For the past few years, Johnny Ryan has littered the back page of the magazine with his bigoted, mean-spirited drawings of anthropomorphic genitals and surprisingly accurate adaptations of literary classics. We managed to keep our dirty little secret off the website for as long as we could, but after accidentally outing ourselves back in February we’ve decided to “own it” and start this here archive of everything he’s ever done for the magazine. Right now we’ve got the previous year’s run of his back pages below, but we’ll be adding the rest just as soon as we dig them out of our archives. So check back for updates, and if what’s below isn’t enough to sate your appetite, it’d probably behoove you to go to johnnyr.com
Click on a comic to view
Vice: Do you remember the first thing you did for us?
Johnny Ryan: When I first started I wasn’t doing original material for you. You guys were still running Kaz’s Underworld and a couple other folks in the back, so I would just color the Blecky Yuckarella strips that I was doing for the Portland Mercury and send them off to you. Gradually the format for comics changed and it ended up being me doing the full page, so I had to figure out what direction I was going to go in with it. At first I’d just take some of the characters from Blecky Yuckerella and riff on whatever the theme for the magazine was that month. Then, I think for the Russian Issue, I shifted gears and started doing gags. They were a lot more fun for me and I could do them a lot quicker. Also, I don’t know, I always get the sense that the people who read Vice aren’t necessarily into comics. I mean, I’m sure there are some people who are, but I feel like the majority probably aren’t and gags are the best way to get them interested because they’re easy to read and the idea is pretty immediate. You don’t have to follow a story or characters or anything—there’s just a picture and a punchline.
Basically, you dumb it down for our readers is what you’re saying.
Exactly. But at the same time I usually hate to read that involved sort of stuff, too. So I’m really dumbing it down for myself, as well. I generally just think about it like, “What would I really like to see in a magazine?”
Who do you like working for better, us or Nickelodeon?
I think it’s good to have projects for both because it kind of mixes things up. When I do stuff for Nickelodeon I kind of know what the score is. I know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. I’m doing a job for them and so I’m gearing it for kids. I do try and keep it on sort of the weird, disgusting side of the street though. But in that case it’s not penises and sex and murder and stuff but, you know, boogers and vomit.
The children’s excretions.
Yeah, exactly. You can always get away with gross kid things.
Are you one of those types of artists who likes having restrictions or set rules in place whenever you’re working on something?
I don’t know. I always think it’s weird when artists talk about how much they love restrictions and how that’s such a great challenge. I don’t really I love it or hate it. I pretty much just see it as part of the job. I mean even Vice has put restrictions on me.
Oh right. When we asked you to do the comic for the Natives Issue we said—
No boners and no Nazis, so I did “Chief Sitting Bullshit Versus Nazi Penis.” That one never made it to print, but it did go up on the website and I remember there was a lot of feedback.
I have to say that of all the stuff I’ve done for Nickelodeon, I don’t think I’ve ever been rebuked by them. It’s kind of weird that I’d be in the good books with them and constantly getting the cold shoulder from this magazine.
So we’re bigger prudes than Nickelodeon?
Yeah. It’s especially weird coming from the adult magazine who has pictures of assholes on the back cover every month.
Come on now, those are our advertisers’ assholes. We don’t even get to put our own in the magazine.
Right, it’s OK for them, but not for me. I think that over the last couple of months, the rules have been a little more laid back for me. I mean, when I was guest-editing the Comics Issue the rule was no boners and no split beavers. Now, I’ve actually started to include them and you guys are printing them.
Were those rules across the board or just for you?
When I asked [Vice magazine editor] Jesse Pearson what I should tell everybody they can and can’t do that was it: No boners and no split beavers. I don’t think he was too big into penetration either, but I’ve since broken all those rules.
Yeah, I can think of a good number of dinks that have slipped through the cracks, so to say.
I think there’s something about my particular drawing style where it doesn’t register to people that they’re looking at pornography.
It’s like looking at a stuffed-animal penis or something.
It’s like aw, look at that hardcore porno, it’s so adorable.