Invader Zim

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Zim: And I will watch you transform more and more into what you really are, deep down in your heart!
Dib: Deep down I'm bologna?
Zim: Yes.
Dib: That's just dumb.
Zim: Dumb like a moose, Dib. DUMB LIKE A MOOSE!

Invader Zim was an Animated Series by Jhonen Vasquez, which premiered in 2001 on Nickelodeon. Reruns are still being shown on the Nicktoons channel as of this writing.

Set Twenty Minutes Into the Future, this dark, Cyberpunkish show starred Zim, an Irken Invader sent by the Almighty Tallest to take over Earth (read: shipped off here because he screwed up on his last invasion attempt; they just want to get rid of him, but Zim doesn't know this).[1] He is ineptly aided in this "mission" by a defective robot assistant named GIR.

This "alien invasion" attracts elementary school student Dib, a self-styled paranormal investigator just itching to expose something strange and weird. And Zim seems just the alien to expose...

Early episodes followed a rigid formula: Zim would attempt to get rid of Dib and conquer the world, while Dib would attempt to expose Zim, only for both to discover that Failure Is the Only Option. But later episodes used a Snap Back to do all sorts of bizarre things unrelated to the plot, and some episodes involved only one of them facing an external threat.

The dark humor and interesting storylines attracted loads of people outside the targeted age range. Part of the reason for this is the show's distinctive art and writing style. The art style is a variation of Jhonen Vasquez's previous work, simplified for animation. Though at first the show stuck to a formula, the efforts of Mr. Vasquez and head writer TV's Frank Conniff developed into a much more idiosyncratic, hammy, and satirical style.

Unfortunately, the show proved Too Good to Last. While quite popular, especially outside of Nickelodeon's typical demographic, its ratings did not have far to slip before Nickelodeon deemed the show's hefty price tag not worth further expenditure. This alone would have provoked mass outcry, but Nickelodeon also declined to sell the show's copyright (and there were other networks interested in purchasing it), to the dismay of creators and fans alike. The Internet Backdraft was considerable, but sadly, largely unsuccessful, with one exception—Media Blasters getting the rights to sell DVDs of the show. (The Media Blasters DVDs have since gone out of print, and has released their own Vanilla Edition collections of the show in an attempt to fill the void. Nickelodeon has also released a "best of" disc, Operation Doom. All of which were only released in North America.)

Despite its short run, the show had and still has an über-huge fanbase, some of whom even now cling to the hopes of a revival. While logic would tell you that the odds are against it, even as late as 2010 Nickelodeon actually has considered the prospect, and by his own account Jhonen Vasquez would be willing to return should such a thing happen (which it most likely will not, but it's nice to know). In the meantime, you'll find yourself with plenty of company should you go looking for fellow fans, but this can be a bit of a double-edged sword given the nature of rumor on the internet, leading to the spread of a lot of well-intentioned but often grossly inaccurate information, especially regarding the circumstances surrounding the show's untimely cancellation (in a semi-recent blog post, the creator himself has noted that even IMDB and Wikipedia contain errors). Be wary of what you read.

With that said, sometimes even the craziest rumors do wind up with a grain of truth to them. In September 2010, Jhonen Vasquez disclosed in a blog post that Nickelodeon had been seriously considering a revival, as Zim's ratings on Nicktoons were scoring second only to Avatar: The Last Airbender. This eventually lead to the monthly comic series which ran for 50 issues between 2015 and 2020.

Inspired by the on-going success of the comics, a Netflix film was commissioned titled Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, which premiered on August 16, 2019.

Tropes used in Invader Zim include:

Dib: How did I ever miss that?!

  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing
  • Biting the Hand Humor
  • Black and Gray Morality: The Zim vs. Dib dynamic, on average.
  • Black Comedy: Only Jhonen Vasquez could make the hostile alien takeover of our world so twistedly funny.
  • Body Horror: Dib and Zim slowly morphing into giant bologna sausages.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Zim with Dib, especially of the Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him variety. It's particularly noticeable in "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom," where he had Dib helpless in his base, and shot him... with a muffin-firing gun, and then just let him go.
    • Possibly justified in-universe as, at that point, Zim's rivalry with Dib was pretty much the only thing keeping him on the invasion-scheming track...
  • Boot Camp Episode: In "Hobo 13", Zim is sent to the military training world 'Hobo 13' and told that if he survives he can have a big sack of battle tanks.
  • Bottle Episode: "Zim Eats Waffles".
    • Note that this episode is more an indication of Jhonen's crueler forms of humor.
  • Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Gretchen.
  • Brick Joke: In "Career Day," Zim is told his ideal career is as a fast food slave, and the episode, like most others, suffers from Negative Continuity and so the viewer thinks nothing much of it. Fast forward to "The Frycook What Came From All That Space," and we learn that an Irken Control Brain reprogrammed Zim's PAK to register him within the Irken Empire as a fast food slave on Foodcourtia.
    • The joke started even earlier, in the first episode:

Tallest Purple: Weren't you banished to Foodcourtia? Shouldn't you be... frying something?

    • Super Toast, from the first episode to "Future Dib".
  • Bridge Logic: Subverted on Hobo 13.
  • Buffy-Speak: All the time.

