'Invader Zim' Creator
Jhonen Vasquez

The San Jose-born alternative comic book artist hit the big time
with a toon about an interstellar psycho

Derf | Jhonen Vasquez | Alternative Press Expo Artist Panels | Dan Vado | Jimmie Robinson

Jhonen Vasquez's influential comics and Nickelodeon cartoon helped pave the way for shows like 'Rick and Morty.'

Invader Zim, now that was a show. Burning bright and fast, the series took over Nickelodeon for two seasons before being cut off for reasons that have never been entirely clear to fans.

Like The Ren and Stimpy Show before it, Invader Zim stands in a line of cartoons that seemed bent on subverting tropes and pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable to show kids in the middle of the day.

The Ren & Stimpy Show satirized the cat & dog genre pioneered by cute mascots like Tweety or Tom & Jerry with outright ugly characters, dookie jokes and some gruesome psychological moments.

In the same vein, Invader Zim stood as a darker take on the hapless Earth invader a la Marvin the Martian. The show combined the titular character's desire for world conquest with a bleak portrayal of our world—which often seemed unworthy of salvation.

Looking back, it's hard to imagine shows like Rick and Morty and its contemporaries getting the green light without works like Ren & Stimpy and Zim.

Invader Zim was created by the San Jose-born Jhonen Vasquez, who grew up loving the gritty and unpolished aesthetic of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series from the 1980s.

Vasquez got his start penning comic strips for the school paper at Mt. Pleasant High School. His first character, Johnny C. would go on to earn Vasquez a following through the seven issue series Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. That following gave Vasquez the platform he needed to take his work to the big leagues with Invader Zim.

Avid followers of Vasquez's work might also remember the proposed Disney show Very Important House, which Vasquez began work on with the help of Rick and Morty production designer Jenny Goldberg back in 2013. Unfortunately, by 2016 word got out that Disney was not planning to run the show after all—although in a totally corporate move, they did retain the rights, effectively trapping the promising show in a purgatorial state from which it may never return.

Despite the fate of this aborted TV series and far-too-short life span of Invader Zim, not all hope is lost. Earlier this year Nickelodeon teased a new TV special starring Zim, which the original creator has reportedly been hard at work on.

Fans will get a chance to see the man himself and grab an autograph as Vasquez comes at this year's Alternative Press Expo on Saturday.

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