A lot of people look back on cartoons of the ’80s and 90’s with fond childhood memories. But thanks to streaming services that let us go back and re-watch them, we’ve come to find that maybe these shows weren’t so great. Cartoons like “G.I. Joe” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” had a lot of strange elements, most of which were excuses to put a new product on screen for kids to buy.
Of course, as the 90’s started to wind down, animation began to go through a bit of a renaissance, and while cartoons were still about toy sales, they began to have more cohesive stories, no longer just being extended ads for the products. Up until that point — and even a little bit during — cartoons were sufficiently weird, and the weirdest thing about them tended to be the villains. Therefore, CBR is counting some of them down. Here are 15 of the weirdest cartoons villains from the ’80s and ’90s.
Just a weird old man, living in a hut in the forest, with his cat… trying to capture tiny blue creatures. Yup, totally normal, nothing strange about ol’ Gargamel. Seriously though, the bald hermit wizard has a lot of strange things going for him, besides being incredibly ruthless and just downright evil.
Gargamel hates the Smurfs, that much is clear, but what’s never really been confirmed is just why he wants to capture them. In fact, the strangest part about Gargamel is that he seems to want the Smurfs for three things: to turn them into gold, to eat them and to just plain destroy them. Okay, there’s a lot to process here. If they can be turned into gold, why would he ever want to eat them? And if he wanted to eat them, why destroy them? It’s all very strange and vague. Gargamel may be weird and evil, but he has been shown time and again to have a heart under all that hate.
Nya-Ha-Ha! Skeletor sure had a great evil laugh, one that many lovers of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” remember to this day. Though there is some canon dispute, Skeletor is for the most part believed to have once been Keldor, another heir to the throne of Eternia besides Randor. After an accident involving magical acid, Keldor’s face was burned off and he took the name Skeletor to match his new Skull-centric-appearance.
Skeletor, like many ’80s villains, tends to be ruthlessly evil, but also incredibly petty, calling King Randor a “royal boob” at times. Further, Skeletor is true to his ’80s villain nature and often sends his minions to do all the hard work while he chills at his hideout. And speaking of minions, Skeletor keeps some strange company in the likes of villains like Beast-Man, Trap Jaw, and Clawful. Perhaps the weirdest thing of all though is that Skeletor didn’t learn to wear more clothing after having his face melted off by acid. Armor up, dude.
Perhaps the Powerpuff Girls’ weirdest and most dangerous enemy, it’s everyone’s favorite disturbing demon, HIM. Just going by looks alone, HIM is already pretty damn strange. He’s bright red, has big robotic-looking lobster claws, an almost Santa-Claus-like dress, black thigh-high boots with heels, a devilish goatee and a vampire-esque widow’s peak.
On top of his — pardon the pun — devilish good looks, HIM is a pretty weird guy. He speaks in an blissful sighing manner, the echoing cadence making it clear just how much delight he takes in being an evil mastermind. However, when HIM gets serious, his voice deepens into a commanding and frightening growl. HIM also has a uniquely weird take on villains, since most of his actions toward the Powerpuff Girls tend to be less about bringing them harm and more focused on messing with their minds, teaching them revenge-based “lessons” or just stirring up chaos.
12. DR. CLAW
Dr. Claw is a ruthless terrorist leader whose nefarious plots to take over the world are always foiled by the goofy and somewhat inept Inspector Gadget. The mad scientist leader of M.A.D. earns his place as one of the weirdest villains in cartoon history mostly because he is almost only ever depicted as a disembodied robotic arm petting a cat from a comfy, villainous arm chair. Well, that and his original voice sounded like he was always in the middle of a really deep belch.
Dr. Claw really puts the mad in “mad scientist” since the cyborg criminal is definitely crazy. Well, maybe not crazy in regards to his behavior, but crazy in the sense that he does the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Claw continuously sends wave after wave of henchman after Inspector Gadget, only to fire them after they fail to destroy the cybernetic cop. Of course, he just goes on to hire new minions, which gives him the same results. Gotta give it to the guy though, he doesn’t give up easily.
Even without its villain, “Thundercats” was a strange, strange series. It was awesome for sure, but the very concept of the show is completely bonkers; a race of humanoid cat-warriors fight against a mutant army under the leadership of a child king who was rapidly aged by the suspension capsule that he escaped his dying planet in. Again, pretty damn awesome, but also pretty strange, especially with the inclusion of Mumm-Ra.