"All while gathering crucial information, assessing the planet's weaknesses, making it vulnerable to our big... space ship... gang!"
"Score one for the human race! Score nothing for the Zim... thingy... race."
"By the way, it's not called parent teacher night, it's called Zim doom parent... Zim doom Zimmy... doom... night."

    • and so on...
  • Burger Fool: This trope is taken to an absurd, Nightmare Fuel degree, to the point that it deters people from eating fast food and watching the show with a clear conscience. Pretty much every fast-food chain is portrayed as a disgusting, horrible place to eat or work, with the likes of Crazy Taco, Mac-meaties, Bloaty's Pizza Hog, and Chicky Licks.
  • But for Me It Was Tuesday: Zim's reaction to Tak telling him how he ruined her life could qualify as this trope:

"Yes, yes, so you blame me for your horrible life, blah, blah, big deal!"

  • Butterfly of Doom: When Zim starts sniping at Dib via a temporal displacement device, Dib starts accumulating more and more debilitating injuries, and is eventually driven to the point of death... After which he is revived and equipped with a bionic exoskeleton by Professor Membrane. All further attempts on Dib's past life result in upgrades to the exoskeleton.
    • Its final form, if you're paying attention, is a Mad Cat Mk. 3 armed with weapons that all come straight from BattleTech/Mechwarrior - Jhonen Vasquez's favorite games.
    • And, of course, when Zim uses the last pig to send a message to his past self to never use the time machine, the pig replaces his brain.
  • Butt Monkey: Dib, to the point where when he and Zim are piloting Mercury and Mars respectively in "Battle of the Planets", Dib is piloting the Butt of Mercury, and gets there by a spaceship that was once used to shoot monkeys into space.
    • Zim fares slightly better compared to Dib, but he's been kicked around several times as well. Be it due to his various horrible injuries, frequent failures, or being despised by his own species due to his own incompetence and violent nature.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: In "Door to Door", Zim and Dib's class is selling Poop candy bars for a fundraiser, promised that the student who sells the most candy bars will win a mystery prize. Zim goes to ridiculous lengths to get it, eventually selling 1.2 million candy bars, only to find out that there was no mystery prize, it was just made up to get the kids to sell more candy bars.
  • Cardboard Prison: From the Christmas special.

Dib: Hey. (tastes the bars) these are made of real candy canes.

    • Immediately lampshaded and subverted with this.

Zim: And this time throw him in the actually strong jingle jail.
Dib: Why didn't you throw me in the strong one in the first place?

    • There was also an episode where Zim got abducted by aliens even dumber and more incompetent than he was... all their prisoners escaped in no time at all
  • Cassandra Truth: Normally targeted at Dib.
  • Catch Phrase
    • GIR: "I love this show." or "This is my favorite show." or just, "TACOS!"
    • Professor Membrane: "My poor, insane son."
    • Dib: "MY HEAD'S NOT BIG!"
    • ZIM: "I AM ZIM!"
    • Dib: "You jerk."
    • Police Chief: "GET HIM!"
  • Cavalier Consumption: Gir does this frequently.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When we first see the nurse in "Dark Harvest", she's playing with a mooing can. At the end of the episode, Zim uses it to replace one of Dib's organs (we are not shown which one).
  • Character Overlap: In the Johnny the Homicidal Maniac spinoff, titular character Squee is in Ms. Bitters's class (although she is never given a name here), and nearly gets abducted by the two idiotic aliens from the Zim episode "Abducted" a total of three times. The aliens first appeared in the original JTHM comics.
  • Cheerful Child: Keef. This being Invader Zim it doesn't end well for him. But he gets better.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Professor Membrane is really fond of this. As is Dib. And GIR. And the Tallest. And pretty much the whole cast except Zim, who's like this almost constantly.

Professor Membrane: "Not now, son! I'm making (electrical arcs flash from his workbench) TOAST!"

