Everybody wants to rule the world... especially in cartoons! For decades, trying to take over the world has been a rite of passage for any respectable supervillain. With so many potential paths to world domination, a villain's continuing attempts to take over could provide the fodder for hundreds of hours of television. Since the more relatively practical paths to world domination would be filled with death and worldwide wars, cartoon creators have been forced to create bloodless, censor-approved ways to take over the world. Some of these plots quickly became tropes in their own right, while others featured bold, ingenious pathways to total conquest. Regardless of how they came to be, almost all of these plans were impractical and illogical, and they never really worked for more than a short time at most.
Now, CBR is taking a look back at some of the most insane ways cartoon villains tried to conquer the world. For this list, we'll be looking at some of the most ludicrous world domination plots from lesser known shows and some of the most famous cartoons in animation history. Since the plans of Cobra Commander alone could fill up our list, we'll only be including one entry from any given series.
15 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: SHREDDER'S RUST
Over the course of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' ten seasons, Shredder and Krang cooked up a ton of ludicrous schemes to try to take over the world. Those plans usually involved finding a way to power the Technodrome, an energy-guzzling roving battle station, from Krang's home, Dimension X.
At the beginning of the show's seventh season, the Turtles went on a series of moderately educational adventures in Europe. In the 1992 episode, "Rust Never Sleeps," they fought Shredder in Paris, France. After accidentally developing the Rust Encruster, Shredder threatened to turn the world's great monuments into rust unless global leaders helped him recover the Technodrome, which he would then use to conquer Earth. To prove his point, he used the device to cover the Eiffel Tower and the Turtles' metal weapons with rust. After the Turtles turned the ray on Shredder's metal costume, Donatello successfully undid the machine's damage.
14 X-MEN: MASTER MOLD'S COMPUTER BRAINS
Even though the classic Master Mold hasn't had the most extensive comic book history, the sentient Sentinel factory is one of the X-Men's most fearsome robotic foes. Since his creation by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1965's X-Men #15, Master Mold has tried to protect humanity from mutants by taking over the world.
In X-Men: The Animated Series' first season finale, "The Final Decision," Master Mold hatched a plot to take over humanity by replacing the brain of every world leader with a computer. To start this process, Master Mold sent his Sentinels to kidnap the anti-mutant presidential candidate, Senator Robert Kelly. The X-Men ultimately defeated Master Mold by flying an explosives-filled Blackbird into the massive robot's body. While parts of Master Mold survived and menaced the X-Men again later, Kelly became an advocate for mutants after this incident.
13 STREET FIGHTER: BISON'S COMET
While the Street Fighter franchise has been the pinnacle of fighting games for over 25 years, the animated series Street Fighter only lasted for two seasons. Heavily influenced by 1994's live action movie Street Fighter, the show followed Colonel Guile and his G.I. Joe-esque team of Street Fighters as they tried to stop M. Bison from taking over the world.
In the 1995 episode "Dark Heart," Bison amplified his electromagnetic abilities to put the Millennium Comet on a collision course with Earth. While this reverse-Armageddon plan would realistically kill most of the planet, Bison believed that the comet would only obliterate NORAD and send half of the United States underwater. In addition to crippling his enemies, Bison also thought that this plan would turn his mid-western land holdings into valuable coastline. Ultimately, Guile and Dhalsim were able to steer the comet away from Earth before it made impact.
12 JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED: GRODD GOES APE
For decades, the super-intelligent telepathic villain Gorilla Grodd has been one of DC's most fearsome villains. Since his debut in 1959's The Flash #106, by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, Grodd has tried his best to turn Earth into a planet of the apes in both comics and on TV.
In Justice League Unlimited, Gorilla Grodd re-forms the Secret Society of Super-Villains in the third season premiere, "I Am Legion." Grodd enlisted the help of villains like Lex Luthor as part of his secret plan to turn every human on Earth into an ape. When Luthor found out about this plan, he said that it was too ridiculous to carry out, shot Grodd in the head and took his spot as the Society's leader. This led to a prolonged animosity between the two that ended when Luthor shot Grodd into outer space.
11 ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES
In 1978, John Debello's musical horror comedy, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was released and quickly became a cult classic. Thanks to an appearance on Muppet Babies in the 1980s, the satiric franchise found new life and was turned into a Saturday morning cartoon for two seasons on Fox in 1990.
