Book of Doom: Johnny Monster #1

So, I learned something very important. Don’t try new things. Ever. You’ll get burnt and disappointed, and your friends will think less of you. That is, at least, what I surmised from the reactions to Johnny Monster #1.

In my own views, the issue was certainly not good. It was kind of fun – you know, fighting monsters is right up there on career tracts with astronaut in the level of awesome. But this “fun” belied juvenile pacing resulting in a rushed plot placing getting from Point A to Point B ahead of figuring out how. This leaves it a good comic for someone who is, say, six-years-old who sits in rapt attention of the plot of a Mario Brothers game, but for connoisseurs of nerd books like the Doomkopf crew, it’s left sorely lacking.

Plot? Johnny Monster is a monster hunter, the only humane one. He traps the monsters, as opposed to the rival monster poachers. But something seems fishy to a name-forgotten-or-not-said reporter, who realizes that Johnny speaks monster. It’s because Johnny lives in a valley with the monsters and listens to outdated music with them. The reporter found this out by following him, and finding out that Johnny was raised by one of these monsters.

That’s a Disney Channel premise right there, complete with so-so monster design. For its audience, there are fun parts to the book. But outside of that audience, yawns follow.

A couple people reserved more hatred for it, so let’s start off with Jim Doom:

I don’t even know where to start.

I feel bad for ripping on this issue, because reading it reminded me of going to watch some friends play in their new band when they’re really not ready to be playing for the public. So on one level, you think they’re really quite terrible, but at the same time, you don’t want to be too harsh because at least they’re trying.

This comic was so bad that I actually feel bad ripping on it. It came off painfully amateurish — not what I would expect from (an imprint of) one of the Big Four comics publishers.

The “Introduce the situation by way of newscast” prop is overused simply because it can be so effective. You can convey a lot of expository information while also expressing that something huge and newsworthy is happening. So its use is forgivable, provided it’s not completely half-assed and shameless in its role as a crutch.

At least make the newscaster character talk like a newscaster and make the newscast seem like a newscast. Don’t broadcast (sorry) to your audience that you’re simply using this as a prop because you can’t come up with a better way to introduce your characters.

My initial reaction was “Okay, maybe Joshua Williamson has never watched the news, or at least not during a monster attack, and so his approximation of how a live reporter would convey the situation is just a lot different than mine.” See? Trying to give the benefit of the doubt even when it’s cringeworthy … imagining that, wherever Mr. Williamson lives, they actually do cut away from live breaking news with pre-produced biographical segments as the emergency takes a conveniently timed break, calling the scene as if it’s a football game.

But no. It quickly became evident that this is just bad writing. In Sally’s subsequent sit-down interview on Monster Watch TV, she says the monsters “have been appearing in populated lands exponentially.” You can’t appear exponentially. I assume she (and thus Williamson) meant the appearances were increasing exponentially, but when the writer doesn’t grasp the language, the characters sure seem dumb.

This all leads to my point that I think there’s actually a reasonably fun premise here. This seems like something well suited for a Saturday morning cartoon that I would have loved (and maybe still would). But the writing is just so bad. This seems like a classic case of plotter-needs-scripter, even if that means we lose the odd Stan Bush reference.

And the art is so bad, contributing heavily to the amateurish feel of the book, although the monsters, which did not depend on believable proportions or expressions, were decent.

Maybe some day, Williamson and Grande will have enough comic practice under their belt that they’ll emerge as industry superstars and this book will be a hot commodity. As things stand now, though, Johnny Monster #1 is an overpriced comic book amateur hour, and there’s no way on earth I’m going to buy another issue.

That said, I fully expect Williamson and Grande to soon be millionaires when some network or animation studio options the Johnny Monster TV rights, and I’m not sure that’ll be completely undeserved.

And for the last word, the ever subtle Doom DeLuise:

I sure hated this. So much so that I don’t really even want to talk about it. But I guess I have to, so here we go.

Johnny Monster #1 strikes me as one of the worst opening issues of a comic I’ve read in years. It starts off with Johnny, the celebrity monster hunter, rounding up some monsters in New York City, which is apparently just something that happens every day. No explanation as to where these monsters came from or what they’re doing there, but that’s a small complaint.

After awhile, we’re introduced to a TV news reporter (oh, wait, I guess she’s introduced on the first page, so I shouldn’t say, “after awhile”), and she’s hot on the Johnny case. Which sounds kind of like johnny cakes. I’m not entirely sure what those are, but I’d eat ’em.

She figures out that Johnny can speak the monster language, so she decides to follow him more closely. This, evidently, leads her to follow him down to his secret monster hideout, a hundred feet below the earth’s surface (which isn’t all that far, really, but I still wonder how plants and trees can grow down there). In spite of the fact that it never shows how she follows him through his top-secret entrance, she’s there, nevertheless, to witness that Johnny is, in fact, the son of a monster. Or, as she says, “A monster lover.”

Unnecessary, pointless, boring bullshit of the highest order, this is.

Another nitpick: I wonder how he fits those giant monsters into his mini-van, but I don’t care enough about that to even really give it much thought.

This thing is ugly, poorly written, and I can’t really figure out how they’re going to print two more issues of this crap. If anybody cares to read past issue one, let me know, because I won’t be.