  • Chew Toy: Poor little Invader Skoodge...
  • Child-Hater: Ms. Bitters, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
  • Clark Kenting: Zim.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: GIR.
    • To a lesser extent, Zim and Dib.
  • Compulsory School Age: Zim's older than any human alive, and in "NanoZim" he taunts Dib that he's been flying ships since before Dib was born, yet he attends what appears to be an elementary school—and with his height, he fits in, although he really shouldn't. He opted to do so, believing it to be the best way to retrieve information about the species he intends to conquer.
  • Conspicuous CG: It doesn't blend in as well as, say, Futurama, but it still looks pretty good. The creators Lampshade Hanging it in the DVD commentary for "A Room With a Moose", claiming that they spend the whole season's CG budget on the 3D walnuts.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Dib and the Swollen Eyeball Network.
  • Continuity Lock Out: Played with in-universe in "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever". Zim's motive for trying to conquer earth and where the Santa suit came from COMPLEEEETLY ELUUUUDES one of the kids Mr. Slushy is telling the story to, because he didn't elaborate on it. His response is topick the kid up and tuck her 'under' the bed.
  • Continuity Nod: Strangely, the use of the Snap Back did not serve as a deterrent to the use of this as well. In "Gaz, Taster of Pork" there's actually a Continuity Nod to an episode that was a Snap Back!
    • Probably the best example of this is the way it's possible to trace the fate of planet Vort—it's singled out for conquest in "The Nightmare Begins," seen briefly in "Walk for Your Lives" as the Tallest check up on the Invaders, is in the very next episode ("MegaDoomer") mentioned to have been conquered, in "Backseat Drivers" we learn it was turned into a prison, and in "Frycook" we hear about the faulty security systems that were initially put into place, presumably explaining how the Resisty's Vortian captain (Lard Nar) is out and about.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: A lot of it, perhaps best exemplified by a room... With A Moose!
    • Banishment to the "Realm of Eternal Screaming and... Restlessness".
  • Cool Chair: Lard Nar, leader of the Resisty, has a chair that does not hover but has an extended attachment that lets it move around the ship.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The Halloween episode.
  • Crapsack Universe: It is a show made by Jhonen Vasquez, after all.
  • Creative Differences: In the behind-the-scenes show production, rather infamously.
  • Creator Cameo: Various writers and animators were drawn into recurring background characters (including Frank Conniff, a.k.a. TV's Frank). Series creator Jhonen Vasquez provided the voices of both Zim's computer and Minimoose.
  • Credits Gag: Done in the episode FBI Warning, with the titular FBI warning in the beginning of Intestines of War. Apparently, most FBI warnings are made by people threatened by smelly piggies.
    • "The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigates allegations of criminal copyright infringement. They will hunt you down like the dirty monkey you are and force you to wear a moose skin and ride a greased piggy while singing folk tunes. They’re forcing me to ride the piggy as I write this. The piggy is smelly!"
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Zim is an idiot, but he is also a genius at times and shouldn't be underestimated.
    • GIR also qualifies. While he's generally the ultimate Cloudcuckoolander, he occasionally has moments of hypercompetence, if only by accident, and rarely screws up missions by himself.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Dib spots right away that Zim is a dangerous alien. And nobody will listen.
  • Cut Short: Jhonen Vasquez already plotted out a finale right before the series was canceled.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: "Ten Minutes to Doom."

Dib: Dad, do you know what this means? This device... it IS Zim. It's his brain and his life support. That means his body is just... something to carry his PAK around.

  • Dark World: The Halloween episode features Dib flashing into an evil version of the normal world with monstrous versions of his already-weird home reality.
  • Deer in the Headlights: Parodied in the "Ultra-Peepi" episode, where the masses aren't paralyzed in fear, but are too busy adoring his cuteness to get away.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The Show Within a Show "Mysterious Mysteries of Strange Mystery".
    • Not to mention that a lot of Zim's lines tend to use this. ("Let us rain some doom upon the doomed heads of our doomed enemies.")
  • Deus Angst Machina: It's a Jhonen Vasquez creation, this should go without saying.
    • In "Walk of Doom", Zim walks into the tallest building to get to the top to get his bearings of the city. As it turns out, that building is a bank that was just robbed, and his human disguise looks just like the bank robber. Cue Chase Scene.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Zim'd be a lot more effective if he could just learn when to quit. In "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy" Dib had lost just about all of his ability to represent a threat to Zim, but his continued attempts to KILL him after he'd already been crippled backfired rather spectacularly.
  • Did Mom Just Have Tea with Cthulhu??: Gaz with the Shadow Hog, and Professor Membrane with Zim. Poor Dib.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Zim and Gaz in particular. In Zim's case, some examples (such as "The Wettening") overlap with There Is No Kill Like Overkill.
    • The episode "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom" is practically made of this trope. Dib throws a muffin at Zim during lunchtime at Skool one day. What does Zim do to retaliate? He constructs a brilliant Lotus Eater Machine for Dib based on everything the boy wants to do in life, and in Dib's twilight years, while being interviewed on a TV show celebrating his accomplishments, the TV host asks Dib if he'd been the one who threw the muffin at Zim all those years ago. Dib answers yes, and suddenly, Zim's face appears on the faces of everyone in the audience. Dib wakes up, in the real world, connected to a machine in Zim's lab. With this unpleasant little fact known, Zim coldly tells Dib to get out. Crushed, Dib begins walking away, only to have a gigantic gun aimed at his face. What fires out of the gun? A muffin.
  • Do Androids Dream?: "... and why was my computer coughing?"
  • The Dog Is an Alien: Gir disguises himself as Zim's pet dog. ... his disguise being a bad costume with a zipper and a tongue sticking out.
  • Be Doomed by the Doomy Dooms of Your Doomly Doom, Doomed One!: This is, after all, the show that gave us the Doom Song, the Megadoomer, and even titles like "Mopiness of Doom" and "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom".
  • Door to Door Episode: The episode titled... wait for it... "Door to Door."
  • Do They Know It's Christmas Time?
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: In "Hobo 13".
  • Dumbass Has a Point: In "Walk for Your Lives" Zim's plan to eliminate the explosion (by setting it off on full speed!) is so terrible even GIR realizes it.

GIR: But won't it just explode? JUSTLIKETHIS, KABLAM!

    • GIR actually does this fairly often:

ZIM: GIR! We've been seen out of our disguises! By a human!
GIR: But Dib's seen us. He knows where we live!

    • In "Walk of Doom", when Zim and GIR get horribly lost in the big city:

GIR: Why don't we just ask the information humans for help?

Dib: Don't you care that Zim is trying to destroy all mankind? Huh?
Gaz: But he's so bad at it.

