You know what’s really great? Words. They allow us to share ideas with one another, learn about new things, and write articles about fictional characters who punch each other super hard. The best part about words is that sometimes they can mean more than one thing, or be arranged in such a way as to allow the listener’s mind to go to all sorts of fun places. Superhero cartoons, being aimed primarily at children, have become quite adept at strategically deploying words to convey concepts that otherwise might not be allowed.
In this list, we discuss 15 scenes from a diverse array of superhero cartoons, all of which have one thing in common: they succeeded in distracting the censors long enough to slip in some content that certain moral guardians would probably object to. Whether or not said content deserves to be monitored is not the point; the fact remains that it is or was monitored, and any successful instance of it being included in a children’s show, however subtly or sneakily, deserves to be remembered. Fortunately, helping us to remember the past is another thing that words are pretty darn good at, so here are a couple thousand of them spotlighting some truly hilarious censorship flouting.
15. LOIS LIKES WHAT SHE SEES
In an early episode of Superman: The Animated Series, set before the people of Metropolis came to know and love their Kryptonian protector, the Daily Planet manages to acquire a single photograph of the city’s unknown new hero. Perry White, Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen all pore over the photo, trying to figure out who this super-strong, blue-clad fellow could be. Lois, however, seems to have a different sort of analysis in mind.
“Nice ‘S,'” she remarks as she stares appreciatively at the photograph. The censors may have let that one pass, but Clark doesn’t; he asks Lois what she’s talking about, and she obligingly states that she was referring to the big red S on the mystery man’s chest. While her coworkers pick their jaws up off the floor, Lois gives the hero a name: Superman.
14. NICE TO MEET YOU
One thing that distinguishes Spectacular Spider-Man from many other superhero cartoons is its relatively large cast of civilian characters. While there are plenty of web-slinging hijinx to be had, a good half dozen of Peter Parker’s high school classmates are given plenty of personality and character development of their own. One of these classmates is Randy Robertson, a player on the school football team and all-around nice guy.
After Peter is forced to abandon Mary Jane Watson at a school dance so he can take photographs of New York’s newest supervillain for the Daily Bugle, Mary Jane decides to acquaint herself with Peter’s friends, and Randy in particular. “It’s Randy, right?” she asks as she invites him to dance. Randy’s response? “Very.” Hey, if we had a name that was also a double entendre, we’d say stuff like that all the time.
13. THE SUB THAT ISN’T A SUB
While investigating an underwater base run by the Krang, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles encounter some trouble in the form of a sea monster intent on wrecking their turtle-shaped submarine. Despite their best efforts, the monster catches up to them, and our heroes brace for the worst. And that’s exactly what they get, though instead of tearing the sub to pieces and killing everyone inside, the monster locks the sub in what is, if the turtles’ horrified expressions and the hearts drifting from the monster’s head are any indication, a very amorous embrace.
Mikey is especially offended and yells at the creature, “We’re not that kind of sub!” Sadly, the romance between monster and machine is not destined to last, as Leo hastily releases two monster-repelling smoke bombs.
12. THINLY VEILED
A boring autograph signing event turns a little too exciting for the Fantastic Four when Frankie, who at first seems to be just another fangirl, bursts into flames, Human Torch style. Exhilarated by her newfound powers, Frankie flies out the window and high into the night sky. She goes so high that she leaves Earth’s atmosphere and its fire-fueling oxygen behind, requiring Johnny Storm to come swooping in and save her from a fatal fall.
The incident also reveals what astute viewers noticed several minutes ago: that Frankie’s unexpected fire show burned all of her clothes off, leaving her with nothing to cover her modesty but a few weak flames that survived her trip into space. Frankie is still so thrilled by her powers that she doesn’t care, and apparently, neither did the censors.
11. IT’S A DATE
Gambit is minding his own business one day when Rogue approaches him with a tantalizing offer: contrary to what she’s said before, she is able to touch other people without stealing their powers and knocking them out. What’s more, she wants to demonstrate this ability on Gambit in the rec room right now. By the time Gambit gets there, he finds Rogue asleep on the couch and kisses her, only to immediately fall unconscious.
So what happened? Obviously, the Rogue who propositioned him was not the Rogue he kissed. Not only was the first Rogue an impostor, she was a male impostor: Morph, a shapeshifting ex-X-Man being manipulated by Mister Sinister. Considering this episode aired in 1993, the creators deserve a round of applause for finding a way to slip in a scene where a man is seduced by another man.
10. PASS THE BRAIN BLEACH
When one is immortal, one has plenty of time to indulge in petty feuds. In “Support Your Local Sky-Father!,” an episode of The Super Hero Squad Show, Thor gets caught in the middle of a spat between Odin and Zeus, each of whom is convinced his son is the mightiest of all. To find out who’s tougher, they give Thor and Hercules a series of nigh-impossible tasks. For example, they must behead the multi-headed hydra.
Thor fearlessly enters the hydra’s cave and soon emerges with a bag that he says contains one of the creature’s heads. We never get to see the bag’s contents, and given the reactions of the other heroes, that’s a good thing. Reptil informs Thor that what he has is not, in fact, a head, causing Thor to protest, “But there were eight of them!” Even Wolverine can only react by saying, “That was just gross.”
9. NEVER ASSUME
Harley Quinn made her debut in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series called “Joker’s Favor,” wherein the police department hosts an event in honor of Commissioner Gordon and his tireless devotion to keeping Gotham City safe. In the middle of the ceremony, Harley, dressed as a short-skirted policewoman, enters with a giant cake. Detective Harvey Bullock, who up until this point has been more interested in the free food than his surroundings, perks up at Harley’s entrance.
