The response to these posts has been a bit more energetic than I was expecting, and that’s cool, but I can’t help but think of the people out there who are surely irritated that I am relating details that they feel are anything but entirely accurate. You can just picture them at their computers, lit only by their monitors there in the closet that their parents have locked them away in for fear that someone will be made aware of just what a spectacular failure as parents they really are, angrily typing away, suspicious that they are being denied the hard, cold facts that will COMPLETE THEIR LIVES.
Got a few emails from people who were not at all amused by my “not taking things seriously”, and, you know, they’re right. I should be VERY serious about a show that was cancelled maybe a decade ago that has replaced the very soul in a great number of people who, without it, would crumple to the ground like a puppet of skin and poor grammar with its strings cut. ”That Vasquez is fucking with ME again!” they say, their fists clenched, crushing the innards out of their hot pockets. ”Who does that bastard think he is?! I pay his bills, by gummit!” they howl as the camera pulls back to reveal their ZIM merchandise festooned room (closet), their ZIM wallpaper, GIR slippers, GIR hoodie, ZIM bedcovers, ZIM inhaler, Gaz hairspray, GIR waffle iron, Dib camel saddle, ZIM sweatpants and ZIM dvd boxset and tin of ZIM lithium. ”Your daughter’s making noise again!”, someone cries out in the rooms beyond. ”Oh, she’s MY daughter now, is she? I was only okay with having her because I thought she’d help you get over losing the dog!”, a different voice booms in response. “PATCHESSSSSSSS!”, is the first voice’s heartbreaking cry in response.
That’s when the sound of nails being pried out of the boards securing the closet shut on the other side is heard, shortly followed by the door practically being pulled off its hinges. Mom and dad each hold cattle prods and scream at their cripplingly under-socialized spawn to shut the hell up. Hot Pockets (that’s what we’ll call the indignant internet citizen) swipes in defense but also in gibbering terror of the strange shapes and lights and colors and sounds emanating from things that are not their computer. What are they? How can anything exist beyond the screen? They’re eyes dart about, taking in all the strange sensory input, practically swelling like some goggle-orbed thing from the deep ballooning from the inside out as it is hauled up to the alien world above.
I’m not exaggerating one bit here, either : When that closet door is opened, even though this is happening entirely in a hypothetical scenario in my head, Hot Pockets actually explodes like a clammy flounder in real life because this is based on hard science fact, bitches! BABLAM!
One thing I’m certain of is that I’m hysterically lucky to be able to make a living off of doing what I love for the fact that enough people dig what I do enough to keep reading it, watching it, or breaking it down and then shooting up between their toes or into their scrotums when the mood is on them, but problems tend to arise from the fact that I got attention for doing what I actually enjoy and not what I think people want. This is where the presence of the flounder types creates the type of energy that I’ve never been very good being cool with and I’m not entirely sure why anyone would be.
Very like in yesterday’s example, you’ll find this particular creature expounding their wisdom online or in alternative laundromats leaping in to rescue poor, confused type who wonder just what it is that I’m doing since last they picked up something of mine. The Hot Pockets know, of course, and so they blast into the opening like a homesick turd flying back into an anus they just can’t let go of because it’s ALL THEY KNOW.
And just what is it that they know, that they share with the uninformed? Well, it’s that I’m not doing anything but sitting on my ass, playing video games on my gaming chair fashioned from all that money I make off of ZIM merchandise and such. These are the same people who write “fanmail” to blast me for not producing more of what they want and that I should be nicer to them because they put food on my table and so on.
I won’t get into what it is that I do when I’m not doing stuff that gets seen by every one to validate my existence, but here’s something I think almost nobody knows anything about.
I don’t really make shit off of all that horrific ZIM merch you see at Hot Topics and in….Hot Topics. I honestly couldn’t tell you if it’s sold anywhere but that place, but I know I’ve never bought anything from there and I sure as hell am not living like Scrooge McDuck diving into the mountains of money accrued from people buying things that are uncomfortable to the eyes at best.