  • Faux Affably Evil: Zim. The Tallests are arguably even moreso.
  • Fauxtastic Voyage: Inverted in "Room With a Moose".
  • Flanderization: Keef is a particularly good example. What started out as a cheerful, somewhat lonely kid grew in later episodes (namely the unfinished Return Of Keef) to a full-fledged stalker.
  • Follow the Leader: After Invader Zim hit cult status and became immensely popular with the preteen demographic, many other animated TV shows started turning towards dark and random humor. Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, The Misadventures of Flapjack, Adventure Time, and Making Fiends are a few examples.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Spoofed; not only was the original form not that uncomfortable, but they turned into shoes.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: almost every headstone in the graveyard in Mortos der Soulstealer. Messages range from "JEFF: HE WAS NICE" to "LET ME OUT" and more.
    • Bloody GIR, to an extent.
  • Friendly Enemy: Zim and Dib in the Pilot.
  • Funny Background Event: In Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom, three of the levels on the elevator are shown to be "Gym" "Pool" and "Tacos."
  • Gainaxing: Zim's giant growing bubbly zit "Postulio" bounces in this fashion when Zim flicks it. Fridge Brilliance kicks in that this was HOW the zit hypnotizes people.
  • Girl Scouts Are Evil: Moofy and the Girly Rangers.
  • Grandfather Paradox: "In Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy." The resulting Logic Bomb causes GIR to literally explode. (That happens to him sometimes.)
  • Gross-Out Show: It had its moments. Mostly highlighted in "Dark Harvest", "Germs", and "Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom."
  • Herr Doktor Countess von Verminstrasser.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Ken Nordina AKA "Movie Trailer Voice Guy" hosts the television show Mysterious Mysteries, and gets the spotlight in one episode.
  • Hidden Badass: Tak
  • Homage: "FBI Warning of Doom".
  • Homage Shot: A scene from "Hamstergeddon" which the crew admits they lifted from the first episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Compare.
  • Hot-Blooded: Zim's computer; a strange mix of this (Processing...PROCESSING!) and a Straight Man.
  • Human Aliens: Subverted.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Almost all of them. The Meekrob, the Slaughtering Rat People, Shloonktapooxys of the Resisty—and possibly the Plookesians—are some of the only exceptions.
    • Well, a lot of the background aliens look different, though a loose humanoid form does seem to be standard for "important" races.
  • Human Outside, Alien Inside: Despite the fact that Zim appears to be able to pass for human with only a minimal disguise, his inner workings appear to be quite different. "Ow, my squeedlyspooch!"

Zim: "Don't come any closer! Don't try anything on me or I'll...I'll...I'll lay eggs in your stomach! I mean it!"

    • Although that one may or may not have any basis in reality as he was primarily trying to scare off his "worshipers".
  • Humans Are Morons: Every human is an idiot, except for Gaz, Dib, Agent Darkbooty and Professor Membrane. Although it should be noted that the whole universe is portrayed as stupid much of the time, so they're really not any worse off.
  • Humiliation Conga: Everything Zim had set up for the humans in "Backseat Drivers from Beyond The Stars" blows up SPECTACULARLY.
  • I Have a Family: "I have children. And a toilet. And toilet... children."
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight:
    • In "GIR Goes Crazy and Stuff", Zim tries to remind knowledge-mad duty-mode GIR of having been Zim's servant before.
    • In "Dibship Rising", the Dibship, under Zim's mind control, is about to destroy Dib. Dib attempts to stop the ship by reminding it that it is essentially Dib too.
  • Incessant Music Madness: As Zim flies to Earth, GIR decides to sing the "Doom Song" on the way... for six months straight. Zim is just about to lose it when they finally arrive.
  • Incoming Ham: The first time we see Professor Membrane is when he is making... *sparks fly* TOAST!!!
    • Of course, he is the inventor of "Super Toast!"
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: Lampshaded, and so played for comedic value.

"Hey! Look at that garbage can!"
"Why yes, it is quite impressive, that can."

"Gaz! Taste me! I'm delicious!"

  • Kicked Upstairs: Zim's task of ruling earth.
  • Kidnapped Scientist: The Vortians are essentially an entire race of such.
  • Kids Are Cruel: But also stupid.
    • Pretty much the entire reason for "Room With A Moose."
  • Kill It with Water: Drives the plot of "The Wettening".
  • Knight Templar: The Delouser in "Lice," being rather pointedly Not So Different from Dib. Slab Rankle, the security guard from "FBI Warning of Doom," could be argued as one too.
  • Konami Code: It's a code for extra lives in one of Gaz's games.
  • Kryptonite-Proof Suit: Zim's solution to being melted by water? A paste based coating.
  • Lotus Eater Machine: Is revealed to be the generator of most of the plot in "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom".
  • Magical Defibrillator: In "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy." The paddles turn to pigs.
  • Maximum Fun Chamber: Based on Dib's reaction, a room with a nut-eating moose is either this or a psychological Brown Note.
  • Meaningful Name: GAZ and Zim are a make and model of Soviet-produced car, respectively.
  • The Merch: Still available at your local Hot Topic.
  • The Millstone: GIR is usually far more hindrance than help with Zim's mission.
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: Spoofed to no end with Zim's inventions. Here's someone that builds a machine that can suck all the water off of the planet, but only uses it to win a water balloon fight.
  • Most Definitely Not a Villain: Zim and the two aliens from "Abducted".
  • Myth Arc: Or there would have been...
  • Negative Continuity: Attack of the Saucer Morons has not one, but two fairly-large groups of humans discover Zim's true identity. There's also the time Zim and Dib got turned into baloney apparently permanently.
    • Zim never returns Earth to its proper place at the end of the planet stealers episode, plus the moon falls onto it
      • The same goes for the ending of "Hobo 13", where Zim is sent to the sun on a ship with locked controls by the Tallest. We never know how he managed to get out of that situation either.
    • In more than one episode, some aired after "The Wettening," Zim is seen getting wet without causing him excruciating pain.
      • I think Word of God says that that's because he's wearing paste. (Though he seems to forget to other times.)
  • New Media Are Evil: Inverted with Professor Membrane, who believes the reverse.

