Joshua Williamson follows up on his children's graphic novel, "Dear Dracula," with a new miniseries geared toward a wider age bracket. Specifically...everybody.
Teaming with Shadowline/Image Comics and JC Grande, his cohort from "Necessary Evil," a book about a school for super-villains, Williamson has crafted "Johnny Monster," an all-ages actioner with elements of classic science fiction and pulp adventure. Williamson and Grande spoke with CBR News about Johnny Monster, his origin story, his origins in inspiration and what the future may hold.
"Johnny Monster" follows its eponymous character as fights monsters that live beneath the surface of the Earth. Those same monsters, however, raised him. "The world looks at him as a superstar monster hunter who kills the monster humanely, but once they find out he is just taking them home, they get pissed and send people after him and his monster family," Joshua Williamson told CBR.
Williamson talked about how his main character found himself in such a peculiar situation. "See, his parents were on a journey to the center of the earth and got stranded. They died under mysterious circumstances and left behind their young son, John. He was found by a monster that took care of him, along with her monster-children. Now, Johnny just wants to live a normal life, listen to rock and roll, play video games and chill, but he feels a duty to take care of the family that raised him, so he catches them when they escape to the surface and brings them back home."
"The supporting cast here for this first story arc is pretty small," Williamson added, talking about the characters that surround Johnny. "The General is a woman who was friends with Johnny's birth parents and helps him with catching monsters. He has a monster mother and monster brother, who Johnny nicknamed Rex. Rex is this huge monster who thinks monsters shouldn't be hiding but rampaging on the surface; that they're the true rulers of earth. But Johnny has convinced him to stay hidden. Sally Mayer is reporter who discovers Johnny's secrets and makes his life a living hell. The bad guy, Count Rawke, and his right hand man, King, are a pair of ruthless monster hunters who are paid to clean up Johnny's mess. "
Williamson found the inspiration for "Johnny Monster" in some of the classics of the genre. "I had been thinking of characters that were raised by something other then their parents and about the H.G. Wells novel, 'Journey to the Center of the Earth.' What it would be like if you grew up down there? Then I had a thought about monsters. From there it all came together."
"Originally, Johnny was going to be much older," he added, "but once I started to get the story together I realized the first story I wanted to tell would be him as a teenager, which was influenced a lot by the artists take on Johnny through the years."
"I had an ongoing series with 'Necessary Evil,' and a one shot, with 'Dear Dracula,' so I wanted to try a miniseries," Williamson said of his choice of format for the title. "Also, Shadowline prefers three-issue story arcs, which I was excited about. I wanted to do a few quick miniseries this year, and this was the perfect venue. There is a bit of a 'tweak' when it comes to how each issue opens that I think some people might find surprising."
Williamson sees fans of monsters, action, and pulp heroes as being potential fans of "Johnny Monster." Said the writer, "I wanted to create a book I know I'd want to read, one that was a fun easy read that anyone can pick up. JC and I are big fans of monsters and we both wanted to do a book with a bunch of weird random ones along with giant destructive ones. As for the action, if you like cool fights scenes and monsters destroying things, you'll love this book. There is a fight in issue three that is the best one I've ever written and will be a blast for the reader. "
Williamson took a moment to talk about Grande, the project's artist. "JC and I met a few years ago on a comic website and started talking about working together."
"We started working on a concept for a book called 'Dr. Voltage and His Amazing Sidekicks,'" Grande told CBR.
"That didn't get picked up," said Williamson, "but afterward I needed an artist to do a few issues of 'Necessary Evil.' JC stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. We worked really well together and had fun doing it. When his run on 'Necessary Evil' was done, we agreed to try and pitch something else. 'Johnny Monster 'was that something."
"I remember I was very excited," said Grande of his reaction to the "Johnny Monster" script. "It was just what I love to draw: a great story, a lot of action and. big giant monsters! Working on Josh's scripts is always a lot of fun. I really enjoy it."
"I wanted it to be explosive and dynamic," Grande added, talking about his approach to the book. "I love action sequences and everything but also to keep the storytelling going on, which is the most important thing, of course. I think there is also some pulpy retro feel to it, however, I wanted to keep it modern as well."
Williamson's establishing of his new character gets a special push in the second issue, as on of Johnny's fellow Image characters puts in a special appearance, specifically Phil Hester and Ande Park's Firebreather. Asked how the crossover came about, Williamson responded, "It's actually kind of funny, because when I pitched it to [Shadowline head] Jim Valentino, his first question was to make sure I wasn't copying Phil and Andy's 'Firebreather.' Once I assured him that I wasn't, he started talking about how much we both liked 'Firebreather.' A few days later, Jim emailed me to ask what I thought of Duncan (a.k.a. Firebreather) guest-starring in issue two. I was really excited and thought it would be a great idea.
"After we got Phil and Andy's permission, I sent them the script to make sure that my take on Duncan was accurate and true to the character. Their book is so amazing and one of the best on the stands, so I was really happy to work with them on this."
Williamson and Grande are hoping to be able to continue to tales of young Johnny Monster beyond his premiere three issues. Said the author, "If this first series does well, I'd love to do another miniseries or one-shot, get more into Johnny's past, his parent's death and the ramifications of this first miniseries. There are a lot of stories I'd love to tell with this character and his place in the Image Universe, so if this first story arc does well, I will. JC and I are big monster fans and we hope people give this book a chance."
"Johnny Monster" #1 is on sale now from Shadowline and Image Comics.