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Western Animation / Invader Zim

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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 a Science Fiction dark comedy Animated Series created by Jhonen Vasquez for Nickelodeon. This Nicktoon premiered alongside The Fairly OddParents on March 30, 2001 and is considered one of the bigger oddballs within the channel's cartoon lineup. But considering that Jhonen's previous work before this was an underground comic called Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, that should come as no surprise.

Set 20 Minutes into the Future, this dark, Cyberpunkish show starred the titular Zim, an alien being who is part of a race called the Irken, which wholly dedicates itself to invading and conquering other planets for reasons both grand and mundane. On assignment day, he's given the most special and important mission of all by the Almighty Tallest: to take over the planet Earth. And by special and important mission, we mean he was 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, nor is he likely to ever realize this. In fact, the Irkens aren't even sure there's a planet here; they just want Zim gone that badly, given that he destroys all that he touches. He is ineptly aided in this "mission" by a defective robot assistant named GIR, poorly disguised as a dog.


Upon reaching Earth to begin his "alien invasion", Zim immediately attracts the attention of elementary school student Dib, a self-styled paranormal investigator who has just been itching to expose something strange and weird, and finally prove to everyone around him that he isn't insane. And Zim seems just the alien to expose...

Early episodes followed a basic format — 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. Later episodes would start employing Snapback to tackle a myriad of bizarre plots, such as the characters turning into bologna, in addition to developing a bit of a Story Arc over time as well. Ultimately, the efforts of Vasquez and head writer Frank Conniff (of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame) developed into an idiosyncratic, hammy, and satirical style that highlighted the crapsack-nature of the show's world even more.


The show's distinctive dark humor attracted a large number of people outside the targeted age range: namely high school and college students. The show was also host to a very unique art style, adapting Vasquez's usual look for animation and utilizing a vast color palette: colorist Rikki Simons joked that all the different shades and tones had them going into "fourth-ary" colors, which, mixed with the regular use of CGI animation that was incorporated in ways that other shows like Futurama were jealous of, led to the series constantly struggling against its budget for almost every episode.

Unfortunately, the show was left as quickly as it came. While the show was quite popular, it was mainly popular outside of Nickelodeon's core demographic of kids 6-to-11, meaning its ratings did not have far to slip before Nickelodeon deemed the show's budgetary issues no longer worth the hassle: despite popular belief, while Nick did have their issues regarding the show's content, these were absolutely minor in comparison to the actual logistics of the production. Naturally, petitions immediately rose up in attempts to save the show from cancellation, and with this time period having Channel Hop be quite common, many of these urged for Nickelodeon to sell the show to another network. This never happened, much to the dismay of fans, but outcry about the sudden cancellation did accomplish one thing — Nickelodeon would give Media Blasters the rights to sell DVDs of the show, full of special features such as cast and crew commentary, as well as several unreleased episodes that wouldn't see television airings until 2006. One limited edition boxset even included the series' soundtrack and voice recordings for seven unfinished episodes.note  These Media Blasters DVDs have since gone out of print, with now having their own "manufactured-on-demand" Vanilla Edition collections of the show. Nickelodeon has also released a "best of" disc called Operation Doom. All of these home media releases were North America only.

As an interesting aside, the sudden and unexpected unemployment caused by the show's cancellation convinced the show's art director, Bryan Konietzko, to develop his own series with an old college friend who was over at Fox working on Family Guy. And from the ashes of Invader Zim emerged Nickelodeon's critically-acclaimed animesque action/adventure series, Avatar: The Last Airbender.

In February 2015, Oni Press announced an Invader Zim comic book revival in collaboration with Nickelodeon, with the first issue of the ongoing monthly series being released on July 8, 2015. The comic is overseen by Jhonen Vasquez himself, with him also writing a handful of issues. Many other issues have been done by Eric Trueheart, a veteran writer of the series. Other series veterans, such as artist Aaron Alexovich and colorist Rikki Simons, would lend their talents to the comic during its early run as well. The monthly series ended with its 50th issue in March 2020, followed by the start of a new quarterly series (simply called Invader Zim Quarterly) later that year, which ended after one cycle in March 2021. It was then announced that the comic series would end completely with a special oneshot issue in August.

In April 2017, Nickelodeon announced that Zim would return to animation as a 71-minute television movie entitled Enter the Florpus. Vasquez returned as executive producer and director, with composer Kevin Manthei and most of the voice cast also reprising their roles. The film completed production in January 2019 and released on Netflix on August 16, 2019.

This show provides examples of:

