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Invader Zim - Vol. 2 cover art madness!

Posted by David Lambert
Last month, in mid-April, we brought you this report about Invader Zim - Volume 2: Progressive Stupidity. In our write-up, we mentioned the controversy that was brewing about the cover art for that release.

It all started a few weeks before that. In late March, Rosearik Rikki Simons (colorist for the show, plus the hilarious voice of GIR) posted at his BLog:
    The fact is I'm painting one of Jhonen's illustrations again, this time the second ZIM DVD...It's a very lovely picture Jhonen drew of ZIM simultaneously strangling Dib, Gaz, GIR, Bloaty, Poop Dog, and several others, I can assure you. Ah. I seem to be finished with it now. I really like this image. Nickelodeon is going to hate it.

And here is that art that Jhonen drew, Rikki painted, and - as predicted - Nickelodeon hated:

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As we reported last time, Simons came back in mid-April and posted this follow-up at his BLog:
    Somewhat sad, but not entirely unexpected, news for those of you who enjoyed the second ZIM DVD cover drawn by Jhonen and painted by me. Jhonen tells me that, "Nickelodeon's not using our DVD cover, so I sent an e-mail saying no more from us. They will not use our cover and I've called off any more work for ZIM." Well, like I said, not entirely unexpected, but still a shame Nickelodeon just can't play nice. I don't know what the covers for the second and third ZIM DVD's will have on them now, probably stock art of some kind. Just a shame.

All of that was over a month ago, and now Media Blasters is starting to solicate Invader Zim - Volume 2: Progressive Stupidity to retail accounts, preparing for an August 31 release date. In the process, they are showing off the final cover art for this DVD. As Simons predicted, they went with stock art. And some very early stock art at that, an image that we're told has been around since the show first aired:

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EDITORIAL: I'll be the first to say that this cover that's going to be used isn't nearly as fun or exciting as the Volume 1: Doom Doom Doom box art was, but on the other hand I can't say as I blame anyone for rejecting the art that show creator, Jhonen Vasquez, made for Progressive Stupidity. In fact, let's face it: the Wal-Marts and other mass-market chains of the world might say that the title is aptly descriptive of the idea that they would ever stock a DVD where a "zany-cutesy" cartoon with the "Nickelodeon" logo on it has the main character squeezing the life out of a bunch of kids (one of whom has his hair on fire). The folks at Zim seemed quite overjoyed with the first release to learn that Wal-Mart had decided to stock the title, yet Vasquez is acting appalled and offended that his graphic isn't going to be used for the second...even though it was apparent up-front that painter Simons, at least, expected the suits to take a pass on it.

Note that Simons isn't involved in the riff, except for reporting on it at his BLog. He just paints what he's given to paint, and if Vasquez won't draw it, Simons can't paint it. This is actually the continuation of an ongoing debate Vasquez has had with Nickelodeon over content in Zim, with Nick taking the position of "we can't go too extreme with this, and don't want to hurt ratings/sales," and Vasquez obviously concerned over the integrity of his original vision. A great vision, a funny one, and one that I think shown through in the aired material a lot more than the folks at Nick realized.

In my opinion, though, Vasquez should have compromised and come up with something original, exciting, and yet acceptable to everyone (including parents who are already worried that the toon might be too different and "subversive" for their kids to watch, and don't need to see "violent" images on the cover to convince themselves that they're "right"). Instead, Vasquez slammed the door in the faces of the studios and the fans, and said "no more." Bad move, if you ask me. Now the fans are stuck with a truly mass-market approach, using a very poor shot of Zim's giant diguised head sitting in class, and having very little to do with the real theme of the show. Oh, I suppose Zim's attempts to pose as a human child do tie in, but it's still not a fun shot. It could have been so much more! I'd rather have Vasquez's input, albeit at a less "extreme" level, than no input from the show's creator at all.

Perhaps a better approach would have been to see if the suits were willing to have a "Jhonen original" shot on the outside that matches mass-market expectations, and make the art insert flippable so that the other image is available on the backside for fans that prefer it. In fact, they could have made the DVD available with the flipside "cool" art showing for retailers that preferred it...but it would still be the same item, and no extra cost to produce (just flip the cover at the factory for selected runs of the product).

Either way, whatever the cover art turns out to be isn't going to stop me from buying and enjoying this release. Me, my wife, and my elementary-school-age son all laugh uncontrollably at the antics of Zim, GIR, Dib, and the rest...this could be sold in a Ziploc bag for all we care! While some fans are saying that they won't buy this release without Vasquez's original artwork on it, we're certain that the vast majority of Invader Zim fans will feel the same way as I do...the cover really doesn't matter, it's the cartoons that we're buying this for. As for concerns over whether the extras will suffer over this riff, fear not: Simons reports elsewhere in his BLog that "All of the commentaries for all three DVD's have already been recorded." Whew! However, be aware that Nick deleted selected lengths of the tracks on the first release, and still apparently has the final say over commentary content for the rest of the DVDs. Bad move, Nick...but I suppose we'll take what we can get (South Park fans know that the alternative might be *no* commentary tracks!).

Our thanks to Omar Odeh for his contribution to this story, even though he probably won't entirely agree with my thoughts. Note that all opinons expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect that of I realize that my take on this won't sit well with ALL of my readers, or with die-hard Zim fans. Just remember, the main point here is that we WANT to get these DVDs to market, with as much content as possible. We may not get everything we want, but it's better than nothing. Stay tuned for updates about the content of Invader Zim - Volume 2: Progressive Stupidity, just as soon as Media Blasters releases the information.

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