To this day when my head is as elsewhere as it can be, fans still write to me or come up to me at conventions or toilet stalls to ask this or that about INVADER ZIM, and equally as impressive as the show’s staying power is the seeming toxicity of the incorrect information surrounding the show. Even looking up the IMDB or Wikipedia info comes up with stuff that I don’t recognize as being entirely accurate, so I can see how people can be a bit off when recounting “the truth” about the show and its production.
What’s more bothersome, though, is the manner in which the information gets spread, passed on from person to person, spreading like a virus that doesn’t have any room for anything but absolutes. This particular virus is a stupid, ignorant virus, however, seemingly proud to pass along ANY bit of information about a thing it is obsessed with no matter how painfully wrong it is.
So here I am to relate the first of many facts throughout the month of March! I do this because I am fucking awesome.
Where the show got its name isn’t actually one of those controversial bits of information mentioned above, but it is about as fascinating a tale as any told before by mankind, so just sit back, shut your horrible face up, and be enthralled.
Contrary to what a handful of people have thought, the name “ZIM” wasn’t inspired by the character Sergeant Charles Zim from Starship Troopers. The show was already in development as far back as 1997, after Verhoeven’s film version of Starship Troopers had come out, but the main character for my show was nameless for a while yet.
Driving back from the San Diego Comicon around 1998 with a girl I was dating at the time, a crisis had surfaced, one that, without resolution would have meant a nameless existence for a virtual pet belonging to said girl. Charging me with being “good at naming things” I looked around for signs and such on billboards or on the vehicles around us and settled on calling the stupid thing “ZIM”. The crisis was averted, the stupid thing eventually died, the girl lost her looks and both were quickly discarded.
It wasn’t long after that ZIM got called back into service to be my character’s name, tacked on to “INVADER” which was about as unimaginative as a gamer could get. SPACE INVADERS, get it? Brilliant.
Funny thing, though- The Starship Troopers connection is there, however indirectly, but it’s no less important a part of the story.
See, Nickelodeon’s Burbank studio, the one we worked out of to produce the show when it got up and running a few years later, was home to a nice little recording room where we’d do the main voice records with the actors. Several of the shows in production would reserve record time in that same room, so it was a constant parade of Spongebob actors, ZIM actors, etc. It wasn’t uncommon to see very recognizable folks come in to do a bit of voice work, and one such person was Clancy Brown, the voice of Mr Krabs on Spongebob, also the actor who played SERGEANT ZIM!
Brown was heading into the room as I was walking out. Recognizing him instantly I stopped to shake his hand, tell him I’ve enjoyed his presence in various things and oh, yeah, the show I do has the same name as a character he is known for having played . He mentioned that he had been wondering about that, seeming somewhat amused, but also a bit confused, his grip on my hand tightening a bit.
The moment was over as far as I was concerned as I really had nothing else to say and had to get back to my office, but it was clear that Brown was still IN the moment, taken somewhere in his head that I was left out of entirely, giving me a terrible feeling of unease.
“I AM ZIM!”, he shrieked, and despite the pain in my hand, crushed by the actor’s enormous grip, I laughed, realizing the man did know my show and was maybe a fan. To hear my words coming out of the guy’s mouth was hilarious and surreal, but after a few seconds of laughing, I realized his expression wasn’t changing, an expression of rage and burning madness. I understood that my laughing was infuriating the man who towered over me and was now crushing my poor hand.
Slowly, still gripping my hand, he leaned in so that his dry lips were almost touching m
y ear and, barely audible, rasped out “There can be only one.” His eyeball, pivoted to peer into mine, appeared as gigantic as the moon having suddenly noticed you and only you and glowing hot with murderous intent.
I could only think that it had to be a joke again, and said “Hah…I get it. Highlander. You were pretty cool in tha-” which is when he threw me across the room by my hand. Clancy Brown leapt up onto a table and screeched like only people named Clancy can, and I knew I was done for. I’m an awesomer, not a fighter, and so I resigned myself to a gory fate at the hands of a madman.
It happened too fast for me to get it at the time, but Brown jerked as if getting a back full of buckshot, then relaxed grotesquely and crashed to the floor. Just like in the movies, as Brown’s massive frame dropped, the three security guards behind him were revealed, the electrified coils from their tazers still crackling and feeding shut the fuck up into Brown’s back.
From that point on, records were scheduled for different days than the Spongebob ones.