. Considering the...unique content of your comics, how many angry letters do you get from self-important mothers saying you've "ruined [their] child's innocence!" or "twisted [their] mind with your sick artwork!"?
To date, since starting out with comics, through my time on ZIM and since, I can’t recall any kind of communication like what you’re describing. As parents who know about my work go, most, thankfully, have better things to do and far greater things to worry about than to write angry letters at me.
The only “parent letters” I’ve ever received on the subject of their children have been overwhelmingly positive, whether it’s about how some of my work inspired their kid to start making comics or made them want to get into animation, or some such thing. I’ve gotten mail from teachers describing students who opened up a bit because they were into my comics and, through comics, they were able to deal with some issue or another.
Now and then I hear about parents who were themselves fans of my comics from back when I was first doing them, and, despite being fans of my comics, managed to get someone to sexilize with them and they procreated! These parents tell me about how they sit with their kids to watch ZIM, they’ll tell me what parts the kids laugh at and it’s pretty awesome.
Was any of this my intent when I was making all that stuff? Not at all. Hell, I was too busy giggling while writing something or drawing, the exact same way I do now when I’m working on something, to even think of a surreal future where people are digging my work with their kids, or, in some cases, waiting until the kid is old enough to show them the more intense stuff. Either way, it’s cool to hear about.
I have a great curiosity about the JtHM animated project! The art style on the comics transformed subtly from beginning to end (as generally happens with comics), and then made a big jump of change in style in I Feel Sick. Visually, are you wanting to keep with the original style, or more like in IFS, or something even more different and new? (No matter what you go with, I'm sure it'll be the bees knees. ROCK ON)
Sort of like the person who asked before about the content, the visual’s would very likely be something different, still distinctly Johnny and world, but still different.
The funny thing about going dark for a while, having made my living on a fishing trawler since stopping work on ZIM, is that it kind of locks your audience down, freezes them in time in a way. People much younger than me find the books and think that, somehow, I am that same person who made those books or that cartoon from over a decade ago now, and in the case of the comics, DECADES. People much older also find those same books and THEY also think much the same thing because there’s nothing past a certain point to compare to, visually or on the narrative front.
That’s the trouble with not continuing to provide a frame of reference throughout time for people to update their idea of you or what you do. It’s like getting up every morning and finding the paperboy has been delivering you the same newspaper from 1996 because he thinks that’s where you’re from and can never escape.
Visually, it would HAVE to be different because those old comics are fun for what they are, but they were never intended to move, and they were especially not written with actual human beings speaking those lines in mind.
19 year old me from back then was just having fun, but he was also something of an idiot.
I hope I’m a far more capable, proficient idiot now, and I’d want the animation to reflect that. So it’d likely not look like the comics and it wouldn’t just look like JTHM in the ZIM universe.
ok ok ok I'll ask the question everyone wants to know but everyone is afraid to ask...when are we gunna see the live action movie based on your hit series "Bread" everyone knows you've secretly been working on?And is it true Bette Midler will be playing the guy who eats bread with a spoon?
Bread’s just too expensive a film to even imagine. Russell Crowe’s fee alone would break the budget, and without him in the title role there’s just no movie.
What do you consider to be your all time favorite movie? The 1991 movie Kafka by Steven Soderbergh is brought up in JTHM, but I could never be certain that your adding the movie into a work of fiction actually reflects your own tastes or just the tastes you were creating for NNY.
Hey, thanks for not assuming what I wrote decades ago isn’t enough to construct my definitive character as it stands now!
As for Kafka, I still think the movie is worth a watch, and Cliff Martinez’s score is still one of my favorites, but overall it’s lost some shine over the years for me. I’ve always been a sucker for the anti-utopian stuff, though, and that one came along at just the perfect time with there prefect combo of elements: Soderbergh, Kafka, Martinez and Jeremy Irons.
Brazil had pretty much altered my brain very early on, and Kafka was channeling that something fierce in spots, only with more of a straight face.
My including it in the comic was only the most shallow nod to something I thought was pretty cool back then but it wasn’t ruling my universe. Really I should have just made something up and disconnected Johnny’s world from reality a bit more.
What is your favorite book or novel, out of everything that you've ever read?
That’s one of those questions I don’t even try to answer properly because there’s just no good answer, and my opinion would change based on the direction of the wind and the amount of dust on the surface of my eye at any given moment.
Still, there are books I’ll always go back to think about and scream about point blank into the faces of strangers while in line at the bank.
A Confederacy of Dunces, Dune, God Emperor of Dune, 1984, Cat’s Cradle, War of the Worlds. Those are a few. I can devour Lovecraft like chips on the right day. I don’t ever really understand people that don’t enjoy reading and do so as a rule of life. Well, it’s not that I don’t understand it so much as find it disgusting.
I have to read, the same way Pac Man has to keep eating dots or else the madness gets channeled elsewhere and he has to eat his wife or child. he HAS to eat dots because it makes the pain go away. Reading is fundamental, pac mans.