Monday, May 24, 2021

Jhonen Vasquez Returns to 'Invader Zim' for Finale of Comic Book Series

If you're going to end, it's best to end on your own terms - and Invader Zim and his creator are about to achieve that lofty goal.

(Image credit: Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group)

On the 20th anniversary of his debut with a cult-favorite Nickelodeon animated series, Invader Zim's comic book adventures are coming to a close this August with the special one-shot Invader Zim: Dookie Loop Horror from Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group.

"It's been a crazy 20 years of Zim comics but everything comes to an end, and as far as I know it IS an end but who knows if it's for real the way the things seem to keep coming back now," Vasquez tells Newsarama.

Oni-Lion Forge has confirmed that this is the end for its Invader Zim comic books, which launched back in 2015 with Vasquez. 

So what's behind the name of this finale, "Dookie Loop Horror"? Well, it's because some alien creatures called Chrono-Dumpers love to eat time, and use our dimension as well…. A toilet.

(Image credit: Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group)

"There is no escape from the time poop loop, forcing Dib and Zim to live the same TERRIBLE day forEVER," reads Oni-Lion Forge's description of the one-shot. "They wake, the tuxedoed pig farts, the world ends. And the key to fixing the loop is Gir. We are all DOOMED."

When this finale of Invader Zim first came up it was assumed Vasquez would be too busy to be involved beyond a cover - but when he was told about the finale, he jumped on to co-write it all.

In the big finale Invader Zim: Dookie Loop Horror, Vasquez teams with co-writer Eric Trueheart and artist Aaron Alexovich. They're joined by colorist Fred C. Stresing and letterer Warren Wucinich. Vasquez, Alexovich, Cole Ott and J.R. Goldberg will do variant covers.

"I want to really leave fans with something deeper to think about; something that would haunt them for the rest of their lives," Vasquez says. "So in this issue, there's a pig that farts."


Well, you have to be an Invader Zim fan to appreciate the long-held swine humor Vasquez is keying on there.

Here's a preview of Invader Zim: Dookie Loop Horror:

When asked if Vasquez approached this finale as trying to make a big, sweeping end to all things Invader Zim, he said yes, but also no.

"Because it's Invader Zim, there's a certain amount of frustration hard-coded into the DNA of the series, and that means an ending nobody asked for," says Vasquez. "We intentionally feel there are no real big questions that need answering when we can go for mind-numbingly stupid stuff instead, so this ending is about as stupid I could come up with. Besides, a thing is never really over if you don't actually end it, I think."

Fans have learned you can't really kill Invader Zim. The original cartoon only lasted for a season-and-a-half before Nickelodeon canceled it, but like some sort of goth Obi-Wan Kenobi it rose to subsequently win an Emmy Award and become a cult favorite - in some ways, partially because of its short life.

That cult status led to a specialized fan convention, continued merchandise, and more. In 2016, Nickelodeon took notice, ordering an animated film, Enter The Florpus, which debuted on Netflix in 2019. That same year, an Invader Zim theme park ride even debuted - visit it anytime you're in East Rutherford, New Jersey at Nickelodeon Universe at American Dream.

Last year, the comics switched from a monthly release schedule to a quarterly one. The ongoing series will conclude with 55 issues in total.

Vasquez says he doesn't have an answer to Invader Zim's longevity for fans, but for himself it's because of its high-minded low-brow nature - "Stupid Done Intelligently" as he calls it.

"I just like things that feel personal, no matter how stupid, no matter how messed up or not quite right, things that feel loved on some level, and I know that we loved making anything to do with Invader Zim," says the writer/artist. "Zim falls into a category I like to think of as Stupid Done Intelligently, and it's the kind of thing I've been drawn to since I was a kid and it's definitely something that creeps into my work and especially work like Zim."

So if Invader Zim can't die and this comic book ending isn't an ending, where does that leave the franchise?

"Zim always enters a sort of stasis when there isn't an actual project for me to tackle, the kind of thing that's always there in my brain, but it's not taking up all my processing power as I'm usually thinking of other ideas, hopefully newer ideas," says Vasquez. "But the moment someone pops up and offers some kind of revival my brain gets going again and dreams up new Zim ideas whether or not I even think I'll do it."

