|Date(s):||March 30, 2001 – August 19, 2006|
|Medium:||television, comics, movie|
|Country of Origin:||USA|
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Invader Zim is a cartoon created by Jhonen Vasquez that debuted in 2001 on Nickelodean. It was cancelled in 2002, partway through production of the second season. Though it was cancelled in 2002, it remained on air until 2006 on the Nicktoon Network. Six unaired episodes from season 2 were released via boxset, and then on Nicktoon Network in 2006. Some fans speculated the cancellation was due to a transparent image of a bloody Gir in one episode, but Zim's VA said in 2018 that blood Gir was "not it at all." Instead, both he and Vasquez placed blame on "horrible ratings," despite the show going on to be considered a cult classic and having great merchandise sales.
Invader Zim was rebooted as a fairly successful comic book series in July 2015 and has been ongoing ever since. A Netflix movie, Enter The Florpus, premiered in August 2019. The fandom has a large online presence on DeviantArt, being a pre-Tumblr era fandom but a post-social media fandom. After the release of the 2019 movie, it gained a large Tumblr fandom that included many new, younger fans. As of 2020 Invader Zim is still a wildly active fandom, and would likely have been regardless of Enter the Florpus releasing on Netflix. Becca James, writing for The A.V. Club said, "Invader Zim was destined for a cult following..."
Invader Zim is about an alien named Zim of the Irken race being tricked into coming to Earth by his leaders ("The Tallest"). He believes he is on a mission to destroy and/or subjugate the human race for the Irken Empire; he is unaware that no one of his species likes him and The Tallest sent him to Earth simply to get rid of him. On Earth he disguises himself (badly, but successfully) as a human and disguises his robot, Gir, as a green dog. Zim tries to blend in by going to elementary "Skool," and discovers that a child named Dib can tell that he is an alien. Other humans, including Dib's father and sister, believe Dib is crazy. The premise of the show then follows Dib constantly trying to thwart Zim's plans and out him, while Zim constantly concocts bad ideas to take over the planet.
There is a sub-fandom for a handful of characters from the official comics, and they have their own vocabulary of acronyms within the fandom, including ship names. This revolves around characters introduced in the comic starting in issue 46 in a location called the Zimvoid. The Zimvoid is a planet filled with various alternate versions of Zim and the other characters from different dimensions, similar to a plot line seen in Rick and Morty. The fandom seems most interested in Zim 0002 (Zim Number 2, or just Zim 2) and Zim Number 1. Zim Number 1, Zimvoid's ruler, turns out to be an alternate version of Dib in a robotic suit, who Gir calls Zib, due to Zib having a PAK attached to his head. Zib killed Zim in his own timeline and created the Zimvoid with the intention of killing all weak multiverse Zims and enslaving the strong ones to do his bidding destroying the Irken empire.
The Invader Zim fandom is "made up primarily of 1990s and 2000s kids, as well as nostalgia purists," according to The Toxic Fandoms and Hatedom's wiki. At the height of its popularity many young online denizens were going through early 2000s "phases," such as falling in line with emo, goth, or scenekid sensibilities. Whether Invader Zim influenced the popularity of these movements in young fans, or the popularity of these movements influenced the popularity of Zim, is unknown. Merchandise was sold heavily at a goth-themed store called Hot Topic, and even in 2020 Hot Topic still sales some Invader Zim merch, mainly shirts.
The release of the 2019 film attracted many new fans, most closer the the target audience age than longtime fans who had grown up. These fans also watched the original cartoon and took interest in the comics. In 2019 Tumblr user prairieprayer posted a short piece of meta examining the difference in 2008 Invader Zim early-fandom and 2019 Invader Zim neo-fandom. She noted the older fandom's much more gothic and emo sensibilities, and believed the reason to be the pop-culture of the differing decades. Her meta, edited for brevity, said:
looking at new invader zim art in 2019 is so surreal, since i first saw zim fanart back on deviantart in, what, 2008?
the styles, the way comics read, even the way modern fandom makes ship names has changed so dramatically. it’s like a bucket of cold water. there are such stark stylistic differences in visual art and fanfiction that you can clearly see the line between early fandom and neo-fandom.
the way someone designs dib in 2019 will draw from this aesthetic of alien brooches and pikachu backpacks. a 2008 dib will draw from long black trench coats and scene kid hairstyles; spiked bracelets and fingerless gloves. a total shift from the edgy gothic aesthetics into a modern lo-fi listening pop culture kid. 2019 dib would totally play pokemon go with his sister.the way a fandom will project onto the characters is always going to be based upon the culture of the adults and kids creating that fandom. in 2008 there was the x-files, twin peaks, the matrix. and 2019 there’s gravity falls, steven universe, and monster-loving movies like shape of water.
