Invader Zim, often branded as Invader ZiM, is an American animated television series that was produced by and subsequently aired on Nickelodeon. The series is centered around an egotistical, clueless Irken invader named Zim who constantly and futilely attempts to conquer and destroy Earth, a more satirical version of the real world set in the distant future. Zim's schemes are usually foiled by Dib, a paranormal investigator who takes the Earth's protection into his own hands. Dib is among the few who sees through Zim's disguise. The show has no clear distinction of a protagonist or antagonist, and instead emphasized one's ability to empathize with Zim and Dib's lack of competence and vindication respectively.
First broadcast on March 30, 2001, Nickelodeon had initially desired a block of 'edgy' programming for their older demographic when Invader Zim was green lighted. Invader Zim was the only show that could fit such a block, leaving the series hard to place in an appropriate time slot suitable for their typical demographic. It was intended for audiences in their early teens, but was instead viewed more by older audiences, usually college-aged audiences and fans of Jhonen's previous works. Consequently, the ratings were not high enough for the expenses put into the show. As Nickelodeon was spending more money in airing and producing Invader Zim than any other show, it was cancelled on December 10, 2002. Though on June 10, 2006, Nicktoons aired a handful of Season 2 episodes, but shortly after cancelled it again on August 19, 2006. This made the second season currently incomplete.
Like most other Nickelodeon cartoons, Invader Zim is a two-dimensional television show. However, semi-three dimensional technology is sometimes used, mostly for the more elaborate space-battle scenes, as is best seen in "Battle of the Planets." The series has a unique, angular animation style typical of Jhonen's earlier comic book titles, which was updated and improved in the second season.
Because of its continued fan-base and above-average DVD sales since series production ended, various observers have labeled Invader Zim a cult hit. The show completed its run in European and South American territories normally while American audiences had no legal means to viewing season 2 until a DVD release in 2004. The show can currently be seen in syndication on Nicktoons, which started airing the completed season two episodes for the first time on United States broadcasting in the summer of 2006. In Canada, YTV began airing the series on its Bionix programming block starting with September 8, 2006. MTV 2 only aired a few Invader Zim episodes in June 2006 during a week of Nicktoons episodes for their Sic'emation block. An Invader Zim DVD collection packed with bonus content was released by Media Blasters in North America in 2004. The series has also been translated into several different languages (including French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish) for foreign broadcast in more recent times. Reruns have returned to the Nicktoons Network on September 8, 2008.
In March 2010, Invader Zim returned to Nicktoons Network for a month of reruns. This, as well as a new flash game on Nicktoons' website accompanied with an inquiry about interest in more Zim from the sites' forum admin, brought forth speculation that Nickelodeon was testing the waters for more Invader Zim episodes. As of June 21, 2010, Nickelodeon began rerunning Invader Zim on Nicktoons. The first week continued at this time, then stopped. It started up again July 5 at 10:00pm Mon.-Thur. and ended the last Thursday in July. Currently, they are showing Invader Zim on weekdays at 1:30am EST; Friday nights from 4:00am – 6:00am, and Sundays from 4:00pm– 6:00pm.
Series creator Jhonen Vasquez confirms in his blog that, contrary to popular belief, he "would have loved" to return to the show and that Nickelodeon indeed was testing the waters for more Zim but subsequently deemed a revival "too expensive".
Nickelodeon released a "greatest hits" DVD titled Operation Doom on February 22, 2011. It is unconfirmed by any public released statements, but it is highly likely this bare-bones DVD was released in response to the greeting card mailing campaign orchestrated by Operation: Head Pigeons on December 2010.
On March 2011, the first convention entirely dedicated to Invader Zim, titled InvaderCON, was held in Atlanta, GA to celebrate the series ten-year anniversary. It featured special guests cast members Richard Steven Horvitz, Rosearik Rikki Simons, Andy Berman, Melissa Fahn, and writer Eric Trueheart. Originally slated to appear was color director Jean-Paul Bondy and fansite Room With A Moose's admin team. Also noteworthy was the Operation Head Pigeons admin's panel that was rescheduled to a prime time scheduling towards the final week of preparation.
