As today is my birthday, I just went and pre-ordered myself a little present: Invader Zim DVD volume 3.
Invader Zim was an all-too-short-lived cartoon on Nickelodeon. It was created by comic book writer/artist Jhonen Vasquez. I originally learned of the show after it had already been cancelled, and for a couple of years had to subsist on poor-quality KaZaa downloads, which nevertheless convinced me that this was one of the greatest children's shows ever created. It was strange and funny, and subversive in a way that children's programming tends to shy away from (even Sesame Street has gone milquetoast, but that's another rant). In fact, to be perfectly honest, it was a bit dark, considering the intended demographic. The characters are fantastic - Gir is quite possibly the single best cartoon character of the last decade or so, and the interaction between Dib and Zim drives the series through even the most ridiculous of plots. When I bought the first two DVDs, I learned what I had been missing. Invader Zim is, visually, amazing. Furthermore, the care that went into created the music and sound effects for the series pays off in a big way.
Unfortunately, Nickelodeon canned the series, despite the huge and active fan base. Apparently, they were unwilling to spend time and money on a 'cult' show that wouldn't do as well with the young'uns as Spongebob. This, I think, was a huge mistake. Think of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Ren and Stimpy. These were children's cartoons that had a big college following. Hell, even Spongebob does pretty well among the college set. I think that if Nickelodeon had played it a little smarter, perhaps showing it later at night, gotten the word out, they could have had a solid fan base. Alas, it was not to be.
I'm not even going to try to describe the show in depth. It has to be seen to be appreciated. I'm not going to advocate downloading it from the internet, but if you do, start with episode 1: The Nightmare Begins. After that, they can be watched in pretty much any order. If you are a fan, I recommend investing in the DVD's, as they are pretty cheap, unless you are a megafan, in which case there is a super special boxed set coming out later.