"When I heard that we were reaching the final issue of the Invader ZIM comics, I immediately started thinking of ways to end it as stupidly as possible, which is a pretty big challenge considering the levels of stupid the comic had already gone to," Vasquez told CBR. "My only hope is that when people read it, their brains won't work anymore. That's how I’ll know we did our jobs right."

According to Jasmine Amiri, senior editor at Oni-Lion Forge, the extent of Vasquez's involvement was a surprise: "We knew we wanted to do something special for the big finale of the Invader ZIM comics, but when I emailed Jhonen asking if he'd like to illustrate a cover, I wasn't expecting him to one-up us by signing on to co-write the entire thing. From that kick-off through to the end, this issue surpassed expectations. The entire creative team brought their A game, and I can't wait to share this bizarro, extremely ZIM final issue with everyone."

Each of the artists involved made their own comedic comments on the final Invader ZIM issue. Alexovich said, "I came back one last time to make sure Invader ZIM was well and truly DEAD once and for all. If we’ve done our job right, his curse will never infect anyone ever again. The world might finally be free. Also, it was fun to draw a fancy pig."

Truehart remarked, "When Jhonen asked me if I wanted to work with him on The Dookie Loop Horror, I said, 'You had me at Dookie.' And it turns out I really like loops."

Stresing's statement on concluding the series read, "Glad to have been a part of the Invader ZIM comics for so long, and even gladder to see this last issue through with a bang. A disgusting, messy bang. And you won’t believe who is back in this final issue! (Minimoose. It's Minimoose.)"

Wucinich summed things up by saying, "So it all comes down to dookie and a fancy pig. I wouldn't have it any other way."

The Dookie Loop Horror will be available in stores and online via ComiXology on Aug. 4, 2021.

Check out a doom-tastic preview of the finale of Invader ZIM Comics, below!:

(Image credit: Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group)

(Image credit: Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group)

(Image credit: Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group)

(Image credit: Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group)

(Image credit: Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group)

(Image credit: Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group)

Fans can stream Invader ZIM on Paramount+!

From /Film:

How ‘Invader Zim’ Taught an Entire Generation to Prepare For Our Bleak Reality

Nickelodeon revolutionized cartoons in the early ’90s with shows like Rugrats and Ren and Stimpy, but by the turn of the millenium, the network was in need of some fresh voices with something new to offer that didn’t come from Klasky or CsupĆ³. While SpongeBob SquarePants was making headlines and exploding in popularity, it was indie comics creator Jhonenh Vasquez who presented one of the most unique, creepy, nihilistic, and hilarious shows Nickelodeon ever saw. Even 20 years later, Invader Zim continues to prepare kids for their bleak and doomed futures.

In case you’re not familiar, Invader Zim revolves around its titular evil alien named Zim, who gets tasked with infiltrating Earth in order to take over the world. Of course, things aren’t ever that easy, and Zim is so inept at his job that he ends up barely surviving a terrestrial elementary school and the horrors of human reality. It doesn’t help that his classmate Dib is a paranormal investigator and 100% onto Zim, and he would stop at nothing to get rid of his pesky alien classmate.

One of the more obvious ways the show stood out among other Nickelodeon cartoons of the time was the way it followed a villainous protagonist, and it was clearly inspired by horror. Vasquez, who had already made a career out of horror-inspired comic books like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac (you can guess what it’s about), excelled at playing with the small separation between horror and comedy. Vazquez told us in an e-mail:

“Most horror scenarios, when simply related note for note, come off as so ridiculous and outlandish that they could be considered comical. But when you put yourself in those scenarios as reality, suddenly that joke is your living nightmare. Filtering those moments through a kid’s imagination without limits creates a world as phantasmagorical and hellish as it is wonderful.”

That is the space in which Invader Zim thrived, turning the hellish reality Vasquez and other adults were already experiencing in the early ’00s, and translating it as nightmares that kids would find too ridiculous to be afraid of, even as they subconsciously were preparing for that nightmare to become their future reality.