On September 1, 2011, Nicktoons aired a 24-hour marathon as part of "Nicktoons: 24 Hour Marathon-athon." During which, Nickelodeon's official Twitter account acknowledged the fan-driven revival campaign Operation: Head Pigeons.
On December 10, 2011, Nicktoons was set to air the Pilot on television for the first time as a part of an afternoon holiday block, but then subsequently rescheduled it to December 24, 2011 as its own event during prime-time hours after an eight hour marathon and followed by the result of their online "Girreatest Zim Moments" poll.
By popular demand, Green Mustard Entertainment announced a second InvaderCon, even though they stated that the first one in Atlanta would be the only InvaderCon that would be organized. Previous guests return (with Andy Berman in limited capacity) but also joined by Jhonen Vasquez as a rare convention appearance and character designer Aaron Alexovich. An invitation was also extended to Olivia d'Abo, the voice of the widely popular yet small-role character Tak, although she had to decline. It is of note that fan production group Soapy Waffles is arranging the premiere of their "Mopiness of Doom" project there and that Operation Head Pigeons had their own panels and booths.
Invader Zim revolves around the life of its title character Zim and the humans who are unaware of his true alias. Zim is a member of the imperialistic Irken race, an extraterrestrial species whose social hierarchy is based on height. The Irken leaders, known as the Almighty Tallest, are named Red and Purple who rule the Irken empire together as both are the same height. As recounted during the series premiere "The Nightmare Begins," Zim, who is both very short and very naive, was banished to Foodcourtia for overzealously attacking his own planet and allies during Operation Impending Doom I.
Upon hearing of Operation Impending Doom II, Zim arrives at the Great Assigning. Irken Elite soldiers are chosen to become Invaders; "special" soldiers whose mission is to blend in with the indigenous life forms of their assigned planet, collect intelligence, and prepare the planet for conquest by the Irken Armada. Zim pleads with the Tallest to assign him a planet, and in a desperate act to get Zim as far away as possible, they assign him to a presumed planet on the outskirts of their known universe that has never been explored. This "Mystery Planet" is Earth, and Zim's erratic attempts at world domination and the eradication of the human race begins.
Every episode starts out with a short introduction sequence that quickly explains the plot, followed by Zim daydreaming about taking over the planet. It starts with Zim standing in front of a large crowd of Irkens with a big screen with the word "Invasion" on it. The Almighty Tallest then throw Zim into his Voot Cruiser with GIR in it and send them to Earth. They then show Dib, Gaz, and GIR, quickly followed by Zim covering the entire Earth in pipes/wires and laughing evilly, then revealing that it's only a daydream.
Criticism and controversy
Despite its popularity and continued fanbase, Invader Zim hasn't escaped criticism for its mature tone and dark themes. When Invader Zim was launched, the now-defunct magazine Christian Parenting Today negatively criticized the program in their May 2001 issue (written by Jennifer Mangan), calling the show "non-Christian", "immoral", "offensive", "blasphemous", unsuitable for Christian children, and "insulting towards Christian values and beliefs" (due to Invader Zim's dark nature and negative characters like Gaz and Ms. Bitters, among other complaints). At his panel at InvaderCON II, Richard Steven Horvitz admitted that his oldest son watched it when he was really young and at first was scared, but now that he's older he understands what happens in the series. The controversy amongst Christians and other good-moralized groups continues to this day, and their complaints most likely are one of the factors for the show's cancellation. The other factors are high production costs and because Jhonen Vasquez and Nickelodeon fought over certain content. Jhonen has currently not commented about the criticism as of yet.
More negative criticism came when the show was cited in the murder trial of Scott Dyleski in 2006. The prosecution asserted that the defendant had a fascination with images of body parts. They drew attention to comments he had made after watching "Dark Harvest", where Zim collects organs to try and appear more like a human. Witnesses for the defense said that the comments were made in jest. Jhonen has not commented on this, however, at any convention to date.