when it comes to comic books, there is no shortage of beings so powerful, they can only be labeled as gods. when you look closely, there are quite a lot of them with both marvel and dc featuring so many cosmic beings, they just had to make their way over to television at one point or another. the problem with cartoons is that they need to appeal to children while still keeping adults entertained; at least, most of them follow that strategy with comic-based shows. when it comes to featuring someone who is all-powerful, they tend to get watered down in a show so they don’t overpower the main character. when that happens, they essentially neuter the god so they can “work” on the show.
we already know some folks might light up the comments on what they think is classified as a god and what isn’t. for this list, we are considering anyone/anything a god or goddess if they possess godlike abilities (or had them at one time), are labeled as “eternal” in the comics or are so powerful, they are, for all intents and purposes a god when compared to a mortal. now that we have cleared that up, please enjoy 15 comic book gods that cartoons totally neutered.
15. darkseid – justice league: war
darkseid is one of the few characters superman feels perfectly fine about wailing on with his full strength and it’s not because he insulted supe’s mom. darkseid is disturbingly powerful in comparison to pretty much everyone in the dc universe, which includes the man of steel. darkseid first appeared in superman’s pal jimmy olson, written by jack kirby and penciled by neal adams in 1970.
since that time, he has appeared in numerous video games, comics and, of course, cartoons. when he was thrown into justice league: war, he wasn’t given the level of power he should have and the character suffered from it. don’t get us wrong, it’s a great film, but wouldn’t it have been even better had darkseid been able to take his figurative gloves off?
14. loki – spider-man and his amazing friends
loki is pretty well known these days thanks to his appearances in the mcu, but he first appeared in comics back in journey into mystery #85, written by stan lee with pencils by jack kirby. he is the adopted brother of thor and a trickster who can practice magic, alter his shape and is generally much stronger and more powerful than a mortal.
loki made his animated appearance in spider-man and his amazing friends in an episode titled “the vengeance of loki.” while he was pretty powerful in the episode after obtaining the ancient gems called twins of the gods, he was, in no way, as powerful as he normally was in the comics. fortunately, tom hiddleston’s portrayal of the character in the mcu follows the comic book version much more closely, but back in 1981, it wasn’t an option in a cartoon about teenagers with superpowers.
13. juggernaut – x-men evolution
juggernaut, who first appeared in the x-men #12, written by stan lee and penciled by jack kirby, is something of a cheat because he isn’t a god himself per say, but rather, derives his powers from the divine crimson gem of cytorak, named after a dark deity. that being said, he is just stupid powerful in the comics and has the ability of not being able to be stopped once gets going.
add to it the immense strength and ability to regenerate even after wolverine stabs him through the eyeholes, making swiss cheese of his brain. bring him over to a toon and you lose some of what makes him great. cartoons being what they are, the juggernaut in animation is bound to lose some of his incredible power. he also took a power hit in live action, but for the animated series x-men: evolution he just wasn’t the powerhouse he should have been.
12. phoenix – x-men the animated series
the phoenix force is a powerful cosmic entity that represents all current and future life in all existence. when it can, it chooses a powerful being as its host, granting that being unimaginable power. the phoenix force first appeared in the x-men #100, written by chris claremont and penciled by dave cockrum. the character is so powerful, it would end all life everywhere for all time past, present and future were it to be killed.
the phoenix force came to television in x-men the animated series but didn’t come close to the power level expected from the comics. to their credit, the creators of the franchise did devote several episodes to the crisis of the dark phoenix but compared to the cosmic entity from the comics, she was just too muted for die-hard fans.
11. swamp thing – swamp thing (1991)
swamp thing first appeared in comics back in 1971 in house of secrets #92, written by len wein and penciled by bernie wrightson. swamp thing is the avatar of the green, which means he has the ability to control all forms of plant life and can travel anywhere on earth where plant-matter grows. he is one of the most powerful, yet often underrated characters in the dc universe.
in the 1991 animated television series swamp thing, dc comics attempted to bring the character to life, but as you already know because you read the title of this list, he wasn’t anywhere near as powerful as he should have been. the series did not perform well for fans or the average kid who might have seen it and only five episodes aired between halloween, 1990 and may 1991.
10. the collector – ultimate spider-man
taneleer tivan is best known as the collector, a cosmic being who travels the stars in search of unique specimens to add to his collection. he first appeared in the avengers #28, written by stan lee and penciled by jack kirby. the collector is an elder of the universe who has lived for more than five billion years. he was barred from death’s domain, rendering him truly immortal.
the collector can manipulate incredible amounts of cosmic energies, possesses superhuman abilities such as strength, speed and stamina, but also possesses the ability to manipulate his form. when he appeared in the ultimate spider-man episode “contest of champions 1-4,” he was weakened so that he could be used in the show. it’s a pity given his unique nature.
9. morpheus – rick and morty
dream of the endless is one of the most powerful characters in all of dc/vertigo. he is the anthropomorphic personification of dreaming and the ruler of the dreaming, where he is all powerful. basically, if you dream, it’s to do with morpheus and he is the god of that realm. you wouldn’t expect anyone or anything to be able to do anything against his will, but that didn’t stop rick and morty!
this appearance was more of an homage/parody and it lasted only a few seconds in the beginning of the season three episode of rick and morty titled “morty’s mind blowers”. the segment shows rick and morty escaping the dreaming as they are being chased by its lord only to get away with their shenanigans. how was he depowered from the comics? there is no way they could have pulled it off “for real” against the god of dreams.
