Invader Zim #40

For those of us who were teens in the late 90s to early 2000s and loved Marilyn Manson and JNCO jeans more than life itself, the name Jhonen Vasquez is very familiar. If you didn’t go through puberty like a butterfly of bad fashion, Jhonen Vasquez was the creator of such underground comics as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Squee, and I Feel Sick. Along with Roman Dirge and Hot Topic, he was an influential part of the “Spooky Cute” movement and eventually went on to help establish the “lol, so random xD” online subculture that plagues the internet to this day. The latter movement can be partially (okay, mostly) attributed to the short lived animated show Invader Zim. Though the series was canceled after two seasons, its cult status launched the show into television infamy and inspired a comic series of the same name from Oni Press. The comic is generally handled by a revolving collection of writers, which makes issue #40 that much more special. This one is penned by Vasquez himself.

If you’ve never seen Invader Zim before, basically Zim is an alien that is mistakenly sent to conquer Earth and enslave all of humankind. Along with his malfunctioning robot sidekick, GIR, he goes on wacky adventures in an attempt to fulfill his mission but is stopped at every turn by a nosy little kid named Dib (who, oddly enough, looks a lot like Vasquez). It’s a pretty bizarre cartoon, even by cartoon standards, and heavily draws upon a constantly hostile world of uncaring adults and dirt-tinged surroundings where wacky and unsettling happenings are an everyday occurrence. The comic series expands on the universe, giving Dib and Zim new adventures to butt heads over. In issue #40, the comic focuses on Zim, who becomes addicted to a terrible cartoon show called Floopsy Boops Shmoopsy and ignore his earth-taking mission in favor of sitting on the couch with GIR. For an entire issue. There you go, I saved you forty pages.

This comic is super dumb. though to be fair, I’m pretty sure that the whole purpose of Vasquez’s writing career was to troll his fans, which actually makes the comic a whole lot funnier. Even in his earlier works, he’s always been vocally against any subcultures that revolve around popular media or fandom, so it’s no surprise that when Invader Zim became a huge cult hit (to the point of fans adapting Zim’s speech and owning copious amounts of Invader Zim merchandise), he would immediately get turned off. The Floopsy Boops Shmoopsy show and Zim’s subsequent months-long addiction is a thinly veiled criticism of binge-worthy shows and our addiction to our couch, even to shows as dumb as two amorphous blobs booping each other. Zim spends a majority of his time criticizing the cartoon by pointing out flaws in between episodes, another common trope of fickle fans a la The Simpsons Comic Book Guy. Also, there’s a small side story about a monster that Zim created and subsequently ignores who ends up helping the Earth because, I don’t know, he went outside?

In terms of the Invader Zim world, this comic is exactly what you would expect from the series. It’s one long criticism of fandom and “majority rules” ways of thinking that tells the reader to think for themselves, which was a common theme in the Zim cartoon. On the other hand, the humor itself is pretty dated. He writes with the same random absurdity of the show and the show hit its peak in 2002, so unless you’re a young teen or love reliving the old days of 4chan, it gets pretty annoying, pretty fast. Vasquez has been rehashing the same humor for decades (yes, decades!) and has managed to write himself into irrelevance. At least he’ll always have the goth crowd.