In the cartoon, the mad scientist Dr. Putrid T. Gangreen tried to take over the world with his signature killer tomatoes. Over the show's first season, Chad, a regular boy, and Tara, a mutated tomato that had been turned into a teenage girl, tried to stop Gangreen's various schemes. In the show's second season, Gangreen's plans unexpectedly came to fruition, and his tomato commandos successfully took over the world. Shortly into his reign, the mutated tomatoes rebelled against Gangreen. As the show took a slightly more serious turn, the scientist joined the show's heroes on the Killer Tomato Taskforce.
10 MEGA MAN: DR. WILY'S INCEPTION
In the Mega Man video game franchise, Dr. Wily's ultimate goal has always been world domination. Along with his villainous Robot Masters, Wily continued his quest and menaced Mega Man for two seasons on the character's syndicated animated series starting in 1994. In a plot that pre-dated Inception by 15 years, Wily invented a machine that let him send his robots into people's dreams to hypnotize sleepers into doing his bidding.
After hypnotizing local officials into giving him sensitive information, Wily hid the dream machine on a rocket that was going to a space station. Once he took control of the station's sleeping crew, he planned to use them to spy on everyone on Earth and to stage surprise attacks with his robots. After the heroic Dr. Light built his one dream device, Mega Man traveled into the astronaut's dreams and told them how to destroy Wily's device.
9 SUPER FRIENDS: GIANT-SIZE DOOM
For nine seasons, Super Friends was the animated showcase for most of DC's heroes during the 1970s and 1980s. When the show became Challenge of the Super Friends in 1978, Lex Luthor, the Riddler and some of DC's most famous villains formed the Legion of Doom to menace the Justice League and try to take over the world.
In "Giants of Doom," Bizarro developed a plan to turn the Legion of Doom into 100-foot-tall giants. After splitting the moon in half and partially destroying the Parthenon to get the raw materials for the plan, Bizarro used his growth ray to transform himself, Toyman, Sinestro and Captain Cold into giants. After sending the Justice League into the gaseous interior of Saturn, the giant Legion convinced every government on Earth to surrender. After escaping Saturn's icy grasp, the League transformed themselves into giants and quickly defeated the villains.
8 INSPECTOR GADGET: DR. CLAW'S EVAPORATOR
One of the more common ways cartoon supervillains tried to take over the world was by depleting the Earth of its natural resources. It's a violence-free path towards world domination, and the first steps of a plan like this could easily be reversed between commercial breaks. During Inspector Gadget's second season, Dr. Claw and his M.A.D. organization used one of these plots to try to take over the world in 1985.
In "Focus on Gadget," Dr. Claw and his minion, Dr. Null and Dr. Void, tried to evaporate all of the Earth's water with a giant magnifying glass on a space station and hold it for a ransom. Using the station's computer, H.A.R.O.L.D., the villains started by evaporating Metro City's lake and holding it for $10 million. The hapless Gadget and his capable niece Penny then traveled to the station, where the sentient H.A.R.O.L.D. helped them destroy the magnifying glass.
7 SPIDER-MAN: MYSTERIO'S HYPNOTIC DISCO
In the early 1980s, Spider-Man appeared in two separate cartoon series simultaneously. While Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends chronicled his adventures with Firestar and Iceman, he also starred in his own syndicated animated series for one season starting in 1981. The show featured most of Spider-Man's rogues gallery, along with a few other Marvel villains like Magneto.
One of those villains, Mysterio, tried to take over the world with hypnotic disco music in "The Pied Piper of New York." Although he borrowed the gimmick from the Hypno-Hustler, Mysterio successfully used his funky tunes to turn all of New York City against Spider-Man. In his effort to be named "Master of the World," Mysterio instructed his followers to capture a nuclear missile to make him a global threat. After telling the villain that he preferred the Beatles to disco, Spider-Man broke the villain's device and freed the population from his control.
6 HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: EVILSEED
Throughout the two syndicated seasons of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, He-Man and his allies usually had to save Eternia from the evil aspirations of Skeletor. While this action figure-friendly series featured a plethora of muscle-bound characters with fantastic powers, the forces of good and evil had to work together to defeat a would-be world conqueror with an artichoke-shaped head.
In the 1983 episode "Evilseed," the titular plant-based villain tried to take over Eternia by controlling its plants. Machines, castles and other structures all started to crumble under the weight of his overgrown weeds. Despite an abundance of swords and other sharp objects, Evilseed's vines snared most of the show's heroes with little difficulty. Eventually, He-Man and Sorceress teamed up with their foe Skeletor to cover Eternia with snow. Moments after this, Evilseed and his plants crumbled and withered away into nothingness with shocking speed.