Mumm-Ra is an immortal wizard that looks half dead and half-mummified, hence the name. He appears to be thousands of years old and is covered in bandages underneath his signature red cloak. He takes on a much more Ancient Egyptian-looking aesthetic, fitting to his mummy look when he gathers his power and transforms from Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living, his larger, muscular and much more powerful form. Mumm-Ra is shown to be as ruthless as every other villain on this list, but also like the others, he shows sympathy for his pet demonic bulldog, Ma-Mutt. Man, cartoon villains sure love their pets, don’t they?
Krang has gone through a few interpretations throughout the years, but his original appearance in the 1987 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series is by far the strangest. Krang first appeared as a brain-squid-looking alien that used to be a reptilian warlord of dimension X. After an accident that reduced him to his bodiless state, Krang commissioned the help of Shredder to build him a new robot body, and what a body it was. Krang’s android suit has the appearance of an overweight wrestler with tiny hands, strangely shaped pecs and a weird, stubby little head. Luckily, what the suit lacks in looks, it makes up for in weapons — lots and lots of weapons.
Krang’s appearance isn’t the only weird thing about him — though a gross pink-blob controlling a large toddler-looking robot is definitely weird on its own. He also has a, lets say, “unique” way of speaking. Every fourth word or so uttered by Krang is belched out, as though that particular word required a huskier, grosser tone to it. There really aren’t any words to correctly depict how Krang spoke or looked or acted. Krang is definitely one of the weirdest villains in cartoon history.
Yes, that’s right, Chairface. He’s literally a man with a chair for a head. It doesn’t really get any weirder than that. Of course, being from “The Tick,” he fits right at home with the wacky, inexplicable, strangely themed heroes and villains of the superhero parody comic/cartoon. Besides the obvious chair-for-a-head thing he’s got going on, Chairface keeps his supervillain look tasteful with a colorful dress-shirt and vest combo.
Chairface’s strangest moment comes from his first appearance in the 1994 “The Tick” cartoon. In this episode entitled “The Tick vs. Chairface Chippendale” — did we forget to mention his last name is Chippendale? — the villain is attempting to enact his evil plan to carve his name into the moon. Yes, you read that correctly, Chairface’s villainous plot was to use a laser to carve his name into the moon’s surface. Luckily, his evil(?) intentions are halted by The Tick, who stops Chairface before he can finish writing, leaving “Cha” to be visible on the moon for most of the series’ run. We got one word for Chairface: weird0.
8. COBRA COMMANDER
A lot of cartoon villains tend to have interesting manners of speaking. Cobra Commander of “G.I. Joe” took this cliche with stride, speaking with elongated Ss and a raspy voice that simulated the hissing of a snake. Plus, Cobra Commander is so evil that it’s straight-up ridiculous. Not only did he build a Cobra temple to scare off locals a la “Scooby Doo,” but he also tried to run for president.
Cobra Commander’s looks are pretty strange, too. Sure, his outfits are cool (hard to beat that reflective mask), but what lies underneath his snazzy clothes is super wacky. Revealed in “GI Joe: The Movie,” Cobra Commander’s unclothed form is that of a snake-man. Cobra Commander was revealed to be a blue-skinned humanoid snake from the ancient civilization of Cobra-La who mutated several extra eyes after an experiment gone wrong. “G.I. Joe” was known for its convoluted storylines, but Cobra Commander’s backstory is one of its weirdest.
7. MAJIN BUU
Majin Buu was the final villain of “Dragon Ball Z’s” long run, and what better way to bring the saga to an end than with a somewhat gelatinous, magic-using, rampaging pink alien? Majin Buu didn’t technically appear in America until 2001, but his debut in Japan happened in 1994, so he gets a pass for this list. He premiered in the episode entitled “Buu is Hatched,” in which he emerged from a cocoon with the help of the evil wizard Babidi.
During the series, Buu takes on several forms, each correlating with whoever he absorbs in his bubble-gum-like body. His weirdest and most notable form — fat and playful in a superhero-looking costume — was the result of absorbing the jolly and friendly Grand Supreme Kai. In this form, Buu is silly and likes to play games, confusing his supposed master Babidi. Buu’s other forms also include one resulting from absorbing Gohan, another that was a sickly evil version of his innocent self, as well as a childlike appearance that is his most basic and original form. Buu’s initial form (and the personality that went with it) and his ability to absorb others are what make him one of the weirdest cartoon villains out there.
6. QUEEN BERYL
There’s a lot of weird things to love about “Sailor Moon” and the first season’s villain is one of them. Queen Beryl is the leader of the Dark Kingdom and commander of her generals, the Four Heavenly Kings. Queen Beryl’s goal was to gain the silver crystal from Sailor Moon so that she could take over the world in the name of the Dark Kingdom. During her exploits, she sends wave after wave of monsters at the Sailor Scouts, all to get that darned crystal.
