I’m not sure what it says about my 11-year-old self that I not only loved Invader ZIM from the day it premiered, but found the episode where ZIM steals other children’s organs to be one of my favorites. Even back then, I could appreciate dark humor and pushing boundaries. And this was happening on Nickelodeon!
ZIM came out before 9/11, at a time when I was still watching a lot of Nicktoons and had not transitioned yet to the news-addicted, politics-obsessed high skool student I would become. From the first frame, I was enthralled by this new show that was unlike anything else I had seen on the channel. And, FYI, I did not yet have Cartoon Network in my neighborhood. The only cartoons back then were either on Saturday morning or what Nickelodeon offered.
So here was this new show that was dark, edgy and hilarious. The voices were perfect. ZIM could not have been played by anyone other than Richard Horvitz. Check out the original pilot and you’ll see that I’m right. Each of GIR’s lines was a masterpiece in madness. This was the cast meant for this show. They fit each of their designs in this exaggerated Earth that ZIM planned to conquer. The music was top notch, as well. Everything was.
Of course, it was cancelled. There are only 27 episodes in existence, not counting the unfinished pieces left over after it was stupidly terminated. ZIM became difficult to watch after six months, because Nick scheduled it at random times as it obviously had little respect for its best show. In fact, they didn’t even air all of the finished episodes. Well, that was it for me and Nickelodeon. I was done with the channel after they stopped airing ZIM. It was all Fox News all the time after that. Don’t judge me for that one. I didn’t know what I was doing back then.
It wasn’t until 2004, when a planned DVD release was revealed, that I came to realize that effect this show had on me. Throughout the year, not only were DVDs released, but bits and pieces of the unfinished works turned up online. I devoured every bit. And at the end of the year, the last DVD, with the unaired episodes, came out. It was an early Christmas for me.
I’ve yet to mention the man behind it all, Jhonen Vasquez, who is also my favorite person to follow on Twitter. Years after ZIM, I went through his other works, from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, to the music videos he worked on. Throughout it all there is a dark humor, a freedom to put out into the world whatever thoughts came into his head, no matter how horrible. It’s almost a miracle we got Invader ZIM in the first place, since I cannot fathom why the network thought to give this man a TV show aimed at children. But I am so so glad it did. I cherish each episode every time I watch it.
Jhonen’s work inspires me to let loose. Though I struggle with humor, as previously noted, when I think of something, no matter how dark, I’ll often use it. I’m not afraid to go a little crazy here, or put in something absurd there. Don’t let the world restrain your inner insanity, at least when it comes to artistic works. I can’t help you if you go do some crazy shit on the street. In fact, don’t. Save it. Bottling that up may lead to your masterwork.
I should note that Invader ZIM recently came back as a comic series. It’s only half of what it was, without the voices and music, but it’s better than a world without ZIM. Now let’s get them to turn it into a motion comic!