Thing is, I don’t actually expect people to know or even care about the finer details of series television contracts and merchandising deals, but that’s because most sane, well-mannered types don’t need any more than to just enjoy a thing for what it is and, at best, dig that the creator is doing what they do without elevating him into some glowing/burning trickster god that they revere and despise all in one go. That way lies madness. What right-thinking person would write to some jerk who makes cartoons to be very clear in wanting more of what they do while regretting that said creator is a lazy shit who is making them incredibly unhappy for not catering to the needs of the people. It’s one thing to wonder or even hypothesize, but to outright say that this is simply the case, that because a person’s work is not visible for a general audience, then that person must simply not be doing ANYTHING, well…that’s fucking idiotic, and showcases just how empty a person’s soul must be to put the time and indignant force into perpetuating nonsense of that sort.
Back when the show was first starting to generate a wee bit of merchandise, we on the crew had very little to do with it. At first we were pretty excited, with a few of the artists drawing up designs for shirts and such, but back then none of the designs were desirable to the merchandising wizards, opting instead to simply re-use promotional art and actual frames from the animation, which just looked terrible. We quickly gave up trying to make things that any of us actually WANTED to see on ourselves and on fans, and the thing is, the awful truth is that the merch people understood that they didn’t have to generate any new art at more of an expense when the fans were happy enough to buy the tacky shite they were pumping out without the help of the actual creators of the show. Fight the important fights is what they always tell ya, so we just focused on making the actual show as horrific as it could possibly be and left the merchandising to those fine folks in whatever outhouse was allocated to ZIM stuff.
As a gag, the merch people would send me boxes of stuff they made, not to approve, really, as it was already made, but to laugh at me, I think, surely having secreted a camera in the box through which they could view my appalled expressions and occasional bouts of sick form the combinations of colors that I would only use to disorient animals or crazy people to allow me enough time to flee the scene. To be somewhat responsible for the creation of this vomit of goods that people would happily gobble up was a bit of a bummer at first, but like with most things, I just did my best to not pay attention.
The way I saw it, if we weren’t actually making money on the hideous stuff, and we actually had to fight like hell to get nowhere in terms of trying to make decent stuff to combat what the merch people wanted, then we’d leave it alone and just deal with it in our own way, by beating the shit out of the people at conventions who would show up practically in uniform, covered in GIRS and ZIMS of the most tacky variety. One time we put a kid in traction just for seeing another kid wearing a GIR hoodie and saying “Woah! I gotta get me wunna doze!” I remember Bryan K, former board artist turned art director of the show, was dropping by to say hi to me at a comicon, I remember his face when he heard the kid say that. Bryan, creator of Avatar, turned on the kid and just tore the very earth up from beneath the kid’s feet, lifting the tasteless little jerk up about ten feet into the air, the rocks and concrete swirling all about the kid fast and faster until the kid was just scraped bones and pureed flesh. How that skeleton screamed and screamed. Bryan fucking rocks.
Do I hate or resent the people who do buy the crap? No. They’re just fans who are snatching up whatever evidence there is of a thing that touched their lives somehow, changed them, made them into better human beings than the Gollum-like horrors that they were before. Sure, many are STILL Gollum-like horrors, but they’re not as bad as they would have been had the show not improved upon their design just a bit. Would I want to sit across from them and eat a meal and attempt conversation approaching that which you’d be lucky to get even out of a sea-squirt? Holy fucking god no! Have you tried talking to these people? Oh, my god! Oh my sweet christ-ass no. What the hell is wrong with you for even asking me a thing like that? Augh! Just the thought of watching their mouths work to form the words, the tears in their eyes as the understanding that the best they’ll produce is something akin to the sound of the elderly gumming a tub of pudding hits their brain-knob.
Oh, I’m making myself throw up a little bit…augh…hold on.