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  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: It doesn't blend perfectly with the flat animation, but it still looks pretty good. The creators lampshade 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.
  • Absent Animal Companion: Played with. In one of his possibly-prerecorded messages to his children, Professor Membrane reminds them to feed the dog. This reminds the pair that hey, they used to have a dog, didn't they? and they take a minute to look around in confusion. The viewers, however, never heard of it before.
  • Adults Are Useless: Exaggerated Trope, to the extent that so are most of the other children, for that matter. And a lot of the aliens. Really pretty much every one and every thing in this show is useless. The person who comes the closest to being non-useless is Dib, yet at times even he is useless.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • The Irkens must have some interesting naming conventions, as the individuals who are identified are ZIM, Tak, Skoodge, Spleen, Tenn and... Bob.
    • Unproduced episode The Trial would have introduced Irkens named Miyuki and Spork.
    • Even human children have an odd mixture of names. Nick, Kevin and Mary coexist with the likes of Dib, Gaz and Moofy.
  • Agent Mulder: Dib and the Swollen Eyeball people.
  • The Ahnold: The Ice Cream Truck voice in Episode 1.
  • Air-Vent Passageway:
    • How Zim escapes the Mall holding cells in "FBI Warning of Doom".
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • ZIM's computer, after admitting it doesn't have enough information about the FBI, just makes up a bunch of crap. Then again, it only did so because ZIM ordered it to make some "educated guesses" when it didn't have any info to work with.
    • After being modified by a fed-up ZIM, GIR loses his Cloud Cuckoolander tendencies, and becomes very dedicated to "the mission". Unfortunately, he judges ZIM himself detrimental to the potential success of "the mission" he decides to eliminate him.
    • GIR himself. He randomly shifts between a rather scary, red-eyed "duty mode", and his usual, hilariously stupid (and blue) persona. This may have something to do with being cobbled together from junk parts.
  • Alien Among Us: The premise.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The Irkens like to conquer other species for no good reason, and all seem to be pretty warped and sociopathic in their own way.
  • Aliens of London: Tak has a British accent while none of the other Irkens do. Lard Nar has one too, though we only have one other Vort to compare him to.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Although the Irken language had its own alphabet. Some fans have interpreted the grunts and snarls heard briefly in "Mysterious Mysteries" as Zim speaking native Irken without the English filter for the viewers. (Which may be why he makes similar noises in his every-day speech.)
  • Aliens Steal Cable: How ZIM does a portion of his 'research.'
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Seargent Slab Rankle, Mall Security.
  • All Part of the Show: The Mysterious Mysteries host experiences an in-universe Creator Breakdown in the middle of the show. It saves his show from being cancelled.
  • Almighty Janitor:
    • Agent Darkbootie, a high-ranking member of the Swollen Eyeball, apparently has a day job as a janitor at NASA.
    • Sizz-lor is a very high ranking Irken ... Fry Cook.
  • All There in the Manual: A lot of minor aspects of the setting and background for ZIM and the Irken race as a whole are only known thanks to Word of God from Jhonen Vasquez. Much of this backstory and extra info would have been shown later on in the series.
  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: One of the first things that Dib did upon landing on the Gargantis Array was hoping that there was a breathable atmosphere, then cheering that he didn’t die.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Breakfast Chunks, to an extent. Huge cubes of bran sold as convenient breakfast food has yet to happen, but General Mills did sell Breakfast Squares, advertised as "a complete meal in two frosted bars," in the '80s. And kids hated them so much.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: It isn't explicitly stated or anything, but one could infer this about the Irkens.
    • Partially deconstructed as their vile natures and society make it so that for all the heinous things Zim did to their race, the crime that would've marked him for termination in "The Trial" was having a faulty PAK.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: ZIM's Robot Parents. Unusually for this trope, it's his own fault they're like that.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Really ambiguous considering that Irken standards of mental health aren't really known, but Zim definitely has something wrong with him. In fact, the entire premise of "The Trial" is pretty much the quirky alien version of declaring Zim legally insane.
  • An Aesop:
    • Everyone is weird and different in their own way and there is no such thing as "normal".
    • Don't make fun of others who are different or have different interests as you.
  • And I Must Scream: This is what the Console does to people imprisoned in it — it chooses a gamer randomly to control the victim in a simulation remotely while their consciousness and feeling remain intact.
    • Virooz's ultimate fate: the makeshift PAK holding his consciousness is left attached to a couch on an abandoned planet, presumably trapping him there forever.
  • And Then What?: Tak’s A.I said it best to Dib in Issue 2:
    Tak’s Ship: You’re going after Zim. An Irken Invader with untold decades of military training and a history of violence and mayhem. You don’t know where he’s going or what he plans to do. And you are a feeble, unarmed human in a stolen ship that you have no idea how to use. When you catch Zim. You are going to... what exactly?
    Dib: Well... stop him.
    Tak’s ship: Right then. Tracking Zim’s garbage signature for the earthbaby with no plan.
  • Angry Dance: At one point in "Tak, the Hideous New Girl", Gaz is forced to dance by GIR in order to get him to carry out his part of the attack against Tak. She's appropriately pissed off about it.
  • Animated Series
  • Antagonist in Mourning: In the unproduced episode "Mopiness of Doom," ZIM loses all motivation when Dib takes a 10-Minute Retirement to learn "real science".
  • A Planet Named Zok: Irk.
  • Applied Phlebotinum
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Dib in "Lice". But hey, at least he admits he was wrong and apologizes.
  • Arch-Enemy: Dib to ZIM and vice-versa. The only time they team up is when circumstances and ulterior evil threaten Earth.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The supplies Zim requests at the start of "Hobo 13".
    Tallest Purple: Plasma-armed battle tanks, Maim-bots, death ray cannons, a sack of taquitos?!
    Zim: Just a few supplies I need to complete my mission.
  • Art Evolution: Subtly. Most prominent when ZIM and the other Irkens are suddenly drawn with two fingers and a thumb, to set them apart from humans.
  • Art-Shifted Sequel: Predominate in the first-look footage of Enter the Florpus. The artstyle seems to shift in a less-restricted blocky style into a more subtle bubbly artstyle used in most of the comics.
  • Artificial Human: In the DVD writer's interview, Eric Trueheart said that had the show gone on for several years, Dib would have discovered (while on a quest to discover why his life was so horrible) he was one, created by Membrane.
  • Artistic License – Biology: In-universe, Played for Laughs and lampshaded. Dib's organ structure is laughably unrealistic: "Arm control nerve? In my... belly?"
  • Artistic License – Space: All over the place in "Planet Jackers". Parodying the Twin Cities bit from Fargo, one of the pilots points out a binary star system, implying it's a rare sight. However the truth is that most stars in the galaxy, or at least the most visible ones, are part of a binary system.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • In "Game Slave 2," Iggins is stalked, harassed, terrified and almost killed by Gaz in retribution for taking a console she felt was rightfully hers. On the other hand, he's a loudmouth braggart who claimed a false identity in order to take the GS2 from Gaz who WAS ahead of him in line, so the episode's narrative basically extends no sympathy to him whatsoever. The fact that Iggins actually survives the episode at all is a result of Executive Meddling.
    • A very argumentative example, but there's also Gaz in "Gaz, Taster of Pork". Some feel she's the most deserving example in the entire series.
  • Asteroid Thicket: In "Battle of the Planets".
  • Audio Adaptation: Seven of the unfinished episodes already had their voice tracks recorded, so they were released on the Special Features DVD.
  • Author Appeal: Well, more like Creator Appeal, as Jhonen has a thing for saying the words "Doom" and "Dooky", makes references to piggies, and has a good number of morbidly obese jokes in some episodes.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    Dib: Wh…why?
    Lord Voxelrot: Because the future!
    • Dib using Tak’s ship — it can’t properly function while it has Dib’s personality uploaded to it because, well, it’s Dib. However, Tak’s personality hates him so not only does it constantly warp his instructions but also tries to override his command so that it can kill him.
    • An Egopolis where every street is named after yourself.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Inverted in "Plague of Babies", where Zim is attacked by a race of aliens that happen to look like human babies and have been forced to impersonate human babies because of a mission gone wrong.
  • Backing Away Slowly:
    • In "Bolognius Maximus", Gaz backs away from Dib when he yells "Gaz! Taste me--I'M DELICIOUS!"
    • In "Bestest Friend", Zim goes up to a kid and says he's looking to see if he's interested in being his friend. The kid says "I was born with webbed fish toes, like some kind of horrible fish boy. Wanna see?" and Zim quickly backs away with a disturbed look on his face.
  • Bad Humor Truck: The first episode featured an ice cream truck with a voice blaring out propaganda over the speaker phone. "You like ice cream. You like ice cream. You love it. You love it. You cannot resist ice cream. To resist is hopeless. Your existence is meaningless without ice cream."
  • Bad News in a Good Way:
    • GIR does this all the time. Unintentionally, of course. GIR seems not to be able to tell the difference between good and bad news.
    • There's also the Resisty member who tells Lard Nar how their engine core has been replaced with "a new horrible one!"
  • Bad Santa: In "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever," ZIM takes on the identity of Santa Claus in order to bend humanity to his whims. Unfortunately, the sapient Santa suit he built to help him pull off the deception eventually goes rogue and continues to threaten the earth two million years later.
  • Bad Vibrations: In "Megadoomer".
  • Baleful Polymorph: What Chickenfoot thinks he is.
  • Balloon Belly: Zim in "Zim Eats Waffles" after GIR stuffs him for awhile.