Prof. Membrane: Video games develop hand-eye coordination, and make children into better human beings.

    • Possibly played straight with Gaz who has freaked out every character but Gir and Membrane.
  • Nightmarish Factory: The skool's boiler room. Surprisingly though, it has plenty of guard rails, averting No OSHA Compliance.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The "Ninja Ghost" Dib claimed to see in his toilet. The giant, flesh-eating, demon squid. The giant, flesh-eating, demon squid's cyborg demon minions. And so much more.
    • When trying to come up with a name for their resistance movement, one of the suggestions for the Resisty's name was "The Pirate Monkeys."
      • Issa awesome name!
  • Nobody Can Die: Executive Meddling forced a number of changes in this department, although some deaths did manage to make it past the radar.
    • The most humorous example of this is the mutated hamster episode, which ended with a still frame saying that nobody died. If you listen to the commentary of that episode Jhonen and the other cast members off-handidly mention "Oh, he's/she's dead" and completely ignore the still frame.
  • No Indoor Voice: Zim. Who, for example, has a MIGHTY NEED to use the restroom.
  • Noodle Implements: The final tier of Zim's test to see who is most fit to be his friend involves a toy taxi and a stuffed beaver. Whatever happened, it took half an hour and left the other participants other than Keef covered in third degree burns and barely conscious.
    • The third degree burns were from Zim's second test of electrical conductivity.
  • Noodle Incident: Several, especially concerning Dib's past:

Professor Membrane: Son, there better not be any walking dead up there!
Dib: It's nothing to worry about, dad! And I said I was sorry about that!

"Hey, you're Dib, aren't you? Tell me, did you ever get that ninja ghost out of your toilet?"
"Yes, no thanks to you!"

    • Then there was this little gem in "The Nightmare Begins":

The Letter M: Yeah, what's wrong with you? All you talk about is aliens and ghosts and seeing bigfoot in your garage!
Dib: He was using the belt sander...

    • Don't forget whatever gave the Mysterious Mysteries host his scar. Honestly, it's probably safe to say that Dib's entire life is one big Noodle Incident.
    • Zim's actions during Operation Impending Doom 1 would have been one of these if not for a very revealing Flash Back.
    • Also, whatever changed the way Valentine's Day is celebrated.

Ms. Bitters: I had a Valentine once.

    • Then there's what ever it was that happened to the previous guidance counselor...
  • Not Me This Time: In "Planet Jackers", Zim initially thinks GIR is responsible for screwing up his telescope, but this turns out to not be the case.

Zim: Something is broken, and it's not your fault?
GIR: I know. I'm scared too!

  • Note to Self:: Seen in "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy".
  • The Not-So-Harmless Punishment: "Gaz, Taster of Pork" ends with one. And, of course, the "Room With a Moose."
  • Oblivious Younger Sibling: Sort of—Gaz isn't oblivious, she just doesn't care. See above.
  • Old Media Are Evil: Zim despises television, which is constantly portrayed as garbage. Commercials in particular.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Meats of Evil, "Bolognius Maximus".
  • One-Man Army: Apparently skilled-enough and well-equipped Irken Invaders are capable of conquering the planet by themselves, though it seems it's mostly a case of leaving it up to their technology to do it once they enter the planet.
    • Hell, a single functional SIR unit seemed pretty capable of conquering the planet, as shown during the episode where GIR gets (temporarily) repaired, and with Tak's functioning SIR unit.
  • One Product Planet: Foodcourtia, the food court planet, Callnowia, the mail-order planet with Conveyor Belt Planet for shipping, Blorch, which is now the parking structure planet... the Irken love doing this.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Drives the plot of both "Planet Jackers" and "Tak, the Hideous New Girl," as Zim won't tolerate an attempted takeover/destruction of Earth from anyone else.

Zim: The Earth is mine to devastate! And I already promised the moon to GIR.

  • Only One Name: Dib and Gaz do not seem to have a last name (Zim's holographic Meekrob refer to Dib as "Dib... whatever-your-last-name-is"). A e-card for the show claimed that Membrane's first name was Professor, but Jhonen (and the original flash version of official website) says that, in fact, Membrane is the professor's first name and his last name is a mystery like so many other things about him.
    • Though this hasn't stopped fans from referring to Dib as "Dib Membrane," however, who seem to love using that as his last name. On occasion Jhonen himself has even referred to him (possibly mockingly) as "Dib Membrane" on his blog.
  • Only Sane Man: Dib. Even moreso Gaz, who's content in just letting Zim screw himself over.
    • Gaz gets antsy if it involves video games...
    • On the Irken side, Tallest Red.
  • Organ Autonomy: Arm-control nerve.