Some of these monsters are what make Queen Beryl such a weird villain. In order to steal energy from humans, Beryl has sent several monsters under the commander of her generals, most of which disguise themselves as humans and prey on the doubts and insecurities of their victims. The monsters all have rather grotesque and strange designs, almost as strange as Beryl’s super form, the atly named Super Queen Beryl. In this form, Beryl grows to immense heights and gains green skin and hair, the latter of which seems to endlessly flow upwards.
His real name is Elmo Sputterspark. That alone should be enough, but there’s so much more. The “Darkwing Duck” villain got his powers from an accident involving his school science fair project, has an electrically fried brain that makes him believe that all electronics are “enslaved,” has been romantically involved with a lightbulb and wears a plug on his head. If all that wasn’t enough, Megavolt has the same voice actor as Homer Simpson, Dan Castellaneta.
Megavolt’s fried brain cells are what make the villainous rat such a kooky criminal. Elmo not only tends to leave crime scenes with bags of toasters instead of money, but he also tends to speak to lightbulbs as though they’re innocent children. Everything about Megavolt, especially his frantic appearance, communicate that this guy has got some of his wires crossed. Megavolt is just one of the weird, but attractive elements that made “Darkwing Duck” such a unique and memorable series.
Airing for three seasons between 1983 and 1985, the “Dungeons and Dragons” cartoon — which was, strangely enough, coproduced by Marvel and animated by Japanese company Toei — brought the world of the popular tabletop game to life. The show focused on a group of six friends who got sucked into the world of “Dungeons & Dragons” and must survive the many trials and tribulations thrown their way by Venger, Force of Evil.
Venger is a weird villain, not just because he is voiced by Optimus Prime actor, Peter Cullen, but also because he spends all his time trying to steal weapons from children. On top of this, he has a large pair of black wings, a single horn on the left side of his head, an evil black steed and he sort of wears a dress. Though the world may have forgotten about the obscure “D&D” cartoon, Venger is still one of animations’s weirdest villains.
3. DUKE NUKEM
No, not that Duke Nukem, the other one, the “Captain Planet” villain. He’s radioactive, he’s a mutant and he’s dressed like a tourist. Duke’s definitely one of Captain Planet’s many strange villains, and due to his outfit which consists of a Hawaiian shirt, swim shorts and flip flops, it’s not too much of a stretch to say he’s the weirdest of them all. Plus, he has scaled yellow skin and a red mohawk; what more do you need?
Duke Nukem plots to irradiate the world so that he can thrive amongst the wastelands and turn everyone else into mutants like him. Duke isn’t alone in his venture though, as he is sometimes followed by his sidekick, Leadsuit, who, you guessed it, wears a lead suit to withstand Duke’s radioactive body. Everything about this guy is weird, from his anti-environment premise to his tacky fashion sense. Plus, it’s worth a good laugh that he shares a name with a famous video game character.
Though he got cooler throughout his many incarnations, Megatron’s original cartoon appearance was pretty lame. Not only did the leader of the Decepticons shrink in size when he transformed into a gun, but he also had to be used by his minions. Of course, the reason for this is because the original “Transformers” cartoon was the result of several Japanese toy companies’ products being used by Hasbro for a cartoon series. Before he was a Decepticon, Megatron was from the “Microman” toy line, robots that turned into household items to protect children. Though, a Walther P38 Nazi pistol isn’t exactly “household,” but that’s besides the point.
Megatron is one of the weirder cartoon villains both because of his somewhat “good guy” toy origins and because his shrinking mechanic never seems to be explained. Luckily, as the “Transformers” franchise got rebooted over and over, Megatron got to transform into much cooler things like tanks and jets.
1. CONDIMENT KING
At last, we come to the weirdest animated villain of all, Buddy Sandler, a.k.a. the Condiment King. Ol’ Kingy premiered in “Batman: The Animated Series” in the episode “Make ‘Em Laugh” and was created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. The Pickle-headed villain began his career as a masked criminal after being brainwashed by the Joker, whom he and two other judges had unknowingly panned in a comedy festival years before the Clown Prince of Crime’s acid accident.
After disappearing for a time, Sandler (Presumably named after Adam Sandler) reemerged as The Condiment King, a villain who literally wears his underwear on the outside and uses ketchup and mustard guns as weapons. Dini and Timm created the character as a throwback to the campy and weird villains of the 1966 “Batman” television series. They did a good job too, since The Condiment King — with his condiment-based puns and hilariously silly costume — has to be the strangest animated villain of the 90’s.
Which cartoon villain did you think was weirdest? Let us know in the comments!