Monday, July 6, 2015

Invader Zim: Does it Hold Up?

This week's animation article over at AIPT is a review of the cult classic Nickelodeon series: Invader Zim!

I hadn't watched the show in the better part of 10 years, but enjoyed it back when I was in high school and just starting college.

The show holds up remarkably well and transcends 14 years (oh god, has it been that long?) with ease.  While I think I outgrew some of it, the positives outweigh the negatives by a wide margin.  Check out my full review for the details!

On the Turtle front, I'm working on translating the last chapter of the TMNT III manga adaptation and getting that project over and done with.  I'm 1/3 of the way done and will hopefully be through with it soon.


Anonymous said...

"On the Turtle front, I'm working on translating the last chapter of the TMNT III manga adaptation and getting that project over and done with. I'm 1/3 of the way done and will hopefully be through with it soon."


Killer Moth said...

It's amazing that Zim got canceled before the good stuff really happened (Tak returning, Dib attempting to conquer Irk and later discovering he's really an artificial human, a female Tallest who was around before Purple and Red appeared, the fact they had a series finale planned, explaining Zim's Pak as his source of life). Them's the breaks, and I'm just grateful Nick allowed such a series to happen, even if I'm still trying to figure its popularity and its overall cultural impact.

You already adroitly addressed the problems with Gaz, which is my biggest problem in re-watching the series. However, yes, Zim's ultimate problem is that it's really hard to care about the characters involved or want them to succeed, even Dib at least initially. One positive aspect was Dib's character development from being more sociopathic toward Zim to being the more sympathetic everyman he'd later become. However, it's like the rest of Jhonen Vasquez's fare: visually unique, but overall shallow and dark and "don't like, don't watch." (The latter is a fair enough argument, but still.) Strangely, from what I read, Vasquez is deeper at times than he appears, and he sometimes lampshades things, as Squee had "Anne Gwish," which was a lovely deconstruction on the gloomy goth girl type. (Imagine her in Zim, since Ms. Butters was directly from Squee.) Plus some of his tangents in JTHM can be amusing, but again, it does go back to the random ness writing problem (so this problem showed up long before Zim). Not as bad as Family Guy, but bad enough.

And then, there are other problems like the cop who had his brain swapped with a squid and then died offscreen or Iggins' near-death -- he was supposed to die, but plans changed last minute. You almost have to admire a series quite willing to kill one-shot characters in ways worse than the usual "They Killed Kenny" shtick we had, back when, but then ask, "is it just for shock value's sake," which is what Zim ran on.

It's a shame that Frank Conniff (MST3K) didn't stick around (he was only in the first few episodes), he could have fixed some of these problems. Maybe.

As for the storyboarding, can't argue with that, as I never realized that's why modern cartoons are so bland, but explains much. I do recall in Backseat Drivers that there was a scene storyboarded that when the Tallests' snacks were dumped all over the control room, Purple was trying to lap them up, including licking directly from where the camera would be. Alas, that was cut, but, strangely, that gag was successfully used in the Fred Wolf series, where we saw Mike wiping up the dust on the camera in "The Iceman Cometh." Definitely one of the more subtle 4th wall bendings we got..., and how Zim wasn't able to do the same thing. Huh. Strange compare/contrast, but there you go.

Good review, as always.

Killer Moth said...

I meant to say "The Ice Creature Cometh." D'oh!

After a second thought or two, it seems the only somewhat redeeming aspect to Gaz might be her relationship to her father, Prof. Membrane. It's not nearly as dysfunctional or bitter, compared to anyone else she encounters with. However, the rest of the time, there is that over-the-top pettiness/sociopathy that is basically her character, but there's something for Gaz defenders to consider.

Judging from this interview, it seems Vasquez is aware of these issues and will hopefully try to fix some of them in the comic revival:

"In the show, she was a bit one note, just angry and, for some reason, dressed like she was a lot older and more aware of spooky fashions when, really, that’s more of an adult, or teenage thing. Her body was almost exactly the body of Pepito, an anti-christ character from my comics. It’s a thing that bugged me but never really got addressed. Comics Gaz is still Gaz, she’s still really mean to her brother, but she’s also an actual sister, someone that loves torturing him, but should act more like someone who would defend him if someone else was causing him grief that goes beyond an acceptable level of Dib suffering. Visually, you can’t confuse her for anyone else, but she’s no longer just a body swap for another character, with her newer appearance being more a nod to her gaming obsession."

Better or worse? And as he said, "ZIM himself is unchanged. You can’t mess with ZIM."

And weirdly, for all Gir's problems, Vasquez did realize how many people were liking the character in the wrong way and did "Gir Goes Crazy and Stuff" to address those issues and remind people, "no, you're not supposed to like the character, as Gir isn't meant to be seen as cute." Too bad Hot Topic missed that memo.