History of Animation

Posts Tagged ‘Zim

Invader Zim was created by semi-underground “gothic” comic artist Jhonen Vasquez and made its debut on Nickelodeon sometime around late March 2001, and despite only lasting around roughly 2 seasons and ending in December 2001, has attained a status as a cult animated show (though on a personal level, that has since become somewhat debatable). Although (according to Vasquez) Nickelodeon originally wanted Invader Zim to be a comedic, goofy, sort of sitcom-like show, Vasquez worked with Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s Frank Conniff, Lenore‘s Roman Dirge, and Shutterbox’s Rikki Simons (the latter of the two are buddies with Jhonen and usually work under the same comic book label, Slave Labor Graphics) and gave the show a satirical, hammy, 1950-B-movie-homage animated series with dark humor.

A species of Aliens called Irkens (who are hellbent on conquering any planet that stands in their way and tearing it down from the ground up in order to expand their territory… why does this kinda sound familiar to me?) are preparing to assign a new batch of Invaders (a job classification) their target planet for their invasion plan entitled Operation: Impending Doom II. However, much to the fear, dismay, and disgust of their leaders The Allmighty Tallest (who are leaders simply because, well… they’re the tallest), Zim (who while is extremely tenacious and determined to prove himself is also egotistical, trigger-happy, and nearly wiped out their home planet the first time they tried Operation Impending Doom I) arrives to the meeting despite being exiled on the planet Foodcourtia (yes, he quit being banished) and begs the Tallest that they give him a second chance. The Tallest, seeing this as an opportunity to banish Zim for good this time, tell him to conquer a “mysterious planet” (represented by a circle with a question mark drawn on a Post-It note), which just happens to be our planet Earth. At the same time Zim arrives on Earth (and “disguising” himself to fit in with the populace), Dib, a young human boy who is extremely interested in the mysterious and paranormal, sees through Zim’s disguise and vows to one day expose him as an alien and have him dissected. So, with the “help” of is defective robot GIR, Zim vows to have Earth conquered.

Speaking as someone who has read almost every comic created by Jhonen Vasquez, although Invader Zim started out as a formulaic show (Zim tries to conquer Earth/ Dib tries to expose Zim as an alien, plan fails and endangers Zim/ Dib/ Earth, Zim is foiled either way), the writing dramatically improved and actually began to take somewhat of a satirical, self-mocking, yet still very enjoyable and entertaining story with signs of a developing/ overarching plot (that would’ve all cumulated in a Grand Finale if it weren’t canceled). Although Jhonen admitted that he faced many restrictions working with writing a children’s show (and it would later on to continue to become more and more of a problem), most of the writing around the later half of the first season and most of the second season is cited to be some of the best by fans.

GIR and... piggies.

What also worked with the writing was the simple, yet hilarious character personalities of Zim and Dib. Although it’s quite amusing seeing Zim try to conquer the world when the general populace is completely, blissfully unaware of him declaring it open in public as well as his interactions with GIR (which is basically just the weirdest/ funniest banter between two completely insanely stupid/ incompetent beings), Dib is probably the character that’s the most interesting. There’s just something to be pitied from seeing this young boy being pretty much the only sane and intelligent person on the Earth (aside from his father, worldwide successful scientist Professor Membrane, and his little sister, Gaz; though his dad is grounded in “Real Science”, and Gaz just wants to play videogames/ eat pizza) and just constantly being laughed and mocked at by the very moronic people that he’s trying to save. The irony of him seeming to look completely crazy and make wild accusations, only for a few episodes to follow Dib through a day in his life and see that he’s quite normal (compared to the people he meets that are beyond stupid and insane), just horribly misunderstood and under-appreciated.

From an artistic standpoint, Invader Zim is very interesting to look at due to its combination of Jhonen Vasquez’sĀ  Cyber-Punk/ Crapsack (possible parody of Los Angeles?) world design, the brightly/ acid-colored color palate, and bizarre/ darkly humored atmosphere. Originally, the show was going to be targeted towards kids in their early teen years, but the writing featured multiple homages to video games, Sci-Fi (especially targeted toward the 1950’s B-movie films and their interpretation on aliens), and Horror (the episode “Bolognious Maximus” is basically an homage to David Cronenberg’s The Fly remake), which attracted a lot of people outside the demographic, mostly high school/ college age kids.

Ironically enough (in a tragic way), the fact that Invader Zim actually found a fanbase within the older-teen/ college age crowd was part of the reason as to why Nickelodeon canceled Invader Zim. Another issue was the rampant Executive Meddling and lack of creative liberties Jhonen Vasquez could have. As early as the second episode which featured the short “Bestest Friends”, in which Zim befriends a human kid so he’ll blend in more in “Skool”. However, during the course of the episode he grows more and more annoyed with the kid hanging out with him and clinging to him, up to the end of the episode which results in Zim making a device that rips the kid’s eyes out and replaces them with robotic ones. At the end of the episode, the kid gets mauled by a squirrel and subsequently falls off a roof and explodes, but shortly thereafter calls out, “I’m okay!” The final episode that aired, “The Most Horrible Xmas Ever”, had scenes that were also cut and changed, among them being a man in the crowd getting comically squished by a present (think Looney Tunes) and a guy accidentally having only half of him teleported to the Tallest (as part of Zim’s plan was to gather up the Earthlings and beam them to the Tallest as slaves). Also, according to Jhonen, since he frequently used many elaborate and lengthy cell-shaded CGI effects (which were still fairly expensive around the time), it was also canceled because the budget was taxing on Nickelodeon Animation Studios.

Originally the artwork for the second Invader Zim DVD boxset. It was canceled due to the image of Dib and the other kids beig strangled by Zim.

Interestingly enough, this past March, Nickelodeon showed the complete series of Invader Zim on their alternate channel, Nicktoons Network, and even has a poll asking if people would like to see more of Zim. Sadly, speaking from a personal point of view, even if Nickelodeon were to revive Invader Zim, I have to say that it’s about 5 years too late. Jhonen Vasquez has explicitly stated that he doesn’t want to go back to work on Zim, no matter what kind of circumstance. Rikki and Roman have expressed no interest whatsoever (as they seem to be busy themselves with comics and their personal lives), and with the way Nickelodeon seems to just bring back Invader Zim out of the blue after keeping pretty quiet aboutĀ  it for a long time, one can really only assume that Nickelodeon just wants more money, and Zim has proven to be a hit when it comes to the DVDs and merchandise at Hot Topic. If this is what Nickelodeon is planning on doing, I personally have to say that I don’t want “New Invader Zim“; just let the franchise be as it is: a funny, satirical, disgusting, weird, and enjoyable cult hit that was canceled before its time.

I commented on Jeannie Hilleary’s blog and Brandon W. Trimble’s blog.



  • Cory: I was initially put off by the look of this show, I guess i had some sort of notion against the channel or art or something, but last year i sat down
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  • vkoskihist387: As a big fan of the original film, this movie sounds incredibly painful. Just looking at the box art makes me cringe, and I can't imagine sitting thr