Fans animated the episode Mopiness of Doom, which had official audio recorded but was never officially animated due to the show’s cancellation. It was shown at InvaderCon 2012. Later, in Aug 2020, a 25 minute long episode for "The Trial" was animated as a multiple-animator project and uploaded to YouTube. Historically, it had been difficult to organize and finish the animated episode projects the fan community set up, but with animation software becoming more readily available and the booming animation community on YouTube, the mid to late 2010s have seen an increase in finished Zim animation projects, shorts, and animatics.
Invader Zim was popular at a time when MySpace was at its peak and social media was only beginning to come into public light. As a result, a lot of very early fan follows for Invader Zim were hosted via their own domains, with a number of them currently down or moved to Facebook.
The Invader Zim fan wiki has a section on the front page that says "Would you like to help Invader ZIM get back on air as a full fledged animated TV series again? Then visit any or all of these links!" It then lists five pages, the first being a Facebook link for "Soapy Waffles," a once popular website for those who loved the show and wanted it back on air. Soapy Waffles used to be it's own domain, called soapywaffles.com, but they no longer own the domain as of 2020. The Facebook page seemed rather active in 2018, didn't post in 2019, then it's newest post was on May 2020 with a link to a Invader Zim script compilation. The oldest Wayback Machine capture of the original site from Dec 30, 2010 said on it's front page:
Invader Zim canceled!!!!? We can't accept that - no, we WON'T accept that and we are going to do something about it. For too long we have waited for Invader Zim to return with new episodes. The wait will soon be over thanks to the crack artists at E & S Productions. Follow our slow but steady progress here at soapywaffles.com. We appreciate your support.soapywaffles.com, 2010
After Soapy Waffles is another Facebook page called Operation Head Pigeons (OHP), which had its own domain like Soapy Waffles. And just like Soapy Waffles this domain is down has of 2020, only accessible via Wayback Machine. However, trying to find OperationHeadPigeons.com on Wayback Machine only results in being re-directed to a Tumblr blog called operationheadpigeons.tumblr.com. OHP's Facebook sidebar says: " WE LOVE INVADER ZIM. And we did a lot of cool stuff “back in the day..."
A Tapatalk forum titled "Invader Zim Fan Animated Shorts" is also listed on the Zim wiki. A thread from Nov 8, 2010 discusses its history, as well as some brief history of a Zim fansite called Room with a Moose (RWAM). Based on the account, Room With a Moose was once one of the most popular Invader Zim fansites and forums for the community, though reportedly there were some arguments between the loud "Newbs" and the older, more settled members. It worked to produce its own Zim episodes, with the idea being posted as early as 2003. From this the IZFAS was born, and in 2020 has become a Tapatalk forum. The most recent posts are between 2016 to 2017, meaning that the forum has been unfortunately inactive for some time. The first short produced was titled "Way Up In The Sky." By 2004, original episodes for Invader Zim were being conceived. A rough pilot was made by 2005, called "The Most Horrible Short Ever." 2005 is considered to be the "most productive phase of its history." However, only two years later in 2007 the forum members began questioning whether the project had a future, and the short had still yet to be completed. But Dr. Deciduous, the long-time IZFAS member who wrote the history, credited the project for being what pushed and inspired them to go onto college for animation, despite the project having never worked out.
So yes, i do love this project.
You may look at the project and think what's coming out of it is crap. But what the project did for me is so much more than it'll ever do what it was intended for. Hopefully if you're reading this you're a part of this team and are in the same position i was in 5 years ago. I don't hope that you become the savior of this project and take it further than ever before but i hope this project helps you the way it helped me.Invader Zim Fan Animated Series is a curious subject And i hope it lasts foreverDr. Deciduous, 2010.