“Baby doll! Entertainment!” he exclaims with a smile, clearly anticipating that she’ll start dropping her clothes any minute. Instead, Harley smacks him with her nightstick and then helps the Joker fill the room with paralyzing gas. And that, boys and girls, is why you don’t judge people based on how they dress.
8. AN ALIEN EXPERIENCE
The Tick has always been an unconventional superhero, so it stands to reason he’d have an unconventional reaction to being kidnapped by extraterrestrials. In “The Tick vs. the Big Nothing,” our hero is plucked from a sound slumber by a race of aliens called the Whats, whose spoken language consists entirely of the word “what.” Far from being afraid, confused or even irritated by this turn of events, the ever-optimistic Tick eagerly anticipates that legendary mainstay of alien abductions: the probe.
Sadly, no matter how much he tries to explain to the Whats what they are supposed to be doing to him, they just can’t seem to wrap their heads around the concept. Being gracious kidnappers, the Whats do attempt to accommodate their guest’s wishes… by half-heartedly poking him in the elbow. The Tick is visibly disappointed.
7. A FABULOUS CAMEO
Creator cameos are nothing new to Batman: The Animated Series; Bruce Timm and Paul Dini and/or their likenesses have appeared on the show numerous times. But no cameo is more spittake-inducing than that of Batman & Robin director Joel Schumacher, an expy of whom briefly appears in “Legends of the Dark Knight.” This episode revolves around three kids exchanging stories about what they think Batman is really like.
In the middle of their fantasizing, they encounter a kid named Joel who, like his namesake, is definitively not straight. He spends his very brief screen time talking about how much he loves Batman’s muscles and tight suit, all while flipping his hair and playing with a pink feather boa from a store window. The other kids immediately dismiss his ideas and move on.
6. ACCIDENTS HAPPEN
The Powerpuff Girls, to put it in as cliche a manner as possible, are not like other girls. Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup are superpowered kindergarteners — a phrase that should strike fear into the heart of every parent — who were created in a laboratory accident by clumsy professor Utonium, who loves and raises them anyway.
In the episode “Superfriends,” the Powerpuff Girls befriend Robin, a girl their own age who has just moved in next door. They invite Robin over to play at their house, where they introduce her to their father and explain all about how he created them by accident. Robin understands; “My mom says I was an accident too,” she tells her new friends. The look on the good professor’s face says it all.
5. WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
In “The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill!” Thor accidentally puts a hole in the force field keeping the Stranger, an intergalactic warlord, from attacking cranky janitor Beta Ray Bill and his people, so Thor does the noble thing and sticks around to help ward off the attack. The Stranger doesn’t do well against the combined strength of Thor and Bill, and he proceeds to make his feelings known as explicitly as he can in a G-rated show.
Infuriated by his impending defeat, the Stranger yells at Thor, “You piece of–” only to be cut off by Thor quite appropriately shoving a toilet bowl brush into his mouth and admonishing him for using such foul language. The Stranger frantically insists he was about to say “work.” Sure you were, pal.
4. I’M WALKING HERE
In the episode “Brave New Metropolis,” Lois lives up to her reputation as a trouble magnet and accidentally gets zapped to a parallel dimension. Like most parallel dimensions, this one pretty much sucks: this world’s Lois was killed by a car bomb, prompting a guilt-ridden Superman to decide that the only way to bring law and order to Metropolis is to terrorize her citizens into behaving themselves.
Lois immediately runs afoul of Superman’s dictatorship and, while resisting arrest, bumps into an alternate version of Angela Chen, gossip columnist for the Daily Planet. Chen, not recognizing Lois, angrily shakes her fist and says, “Find some other street to walk on, you two-bit tart!” It would appear that even Superman could not eradicate the world’s oldest profession from his city.
3. INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED
Dexter Douglas is the secret identity of the hero Freakazoid, the title character of a sadly short-lived Warner Brothers cartoon. As one might expect from a fictional character with such a name, Dexter is a bit of a nerd. His greatest Christmas wish is a Pinnacle computer chip, which is guaranteed to double his computer’s speed and do all sorts of other things that no doubt sounded impressive in the ’90s.
Come Christmas morning, much to Dexter’s excitement, the first gift he unwraps contains the coveted Pinnacle chip. He is so eager to try it out that he asks his mother if he can go put it in right away. “Okay, hun,” Mrs. Douglas agrees, “but only in your computer.” Uh, thanks for the advice?
2. MY EYE’S UP HERE
In a second season episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman realizes that members of the defunct superhero team the Doom Patrol are being targeted by an unknown assassin. He makes it his mission to track down the Patrol’s former members, all of whom have long since left the superhero game.
After partnering with Elastigirl and the Doom Patrol’s leader, Niles Caulder, he finds Negative Man at a rundown circus featuring all manner of freaks and geeks that we only get to see on posters advertising their acts. One poster — and, incidentally, the one we get the best shot of –features a woman named Lode Stone, who allegedly can see into the future. It’s not clear how or why she acquired such a power, but if her poster is to be believed, she can only perform this great feat while in the nude.
1. ABOUT LAST NIGHT…
In the Justice League: Unlimited episode “Shadow of the Hawk,” Hawkgirl, against the advice of her fellow Leaguers, agrees to a date with her stalker, Carter Hall, and then flies with him to an Egyptian archaeological site to find out why he’s so convinced the two of them are reincarnated lovers.
In Egypt, Carter lets Hawkgirl take the lead on their trek to the site. We follow his gaze… right to Hawkgirl’s behind, where the camera lingers for a moment before eventually working its way up to her face. When she asks what he’s looking at, he covers his own behind by saying he misses the dress she wore on their date. “You didn’t miss it last night,” replies Hawkgirl. Now what could they have been doing that would involve Hawkgirl’s losing her dress? Nothing we can describe in this article, that’s for sure.
Which of these moments should’ve been censored? Let us know in the comments!
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