Invader Zim Resurrected by Nickelodeon
I stumbled across Invader Zim one evening back in 2001. I had no idea what it was. I don’t watch Nickelodeon, but the character and the animation style caught my attention. The character Zim is the ego on steroids. He is an alien from the planet Irken which is inhabited by a warrior race that destroys other worlds. To be an Irken leader you must be tall. Irkens smaller than the Almighty Tallest don’t count for much. Zim is short but he has big ambitions and is constantly pestering the Almighty Tallest for an opportunity to lead an invasion. The Almighty Tallest, in an effort to rid themselves of the nuisance Zim, sends him to Earth as a joke with a malfunctioning robot, “Gir.” The creator of the series is Jhonen Vasquez. The program aired on Nickelodeon from 2001 to 2002 and then was mysteriously cancelled.
The visuals could be gross in a way that kids find funny but the show also dealt with some adult themes that might not have been easily grasped by some children. The first episode I saw was called “The Wettening.” Zim takes revenge on Dib, a kid who believes that Zim is an alien. He finds that Zim can’t tolerate water. It burns him. Dib pelts Zim with water balloons hoping to expose him. Zim employs his Irken technology to construct the ultimate weapon, a giant water balloon and sling shot to even the score with Dib. He launches his earth sized balloon from space—totally overreacting, like a nuclear arms race. Now the story reminds me of the latest flare up between the U.S. and North Korea. Our President promising to meet the next North Korean missile test with “…a fire and fury” the world has never seen before. Fortunately for all we moved on to other matters.
The cartoon poked at many societal norms: education, fast food, video gaming, peer relationships, and science. The kids attending the school where Zim was passing himself off as a student were not critical thinkers. They were so clueless that they accepted Zim with his green skin and huge eyes as a transfer student from some other country. They were just going through the motions like their teacher who was good at enforcing the rules but taught nothing of substance.
I am not alone in thinking the animation was a success. It won several awards: an Annie Award, an Emmy Award and a World Animation Celebration Award. The marketing materials based on the characters are still very popular and there have been no new shows since 2002. Recently Nickelodeon announced there will be a 90 minute TV movie which will air sometime in 2017. No set air date has been given. Here is a link to a trailer.