Behind The Meme: 15 Comic Book Panels That Inspired Hilarious Memes

Internet memes are, inherently, a visual medium. They exist as images that people share on message boards, chat rooms and social media to amuse each other or, occasionally, to serve as shorthand for a particular point (like instead of just liking someone else's post, you would share a meme that says, in effect, "I like this post"). Therefore, it is only logical that comic books would become popular sources for famous internet memes.

Of course, in a lot of these examples, the context of the original panel is overlooked or, in some instances, the panel is literally altered to make it more amusing. So here, we have chosen 15 comic book panels that later became the basis for popular internet memes. We'll explain the original context of the comic book panels and, when necessary, we'll share what edits were made to the panels when they became memes.


During the 1960s, DC Comics began to publish a great deal of so-called "imaginary stories," which were essentially alternate reality versions of their popular heroes. This allowed them to do things like kill of Superman or show a world where Batman has retired and his son is Robin to Dick Grayson's Batman. One of these imaginary stories was World's Finest Comics #153 (by Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan) that told the story of Bruce Wayne blaming Superboy for the death of Thomas Wayne.

Batman grew up to become a superhero to get close to Superman so that he could kill him. When Robin finds out, Batman slaps him and then erases his memory. The slap panel was then reversed with new dialogue added to make is so that it is now Batman upset over the fact that his parents are dead at Christmastime.


In Incredible Hercules #122 (by writers Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak, and artists Clayton Henry and Salvador Espin), Hercules looks through a window and sees his young ally, Amadeus Cho, with a girl and it looks to Hercules like his young friend might be prepared to have a good time with this young woman. Cho happens to look outside the window and sees Hercules, who then gives him an enthusiastic thumbs up.

The panel has turned into a popular meme by keeping the image, but adding the text, "Cool story, Bro." It is now used whenever someone on a thread tells an awkward story. Then someone else would post this meme to let them know that, unlike Hercules, they are not really enthusiastic about their story.


The comic book world was turned on its head with the release of 2016's Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 (by Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz), which revealed that while it seemed like Steve Rogers had regained his Super Soldier Serum powers without any incident, he had actually been altered by a naive Cosmic Cube so that he now was a life-long follower of the terrorist organization known as Hydra.

This, naturally, shocked fans who felt that this betrayed every aspect of the character's purpose (which was the point of the story, but that's neither here nor there). So a popular series of memes popped up that took the basic concept of the panel, but then applied it to other characters, like Daredevil revealing that he could see or that Batman really killed his own parents.


In the 2005 miniseries Batman: Jekyll and Hyde (by Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee and Sean Phillips, with Phillips doing the back half of the series and Lee drawing the first), Batman has to stop an attempt by Two-Face to murder a bunch of people using drugged ice cream. He shows up and attacks the villain, kicking him while he is eating a (non-drugged) ice cream cone.

However, as you might notice, since Two-Face has his scarred face turned away from us, there's no way to tell just from these panels that Batman is attacking specifically Two-Face. Instead, it looks like Batman is just kicking some guy who likes ice cream. This has led to a popular meme where the above image is used to interrupt conversations, stating simply, "Batman hates chocolate ice cream."


Deadpool translates very well to internet memes, since so much of his actions are already bizarre and often devoid of context even within his own comic book (Deadpool breaks the fourth wall a lot, allowing him to do more off-the-cuff jokes than other comic book characters). One of these moments that has translated well to internet memes is this bit from Deadpool #16 (by Daniel Way, Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco).

Domino has been asked by Cyclops to try to recruit Deadpool to the X-Men and Deadpool has built this giant stack of pancakes to serve as a cushion later on when he pushes Domino through the skylight of the building. At the time, of course, she thinks he just pushed her to her death. He then agrees to join the X-Men.


This is a unique example of a comic book panel inspiring a popular internet meme. As noted earlier, comic book panels are commonly used for internet memes because they are both visual, so the drawings in comic book panels work well. In the case of this panel, though, it is the words that have inspired a popular meme, not the drawing. This panel comes from the second issue of All-Star Batman and Robin (by Frank Miller, Jim Lee and Scott Williams).

Batman has just taken in young Dick Grayson after Grayson's parents were murdered and Batman has no time for young Grayson's sass. The phrase "I'm the goddamn Batman" has been used to apply to pictures of people dressed as Batman, like little kids, only now instead of just being a cute little kid dressed as Batman, it's "The goddamn Batman" at work.


In Captain America #176 (by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema), Captain America is still in a daze after the conclusion of the famed "Secret Empire" storyline, where a mysterious powerful organization known as the Secret Empire tried to turn the country against Captain America. He ended up defeating them, but in the process, discovered that the President of the United States was part of the conspiracy! The President then killed himself in front of Cap.

A shaken Cap decides whether he wants to remain Captain America. His fellow Avengers give him their opinions on the matter. One panel has been edited to having Iron Man saying "Solid D**k." This then became a popular meme about how much language has changed, with the attempt to claim that this was just the slang of the era. Even Robert Downey Jr. shared the meme!