8. the silver surfer – fantastic four (1967)
the silver surfer was an interesting innovation in comics when he first appeared in fantastic four #48, written by stan lee and penciled by jack kirby. he was a silver-colored man who rode around the universe on a surfboard with nothing to wear but his tighty whities… well silver anyway. he also had nearly infinite power cosmic granted to him by galactus in a deal to save his home planet — this guy can fly into the heart of a star if he likes.
bringing him over to television in the late ’60s, only a year after his debut wasn’t a great move for the character. like the comics, he made an appearance in the fantastic four cartoon and was poorly animated and way too underpowered from where he should have been. this was a perfect example of why cosmic beings weren’t good for saturday morning cartoons in the ’60s.
7. eternity & infinity – the silver surfer
it took a few years, but the silver surfer got a cartoon of his own in the late ’90s. they decided to use some cgi to spruce up the surfer and his accompanying band of cosmic beings to include eternity and infinity. eternity is pretty much as the name describes: he is eternal, an abstract who is omnipotent and he represents all of time and reality.
infinity is eternity’s sister. she represents the infinite potential of existence and, like her brother, she is eternal and omnipotent. then they threw them into the silver surfer cartoon and it was just embarrassing. they had eternity pose as the watcher before taking his normal look. they help the surfer out suggesting the entire cosmos would end “before it began,” but were impotent in doing anything at all. to put their appearance in a single word, we would have to go with “cheesy.”
6. spectre – dc showcase: the spectre
spectre isn’t a god per-say, but a former angel and the manifestation of god’s will to unleash his vengeance upon evil men. essentially, he is god’s wrath personified and he binds to the soul of a deceased human so that he can go about his business (and be grounded by humanity). he is immeasurably powerful and has taken part in most of dc comics’ greatest events since he was first introduced in more fun comics #52, written by jerry siegel and penciled by bernard baily in 1940.
dc did try to do the character some justice by giving him an animated short film in 2010, but creators went with a weakened version and didn’t truly pay homage to the character. the spectre works well in grand situations, but the film was more of a murder mystery setting that would have been better suited for the 1940s when the character was first introduced.
5. thor – spider-man and his amazing friends
thor is the asgardian god of thunder and one of the most powerful characters in the marvel universe. he is timeless, ageless and he carries a whompin’ big hammer he uses to smash anything and everything that gets in his way. he is also way too powerful for a cartoon like spider-man and his amazing friends where he appeared alongside his adopted brother, loki.
just like his brother, thor was nowhere near as powerful as he should have been in this episode and they both seemed out of place in the end. spider-man and his amazing friends was a spidey show, but throwing him, firestar and iceman into this kind of adventure didn’t allow for a good representation of the mighty thor. to be fair, they did try, but the situations and characters were just too complex for a kids show.
4. wonder woman – justice league: doom
wonder woman is a goddess… well, a demi-goddess since her father is zeus and her mother is an amazonian from themyscira. she can duke it out with the likes of superman should the mood strike and she even used to get around in an invisible jet, though, in modern incarnations she can fly just like the man of steel.
wonder woman has been featured in numerous animated series over the years, but she was poorly portrayed in justice league: doom. in a fight with cheetah, she gets scratched and infected with nanomachines that cause her to believe everyone she sees is cheetah so she does the logical thing and fights everyone. it was a silly sequence to put her through and it didn’t honor the character the way she should have been. if you want a better representation, watch 2017’s wonder woman with gal gadot.
3. superman – superman the animated series
superman may not be specifically called a god in the comics, but you would be hard-pressed to argue that he wasn’t one in comparison to pretty much everyone else. regardless of whether or not you accept that he is a god, you would certainly agree that he is probably the most powerful good guy in all of dc comics and is the textbook archetype of the superhero.
seeing that he is so powerful, the producers of superman the animated series ran into a problem. how could they make a show interesting when the main character could literally defeat just about any of his foes by farting in their general direction? they watered down his powers so much that the toyman was able to beat him up. it was a shame, given who they were dealing with. it also inspired the worst nintendo 64 game ever made, but that’s another story.
2. dormammu – spider-man the animated series
dormammu first appeared in comics back in 1964 with the publication of strange tales #126, written by stan lee with pencils by jack kirby and steve ditko. he is the leader of the dark dimension and possesses immense mystical power, which he uses to conquer universes and other dimensions, which made him the enemy of the sorcerer supreme, doctor strange.
bringing someone as powerful as dormammu over to a cartoon is bound to bring up problems, especially when the cartoon in question stars your friendly neighborhood spider-man. spider-man isn’t on the same level as dormammu so it was a bit odd to see ol’ web-head travel to the dark dimension to retrieve an artifact. later in the episode, venom kicks dormammu and carnage, knocking them both over. in the comics, dormammu probably wouldn’t even notice venom if he was trying to eat his foot.
1. galactus – fantastic four (1994)
galactus is one of the most powerful beings in the marvel universe. he has been around since before the universe began and is the only surviving entity to come out of the universe that came before. his insatiable hunger drives him to consume life in the form of planets, which he does thanks to the scouting skills of his various heralds such as the silver surfer who was given all of his power by galactus.
when it comes to portraying someone as powerful as galactus on a fantastic four television show back in the mid-1990s, you know they weren’t going to let him operate under his normal comic book level of power so the character was nowhere near as formidable as he should have been. galactus has never really had a good time in cartoons, actually. in a later iteration of the fantastic four on the small screen, he gets taken out in one hit by ghost rider of all people!
did we miss any of your favorite watered-down deities? let us know in the comments!
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