Comic books and comic book publishing companies have a long a history in popular culture. They’ve given us some of the greatest fictional heroes and villains of any age, ushering in a new period of mythology; these characters and their stories captivate audiences endlessly. Comic books, in the larger scope, ignite a sense of hope and enjoyment in their readers. It’s not mindless entertainment, because trivial amusement doesn’t make you feel the way these comics do. Superheroes are a big part of that, especially figures like Superman and Captain America, who aspire their audiences to rise up and be the best they can be. With so many wonderful characters, be they heroic or evil, it’s easy to forget the darker history of comic books.
Largely, comics have never really had an easy relationship with racism, gender, or politics. An incredible amount of villains, and even some heroes, are depicted callously with a degree of being un-American, whether that's being actually foreign or simply not being as white as Vanilla Ice. To that end, one often wonders if the censors were sleeping on the job when these offensive characters were put to the page. Here at CBR we’re looking at 15 extremely offensive villains that somehow made it past the censors.
Mandrill, who by the way is a human-sized, fully sentient, bipedal talking baboon, is one of Marvel’s most offensive villains. Among other things, Mandrill is pretty obsessed over the idea of having a harem of beautiful women at his beck and call. Sporting a garish cape, Mandrill’s powers come from a type of pheromone. Using this pheromone, he uses his mind-control to seduce a woman and making them do literally anything he desires.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see how this is wrong on plenty of levels. Effectively, you have a talking ape who’s going around abusing women and nobody thought this was a bad idea. Marvel tried to neuter him a bit by making Mandrill keen on having women fight for him, rather than sleep with him, but mental control is still mental control and Mandrill really shouldn’t exist.
Dreadlox is a perfect example of what not to do when your comic book company is low on minority characters and desperately trying to come up with a couple new ones. A misguided and offensive stereotype of a character, Dreadlox started out as a homeless vagrant sheltering in a basement in Phoenix. She then got infected with an extraterrestrial bacteria, which gave her the ability to bring terror to her enemies by generating visions of their deepest fears.
She also sported some hip dreadlocks, while wearing a completely white cat-suit that looked stereotypically disco. Adding insult to injury, Dreadlox also had dark magical (voodoo) powers, because obviously a black female character in the early ‘90s needed to be associated with dark magic. All in the all, the name is bad, her appearance is god-awful, and Dreadlox was the shining definition of everything wrong with comics in relation to race.
13 ARMLESS TIGER MAN
Back during World War II, some poor soul thought the perfect enemy for Captain America would be an armless, fang-baring German worker. It all started after Gustav Hertz suffered a horrible machine-related accident and became a double amputee. Swearing vengeance on machinery as a whole, Gustav trained his feet to be superhumanly dexterous and dangerous. Inexplicably, he also started to resemble a tiger; even more inexplicably, he would sometimes eat people.
Feared by many, especially those whose main job was to build machines, Armless Tiger Man worked for the Nazis and was sent on campaigns to destroy important machines. This worked to his favor because he was already trying to avenge the loss of his arms. He fought the likes of Captain America and Black Panther among other Marvel heroes. Also, Marvel lists his weakness as being handicapped on account of his lack of arms…no, duh!
12 THE FEMIZONS
Time and time again Captain America is dealt the misfortune of putting up with an array of offensive foes, and time and again his villains sneak past the censors. Oddly, Captain America has the tendency to fight myriads of women who want him dead. So of course someone over at Marvel decided to compile a list of deadly women, stamp on a misogynistic name, and call it a day.
The Femizons as they’re known, which is not a name that would fly in today’s world, were made up of multiple female antagonists. Their goal was to rule the planet so that they could create a utopia ruled by women. Led by Superia, who also thought it would be pretty dandy to sterilize all women on Earth; the Femizons was just one bad idea after another.
Drugs aren’t a laughing matter and there’s enough people with real substance abuse issues, that giant entertainment corporations ought to know better than to make light of it. Created over at DC Comics, Snowflame has gone on to live in infamy, but for all the wrong reasons. The villain is a cautionary tale about why editorial and censors should really look at a character before they give the green light.
Snowflame was a Colombian drug lord, so of course he was addicted to cocaine. This ended up working out to his benefit, since the more cocaine he used, the more powerful he became. The power of cocaine gave him superhuman strength, speed, and pyrokinesis. He was also immune to pain, and anyone who touched him ended up receiving a contact high. Additionally, Snowflame had an army of drugged-up henchmen.
Certainly, DC Comics once had a difficult time trying to figure out how to write gay characters. Nearly every early attempt ended up downright crude. The introduction of the character Hemo-Goblin didn’t help matters. While it’s true that people typically love stories about vampires and the supernatural, that changed when the aforementioned villain was introduced. Long story short, Hemo-Goblin was a vampire with HIV that white supremacists created to get rid of minorities. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a character more distasteful.
