The long running era of the Saturday morning cartoon has officially ended, but no one can stop you from fulfilling your true weekend calling. Cartoons and Saturday mornings were made for each other and no one can tell us otherwise. It is to that end that we maintain vigil, bringing you animated selections each Saturday morning until the internet dies, or until we run out, good thing there’s always reruns.
"Invader Zim” Episode 1.1 “The Nightmare Begins” Created by Jhonen Vasquez; Directed by Steve Ressel; Written by Rob Hummel and Jhonen Vasquez; Starring Richard Steven Horvitz, Rosearik Rikki Simons, Lucille Bliss, Andy Berman, Wally Wingert, and Kevin McDonald.
Despite the feeling that "Invader Zim" is a relatively old show, "new" episodes of the series were being broadcast through 2006. While the content itself had been created several years earlier, low ratings caused the show to be cancelled before all of the produced episodes had aired. The final piece of original content to air was ironically the pilot which didn't hit the screen until a little more than three years ago, in December of 2011.
It has always been a mystery to me why “Invader Zim” didn’t survive, it remains an unexplainable travesty to rival the likes of “Firefly” but without all of the fan fervor. The animation was sleek and stylized, setting it apart from other cartoons of the day and from just about any cartoon before or since. The writing style, defined almost entirely by creator and comic book writer Jhonen Vasquez, best known outside of Zim for “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.”
Each episode traditionally stood on its own, aside from major key elements, rather than having a detailed linear story. The first episode “The Nightmare Begins” sets the stage for the rest of the series. Members of the Irken race gather at a convention known as The Great Assigning where leaders known as the Almighty Tallest are handing down missions to a team of invaders under the banner of Operation Impending Doom II.
Zim was intentionally not invited due to previous indiscretions during Operation Impending Doom I wherein Zim began invasion tactics while still on his home planet Irk. Despite his obvious failings, Zim proved so effective that the planet was nearly destroyed, as a result Zim was banished.
However, Zim “quits” his banishment when he hears of The Great Assigning and appears to receive his orders. In a last ditch effort to get rid of Zim once and for all, the Almight Tallest send him off the map, assigning him to an unknown planet at the edge of their known universe, a planet which turns out to be Earth. Before leaving Irk, Zim is also provided a faulty robotic companion called GIR, comprised of a robotic casing filled with trash scraps and pocket change for a brain.
The Irken signals travel the vast distance of space and are picked up by Dib, a human child who, despite the obvious technological advances of this fictional Earth, seems to be the only human being aware of the imminent alien invasion.
Zim and GIR land on Earth, create disguises so minor that Clark Kent would be jealous, and begin reconnaissance on the local population.
The series proceeds from here, chronicling Zim’s attempts at conquering Earth and Dib’s attempts to stop him. Zim’s advanced technology coupled with his severe ineptitude, along with Dib’s valiant efforts and a complete lack of support for either of them on both sides results in consistent and hilarious stalemates.
In 2010 “Invader Zim” was aired again on Nicktoons as part of a rumored attempt at reviving the series but it was eventually decided that the endeavor would be too expensive. At current it seems that studio execs succeeded where the Almighty Tallest never could, they’ve gotten rid of Zim once and for all.
Happily the internet preserves all things in perpetuity including unsuccessful cartoons and every stupid mistake you make for the rest of your life. The best advice I can offer is to focus on the cartoons.