  • Bedlam House: "We think Dib's even crazier than normal today! Can we use one of our crazy cards to send him to the Crazy House for Boys?"
  • Bee Afraid:
    • A bee causes ZIM's ship to crash in "Attack of the Saucer Morons".
    • ZIM thinks Tak is after his robot bee. When it flies away, he is very upset.
    • Twice, in "Walk of Doom" and the backup strip for Issue 17, GIR is shown to keep live bees in his head, which get out and attack Zim.
  • Berserk Button: You do not dance in front of the monsters in Dank Souls.
    • For Gaz, it's losing to a noob, or someone interrupting her games.
  • Big "NO!": ZIM and Dib each get their fair share, but the Soda Can Guy in "Battle of the Planets" takes the cake.
  • Big Red Button: Parodied briefly in Tak: the Hideous New Girl
    Dib: How did I miss that?!
  • Bilingual Bonus: At the end of "Walk of Doom," when Zim and GIR wind up in a vaguely Mexican town, a little girl offers them candy labeled "fio," Spanish for "ugly."
    • The music playing in this scene is titled "Carne Beat." "Carne" is Spanish for "meat."
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Moofy, and Tak somewhat.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The whole character of Nick (ZIM's human test subject with an inserted happiness brain probe) appears to be a Take That! at Nickelodeon.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Naturally. ZIM has green skin, antennae, enormous bug-like eyes, and on the inside, a mass of unidentifiable organs which he referred to as his "squeedlyspooch". He apparently breathes through his eyes, too.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The ZIM vs. Dib dynamic, on average. ZIM is an evil alien invader with plans to exterminate humanity (and who is no less callous and selfish when dealing with his own kind either). Dib wants to save the world, but it's mostly just so he can get respect as the guy who saved the world.
  • Black Comedy: Only Jhonen Vasquez could make the hostile alien takeover of our world so twistedly funny.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Do not try to understand the ways of the Irken people. Of course, given that Zim waited for years inside a toilet for the sake of a plan, Dib is not sure he wants to.
  • Body Horror:
    • Dib and Zim slowly morphing into giant bologna sausages in "Balonious Maximus".
    • "Dark Harvest" is probably the most egregious example in the series, as Zim runs around removing peoples' organs, replacing them with random objects, while stuffing himself with them until he's a blob.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve: It turns out Poop Cola is this to a secret society of wizards.
  • Bottle Episode: "ZIM Eats Waffles" mainly consists of Dib watching Zim at his home, meaning that there aren't many backgrounds visited.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Gaz and Tak (in her human disguise mode.)
  • Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Gretchen has ginormous braces.
  • Brain with a Manual Control: In the episode "NanoZIM" (Season 1 Episode 2B), Dib sneaks into Zim's base, takes incriminating pictures of Zim without his disguise on, and puts them on a floppy disk. Zim discovers Dib and shrinks to microscopic size to enter Dib's body via microscopic submarine. Zim accesses Dib's nervous system, giving him control of Dib's arms, and, as a result, making him crush the floppy disk.
  • Breather Episode: "Zim Eats Waffles" was confirmed by the crew to be this, as they wanted to do a cheap, jokey episode to save money for bigger ones they were planning.
  • Bribe Backfire: When Dib tracked Zim to the Galaxy’s Largest Space Donut he asked the gift shop owner if he knew what Zim’s plan was. The owner replied that if Dib brought a few items it might jog his memory. It turns out that not only did he not know anything he didn't even know what a bribe was and was just trying to sell his merchandise.
  • 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".
  • 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, horrific 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, McMeaties, Bloaty's Pizza Hog, and Chicky Licky.
    • Taken to it's logical extreme with Foodcourtia, an entire planet dedicated to fast food. Apparently because of Zim's banishment there, inflicting this on Zim is now Sizz-lor's job description. And he likes it.
    • Taken Up to Eleven for McMeaties for "Career Day". Think about it, Zim is picked up to witness his future career at fast food restaurant by an employee on his time off who needs to get back before his break is over, Zim is put to work for the restaurant despite not being an actual employee nor being old enough to work at a restaurant (going by Zim's cover as pretending to be an elementary school student), required to ask the shift manager if he can "get a break" despite Zim is supposed to be there to witness his guide's career and not to work there, and being "fired" on a whim by the manager after Zim molts. It makes you wonder if the teenage employee who was Zim's career peer example was picked up from his elementary school on Career Day, put to work at the fast food restaurant, and never has stopped working there since that day!
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Invader Skoodge, so much.
  • 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. But hey, they gave him a can of tuna as consolation.
  • Camera Obscurer: Megadoomer had this happen at the end, with the Humongous Mecha's Invisibility failed and Dib tried to take pictures of it.
  • 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.
    • In "The Frycook What Came From All That Space", it's revealed that Zim was banished to a planet called Foodcourtia, where (as the name implies) he was forced to be a Burger Fool for the rest of his life under Sizz-Lorr. Security doesn't seem to be a huge priority in Irken Culture, though: once he catches wind of Operation Impending Doom 2, Zim easily and promptly escapes. Sizz-Lorr, on the other hand, learns from his mistake and Zim is actually forced to figure out a way to escape a second time.
  • Cassandra Truth: Normally targeted at Dib.
  • Catchphrase
    • 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!"
      • Also, "SILENCE!", "DOOM!" and "LIES!"
    • Dib: "You jerk."
    • Police Chief: "GET HIM!"
  • 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.
  • 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 Dib's lungs.
    • Nick the perpetually happy child is being brainwashed with a happy probe that looks like a screw in his brain. In the Christmas episode, to prevent the Santa suit from taking over his mind from too much holiday spirit, Zim inserts a similar-looking probe to counter the effects.
  • 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!"
  • The Chew Toy: Poor little Invader Skoodge... he gets reassigned from a plush assignment to a planet full of vicious rat people, gets shot out of an orbital cannon as a "reward" for conquering said planet (because he's too short and ugly for proper propaganda purposes), and after getting sent to boot camp gets dragged off by a flesh-eating monster.
  • Clucking Funny: Chickenfoot, as well as other isolated gags.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Oh, so much. GIR is a constant invoker of this trope, but other characters occasionally get in on it as well. For one instance, in "Bestest Friends", ZIM is greeted by Keef, who is cooking breakfast in ZIM's kitchen and wasn't supposed to be in ZIM's house. ZIM angrily shouts at Keef to get out of his house, to which Keef replies "You don't like waffles..?"
    • After Lord Voxelrot's rant about how he constantly forces everyone to hear about his interest despite them not caring, Dib, realizing that he must know him, replied that if he did he must know how important everything he does really is. Then, after Voxelrot reveals that he was Gaz, Dib took everything as a some complicated prank and demanded that she let him go so he could get back to saving mankind. Gaz had to force herself not to throw her food at him.
    • After Zim defeated the Space Pants, Dib went out and taunted all of the confused survivors, telling them that their pants look stupid eventhough they were being controlled by Puppeteer Parasite when they attacked him.
  • 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. When he's elsewhere, he dresses up as a crazy old man as Obfuscating Insanity as to why his mannerisms are off.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Dib and the Swollen Eyeball Network.
  • Continuity Lockout: 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 to pick 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.
    • In the unproduced script "Day of Da Spookies" ZIM taunts Dib with knowing nothing about aliens, perhaps a nod back to "Room with a Moose" when Dib did not even know what ZIM's home planet was called. However Dib gives an update on what he's learned since, touching on other episodes in the process: ZIM is from a race of planet-stealing aliens called Irkens ("The Nightmare Begins"), their brains are contained in their backpacks ("Ten Minutes to Doom"), their eyes are synthetic implants (somewhat implied by "Planet Jackers"). The display thoroughly spooks ZIM.
  • 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 World: It is a show made by Jhonen Vasquez, after all. Humans are generally stupid, ignorant, and repulsive and the world they live in is polluted and unclean. The episode "Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom" featured creatures from another almost hell-like dimension crossing over under the impression that the other side is a perfect world that they can ruin, but they are so repulsed by their first impressions that they immediately retreat back into their own world. The Irkens, the other main civilization featured, are a cheerfully xenocidal species that decide rank by the individual's height and whose main form of entertainment is the extermination of entire planets while eating nachos and curly fries.
  • Couch Gag: Where ZIM is at after the world is wrapped in metal cables and it zooms out to show it in a thought bubble in the opening credits varies in episodes, though there are only a few variations.
  • 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. Vasquez eventually asked that they stop doing this after he realized that it might be distracting.
  • 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!"
  • Creepy Child: Gaz, Keef, Melvin
  • 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 Cloud Cuckoo Lander, he occasionally has moments of hypercompetence, if only by accident, and rarely screws up missions by himself.
  • The Cuckoo Lander Was Right: Dib spots right away that ZIM is a dangerous alien. And nobody will listen.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Invoked by ZIM with Ultra-Peepi.
  • 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.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: The theme song and some of the soundtrack.
  • 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.
  • Darker and Edgier: This show is by far the darkest animated series Nickelodeon (and to a lesser extent, other children's programming) ever produced, even making The Ren & Stimpy Show's attempts at Black Comedy seem juvenile. Compare the unaired pilot to the first episode of the series (or just the series in general). The unaired pilot was goofy, lighter, and had more of a basis of exaggerated fun. Meanwhile, the series was much closer to Vasquez's previous work, with a darker sense of humor.
