Superhero comic books are inherently filled with over-the-top characters dressed in outlandish costumes performing strange and bizarre deeds. When you throw so many fantastical elements together, it can be almost awe-inspiring to a new reader. Similarly, if you focus to just a single panel, it can often seem like complete nonsense, because out of the overall context, the panels lose some of their meaning.
Along those lines, however, taking panels out of context can also result in some true hilarity, especially when you are not given the explanations on the other panels. That’s when things seem to go well beyond the standard bizarre nature of comic book stories. Then, when you add in words that did not have the same meaning when they were used in the comic, the end result is pure, unbridled awesome. Here, then, are 15 hilarious out of context panels (ranked by inexplicability).
15. AQUAMAN’S HOME FOR SEAMEN
“The Mystery of the Aqua-Dolls” from Adventure Comics #208 (art by Ramona Fradon) is an odd little story. In it, someone keeps taking photographs of Aquaman every time he is doing one of his superheroic feats. Eventually, Aquaman learns what is going on — the man is studying him so that he can create the most realistic electronic Aqua-dolls in the world! Rather than just asking Aquaman if it is okay for him to do this, he goes out and just stalks him and builds them without permission.
However, at least he’s spending the profits on a home for seamen! Yes, we’re juvenile. We admit it. When a giant Aqua-doll begins to commit crimes, he’s the logical suspect, but it turns out that it was just a plastic suit that a pirate wore to make people think he was a giant Aqua-doll, so people would blame the doll-maker!
14. NOT THE VIBRATOR!
People often talk about how crazy the covers of comic books can get, and they’re absolutely correct, especially in the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. However, an over-looked source of craziness are the opening splash page of classic comics, as they would often serve as almost like a secondary cover, as most comics had more than one story in them, so the splash page would be sort of the “cover” of that feature.
A particularly crazy splash page (which counts as one big panel) was World’s Finest Comics #104 (by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Sheldon Moldoff), which saw Lex Luthor and some other crooks try to use inventions just developed at a World’s Fair-like exhibition to kill Superman! One of those tools was the Vibrator, which is just hilarious (if you ever watched Wacky Races, Penelope Pitstop also had a vibrator in her car, hilariously enough).
13. IT’S AN EVIL LEGION GIRLS DANCE PARTY!
A common trope in Legion of Super-Heroes adventures is that the Legionnaires never trusted each other with the truth of a given situation, so they would often do things that appeared to be really cruel, but in reality were just them trying to save their friends from trouble (like when Saturn Girl took over as Legion leader and kicked everyone off of the team, which turned out to be her attempt to save her friends when she learned that a Legionnaire was destined to die that day).
That was not the case in Jerry Siegel and John Forte’s “The Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires” in Adventure Comics #326. They were hypnotized into hating men, so they are seriously thrilled to be dancing about how much they screwed their male teammates over. What kind of music do you think they play at Evil Legion Girl Dance Parties?
12. STRIPPING ADVICE
A popular design element by Jack Kirby was of a person completely covered from head to toe, including goggles. This would then allow for shocking revelations of the villain’s identity. A famous example of this was the Invincible Man from the Fantastic Four (who turned out to be Sue and Johnny Storm’s father). A less famous example was The Protector from Tales to Astonish #37 (by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers).
The Protector was extorting protection money from local stores. One jeweler fought back and the Protector then disintegrated his jewels! In the end, Ant-Man defeated the Protector and then made that seemingly lascivious comment, which was only to note that, surprisingly enough, the Protector actually was the jeweler, who had only pretended to disintegrate his fares. He figured that no one would suspect one of the victims to be the actual bad guy!
11. DOOM TOOTS AS HE PLEASES!
One of the strangest comic book series that Marvel released during the 1970s was Super-Villain Team-Up (starring Doctor Doom and Namor), which really seemed to just be an attempt to continue to put out a Sub-Mariner series. However, while it was an odd idea (and it only lasted less than a year before having Doctor Doom “team-up” with other villains, and he didn’t even really team-up with them, but rather fought against first the Red Skull and then Magneto), Namor and Doom admittedly did have good chemistry with each other.