"Arm-control nerve?"
"Arm control nerve."

  • Orbital Bombardment: The final fate of planets conquered by the Irken race. After they have been sufficiently weakened and any worth-while creatures enslaved, the surface is subject to an "Organic Sweep" from space-borne vessels, killing all remaining life so the planet can be repurposed.
  • Organ Theft: "Dark Harvest".
  • Outrun the Fireball: Or "Walk for Your Lives", as the case may be.
  • Overly Long Gag: The Doom Song, again.
    • The dodgeball fight in "Vindicated"
  • Eating The Fourth Wall: GIR eats the floating splitscreen for the snowman in "The Most Horrible X-mas Ever".
    • In the original storyboards for "Backseat Drivers from Beyond the Stars" (which can be seen on the DVD), one of the scenes had Tallest Purple licking donut crumbs off your TV screen.
    • Zim wishes you a Merry Christmas at the end of "The Most Horrible X-mas Ever."
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Almost every single one.
    • Zim's disguise consists of a wig and two contact lenses.
    • GIR's dog disguise is green with a visible zipper.
    • Zim's robot "parents" only bear a superficial resemblance to actual human beings, yet fool a roomful of people at Zim's parent-teacher conference. Even when "dad's" arm blows off in a shower of sparks, Zim is able to Hand Wave it.

"My Dad lost his arm in, uh, the War."
"That was my squeezin' arm! They took my squeezin' arm! Why my squeezin' arm?"

    • Then there were the literal paper-thin disguises of the aliens in the episode "Abducted". They were basically thin smocks with an image of a human body, and what appears to be papier-mâché masks. (This is made even funnier by the fact that they're supposed to be husband and wife, and they got the nametags mixed up.)
    • In "Planet Jackers" when Zim is looking through his telescope at the other Invaders, the only one we see is in disguise basically has a rock strapped to his head, making Zim's costume look brilliantly thorough in comparison. It is apparently sufficient to fool the natives, however, who are seen fanning him.
      • Tak, at least, had a reasonable disguise though.
    • Then there is Zim's secondary disguise from The Girl Who Cried Gnome and The Mose Horrible X-Mas Ever Which has his undisguised face peeking out through the mouth of the costume. Hilariously, at the end of Girl who Cried Gnome an artist's rendition of the "hero who saved the little girl" shows that they saw through the disguise, but still thought he was human as the depiction shows a normal human face peeking out of the costume's mouth.
  • Parody Sue: In "Dib's Wonderful Life Of Doom," when Dib gets superpowers (or seems to).
  • People Jars: Where little Irkens come from.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: A lot of it. It's that kind of fandom. The Irkens in general seem to get the most of it, perhaps because Evil Is Sexy.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Interesting subversion here, as Zim and Dib are the same size, and Zim is from a culture that directly equates worth with height. The result is a rivalry that by all logic should be completely one-sided, as an alien older than any human on Earth, equipped with technology they could only begin to understand, finds an arch-nemesis in a grade-schooler.
  • Planet of Hats: ...sort of. The planets that have been conquered are retrofitted to suit the Irkens' needs: Foodcourtia, the food court planet; the convention center planet; the shipping center planet; Hobo 13, the military training-planet; and so on...
    • Played straight straighter with some mentioned planets and dimensions such as: Exploding head planets, broken glass planets, a dimension of pure itching (you can't tell from the photo, but that stuff's really itchy), and a dimension of pure... organic material.
  • Plug N Play Technology: Apparently, the Irkens use the same operating system that Dib uses. Lampshaded, and considering the way the line is delivered, it's likely a Take That at Independence Day.
  • Politeness Judo

Dib: The only way back home is through my head! Anything happens to me and you're stuck here forever!
Zim: NOOOOOOOO! CURSE YOU!...Wait. I can still do stuff to your legs, right?
Dib: I guess, but -- wait! No!

  • Psychopathic Manchild: Zim, Chicken Foot, too many to count.
  • The Rashomon: The episode "Mysterious Mysteries".
  • Really Seven Hundred Years Old: We're never actually told how old Ms. Bitters is, but Word of God is that she teaches at the school because they built it around her. Zim is "older than any human alive."
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: How Zim came to Earth.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Used most prominently in "Rise of the Zitboy." Zim is red and Dib is blue.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Professor Membrane parodies this. He's quite capable of creating such things as a Perpetual Energy Machine but will also on a whim decide that the populace is undeserving.
    • He also averts it. The official website stated that he routinely creates miracle cures for all the ills of the world (according to Gaz, Taster of Pork, he considers it incredibly horrifying that he still hasn't found a cure for "pigmouth" after one day of trying). With apparently no affect, since the world still sucks.
  • Regional Bonus: In "Game Slave 2", Iggins mentions that he already had the Japanese version but wanted the American version as it had a new level.
  • Reindeer Aren't Real: After Dib proves that "Chickenfoot" is a fraud.

Reporter 1: I bet this means Bigfoot is a fraud too!
Reporter 2: And UFOs.
Reporter 1: And hobos.
Dib: No wait! Those are real! Except the hobos. Wait, no. They're real. I... I guess. But- what's wrong with you people!?!