  • 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 down upon the filthy heads of our doomed enemies!")
    • An easy-to-miss one in "Nanozim". When ZIM's ship is scanning Dib's brain for the memory of where Dib hid a disc, it finds the memory and displays on the computer screen "Location Located."
  • Destroy the Evidence: In "A Room With a Moose", ZIM does this by having the evidence in question self-destruct while screaming "LEAVE NO EVIDENCE!"
  • 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.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Punching a hole into other worlds is extremely difficult if you do it the wrong way it tears reality apart.
  • Disney Villain Death: This is how Zim defeats his future self.
  • 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.
    • What happens if you have overdue books at the library? They confiscate your retinas.
    • While posing as an alien to act as Zim’s intern, Dib convinces him to kidnap and perform experiments on an internet troll.
  • 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.
    • And the fact that the dog costume is green gives one a large hint...
  • 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". In the first episode alone there were no fewer than 36 "dooms," and said episode also gave us The Doom Song. Seriously, "Doom: The Series!" might as well be an alternate title.
  • Door-to-Door Episode: The episode titled... wait for it... "Door to Door."
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: The way Gaz treats her older brother, Dib for bothering her is a non-romantic example. No wonder she's nicknamed "Dib's scary sister".
  • Downer Ending: More than half the episodes end with Zim and/or Dib failing miserably at their goals.
  • Dramatic Irony: Neither Zim nor Dib ever realize that the Irken Empire never intends to conquer Earth or that Zim's "mission" is a sham the Tallest concocted to get Zim as far from them as possible because they despise him (even when Tak says it straight to Zim's face, he's too narcissistic to believe the Tallest would think so badly of him).
  • The Dreaded: Subverted. The Slaughtering Rat People were briefly this to the Irkens, the task of taking over their Planet Blorch was one no sane invader wanted. Blorch was inevitably conquered by Skoodge no less, though the alien rodents seem to have spread to and lurk in Earth's shopping malls. Though it's never addressed in depth.
    • Zim is known as Skyfist to the planets in the tiny galaxy
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: In "Hobo 13". He's actually one of the less sadistic examples of this trope, and objects to ZIM using the other soldiers as as fodder.
  • Dueling Messiahs: Played for Laughs. In Issue 42, Zim and Dib crash-land on the planet Plim, whose natives have a prophecy that a hero will fall from the sky and lead them to the stars. But since they can't decide which of the two it is, they have to compete with each in what's basically an election to convince the Plim which of them is the hero.
  • Dumbass Has a Point:
    • GIR does this fairly often:
      Zim: That's it! Time!
      GIR: Whatchu sayyyyyy?
      Zim: If I can bring the time field around the explosion back up to regular speed, it'll fix everything.
      GIR: No it wooooon't!
      Zim: The explosion will blow up like normal and be gone foreveeeer!
      GIR: But won't it just explode? JUSTLIKETHIS, KABLAM!
      • Also in "Plague of Babies":
      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's continued crusade against ZIM, really. Yes, it's true that ZIM is too stupid to deliberately conquer the world, but he's also crazy enough to accidentally destroy it. Keeping ZIM focused on fighting Dib really is keeping the world safe... just not quite in the manner either of them thinks.
  • Dysfunction Junction: ZIM is an egomaniac and strongly implied to be legally insane, GIR is a crazed Cloud Cuckoolander, Dib is a Butt-Monkey who desires affection and validation, Gaz is freaking scary, Professor Membrane is a Mad Scientist and neglectful father with a burning hatred for Santa Claus, and Skoodge is an oblivious Butt-Monkey. And that's just the main cast! The universes status as this would have been delved into more had the show gone on longer.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the original pilot, Dib is genuinely crazy, ZIM isn't hammy (and is also voiced by Billy West instead of Richard Steven Horvitz), GIR is actually helpful, and Gaz's hair is purple instead of maroon. Each character also appears to have More Teeth than the Osmond Family.
  • Easily Conquered World: Which makes ZIM's repeated failures all the funnier.
  • Easter Egg: Bloody GIR, a transparent image of GIR covered in blood that is hidden in frames throughout the show.
  • Egopolis: Emperor Zim after conquering Earth has renamed every street after himself.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: ZIM's.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Santa suit becomes one.
  • Election Day Episode: An election is triggered after the actual class president goes crazy in front of the class. Zim wants to win the election because of the power that it would imply (never mind it's just an school election) and Dib wants to stop him because... well, it's his job, and his school life would suck with Zim in charge. He can't win because he's not popular, so he helps a secondary candidate. Dib succeeds in making Zim lose, but it turns out that the school just lobotomizes the election's winner to do the school's bidding, so in the end Zim thanks Dib for saving his life.
  • Emotionless Girl: The Cashier at Sammy’s Rib’s n Diapers
    Cashier: Would you like to try the new Ribiyich, it’s back one final time. Oh God no, the horror of this sandwich.
    • Averted when Zim’s Mobile-Suit Human pooped out the morbidly obsessed GIR.
  • Empathic Environment: "GameSlave 2": "The rightful order has been restored."
  • The Empire: The Irken Empire.
  • Enemy Mine: "Bolognius Maximus" (which provides the page quote), "Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom", "Tak: The Hideous New Girl" and "Hamstergeddon".
    • Zim attempted this in "Planet Jackers", but Dib refused thinking it was a trick.
    • This is how Dib convinced Tak’s ship to help him defeat Zim.
  • Energy Beings: The Meekrob.
  • Epic Fail: After posting his video of Zim online, Dib received 91475 negative reviews in 10 seconds.
  • Eskimos 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!?!
    • Likewise Bill, a paranormal investigator who believes that cereal mascots are real, nevertheless insists that dinosaurs are a fraud.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: The Angry Monkey Show, Suckmonkey, "babbling like a maniac-monkey" "screaming like a howler monkey"...the list goes on. It should be noted that Jhonen Vasquez's original works often refer to monkeys a lot and this show is no exception.
  • Evil Brit: Tak and the stupid aliens from "Abducted".
  • Evil Duo: Zim (ego) and GIR (id).
  • Evil Hero: For someone who hates humanity so much, Zim actually ends up saving the world more often than not.
  • Evil Is Petty: Zim and Gaz.
    • Zim’s ultimate plan in issue 2 which he took 4 years to enact was to use an ancient transmitter to broadcast Dib's training montage from the slob he was in issue 1 across the entire galaxy and transmit the sound of laughter from every being in the galaxy.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Zim, regardless of onlookers.
    • Tak pretty much dethroned ZIM with her laugh.
    • Dib has a decent evil laugh.
    • As does his father.
    • Sizz-Lorr has one too.
  • Evil Tastes Good: "I can almost taste the humans being destroyed — IT'S DELICIOUS!"
  • Evil Teacher:
    • Mrs. Bitters.
    • Inverted with Mr. Elliot. He's so happy it makes you want to choke a kitten.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Zim vs Tak.
    • Actually, Zim Vs. any character who treatens his mission (except for those with good intentions.)
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • The Doom Song; the "Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom"; "Parent Teacher Night"
    • "Zim Eats Waffles," "Career Day."
    • Many Planets of Hats have notably obvious names, such as Foodcourtia (a planet of almost nothing but restaurants) or Dirt (which Tak was assigned to clean).
  • Expositron 9000: Zim's base computer.
  • Expy: On the commentary for "Walk of Doom", everyone is quick to point out how much the creepy drooling baby on the bus looks like Stewie.
  • Eye Scream:
    • In "Walk of Doom", ZIM looks directly into the sun... which causes his eyes to burn and crust over.
      • Even worse given it's not just his eyes but the plastic lenses he wears over them to make himself look human. Molten plastic in the eyes.
    • There's also a brief moment in "Planet Jackers" where, after crashing his cruiser, ZIM's eye pops out of its socket and into his hand for a couple of seconds. He quickly replaces it, but Jesus.
    • While it's only shown in silhouette, "Bestest Friends" ends with Keef's eyes being ripped out by a machine and replaced with a pair of robotic ones that also filter his vision.
      • It gets better! It's implied that while being attacked by a squirrel on the roof of the building next to Zim's house, Keef fell off and the impact CAUSED HIS NEW EYES TO EXPLODE.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Zim will never conquer the Earth and Dib will never reveal Zim as an alien. More often than not, one's failure causes the other. Gaz herself knows this and as such she never really gets involved in their rivalry willingly.
    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 more so.
  • Fauxtastic Voyage: Inverted in "Room With a Moose".
  • Fictional Currency: The Irken empire money is called money. And the plural is called moneys.
  • Fish out of Water: The episode "Walk of Doom" just deals with Zim getting lost in the city and being unable to deal with the Earth's customs. First, he stares deeply into the sun and temporarily becomes blind. Moments before that, he tried to ride the bus without paying, only to get kicked out and called a weirdo.
  • Flanderization:
    • Keef's stalker-ish aspects were highly amplified in "the Return of Keef" compared to his original appearance.
    • Dib got comparatively more crazy and "Zim-like" as the series progressed.
  • Foodfight!: Pilot episode
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Spoofed; not only was the original form not that uncomfortable, but they turned into shoes. Dib lampshades this, and gets smacked for it.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
  • 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."
  • Future Imperfect: Invader Zim takes place Twenty Minutes In The Future and some traditions we have today have apparently changed. For Valentine's Day, people give out meat instead of chocolates due to a past event that Miss Bitters refuses to talk about. Also, Santa Claus has been changed from a person who gives out presents to a Jesus-like figure whose Second Coming is anticipated by the people of Earth.