A variation of this was shown in Spidey Super-Stories #53 (by Steven Grant, Win Mortimer and Mike Esposito), where a version of a typical Doom/Namor team-up was shown, only done in the standard “really small kid-friendly” style for Spidey Super-Stories, which often resulted in odd panels like this one.
10. TOMMY, CAN YOU HEAR ME?
In the DC Universe in the Silver Age, you weren’t anybody unless you had at least three perfect doppelgangers of yourself out there (Superman and Lois Lane seemed to have about a dozen each). Aquaman did not want to be left out, so in Adventure Comics #177’s “The Man Who Was Aquaman’s Double!” (art by the great Ramona Fradon), he enlisted the help of a young man named Tommy to help him out of a jam (which, in turn, made Tommy look good in front of his girlfriend, who thought he was dull). That is all well and good, but what’s hilarious is how Aquaman doesn’t bother with any sort of pleasantries in the situation! It’s just, “Hey, you look like me, take off your clothes and put this on!”
9. FEMALE FURIES VS. WEENIES
One of the recurring subplots in Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ classic Justice League International run was Big Barda and Mister Miracle, now making a steady income from Miracle’s gig with the Justice League, adjusting to life in the suburbs of Connecticut. Eventually, this led to a spin-off series following the couple, but in the early years of the League, it was just an occasional sub-plot.
That sub-plot was given a bigger focus in Justice League International Annual #2 (by Giffen and DeMatteis and artists Bill Willingham and Joe Rubinstein), which was part of a “Private Lives” theme in the Annuals of 1988. The issue showed Miracle and Barda try to do a barbecue for their friends from the Justice League. Sadly, Joker crashes the party! As you can see, though, Barda had some questions about what a “weenie roast” was. Hey, she’s from Apokolips, after all!
8. BATMAN HATES CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM!
One of the greatest things about Batman, especially in recent years, is that as he has gotten more and more grim as a character, then when you contrast him against non-dark things, he stands out more. Thus, when you see someone enjoying ice cream and suddenly getting kicked by Batman, it is hilarious. That panel led to a popular internet meme, “Batman hates chocolate ice cream.”
Of course, in the actual story, it is not what it seems at first glance. That person receiving the kick? Why, that’s none other than the villainous Two-Face, just on his “good” side. He is planning on killing a bunch of innocent people at an ice cream giveaway, hence both Batman’s attack on him and Two-Face having the ice cream.
Spidey Super-Stories was a comic book series that tied in with Spider-Man’s popular appearances on the PBS program, Electric Company. The comic often adapted Spidey’s adventures on that series (many of which involved future Academy Award winning actor Morgan Freeman), but they also had original stories, like the previously shown Doom/Namor team-up. In Spidey Super-Stories #27 (by Ralph Macchio, Jim Salicrup, Dwight Zimmerman, Win Mortimer and Mike Esposito), Spider-Man met Thor.
Once again, the idea of these stories was to make them extremely friendly to even the youngest of readers, so short, direct sentences were the rule of the day. Sometimes, though, they resulted in hilarious panels out of context, like Mary Jane’s seeming to hit on Thor in this panel (with Peter looking pissed in the background).
6. HOW EVERY SUPERHERO GAME OF CLUE ENDS
Every few years, it seems like Spider-Man gets a bit on edge. During the 1990s, there was a period where Spider-Man was sleeping in his webbing and referring to himself as “The Spider” (he felt he was no longer a man). Before “One More Day,” he almost beat Kingpin to death after one of Kingpin’s goons accidentally shot Aunt May. So Spider-Man has had his dark moments.
One of these periods came in the late 1980s, when Spider-Man was reeling from the events of Spider-Man vs. Wolverine (where Ned Leeds was murdered in front of Spider-Man and Spidey later accidentally killed a woman) just in time for a Gang War to break out in New York City. Spider-Man was prepared to kill the Kingpin, which is why Daredevil decided he had to take Wilson Fisk’s place before Spidey could do so, hence Daredevil in a fat suit!
5. REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE
One of the first superheroes to turn down membership in the Justice League was Metamorpho, which was especially galling to a powerful being known as The Unthinkable, who always dreamed of being in the Justice League and was shocked when Metamorpho said no, so he insisted that he get Metamorpho’s place in the League. The League and Metamorpho defeated him.
Two issues later, though, in Justice League of America #44 (by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky), it seems that their method of stopping the Unthinkable had left four members of the League infected with a deadly virus that will cause them to grow until they explode. Not only that, but it affected anyone they came into direct contact with recently! Naturally, with Batman, that’d be Robin (they live and train together, after all), but contrasted to the other heroes talking about their girlfriends, it’s still funny to see Batman mention Robin.
4. LISTEN TO THE VOICE
In the late 1980s, Marvel had one of the more clever companywide crossovers, “The Acts of Vengeance,” where a group of the biggest supervillains got together to organize a coordinated attack on the superheroes of the world by all of the supervillains. The coordination aspect of the attack was that the villains would attack heroes who were unfamiliar with them, to give them an advantage. So Thor villains would fight Iron Man, Iron Man villains would fight X-Men, and so on.
Captain America found himself faced off against Ant-Man’s old foe, The Voice, as well as Captain Marvel’s foe, the Controller (amusingly enough, the Voice was controlling the Controller) in Captain America #366 (by Mark Gruenwald, Ron Lim and Danny Bulanadi). Hilariously, the Voice tried to command Captain America, but the sound effect makes it seem like he’s commanding Cap to “wank.”
3. THE GREAT WAR OF THE BONERS
In Batman #66 (by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Lew Schwartz and Charles Paris — Kane was still drawing the Batman and Robin figures in the comics at this point, and then Lew Schwartz would draw everything else and then Paris would ink them both), the Joker screwed up in one of his crimes and barely escaped. The newspapers mocked him for his “boner.” Then, in a moment of inspiration matched only by some rich guy seeing a bat crash through his window and deciding to dress up as a bat, the Joker decided to start doing crimes inspired by, well, boners.
The resulting story (where the Joker commits crimes based on famous errors from history, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa) is filled to the brim with people saying the word “boner,” especially when Joker tries to make Batman “pull a boner,” as well. It’s hilarious. You can read more about it here.
2. TALK ABOUT GETTING SAND IN YOUR CRACK
While he is currently working for DC Comics, John Romita Jr. had one of the longest-running careers working for a single publisher (Marvel Comics) than anyone in comic book history, as he started working there in 1979 and didn’t stop until a couple of years ago (and we’re sure he’ll likely return there in the future). He is an artistic legend for Marvel. However, in the early days, maybe he still had some things to learn.
For instance, when he drew Amazing Spider-Man #215 and its fight between the Frightful Four and Spider-Man and Namor, he probably could have done a better job making it clear that Sandman is punching Spider-Man in the back here. It sure looks like he’s hilariously hitting Spider-Man a bit lower in his body.
1. SOME OF THESE ZEN MEDITATIONS ARE JUST CRAZY
Nick Spencer broke into mainstream comics with Image Comics on the science fiction miniseries Existence 2.0, drawn by Ron Salas. The concept of the series was that a scientist transferred his mind into the body of a hitman right as the hitman was killing him. So the scientist was still alive in the body of a stranger.
Later, though, he is confronted with the possibility that he had always been a hitman and only thinks he was a scientist. However, he recalled that when the hitman first met him, the hitman referred to the scientist’s cat as a he, while the scientist knew that it was a female cat. So, as long as he remembers that he had a female cat, he knows he is who he thinks he is, so he has to make sure to remember that fact, which involved focusing on, well, you know…
We know you know of some other great examples! Tell us some that we missed in the comments section!