Okay, I’m back! YEAHHH!! And the point I was making was that it’s not terrible at all that fans just want to get their hands on something somewhat related to what we all did on the show, but my annoyance was that we couldn’t give them anything better than what got shat out there. A cancelled show that wasn’t a monster in the ratings, even what merch did get pooped out was limited in scope and reach, again, restricted to one store that did it’s thing back before ZIM to assimilate my comics into part of their thing. You’ll hear people talk some fine shit about me and my Hot Topic connection, but all I did was watch as it simply happened. I had no say in where things were sold or who decided to buy it, but it was too late, and with ZIM, Nickelodeon saw a perfect little boutique with a pre-existing rep for being “da place to sell Jhonen stuff!”. It was just business, and I understand that, but holy fuck did it screw me over as much as it benefitted the visibility of my work or things created because of my work.
I had a story idea a while back, during the ZIM days as a matter of fact, about a film maker who, for no reason he could explain or understand, who, when written about or introduced for talk show appearances, was described as “homosexual filmmaker [insert name of character here]. Didn’t get so far as actually naming the guy, but the idea became a running gag for a bit there, that he wasn’t gay, and didn’t particularly deal with gay-centric story ideas, but was always introduced in that manner. The people weren’t necessarily being mean, not always, and they certainly weren’t trying to drive the guy mad, but there it was, he simply couldn’t explain it, or escape it, no matter how hard he tried.
The Hot Topic thing took on that kind of life, with people attributing a Hot Topicy nature to everything I did, no matter how bizarre the association might be. So in a lot of ways, I imagine a great deal of people just assumed that the mall store and myself were in league, feeding cheesy stuff to a people who would eagerly devour anything that has been prescribed to them by the gods of spooky/cute nonsense. The boring reality of it, however, is more like Nick taking offers from companies who wish to take out a license on a property to produce merchandise based on that property then paying Nick a percentage of the profits from whatever results from the deal. My take from THAT is the merest fraction of a fraction of the kind of money that would do much better than to put a downpayment on some nice shoes or maybe a crazy awesome pack of gum. Maybe it’s GOLDEN gum. I dunno.
Hell, I don’t even see what Hot Topic does as evil so much as just business, but it’s not my kinda business, and that’s why the association is so unpleasant. I don’t really care that a company knows a certain group will spend cash on some fiendishly cheesy shit, but I’d rather not be lumped in with that attitude and with the items in general.
It’s a kind of association that is particularly strong with ME as a creator, for some reason. I don’t know that there are people out there gurgling out “That Butch Hartman! His stuff really stinks and he doesn’t care because he’s rolling around in all that money from HORRIBLE Fairly Oddparents video games!” For one, I don’t think people give a shit who makes Fairly oddparents unless they’re more informed animation enthusiasts, and another, if he really is rolling around in money made off of those games then he should burn in hell because those games are fucking AWFUL.
Not me, though. When people think of that INVADER ZIM sanitary napkin they picked up at Hot Topic, they think of me and wonder if I wrapped the thing myself with my own two hands. At this point, so far down the road, hearing about stuff like this, I can only shrug bemusedly and hope that people eventually grow up or grow out of that way.
I got to make a show when I was just finishing up SQUEE! at the age of 22, and with no animation history and no previous show to point at, my contract with the network was a fairly standard first timer’s deal, and that meant having no real hand in the merchandising rights.
This means that when you put on those GIR slippers, your ZIM helmet (Because you’re a drooling imbecile, get it??!) and start that half-crippled hamster in your head that powers your brain to tell me I owe you because those purchases are what pay my rent, I don’t have to give a shit because you’re pretty much the kind of goblin that ruins it for all the decent fans that know not to even think to say something like that to someone who doesn’t actually know you and is just trying to have fun making fun, horrific things.
I’m a stinking writer and maker of pictures, and maybe a few other job titles as time goes on, and success in those endeavors is, has been, and would be damn fine, but what I’m not is someone that aims for celebrity and having to tolerate idiots who think they’re entitled to more respect than your average jerk with a head full of ignorant noise.
One hopes that nobody will get upset by reading this because, the logical assumption would be that nobody would actually raise a hand in protest, volunteering themselves as a horrible person who WOULD behave the way detailed here thus being upset when someone would dare to criticize their styleez, but I know a lot of people will.
The rest of you, grab a sniper rifle find a nice vantage point and just wait for all the hands to raise.