Ships in the Invader Zim fandom usually work by combining the two first initials of a character’s name, separated by an 'a' for "and" (such as ZaD) and then tacking on a "R" for romance, "F" for friendship, or "E" for enemies. For instance, ZaDR, refers to Zim and Dib romance, ZaDF refers to Zim and Dib as friends, and ZaDE refers to Zim and Dib as enemies. The IZ fandom is one of the only fandoms that retains a distinction in ship names for friends and enemies versus lovers. GIR’s name is fully written in ship names to avoid confusion with Gaz. For example, GaGIRf is Gaz and GIR as friends. They also follow a few capitalization rules, with zadr, ZaDR, and ZADR being acceptable, and ZADr, zAdR, and zaDR being examples of ways the fandom doesn't capitalize the ships. Zim's name is usually the one abbreviated first, and DAZR, the reversed version, is not used. This method of ship naming is so far unique to the Zim fandom.
Additionally, after Enter the Florpus was released, many new fans entered the fandom. They began shipping Zim with Professor Membrane and called it the portmanteau Zimbrane, probably because they were unfamiliar with older fans’ conventions. One other exception is the rarepair of alien Zim with Zim in his human disguise. This selfcest ship is called Zimcest.
ZaDR has always been the most popular yet most controversial ship in the fandom. Controversy is largely related to perception of the characters' differing ages. The second wave of the fandom was somewhat more strongly against the ship.
Shipping Abbreviations and Names
These ships below only use the romance designation, except for one example, but the "r" may be replaced with an "f" for friendship or "e" for enemies at the discretion of the artist.
- ZADR- Zim/Dib
- ZAGR- Zim/Gaz
- ZATR- Zim/Tak
- DAGR- Dib/Gaz
- DATR- Dib/Tak
- GATR- Gaz/Tak
- DADR- Dib/Dwicky
- GAGIRF- Gaz and Gir friendship
- QQPZADR- Queer platonic Zim/Dib
- ZA2R or ZAZ2R- Zib/Zim 0002
- Zimbrane or ZaPMR- Zim/Professor Membrane
- Zimcest- Alien Zim/Disguised Zim
- RAPR- Tallest Red/Tallest Purple
Headcanons and Alternate Universes
The Irken alien race is a favorite topic for interpretation and expansion. Irken physical characteristics, such as antennae or teeth, or their culture and relationships are headcanonned in art, fanfic, etc.
Most artists tend to age up the characters either to "hi school" or college age. While the headcanon that Dib always grows up rather tall and lanky is the most popular, not everyone's headcanon for Zim's size is the same. Some artists keep him small (even if growing a few inches taller) to keep in line with his low-ranking Irken status. Others make him grow tall, if not taller than the Tallest, to threaten their leadership despite his defective pak.
Dib bring trans has grown in popularity with the neo-fandom. As of Nov 26, 2020, 52 works are tagged as trans Dib on AO3, which despite only being 1%, sorting by "kudos" reveals the front page of general Invader Zim fanfics on AO3 to have 3 fanfics tagged with trans. This number would technically be even more so, as fanfiction by BamSara always includes trans Dib despite not every fic having the tag, bringing the number up to 6 trans dib fanfics on the front page sorted by kudos.
Though not a wide spread headcanon there are still quite a few artists who like to depict the aged up teenage characters engaging in underaged smoking, drug use (usually weed), and drinking. Sometimes this is a result of Professor Membrane's neglectful parenting when used as a plot in fanfiction. Other times characters becoming accidentally drunk off of something alien is a plot point, such as Dib getting accidentally drunk off of Irken beverages that would be harmless to an Irken.
Cryptids are a popular topic of AU. An AU type, which can generally be called a cryptid hunting AU, grew in popularity through Tumblr circa 2018, with it being a rather popular AU as of 2020. This AU is mostly used in ZaDR through art and fanfiction, where Dib, often with the reluctant help of Zim, hunt monsters and cryptids together. It may have been most popularized by artist BamSara's series starting in Dec 2019 called "Cryptids, Emotions And The Possible End Of The World" on AO3, which as of Nov 2020 contains five connected stories equaling 164,894 words, and is still in progress. BamSara's Tumblr includes several accompanying doodles. A fanfic called "Temporary Living Arrangement" often credits BamSara's doodles in the author notes as an inspiration, and in later chapters has the characters go on vacation to hunt mothman.
