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What's next for Jhonen Vasquez? The cartoonist talks Invader Zim comics finale, more

Jhonen Vasquez
(Image credit: Jhonen Vasquez)

Writer/artist Jhonen Vasquez has what you could call an unconventional path to success, but like his hit characters Invader Zim and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, it works for him. 

(Image credit: Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group)

After a self-imposed hiatus from comics, he returns this August for the comic book finale of Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group's Invader Zim series with the one-shot Invader Zim: Dookie Loop Horror. Given that return, we asked Vasquez if more comic book work is in his future.

"I've always got ideas for stuff, some that make more sense for comics than others, but more so than comics specifically I just can't help but have stories happening in my head that I'd love to get out of said head," Vasquez tells Newsarama.

After making a name for himself in comics with Johnny the Homicidal Maniac back in the late '90s, Vasquez segued to a career in animation highlighted by the cult-favorite Invader Zim. But since cartoons are more of a group effort as opposed to the relatively individualistic efforts of comics, is it something he misses? 

"Comics is its own kind of nightmare, but the Invader Zim comics have mostly been relaxing for me, a fun diversion from the real nightmares elsewhere," Vasquez says. "It's been really cool getting to almost be an observer in this alternate reality of a world I made up so long ago. One of the best parts has been seeing other people's takes on my characters, which is weird but also keeps things interesting and new for me."

After Invader Zim: Dookie Loop Horror goes on sale in August, Vasquez has ideas for new projects in comics, animation, but also in the realm of live-action filmmaking and video games - but it's all been affected by the pandemic.

Jhonen Vasquez

Self-portrait (Image credit: Jhonen Vasquez)

"With the world having shut down for various plagues lately, I've mostly gone into a low power idea incubating mode, trying not to feel like I HAVE to work but just enjoying dreaming up ideas for the sake of being in these other places in my head," he says.

"Who knows when one of those things will take over and turn into the next big obsession, but trying not to think about it is all part of the process I guess. I'd love to do something live-action as well as some more limited series type animation work, and maybe finally get going on a video game."

Considering the unusual career path Vasquez has had, we asked him for advice on behalf of the potential others who were like him in the early '90s, just getting their start in comics here in 2021.

"I'm terrible at advice considering my own version of ‘making it' is so particular to me, so I can only say what I HOPE would apply to other people, and that's that I hope other people are genuinely in love with what they do, in love with the ideas and worlds in their heads instead of thinking of their talent as a means to success in 'the business,'" Vasquez says.

"I've never enjoyed being surrounded by that kind of atmosphere; the kind of thing where it's about business more so than bringing crazy stuff into as much of an existence as possible for the sake of showing yourself and other people something different," he continues. "That's my advice: just be cool, don't be soulless husks, not that everyone can help it."

Invader Zim's Gir is on our list of the top 10 sci-fi and fantasy sidekicks.

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)