  • Gainaxing: ZIM's giant growing bubbly zit "Pustulio" bounces in this fashion when ZIM flicks it.
  • Gamer Chick: One of Gaz's most defining character traits is her love of video games, which she almost always plays.
  • Genki Girl: Moofy from "Girl Who Cries Gnome" is always bright and cheerful, even when she's supposedly terrified.
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: Nick has a happiness probe applied directly to his brain.
  • Gilligan Cut: In "Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom", Zim is seen worrying whether GIR will be okay. Cut to GIR attacking trick-or-treaters and stealing their candy, flying tackling someone so hard their underpants fly off.
  • Girl Scouts Are Evil: Moofy and the Girly Rangers, who attack people to force them to buy their cookies.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In "GIR Goes Crazy and Stuff", Zim, tired of GIR's stupidity constantly interfering with his plans, modifies him to keep him permanently in Duty Mode. It ends up working too well when GIR, noticing that Zim himself is a few crayons short of a full box, deems him a threat to the mission and tries to kill him.
  • Goth: The entire show has a gothic theme to it. Gaz and Tak are considered as goth girls.
  • Grandfather Paradox: In "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy", GIR points out to Zim the paradox of using time travel to kill Dib in the past logically rendering the effort pointless. The resulting Logic Bomb causes GIR to literally explode. (That happens to him sometimes.)
    GIR: Wait, if you destroyed Dib in the past, then he won't ever be your enemy, and you won't have to send a robot back to destroy him. And then he will be your enemy so you will have to send a robot back—!!
  • Groin Attack: Zim is seen watching footage of his human classmates bullying him in "A Room with a Moose". One piece of footage depicts Dib kicking Zim in the crotch, causing his disguise to fall off.
  • Grossout Show: It had its moments. Mostly highlighted in "Dark Harvest" (where Zim attempts to avoid being found out as an alien by stealing human organs), "Germs" (where Zim obtains a pair of goggles that make him highly germophobic due to being able to see everything as riddled with bacteria), and "Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom" (which features such sights as Dib being turned inside out and GIR becoming morbidly obese from gorging on Halloween candy).
  • Growling Gut: Happens to Gaz in "Bloaty's Pizza Hog" after watching a commercial for said pizza restaurant.
  • Hates Being Touched: Zim.
    Keef: (hugs Zim) I'm so happy!
    (Zim pushes Keef away)
    Zim: Don’t touch me.
  • Height Insult: The entire hierarchy of Irkens is based on height, so the Almighty Tallest enjoy mocking and condescending the very small members of their species. In the pilot, Tallest Purple scornfully cites Zim's stature as a reason why he shouldn't be an Invader.
  • Have You Come to Gloat?: In "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom", future ZIM asks this of future Dib.
  • Herr Doktor: Countess von Verminstrasser.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: The Tallest are this when they're not being Vitriolic Best Buds. Though likely unintended, Zim and GIR can come off as this sometimes, too.
  • 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.
  • Hugh Mann: Zim when out in public.
  • Human Aliens: Subverted. Most aliens shown in the series are at best humanoid in appearance, but there are no human lookalikes.
  • 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. 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 Bastards: Anyone who is not a complete moron is completely apathetic or cruel.
  • Humans Are Morons: Every human is an idiot, except for Dib, Gaz, Professor Membrane and Agent Darkbooty. Although it should be noted that every other sentient race (including Irkens) 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.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "Attack of the Saucer Morons" opens with ZIM flying around in the Voot Cruiser making police cars crash to test Earth's defenses. He concludes that Earth vehicles are "PATHETIC!!" ZIM's ship then collides with a bee and explodes.
  • 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."
    • Not to mention the time the 'tracking device' ZIM uses on Dib is just GIR clinging to the back of his 'enormous' head.
  • Industrial World: When the Irkens conquer a planet, they simply destroy everything and, on the Tallests' whim, rebuild it from the ground up based on a very narrow theme. One such planet, Callnowia, is covered in factories that Irkens can order things from.
  • Inept Aptitude Test: "Career Day", in which only Dib gets the job he's so desperately trying for.
    • Considering the circumstances surrounding ZIM's banishment from Irk, his results were pretty appropriate too. He was banished to Foodcourtia after Operation Doom I.
  • Informed Attribute: Used as a Running Gag brought on by Executive Meddling (though the cast apparently enjoyed the joke) with Dib's freakishly large head, which is actually no different from any other characters' heads.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Oh there is a lot for this show. But one noticeable one is when the School Psychiatrist stopped believing in aliens because his foot got trapped in an escalator and aliens didn't come to save him.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: The Irken aren't even really sure if there is a planet in Earth's vicinity when they send ZIM away. Which was the whole point in sending him there...
  • Instant Awesome: Just Add Mecha!: The Megadoomer, among others.
  • Invisible to Normals: Spoofed.
  • Ironic Echo: "You just don't get it, do you?"
  • I Taste Delicious: Dib, in "Bolognius Maximus".
    "Gaz! Taste me! I'm delicious!"
  • Karmic Butt-Monkey: Zim is a Villain Protagonist with plans for world domination. However, he's usually a Harmless Villain who brings a lot of his own failures on himself.
  • Keet: GIR, the hyperactive robot.
  • 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."
    • Subverted in the pilot. Dib points out that Zim has green skin. Zim pases it off as a skin condition. A random kid in the room chews Dib out for picking on Zim for being "a little bit different".
  • Kill It with Water: Drives the plot of "The Wettening".
  • Knight Templar: The Delouser in "Lice," being rather pointedly similar to 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.
  • La Résistance: The Resisty.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Constantly. Dib will almost always question nonsensical (read: most) aspects of Zim's plans.
  • Little Green Men: The Irkens, though some actually aren't all that little.
  • Little Miss Badass: Gaz is a hardcore preteen girl that you don't want to mess with.
  • 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 Mentally Disturbed: An incomplete episode revealed that ZIM is this. There's a reason he's so crazy y'know.
  • Messy Pig: A few of them, but not all.
  • The Millstone: GIR is usually far more hindrance than help with ZIM's mission.
    • The fact that Zim himself is one for the Irken Empire is the whole reason he was ever banished.
  • 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.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: Exagerrated to high holy hell in "The Girl Who Cried Gnome". Moofy gets her leg stuck in a dirt mound in front of Zim's house, and almost immediately the press, multiple rescue teams, civilians, and helper robots arrive, trying to set her free. The President of the United States himself appears to make a speech regarding Moofy's ordeal only 6 minutes in, and they consider using a sonic vibration device that could destroy the Earth just to shoot her out the mound... and when Dib gets stuck in her place after she's pulled out, everyone leaves.
    News reporter: Just how many more minutes does she have to suffer before rescue crews can free her? HUH!? (Starts crying).
  • Missing Mom: There is a lack of a mother in Dib's family. It is unknown if Professor Membrane was ever married.
  • More Dakka: While common, ZIM accidentally grants Dib this in "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy".
  • Most Definitely Not a Villain: ZIM and the two aliens from "Abducted".
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Gaz using the flesh processor to give herself extra arms so that she can play multiplayer games by herself.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Miss Bitters gives a few slightly contradictory accounts of her childhood at different points.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The series loved this trope. Almost every episode featured ZIM or GIR or both turning the most mundane things into sheer awesomeness.
  • Mushroom Samba: Literal example in the Halloween special. When Ms. Bitters says that she used to be a fairy princess, we're shown a clip of a vividly-colored rainbow world with dancing mushrooms.
  • 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 "Planet Jackers", 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.
    • "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy" ends with ZIM's brain replaced by a rubber pig.
    • "Backseat Drivers from Beyond The Stars" ends with Zim getting his brains eaten by a parasite.
  • 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.
  • Nighthawks Shot: The setting at the start of one episodes is not dissimilar to Edward Hopper's painting called Nighthawks.
  • Nightmarish Factory: The skool's boiler room. Surprisingly though, it has plenty of guard rails, averting No OSHA Compliance.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: Spoofed in "FBI Warning Of Doom" has the villain of the week try to kill ZIM with zombies. Except that the zombies just sort of wander about uselessly and run into things. As it turns out, a mindless corpse that just sort of shambles towards people trying to bite them isn't exactly a huge threat.
  • 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-handedly mention "Oh, he's/she's dead" and completely ignore the still frame.
  • No Ending: As mentioned under Negative Continuity, a lot of episodes just end with no resolution to the conflict of the episode.
  • No Full Name Given: 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. Despite this, it's finally confirmed in the comics that "Membrane" is the family name.
  • No Indoor Voice: ZIM basically speaks in screams. Richard Steven Horvitz was forced to record on alternating days so he wouldn't permanently damage his voice.
    ZIM: Miss Bitters, I have a MIGHTY NEED to use the restroom once again.
    Screamy: HI DIB! HOW YA DOIN'?.
  • 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 barely conscious.
  • 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 flashback.
    • Also, whatever changed the way Valentine's Day is celebrated to include meat instead of cards and candy.
    • Then there's what ever it was that happened to the previous guidance counselor...
    • The beginning of "Tak the Hideous New Girl Part 2", where Zim destroys a mysterious meaty monster who he has clearly been fighting, and casually remarks: "What a horrible adventure with that ham demon".