Take the show’s constant reliance on body horror, for instance. For a cartoon aimed at kids, a majority of Invader Zim episodes revolved around how grotesque and fragile our bodies really are. For one, humans are constantly referred to as meat sacks that house our consciousnesses, and they are constantly decaying. There is an episode about a lice infection that quickly takes over the entire school and drives the kids mad trying to scratch their disgusting heads; another episode deals with Zim getting a pimple that has psychic abilities and grows exponentially before exploding in a massive wave of pus; one time Zim literally fuses Dib’s DNA with bologna, which starts rotting away throughout the day. Watching Invader Zim as a kid was hilarious because of its broad and gross humor, and because this was a show airing on the same network as SpongeBob, it was bold to have its protagonist gouge a kid’s eyes out in order to implant the idea that he is a squirrel in his brain. As an adult, however, the show is just a grim reminder of what the rest of my life will be like — slowly seeing your meat sack rot and break away. Vazquez said:

“It’s just part of being alive. What’s more horrifying than being a fragile bubble of blood and organs threatening to fail or be popped at any given moment? The show was influenced by my childhood interpretations of horror movies and books, as well as my innate horror at simply being alive. What’s funnier than that?”

Well, finding the fact that one day your organs will fail and you’ll suffer a painful death to be hilarious is certainly a take, but there’s no denying the way the show so effectively mocks our reality by showing us a somehow even worse one.

The horror also extends beyond just knowing your body will fail and disappear with time. Invader Zim is also a generally nihilistic look at the pointlessness of life, how everything just sucks, and that we live in a failed society run by idiots. Schools are basically meaningless prisons, and the teacher is so disinterested in anything going on that when Dib goes to her asking for advice in dealing with horrible nightmares, she replies, “It’s called life, Dib, sit down.” Fast food chains like MacMeatie’s make their food out of recycled napkins, advertisements are rotting kids’ brains away, selling them video game consoles called “Game Slave.” Yet, we run and fight each other for the opportunity to be first in line to play the latest game while eating a disgusting napkin burger. Even Santa Claus is a total scam.

Invader Zim was never subtle about its anti-consumption, anti-corporate themes, but it found a morbid comedic tone about portraying a world where no one ever learns any moral lessons. Everyone in charge of anything is just too stupid and apathetic to care. Many cartoons and kids’ movies portray adults as dumber than the kids in order to make them appear more heroic or reflect how kids feel about the parents who just don’t understand them. But Invader Zim takes a different approach to prepare its audience to enter a world where everything is broken and it’s pointless to fight it because everyone is too dumb to listen. As Vazquez said, it’s “an awful world where people have gotten so disconnected and focused on the worst, most petty things.”

There is no saving the day in Invader Zim, there’s just delaying the inevitable — and after living through 2020, this has never been more relatable. As Vasquez described the uniquely nihilistic humor of the show, “maybe it has something to do with that very human quality of finding amusement in watching other people be more tormented than yourself.”

There is certainly something about Invader Zim being so incredibly, unapologetically, horrendously awful that makes it even funnier as an adult because you can laugh at finding other characters being more miserable than you. While SpongeBob and The Fairly OddParents were dominating the ratings over at Nickelodeon in 2001, and the original Justice League cartoon was introducing a generation to the superhero team, Invader Zim was preparing some of us for our impending doom with gross jokes, and lots of tacos.




(W) Jhonen Vasquez (A) Aaron Alexovich, Eric Trueheart (CA) Jhonen Vasquez

"Up in the sky, something...BLUE approaches. And it smells HORRIBLE. It turns out that interdimensional creatures called Chrono-Dumpers eat time and use our dimension as a toilet, creating an infinite time loop. There is no escape from the time poop loop, forcing Dib and ZIM to live the same TERRIBLE day forEVER. They wake, the tuxedo pig farts, the world ends. And the key to fixing the loop is GIR. We are all DOOMED...

Jhonen Vasquez and Eric Truehart return to write one final oversize Invader ZIM comic for Oni Press! "
In Shops: Aug 04, 2021

SRP: $4.99

Originally published: Tuesday, April 06, 2021 at 02:03 BST.

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