A Mermaid AU is also popular, more so with fanart. Artists tend to depict Zim as a mermaid more often than Dib, likely since Zim is already a cryptid. Instead of making Zim look more like a human/fish hybrid, he usually just has his alien front half on top of a fish body, which gives the appearance of an Irken/fish hybrid rather than a more traditional mermaid.
The fandom has a love hate relationship with the showrunner, Jhonen Vasquez. He often pokes fun at his fan base, especially shippers, which has caused many to dislike him, and his comments on social media tend to be sarcastic. A forum post in 2010 said: "From what ive read from his blogs (Or what I think are his blogs) I get the vibe that jhonen Vaquez Is kind of a jerk." A response to the forum post said: "Vasquez got about the crappiest treatment imaginable with everything involving Zim. The guy kinda has a reason to be a jerk when it comes up, don't ya think?" His social media posts suggest that he has been annoyed with his fanbase for some time, and dislikes the constant attention fans give him despite the show having been cancelled in 2002 (and re-runs ending in 2006), which is 18 years ago as of 2020. On Apr 13, 2020, Vasquez and Richard Horvirz (Zim's VA) streamed games on Vasquez's Twitch. During the stream fans began jokingly saying things like "kill Richard" and "cancel Richard" in the chat. Vasquez told Richard that no one deserved to be told how much they should die, insinuating he's had experience with the issue, possibly with his own fans.
- Invader Zim MV Every breath you take one-sided ZaDr
- Zadr! Playing with fire Ch. 1
- ALIENS! - Invader Zim: Enter The Florpus AMV
- Invader Zim - E.T
- IZ YTP Quest for a stripclub
- INVADER ZIM SONG "Alien Freak" (Ft. TheSpyBeetle) | K-MODO
- Crazy Fool~ An Invader Zim Fan-song For Gaz (parody Of Alien Freak)
- Escape Party on the Massive-- an Invader Zim Fansong
- Song For The Invader Zim Fandom
- Peace is Nice COVER | Invader Zim Enter the Florpus Song
- The feel of Irken claws- FFN Zim fanfic with the most favorites
- Heat- Mpreg and Heat fic
- The human Kribliss
- Time & Space- Zim fanfic with the most kudos
- Rite not Right- Tallest shipping fic
- Mindful Re-Education- Crossover fic with Steven Universe
Meta and Further Reading
Archives & Fannish Links
- Invader Zim Cancellation, Wikipedia. (Accessed 11/22/2020)
- Invader Zim, Wikipedia. (Accessed 7/11/2020)
- Zimvoid, Invader ZIM Wiki. (Accessed 11/5/2020)
- Invader Zim Fandom, Toxic Fandoms and Hatedoms]. (Accessed 7/11/2020)
- IZ 2008-2019, Circa 2019. (Accessed 11/5/2020) (Archived 11/5/2020)
- The Trial - Invazer Zim Lost Episode (FULL MAP), YouTube. Aug 30, 2020. (Accessed 11/4/2020)
- Invader ZIM Home, Zim Wiki. (Accessed 7/7/2020)
- Soapy Waffles, Wayback Machine. Dec 30, 2020 (Accessed 7/6/2020)
- Operation Head Pigeons, Facebook. (Accessed 7/7/2020)
- Operation Head Pigeons, Tumblr May 18, 2014 (Accessed 7/7/2020)
- The History of IZFAS, Invader Zim Fan Animated Shorts, Nov 8, 2010. (Accessed 10/25/2020)
- D-A-D-R-Love, DeviantART. (Accessed 11/4/2020)
- Editor's Note: Though it wouldn't seem like it, these practices and plot lines are still surprisingly common, enough to be noticed in any scroll-through of fanart or fanfiction. (Patchlamb, 11/8/2020)
- Crytids, Emotions And The Possible End Of The World, Archive of Our Own. (Accessed 11/5/2020)
- Tempoary Living Arrangement, Archive of Our Own. 5/29/2020. (Accessed 11/5/2020)
- Invader zim mer au, YouTube. Jul 14, 2020 (Accessed 11/26/2020)
- Is Jhonen Vasquez a Jerk? Gaintitp.com. 10/11/2010. (Accessed 11/11/2020)
- Jhonen Vasquez and Richard Horvitz Dreams Stream (Highlights), YouTube. Apr 14, 2020. (Accessed 11/11/2020)