  • 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!
  • Not Worth Killing: The Irken empire have no desire to conquer Earth. They consider it a remote dump, the climate is horrible, and the natives are mostly morons. Only two rogue invaders are obsessed with claiming it for the Tallest. Tak (who was driven to insanity), and Zim (who has always been insane). The Tallest don't acknowledge them, and as long as Zim occupies the planet in exile, it makes the world even less desirable to the alien race.
  • 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.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Parodied in "GIR Goes Crazy and Stuff".
    Squid Man: I want to thank you. That was quite an adventure! The car wreck... the library fight... and the galactic space battle that happened on the way to this beach.
    Zim: Yes, yes, very nice. Now into the ocean where you can tell no one of these things.
    • Also in "Gaz Taster of Pork", Dib and Gaz are trapped by the police but in the next scene they are seen in Beaver suits exiting a car.
    Dib: Woo! What an incredible and daring escape! That was amazing!
    Gaz: I liked the part where the giant robot squid launched missiles at us.
  • Old Media Are Evil: ZIM despises television, which is constantly portrayed as garbage. Commercials in particular.
  • Ominous Adversarial Amusement: When Zim breaks up with Tak, she starts laughing uproariously before she reveals her Irken appearance.
  • 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. Justified in that Zim was the one assigned to Earth, not Tak; and in the case of "Planet Jackers", Irken invaders don't destroy planets, but prepare them to be terraformed for reasons unstated. The Planet Jackers wanted it for their own gain.
    ZIM: The Earth is mine to devastate! And I already promised the moon to GIR.
  • 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.
    • Zim gets to be this in "Abducted", after being abducted by what may be the only alien species dumber than the Plutonians.
    • The female doctor who is the only person besides Dib that can tell Chickenfoot is simply a guy stuck in a suit.
  • Organ Autonomy: Arm-control nerve.
    "Arm-control nerve?"
    "Arm control nerve."
  • 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 Medium:
    • 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 handwave 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.
  • Pet the Dog: ZIM treats GIR noticeably better than everyone else and actually expresses concern for his safety multiple times. He gets a few other moments where he treats people surprisingly well, but for every Pet The Dog moment ZIM gets, he gets three Kick the Dog moments in return. This prevents the audience from forgetting that ZIM is a bad guy.
    • Had the series continued, Minimoose would have been the source of even more of this. The unfinished "Nubs of Doom" sums it up well:
      ZIM: If I were capable of love...(in baby talk) I might actually love you, maybe.
  • 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.
  • Planetary Core Manipulation: Tak's plan in the season one finale is to hollow out the Earth using the giant magma pump that is her base and fill the planet with snacks as an offering to The Tallest.
  • 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 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.
  • Planet Spaceship: The planet Mars itself was converted to a spaceship by its natives, because it was cool. And it turns out that they did the same to Mercury as a prototype.
  • 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!
  • The Pollyanna: Keef. Getting his eyes plucked out, screwed completely over by Zim, and the kid is still happy and cheerful. He even tries to make friends with him again in the unfinished episode "Return of Keef".
  • Psychopathic Manchild: ZIM, Chicken Foot, too many to count.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The episode "Mysterious Mysteries" features Dib and Zim being invited onto the titular Show Within a Show to dispute some of Zim's footage of Zim and GIR out of costume, with Gaz and GIR getting brought in for their views of what happened as well. Dib presents it as a classic "hero vs alien invasion" plot (complete with Gaz as a Neutral Female), Zim presents Dib as a bully blackmailing Zim with fake footage for lunch money, Gaz presents Dib and Zim as drooling morons incapable of doing anything but grunt inaudibly, and GIR goes off onto a nonsensical tangent about a giant squirrel.
  • Really 700 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.
    • Zim is red and GIR is blue. Check out their eyes. Zim maybe more normal by default but he throws away all common sense when pursuing a goal. GIR somehow holds it together.
  • 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 effect, 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.
  • Religious Russian Roulette: How guidance counselor Dwicky lost his faith in aliens.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Parodied. "Oh, that's Minimoose, my other sidekick! Yeah! Been with me the whole time!"
    • 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.
  • Revolutionaries Who Don't Do Anything: The Resisty is shown to be this, though to their credit they did almost take down the Massive... though only because Zim inadvertently helped them.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Peepi the hamster. ZIM attempts to weaponize his cuteness, resulting in the world's most adorable kaiju.
  • 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, as in the episode of the same name, Zim develops a massive zit due to his Bizarre Alien Biology reacting to pizza grease. After GIR draws a face on it, Zim learns that its bouncing has a hypnotic effect, which he uses to his benefit.
  • Robot Antennae: GIR has one on top of his head.
  • Robot Buddy: GIR, obviously, but the house computer to a lesser extent.
  • Rude Hero, Nice Sidekick: Zim is a brash, foul-tempered Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, while his ditzy Minion with an F in Evil GIR is much friendlier.
  • 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.
    • The mentioning of moose.
    • During a crowd scene with people cheering, there's usually gonna be someone yelling "[Thing we're cheering about] rocks!"
    • 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!
    • Whenever a minor character is made to think hard about something, they close one eye, stick out their tongue and begin acting as though they're having an aneurysm.
    • 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.
    • DVD Commentary Running Gag: Several.
      • "Hi, I'm Eric Trueheart, and I had nothing to do with this episode!" (This was repeated to the point where, when an episode he did write gets commentary, everyone else involved absolutely refuses to believe he actually did write it. Richard Horvitz thinks Trueheart just transcribed it or something.)
      • "America loves GIR!"/"America hates Dib." (And, fittingly. "America loves Rikki!"/"America hates Andy.")
      • 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").
  • Sacrificial Planet: The show has an alien race called the Planet Jackers that captures other planets in a giant transportation sphere and throws them into the dying sun that orbits their world in order to stave off their own destruction, even though they could easily just move to a different, more stable planet instead.
  • Sadist Show
  • Same Content, Different Rating: "The Nightmare Begins" was initially rated TV-Y and the the rest were rated TV-Y7 FV.
  • 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.
  • Santabomination: In the Christmas Episode "The Most Horrible X-mas Ever", Zim downloaded all Christmas and Santa knowledge into a gel-based Santa suit as a means of disguising himself as the titular Santa as a plot to conquer Earth. Unfortunately, A.I. Is a Crapshoot and the suit slowly starts to take control whenever something especially Christmasy happens (like children asking for hugs or when GIR starts singing Christmas songs). Zim manages to free himself of the suit before it grows into a monster, with Dib banishing it into space. In the distant future, it is revealed that the Santa suit is not only still alive, but it returns every Christmas to wreak havoc, cities since having been enclosed in protective domes with giant milk and cookies left to placate its rage.
  • 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.
  • Scare Chord: Unsurprisingly
    • "Dark Harvest" gives us the music that plays when Dib goes looking for Torque after losing sight of him.
    • The credits music and the theme music (especially that growling/screaming noise at the end when the title "Invader Zim" comes up)
    • In "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy", you can hear what sounds like a ticking clock in the background starting after Dib is hurt for the second time and lasting up until he flatlines.
  • The Scream: Too many to count.
    • The guy in "Battle of the Planets" might be the best.
  • Screamer Trailer: The host of "Mysterious Mysteries of Strange Mystery" has these regarding Dib.
  • Secret-Keeper: Gaz is a subversion.
  • Selective Enforcement: "Hey! That kid's throwing punch!"
  • Selective Obliviousness: It's obvious in the first episode how hated ZIM is by the Tallest. ZIM never notices.
  • Serious Business:
    • Mall security, lasers (and Smoke Machines!), lice, video games, parent-teacher-night, pizza... hell, is there an episode where this didn't feature?
    • Not to mention the fact that apparently the library confiscates your retinas if something is overdue.
    • Poop Cola Candy.
    • Played with in the first issue. Dib singing his own montage music isn’t important because he is the only hope for the human race, but if he doesn’t train he’ll go back to being The Pig-Pen.
    • Gaming to Gaz.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: A running gag in the series. Most notably with Keef getting his eyes ripped out, or in "ZIM Eats Waffles" when he grabs something (slightly resembling a plunger) and blasts away the demon squid.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Quite a bit, actually...
    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, Mysterious Mysteries of Strange Mystery, and 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*
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Invader Zim might be the most cynical kids cartoon ever created! Everyone is either apathetic, a complete moron, ungodly cruel, or all of the above.
  • 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.
  • Smart Jerk and Nice Moron: Zim is a Smart Jerk while GIR is a Nice Moron. Zim wants to enslave humanity and has far better technology let alone keener common sense than the human characters on his show (minus Dib). GIR isn't evil or hellbent on enslaving humanity like Zim is, he just wants to watch TV and eat pizza all day.
  • 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.
    Sizz-Lorr: There was a time-warp or something.
  • 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.
  • 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":
    • It's very rare to see the word "squeedlyspooch" spelled correctly in an Invader ZIM fanfic. Because of this, there are innumerable misspellings of the word, but the most common are "squeedily-spooch", "squeedilyspooch" and "squeedly spooch".