In Justice League of America #42 (by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs), the Justice League found themselves up against one of their strangest foes. Dubbed the Unthinkable, he was a powerful being who was pressed into action when Metamorpho turned down a chance to join the League. The Unthinkable found that, well, unthinkable. He told the League that they should take him, instead. When they said no, he attacked them, but they stopped him.

Two issues later, though, they learned that he had infected them with a virus that would cause them to grow to monstrous size. It would also infect anyone that they had come into contact with recently. It is normal for Batman to be in contact with Robin, of course, but it just looked silly when all the other heroes were mentioning their girlfriends.


This is a bit of a stretch, as this is not technically from a comic book, but it is so close that we're counting it. In the mid-1970s, Warner Educational Services decided to use DC's superhero characters as part of a series of educational books. One of the ways they did so was to show short comic book stories and then ask readers questions about them, just like any other educational reader.

Another way was through the production of a Super-Dictionary, with comic book characters defining the words. What makes the Super-Dictionary so memorable so many years later, is how bizarre the sentences were that they used to define the words. The most infamous is using Lex Luthor stealing 40 cakes to define the word "forty."


As noted earlier, the 1960s saw DC Comics try out a number of "imaginary stories." Well, even later on, DC still told the occasional story in that vein. For instance, in 1980, when DC expanded the page counts of its comics (leading to books needing to have back-up stories in them), Bob Rozakis introduced an alternate reality feature in Superman #353 (art by Curt Swan and Frank Chiaraomonte) where baby Kal-El was taken in by the Waynes (who then did not have baby Bruce).

So Kal-El was named Bruce Wayne and became a librarian (and secretly Superman). He romances Barbara Gordon and when he kisses her, he reflects on his secret identity. However, when you remove his glasses (which a popular meme did with this image), it looks like Bruce Wayne has some interesting feelings for Superman.


In Captain America #366 (by Mark Gruenwald, Ron Lim and Danny Bulanadi), Captain America finds himself faced off against both the Controller and the Voice. Both of those villains typically fight Cap's Avenger teammates (Iron Man and Hank Pym, respectively). They are facing Cap as part of that year's Marvel crossover, the "Acts of Vengeance," where supervillains traded off their opponents.

During his battle with the Controller, the noise Cap's shield made when he hit his enemy's armor was "wank." Later, the Voice (who has mind control powers) tried to command Cap to do something, but it was drowned out by the sound of Cap's shield hitting the Controller's armor (the Controller also had mind control powers). It now looks like the Voice was giving Cap a rather risqué command.


After years of having their own title, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen ended up combining their books in the 1970s into a shared title with Supergirl called The Superman Family. It also had stories featuring various other Superman-related characters, like Perry White, the people of the Bottled City of Kandor and even stories starring Clark Kent (sans Superman).

Superman Family #196 had a Clark Kent story. The Superman Family used to have covers with art on the back, as well, showing all of the stories inside. Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez did the cover for this issue, which featured Clark Kent having to appear to be a great disco dancer because he discovered bombs under the dance floor in a disco and he had to step just the right way to disable them all!


In Batman #66 (by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Lew Schwartz and Charles Paris), the Joker screwed up on one of his heists but luckily got away from Batman and Robin. The next day, all of Gotham City's newspapers mocked the Joker for pulling such a major boner on his gig. At the time, boner meant "screw-up." The change to mean "erection" was happening right around this time, but it seems unlikely that Bill Finger would be ahead of the parlance. So the Joker decides to commit crimes based on famous "boners," like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Meanwhile, the Joker also tries to force Batman to "pull a boner" of his own. All told, the word "boner" is used 3,553,045 times in the comic book story. Okay, maybe not that much, but it is still used a lot! Unsurprisingly, this has proven to be popular on the internet.


This comic book panel is particularly interesting because it has led to a series of memes that are based on the opposite of the intent of the original comic book panel! In Cable and Deadpool #13 (by Fabian Nicieza, Patrick Zircher and a host of inkers), Deadpool is sitting by himself repeating the word "Chimichangas," which is a popular Mexican delicacy.

This panel has led to a whole bunch of memes about Deadpool's love for Chimichangas. The thing is, on the next panel after the above one, Deadpool notes to himself that he doesn't even like Chimichangas, he just likes the way that it sounds! So yes, a whole meme was based on an erroneous concept! Somebody please alert the meme police at once!


Here, we have an interesting example of a comic book panel that was transformed into a meme edited to make it pretty much (perhaps accidentally) matching the original context of the comic book panel. Usually, the context is lost in translation. When the New 52 launched, Geoff Johns was writing three titles -- Justice League, Green Lantern and Aquaman.

Johns made it a point to address the whole "jokes about Aquaman" stuff that is popular on the internet by making Aquaman even tougher than ever and then, in Justice League #4 (art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams), Johns has Green Lantern question Aquaman's skills, as well, and Aquaman shuts him up quickly. This was used as a basis for a meme, that is also intended to answer those who make fun of Aquaman's powers.

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