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Jim Mahfood and Jhonen Vasquez Animate ‘D.I.S.C.O. Destroyer’, ‘Squee!’ and Maybe ‘Johnny The Homicidal Maniac’

It’s asolutely killing me that I missed the Titmouse Animation panel at last weekend’s Emerald City Comicon because A) they make Venture Bros., Motorcity and other shows that are awesome B) as it turns out there was some really great news for comic book fans specifically. Jim Mahfood of Everybody Loves Tank Girl and numerous other alt comics and countless numbers of beautiful illustrations, pin-ups and other art has developed an original animated project called D.I.S.C.O. Destroyer that will be produced by Titmouse for MTV’s revival of Liquid Television. In even more surprising news, Invader Zim creator Jhonen Vasquez is working on an original animated short starring his Squee! character, and may soon begin adapting his cult classic Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.

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D.I.S.C.O. Destroyer is a funky 1970s action piece filtered through Mahfood’s hyper-kinetic graffiti style. The hero of the piece is a sexy, gun-toting hunk with an eight-track tape deck embedded in his chest, and the story tracks him on some kind of cosmic drag race alongside characters with names like Righteous Jones, William B. Angel, Stony Dark, Summer Glo, the Krone Kounty Kult and the Deacon Street Rollers. Mahfood is working on the show with writer Joe Casey (Ben 10, all sorts of comics you like) and longtime Kevin Smith producer Scott Mosier, with whom Mahfood worked on the first Clerks comic book. Hopefully some of the D.I.S.C.O. Destroyer footage screened in Seattle will find its way online shortly, but you can get a look at some of the concept art in this Liquid TV teaser:

Originally published in the 1990s and a perennial hit for publisher SLG Graphics, Squee! is the story of an adorable and soft spoken little kid called Todd who’s the only normal person in Vasquez’s world aliens, vampires, homicidal maniacs and all the kinds of horrors you can imagine coming from the mind of the Invader Zim creator. In the original short film he’s developing with Titmouse, Squee and his only companion, the teddy bear Shmee, find themselves sold by his parents to what Bleeding Cool describes as “a McDonald’s kind of place” where children are used as meat, and he and some other kids will have to navigate their way through a nightmarish meat-labyrinth.

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As longtime Vasquez fans know, Squee! was a spinoff from his debut work, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Also humorous but distinctly darker and obviously way more violent than Squee! or Invader Zim, the story followed a deranged anti-hero who couldn’t sleep, spoke to inanimate objects, and killed people in variously horrible and frequently amusing ways (one word: spork) at the behest of seemingly demonic forces that dwelled beneath his home. The book was a big hit with the alternative music crowd of the ’90s and remains a popular “gateway drug” comic for many new readers even today.

Vasquez has been asked about returning to the character more or less every day since the last issue shipped in early 1997,so it was pretty big news that Vasquez announced that pending the outcome of the Squee! short, he and Titmouse will discuss adapting Johnny as a feature-length animated film. Spinoff Online quotes Vasquez as saying the film’s story would be that of the original comic’s, but “much more from the get-go Lovecraftian in the way the book got. It’s much less Johnny being a badass who kills people because he’s a badass, and it’s more about a tool who doesn’t know he’s a tool.”

It’s interesting that Vasquez is bringing his comic book creations into animation in 2013. The work of Titmouse and their partners and peers at Adult Swim and other outlets both on television and online have demonstrated the commercial viability of American animation for adults over the last 10 years or so, something that scarcely existed back when Vasquez was creating his comics. While Invader Zim is among the coolest cartoons of all time, most of Vasuqez’s other work is hardly kid-friendly, so it’s encouraging to find ourselves living in a time when talents like he — and Jim Mahfood, for that matter — aren’t limited to the confines of the comic book page simply because there’s no other place to see it.

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