    • "Darkbooty" vs. "Darkbootie" is also an example, as is "GIR" vs "Gir" and "MiMi" vs "Mimi".
    • Some disputes have arisen on the issue of people or items originating from planet Vort — "Vort/Vorts" versus "Vortian/Vortians". The latter term never made it into production, but appeared in at least one script ("The Trial").
  • 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.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Keef certainly has shades of this in 'Bestest Friend', and was upgraded to complete stalker by the time of 'Return of Keef'.
  • 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.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: In "Abducted" two non-Irken aliens come to earth in terrible disguises and introduce themselves to ZIM as "perfectly normal human worm babies," the exact phrase ZIM used to describe himself in the first episode.
  • 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.
    • To a lesser extent, GIR being played by a non-actor. Word of God says that having someone who couldn't actually act play him was meant to emphasize how the character was "broken."
  • Suck E. Cheese's: Bloaty's Pizza Hog.
  • Sucky School: The elementary school in the setting is simply called Skool, and is a massive Take That! against public schools in America, being portrayed as an underfunded hellhole.
  • 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!!
  • Superior Species: Provides the actual page quote. Although his mission is to blend in with Earth, ZIM hilariously can't resist rubbing it in everyone's face how far more advanced and superior the Irkens are.
  • Take That!:
    • In "GIR Goes Crazy and Stuff" and "ZIM Eats Waffles", ZIM is shown to have a human child captive in order to experiment with the happiness receptors in the child's brain. As a result, the child is compulsively happy. The child's name? Nick.
    • In one episode Dib tries to take over an Irken computer, hoping out loud that they just happen to use the same operating system as him.
    • The hilarious fact that being banished to Foodcourtia, a fast food civilization, is regarded as the lowest position as an Irken citizen.
    • Really, the whole show involves making fun of human society, in some ways that are true, in some ways that is regarded by a Large Ham who tries his hardest to hate mankind. "Walk of Doom" is a huge example of this.
    Zim: (after stepping off the bus) What is wrong with these humans?!
    • Breakfast Chunks are a stab at the equally disgusting Breakfast Squares General Mills sold in the '80s, which pretty much nobody liked.
  • Take That, Audience!: In "Dib's Wonderful Life Of Doom," the shoe aliens address Dib as "Dib... er, whatever your last name is," to which Dib firmly replies "That's right," a jab at all of the fans who insisted that his last name is Membrane (this being before it was made canon).
  • Take Your Time: In "Bloaty's Pizza Hog", Gaz can't go to the titular restaurant for the annual family night until she brings Dib with her, but the latter is in Zim's lair. And if she doesn't rescue him in time, it will be put off until next year. And she only has a couple hours left! Despite all of this, she just takes her time and is able to go to Bloaty's before Membrane goes to work.
  • Teacher's Pet: Zita to Ms. Bitters.
  • Temporal Paradox: Discussing them makes GIR's head blow up.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Dib in "Mopiness of Doom" (the unproduced script).
  • Terminator Impersonator: Zim creates a robot called a "Hunter-Destroyer" (which has a name and appearance incredibly similar to a "Hunter-Killer" robot from the Terminator franchise) to go back in time and kill Dib before he can become Zim's enemy. However, in addition to the Temporal Paradox this would create, the robot proves incompatible with Time Travel anyway, so the scheme never gets off the ground.
  • Terrified of Germs: Zim has mysophobia in the episode "Germs".
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Female Irken (there aren't that many of them) are distinguished by having fuller eyebrow/lashes and curly feelers. Fandom typically chooses to ignore this.
  • That Liar Lies: As an overcompensation to his Paper-Thin Disguise, Zim loves accusing others of lying at complete random.
  • Theme Naming:
    • The main characters all have three-letter names: Zim, GIR, Dib, Gaz. Although not as important as the aforementioned characters, Tak also follows this trend.
    • Red and Purple also count, though the other Tallests mentioned have different names.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: GIR does this frequently. Take Plague of Babies for example: while Zim fights for his life against the Giganto-Baby, GIR enjoys a bucket of fried chicken and mayo (even eating a still clucking chicken). Other characters also have their moments.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: "The Wettening" sees Zim ultimately get back at Dib for constantly hitting him with water balloons by dropping a giant one on him from a Kill Sat in orbit.
  • Third-Person Flashback: Lampshaded. ZIM remembers escaping from Frycourtia, and Sizz-Lor coming in and swearing to recapture him. Back in the present, Sizz-lor asks how he can remember that last part if he already left. ZIM doesn't have an answer.
  • Third-Person Person: ZIM does this a lot, especially when he's hamming it up (and when is he not?).
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After being the Butt-Monkey his whole life, Dib gets the chance to salvage Tak's ship.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Lampshaded and discussed by ZIM and Sizz-lor after Sizz-lor describes how he spent twenty years on Foodcourtia even though ZIM only left a year or two ago. Sizz-lor tries too pass it off and ZIM dosen't seem convinced by it.
  • Toilet Humor
  • Toilet Teleportation: This is the main method of transportation.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The vast majority of the human race.
  • Totally Radical: Parodied by Poop Dawg in "Door to Door".
  • Touched by Vorlons: Played straight and later averted in "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom".
  • Transformation Sequence: GIR doing a Mundane Made Awesome version of putting on his dog costume.
  • Transplant: Ms. Bitters and the Abductors were major characters in Jhonen's comic Squee!, though neither had names. Two Vortians also appear as rivals of the Abductors.
  • True Meaning of Christmas: Dib actually does effectively shame the mob on Christmastime by expounding on it and urging them to go home and spend time with their families. It holds for about five seconds before ZIM shows up as the "Easter Platypus" and turns them against him.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future
  • Two Halves Make a Plot: "Tak the Hideous New Girl" has this when Dib's sister Gaz found files containing Tak's plan, which gives this exchange:
    Zim: I'm the only one with the technology to decode those files!
    Dib: And we're the only ones with the files to be decoded!
  • Two-Teacher School: The only Skool teachers that we really see throughout the series and comics are Ms. Bitters and Mr. Elliot. That said, certain episodes and comics have confirmed the existence of other Skool staff, including the Principal, guidance counselors, and a gym coach.
  • Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: Vampire Piggy Hunter, which actually looks to be a decent game.
  • Undying Loyalty: ZIM is clearly loyal to the Irken cause.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Is a Running Gag for poor Skoodge... First he was sent to Blorch, home of the slaughtering rat people, for being the shortest Invader of Operation Impending Doom II. When he actually did conquer it, the Tallests still didn't like him and launched him out of a cannon. This still didn't stop him from making an appearance in "Hobo 13", where his remarkable recovery was Lampshaded and handwaved:
    Zim: Skoodge? I thought the Tallests killed you!
    Skoodge: Yeah, but I'm okay now.
  • Unwanted False Faith: In "Attack of the Saucer Morons" ZIM somehow fails to see the benefits of dozens of worshipers and instead has to escape from them.
  • Used Future
  • The Usual Adversaries: Irkens for most of the galaxy. ZIM for the Irkens.
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: Zim is an unusual case in several ways. Zim is a Villain Protagonist and an underling for The Empire, and characters from The Empire higher up than him are indeed far, far more capable, competent, and serious than Zim is. However, they don't actually care about conquering Earth, and indeed aren't even sure Earth exists: sending Zim to Earth is their idea of making him Reassigned to Antarctica, just so he won't screw up any of the plans they do care about!
  • 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".
  • Virtual Reality Interrogation: A variation is present in an episode where Zim puts Dib in a virtual reality where he gains ultimate power and uses it to defeat the Irken and become a major celebrity just so he could get Dib to confess that he threw a muffin at him during lunch.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The Tallests big time.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot:
    • "GIR! Your waffles have sickened me! FETCH ME THE BUCKET!"
      • In the Latin American dub, it was changed to "GIR! Your waffles have sickened me! BRING ME MORE!"
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In "Zim Eats Waffles", GIR is seen eating 2 waffles (while Zim is being attacked by the "giant flesh-eating demon squid") and vomiting shortly afterwards.
  • Wacky Sound Effect: Lots. The sound of air being slowly let out of a balloon is the most common, accompanied by the visual of 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.
  • Watch the Paint Job: "Police, I'd like to report a ... giant house that flew out of the sky and destroyed my car, okay, thank you! ... AAAGH!!"
  • Wave of Babies: In "Plague of Babies".
  • Weaksauce Weakness: ZIM's ship crashes after a bee hits its windshield. The bee survived. Also, ZIM's aforementioned issues with water.
  • We Have Reserves: "Hobo 13" is this trope over and over again.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Tak's voice starts off as fake American, then wavers somewhere between that and British before becoming full-on Brit. She's played by the British-American Olivia d'Abo, who's most famous role was as an American with a slighty more consistant accent.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The city where most of the series takes place is never named, let alone given a specific location. Various screenshots and supplemental information of dubious canonicity places it anywhere from Ohio to Quebec.
  • White Void Room: "A room... with a moose!"
  • Wicked Weasel: "Computerrr! Take me to the WEASELS!"
  • With Catlike Tread: Zim 24/7.
  • Womb Level: "NanoZIM".
  • Won't Take "Yes" for an Answer:
    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!?!
  • World Gone Mad
  • World of Ham:
    • Some hammy highlights:
      Zim: Yes. Oh, I will bring my pa-rents. And they shall be the greatest, most parental parents EVER!