5 PLASTIC MAN: COMPUTERHEAD
Since Jack Cole created the character in 1941's Police Comics #1, Plastic Man has always been of the more humorous superheroes out there. As its title implies, that humor was a big part of the Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show. Along with his partners Penny and Hula-Hula, Plastic Man saved the world from all sorts of off-kilter villains, including the aptly-named Computerhead.
In the 1979 episode, "The Maniacal Computerhead," the odd-looking villain tried to create a world-conquering army out of everyday appliances and machines. As the affected devices turned on their masters, cars forced humans to carry them, and TVs forced humans to juggle for their entertainment. As the situation worsened, Plastic Man and his friends went undercover as household appliances and got information from Hula-Hula's friendly old TV. After basically flipping Computerhead's off-switch, the rest of the machines went back to normal.
4 THE TICK: MUCUS TICK
Over three seasons, The Tick brought Ben Edlund's satirical hero to a mainstream audience for the first time. With no shortage of oddball heroes and villains, the absurdist cartoon relished in bizarre costumes and harebrained schemes to take over the world.
In the classic 1994 episode, "The Tick vs. the Uncommon Cold," the Tick was sidelined with a nasty cold. When the alien Thrakkorzog tried to create an army of Ticks to conquer Earth, the only tissue sample he could get his tentacles on was a germ-filled, mucus-encrusted tissue. With nothing better to use, the alien created a viscous, mucus clone of the Tick. While he didn't share the Tick's relative intelligence or sunny disposition, the clone possessed shapeshifting abilities that made him an even match for the hero. After defeating his gooey counterpart, the Tick and Arthur sent the alien back to his home by using his cloning-and-portal machine.
3 JONNY QUEST: THE WHALE INTERNET
In 1996, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest offered an effective update of the classic character for two seasons in the 1990s. With a mix of sci-fi and adventure-oriented plots, the show followed Jonny, Dr. Quest, Hadji, Race Bannon and his daughter Jessie as they fought evil around the world. The show also featured a CGI-animated virtual reality called QuestWorld.
In the 1995 episode, "Besieged in Paradise," the QuestWorld-obsessed villain Jeremiah Surd used virtual reality to control of the world's aquatic mammals. After taping into the "Cetacean Internet" these animals use to communicate, Surd turned the world's whales and dolphins against the Quest crew and the rest of humanity. Although this effectively gave Surd control over two-thirds of the Earth, he seemed unsure how this would help his goal of world domination. After calling the endeavor a mere "proof of concept," the Quests and a Russian submarine crew took Surd out.
2 PINKY AND THE BRAIN: CHIA EARTH
In the 1990s, Pinky and the Brain went from a recurring segment and genetically-modified mice on Animaniacs to a minor pop culture sensation in just a few years. Over a few different series, the Brain and his good-natured sidekick Pinky were dedicated to taking over the world. While any of the Brain's megalomaniacal schemes would fit on this list, one stands out from the pack due to its sheer lunacy.
In the 1996 episode, "It's Only a Paper World," the Brain created a full-size paper maché Earth called Chia Earth. He lured the entire population of the real world to Chia Earth with the promise of free t-shirts. After this scheme worked, the Brain successfully took over the real, abandoned world with no issues. When the real world was threatened by an oncoming meteor, Pinky and the Brain also ended up taking refuge on the structurally unsound new world.
1 G.I. JOE: COBRA'S SHAVING CREAM AND SUNBLOCK
During G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero's reign as a pop cultural juggernaut in the 1980s, Cobra Commander distinguished himself as one of the great would-be world conquerors. While the show's later seasons focused on newer characters like Sgt. Slaughter, the Cobra leader's dedication to world conquest was one of the few aspects that remained unchanged.
In the 1990 episode, "The Nozone Conspiracy," Cobra Commander's plan for world conquest began by stealing all of the shaving cream from the Everfresh shaving cream factory. He planned to extract chemicals from the aerosol in the shaving cream and release them into the atmosphere to destroy the Earth's ozone layer. Unaware of the existential threat his plot posed, his plan's next step was to sell Cobra-branded sunscreen to every human on Earth every week for $500 a bottle. Fortunately, the Joes stopped this plan before Cobra unintentionally killed everyone on Earth.
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