  • Religious Russian Roulette: How guidance counselor Dwicky lost his faith in aliens.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Parodied. "That's Minimoose! He's been here all along, mm-hmm, yup!"
    • Since the introduction episode was never shown, it was initially planned to show a montage of scenes from the series with Minimoose crudely pasted into them to go with the joke, but the idea was scrapped for time.
    • In the very first episode, Zim tries to pull this off in-universe as a method of discrediting Dib's allegations:

Zim: Yeah, he's always saying stuff. I remember that one time--
Dib (incensed): YOU JUST GOT HERE!

  • Rent-A-Zilla: Ultrapeepi.
  • Reset Button: After catastrophically screwing up with a time machine that replaces objects in the past, Zim sends himself a note not to use the time machine. By replacing his past-brain with the note.
    • Almost the same thing in "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom," except it never happened to begin with.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Peepi the hamster.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: GIR. He is undisputably the most insane character in the entire series. "He" eats with Extreme Omnivore tendencies, (in Halloween Special of Spooky DOOM he attacked every trick-or-treater in the vicinity of Zim's house, apparently getting a sugar rush, then eating all their candy and becoming even fatter than the guy in the costume at Bloaty's Pizza hog.) drinks, sleeps, has a sense of smell (in one episode, for no discernible reason, he held a smelly dog in front of Zim and yelled "look what I found! He smells reeeeeealll bad!), cries, parties down and basically acts like a human child. "He" is also assembled from random bits of garbage, and is dangerously (and often explosively) defective.
  • Rise of Zitboy: Trope Namer
  • Robot Buddy: GIR, obviously, but the house computer to a lesser extent.
  • Rule of Cool

Mars-oid: My people worked themselves to extinction converting this planet into a navigable space vessel.
Zim: Why would you do all that?
Mars-oid: Because it's cool.
GIR: Mmm-hmmm.

  • Running Gag: Dib's (supposedly) big head, Membrane considering Dib insane, and spinal injuries.
    • DVD Commentary Running Gag: Several.
      • "Hi, I'm Eric Trueheart, and I had nothing to do with this episode!" (This one was repeated to the point where, when an episode he did write gets commentary, everyone else involved absolutely refuses to believe he wrote it. Richard Horvitz thinks Trueheart just transcribed it or something.)
      • "America loves GIR!"/"America hates Dib."
      • Pronouncing homage "oh-mah-g" in a drawn-out manner.
      • "How's it goin'?" said in the voice of Old Kid from the first episode.
      • "Did you color this, Rikki?"
      • Rikki Simons recollecting his consistent fear about being out of a job after each completion of the more... er, questionable episodes (such as "Dark Harvest").
    • The mentioning of moose.
    • Zim losing interest in whatever he's doing at the moment.

Dib: You're going to use it to walk right past security at the generator, aren't you?! (Zim takes a few seconds to finish drinking his soda)
Zim: Ah... What? Oh...(turns on the Large Ham) OH YES!

    • While a lot is made about how terrible Zim's disguise is, if you pay attention you'll notice that all of the invaders we ever see in disguise are pretty terrible. Apparently tying rocks to your limbs or a prosthetic nose is all you need to get by as a covert agent. Tak alone seems to be the only invader to avert this.
  • Sadist Show
  • Sanity Ball: GIR seems... different... in the episode Walk For Your Lives. He's a lot more focused than usual, and is quick to point out the obvious flaws in Zim's plans.
  • Save the Villain: Dib agonizes over whether or not to save Zim in "Hamstergeddon"—on the one hand, Zim's the only one who can stop Ultra Peepi, but on the other Zim will return to his attempts at world-demolition if Dib saves him. In a funny subversion, Zim recovers just fine on his own while Dib is agonizing over the decision.
  • The Scream: Too many to count.
    • The guy in "Battle of the Planets" might be the best.


Zim: But...I must get my battle tank or I...won't get it!

  • Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: Fairly well averted, as very little seems to get past Mrs. Bitters. Zim or Dib (mostly Zim) will mysteriously go absent occasionally, usually to plot revenge, but all battles for world domination must take place after school, or under the guise of a bathroom break.
  • Shout-Out: So very many.
  • Show Within a Show: The Scary/Angry Monkey and Mysterious Mysteries of Strange Mystery.
    • Probing The Membrane of Science With Professor Membrane!
  • Shrug Take: "Zim Eats Waffles" ends with Dib about to freak out, but he can't get into it, breaks off with an irritated "Whatever" and rolls into bed.

Sizz-Lor: Wait, how can you remember what I said if you weren't even there?
Zim: *shrug*

  • Single-Purpose Planet: A recurring gag, where the Irkens conquer planets and assign them an often arbitrary function.
    • The first planet we are introduced to is Conventia, the convention hall planet.
    • Devastis is a planet where the elite soldiers are tested for their ability to become invaders.
    • Hobo 13 serves as a general military boot-camp.
    • Blorch is assigned as a "parking structure planet" on a whim on the eve of its conquest.
    • Vort is repurposed as a "Military Research Prison".
    • Judgementia is where Irken trials are conducted.
    • An unnamed planet is shown covered in conveyer belts, and used as a distribution hub.
    • Foodcourtia you can probably guess.
  • Smart Ball: Zim gets spiked in the face with one of these whenever Dib threatens to blow his cover, pulling off such stunts as nanoscale laser brain surgery, zit-based hypnosis and bulk organ theft.
    • Dib also catches hold from time to time, repairing alien spacecraft and hacking into supercomputers.
  • Snap Back: Quite a few. Some could plausibly have an off-screen explanation, like "Planet Jackers," while others apparently stand in total defiance of canon ("Future Dib"). Likewise there are a few time skips that remain unacknowledged.
    • "There was a time-warp or something."—Sizz-Lorr
  • Solar CPR: The Planet Jackers transport planets so that they can drop them in the sun of their own home planet, to prevent it from shrinking away.
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes: In Bad Bad Rubber Piggy:

Professor Membrane: "Anybody who would build a Space Time Object Replacement Device is a complete moron... moron... moron!
(cut to Zim's lab) Zim: "GIR! The Space Time Object Replacement Device is ready!"

  • Space Trucker: The Planet Jackers are quite reminiscent of long-haul truckers.
  • Spanner in the Works : A small chain of it. Zim is the spanner in the works to the Irken Empire, ruining Operation Impending Doom I, killing the Almighty Tallest, destroying part of the Irken fleet with Mars, and countless other failures such as forcing Tak to have to work as a janitorial drone. GIR is often the spanner in the works to Zim's plans, however idiotic they may be. And to top it all off, a spanner (or spanners) in the works for the Irkens (or a member of La Résistance, or just a slave really pissed at the Irkens) is sending machinery meant to help invaders to Zim, and malfunctioning machinery sent by the Tallest just to kill him to Invaders that are actually doing their job.
  • Spell My Name with an "S":
    • "Squeedlyspooch" is the correct spelling for an Irken organ, but "squeedily-spooch", "squeedly spooch", and "squeedilyspooch" have also been used.
    • "Darkbooty" vs. "Darkbootie" is also an example, as is "GIR" vs "Gir" and "MiMi" vs "Mimi".
  • Spider Limbs: Zim's PAK.
  • Spoof Aesop: The morals to Ms. Bitter's life stories. Usually extremely pessimistic and spirit crushing.

Ms. Bitters: The lesson is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.

  • Stand-In Parents: Zim has robots to stand in as his parents, and despite them being horribly malfunctioning, nobody notices.
  • Stay with the Aliens: Dwicky, the jerk.
  • Stealth Pun: After GIR gets a ride home from a pig in "Germs," we hear the sound of a motorcycle engine. As in, hog... you know, Harley-Davidson...
  • The Stinger: In every episode, a brief quote is played over the Nickelodeon logo following the credits.
  • Stylistic Suck: In an ironic bit of What Could Have Been, the writers wanted to do a bit in the last produced episode that retroactively "introduced" the planned character Minimoose by having him crudely pasted into old scenes as if he'd been there all along, but the idea was scrapped for time—yes, an intentionally crappy montage had to be cut for the amount of time and effort it would have taken to make it look bad on purpose.
  • Suck E. Cheese's: Bloaty's Pizza Hog.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Oh man, everybody does this.

Tallest Red: I was curious to see when you'd shut up on your own, but it's been three hours now, Zim. THREE HOURS!!

Zim: Skoodge? I thought the Tallests killed you!
Skoodge: Yeah, but I'm okay now.

  • Used Future
  • The Usual Adversaries: Irkens for most of the galaxy. Zim for the Irkens.
  • Villain Episode: Inverted, given that Zim is a Villain Protagonist—Dib occasionally gets episodes entirely dedicated to himself such as "Battle-Dib" and "The Sad, Sad Tale of Chickenfoot" where Zim does not appear at all.
    • Also Gaz, in "Game Slave 2".
  • Villain Protagonist: Zim.
  • Villains Out Shopping: "Mortos Der Soulstealer", "Zim Eats Waffles".
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: "GIR! Your waffles have sickened me! FETCH ME THE BUCKET!"
  • Wacky Sound Effect: Lots. There is a specific sound effect for stupid people straining their brains.
  • The Walrus Was Paul: Jhonen Vasquez decided to celebrate the "one month only" rerun of the show in March 2010 by giving an Invader Zim "fact" each day in his blog. All of them devolve into very, very sick tall tales. Considering he rails against the misinformation about the show and its circumstances on the first post, it's not hard to interpret this as his attempt to outdo his own fanbase at bullshitting.
  • Was Once a Man

Rat person: I was once a man!
Dib: But you're a woman.

Zim: Is that Irken equipment you're using? That's Tak's ship you're sitting in, isn't it?
Dib: Yes it is, Zim! It fell from the-
Zim (yelling): Isn't it!?!
Dib (also yelling): I said it was! Man, you have a problem with listening, Zim!
Zim: ISN'T IT!?!

Dib: Miss Bitters? I read that long ago that people used to give out cards and candy on Valentine's Day. How did the whole meat thing get started?
Miss Bitters: You don't want to know...

  • Younger Than He Looks: The aptly-named "Old Kid".
  • Your Head Asplode: GIR does that sometimes.
  • Zombie Gait: A mall security guard sends a horde of zombies after Zim. He is initially scared, but soon realizes just how useless they are as they fall over each other and are completely incapable of harming him.
  1. In fact, the Irkens aren't even sure there's a planet here; it's just they just want Zim gone that badly.