      Gaz: Let it be known that from this day, until the end of the day, vengeance will be mine. Dib, you will not know the meaning of peace, for I shall rain misery down upon your pizza-stealing heart!

      Dib: Go on, laugh! But one day, you'll be sitting in your house feeling all safe and secure, and then you'll look over and I'll be there! Doin' stuff!

      Prof. Membrane: NOO!! Santa has let me down! I will turn my back on him and devote a portion of my life to destroying Santa!
  • World of Jerkass: There are few characters who are genuinely decent in this series.
  • World of Snark
  • Worthy Opponent:
  • X Must Not Win: Even when the fate of the world isn't at stake, Dib will stop at nothing to oppose Zim. His only reason for participating in the fund-raiser in "Door to Door" is to see Zim fail to win the "secret prize".
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom" is all this, but "Vindicated" is probably worse.
  • You Can Run, but You Can't Hide: Dib says it to Zim, or rather tries to say it but just winds up contradicting himself. ("You can hide, but you can't.... hide!") In his defense he was seriously brain damaged by that point.
  • You Do NOT Want To Know:
    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.

Imma sing the Doom Song now! DOOM DOOM DOOM DOOM, DOOM DOOM DOOM DOOM!


Video Example(s):


Invader Zim

A kid's organs and an alien's squeedily spooch are hurt by dodgeballs.

How well does it match the trope?

4.85 (27 votes)

Example of:

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