To make matters worse, his main enemy was the hero Extrano. Another gay character, he was clearly written by someone who apparently had never met a gay person, going on the assumption all gay men were overly feminine and flamboyant. As a result Extranao was another offensive stereotype that had to deal with being attacked by an AIDS vampire.
9 EGG FU
There was a time when racist stereotypes were puzzlingly the norm in comic books. At the time, the majority of readers didn’t notice, or at the very least, they didn’t care. Regardless, Egg Fu was a horrible caricature of the Chinese. Downright unsettling to look at and remarkably cringe-worthy, Egg Fu was every offensive Chinese stereotype rolled into one. Weirdly shaped like a giant egg, Egg Fu first appeared in 1965 in Wonder Woman #157 sporting a Fu Manchu moustache.
Not only was Egg Fu visually offensive, but he was a lame character too. Associating himself with criminal organizations like Intergang, Egg Fu used his brilliance to try and commit various atrocities. It was left to Wonder Woman to battle the threat he presented. Even after the first Egg Fu seemingly perished, another Egg Fu popped up shortly thereafter, just as inappropriate and awful as his predecessor.
Even though Codpiece might not be offensive on a political or social level, he’s still a character who was written and drawn in bad taste. A throwaway villain, he appeared in one issue of Doom Patrol. Codpiece was probably conceived as a puerile joke, never to be remembered…but he was. Before adopting the name Codpiece, the soon-to-be villain was forever unlucky in love. He postulated his lack of luck with the ladies was a result of the size of his manhood.
He becomes obsessed with the size of his junk and built a huge, mechanized codpiece. Said codpiece housed multiple weapons like rockets and drills and even some gag items like spring loaded boxing gloves. After Codpiece robbed a bank with his Transforming wiener cannon, Coagula (one of comics' first queer characters) beat him by using her powers to destroy his groin cannon.
7 BLACK TALON
The moment you lay eyes on Black Talon, it’s impossible not to be offended. After all, Black Talon is a half-crazed black man in a chicken suit that spouts nonsense and performs dark voodoo magic. That should be more than enough to make you wonder what Marvel’s editorial team was doing when the character was pitched. Somebody either clearly thought it was a brilliant idea, or they were simply asleep at the helm. Either circumstance is pretty inexcusable.
Black Talon started as something of a legitimate threat; he’d take on the Avengers. Later, he started being used as a gag character and would occasionally interact with She-Hulk. The only people in on the gag certainly weren’t the readers; dressing up any minority in a chicken suit and parading them about isn’t funny. Marvel’s realized their error and has since made attempts to modernize Black Talon, but it was too late.
It should come as no surprise, but early comic writers had zero clue how to handle those who were hermaphrodites or transgender individuals. So they figured what the heck, and made the most offensive villain they could imagine. He-She was a half-man, half-woman villain who used her "power" of being both a boy and girl to commit crimes. He-She even fooled a woman into marrying him/her to de-fraud her of money!
He-She essentially used her "she" half to seduce people, only to have the "he" half appear in and kills people with his manly strength. Ignoring the highly offensive characterization of actual hermaphrodites, gender fluid individuals, and transsexuals, He-She’s “ability” just makes no sense. For of He-She's schemes to go according to plan, He-She would have to ensure only one side of his/her body could be seen.
5 MARCUS IMMORTUS
The fact that a character like Marcus Immortus ever saw the light of day is astonishing. His past is ridiculous, both in how he came to be and the actions he’d commit. Why nobody stopped this is a question in itself. Marcus was the son of the Avengers enemy Immortus, but fell in love with Ms. Marvel from an alternate dimension.
Through some super science, Marcus shanghaied her to his dimension and used some ridiculous machines to make her susceptible to his advances. Immortus proceeded to impregnate her with a baby version of him, so that he could journey back to her world. It’s an incredibly offensive storyline. Writers tried to repair the damage later, by having Ms. Marvel getting angry with her fellow Avengers for letting Immortus take her, but nobody would forget the defilement Ms. Marvel underwent.
Chapel was developed out of Image Comics back in the early ‘90s. Chapel, like many characters on this list, was a product of his time, but it doesn’t excuse the general wrongness felt with regards to the character. Not only is his appearance plainly hideous, but his entire backstory leaves one scratching their head about how nobody censored him.
Originally part of the Spawn universe, Chapel killed Al Simon, who later becomes the aforementioned Spawn. From there, things got disgusting. Chapel was injected with chemicals that not only gave him superhuman powers, but also infected him with the HIV virus. His superiors infected him with HIV purposefully and could turn it on if he refused their commands…ponder on that for a couple moments. Chapel’s backstory is completely insensitive to a great many people. There’s no way you could write him so irresponsibly nowadays.
To be clear, it doesn’t get more offensive than Hitler. First appearing in The Fantastic Four #22 in 1963, Hate-Monger was a member of the KKK who wore a purple sheet over his face. Hate-Monger’s general M.O. was to ignite hate riots throughout New York City, something he’d do multiple times. Hate-Monger was also in possession of a hate-ray, which did exactly what it sounds like; he’d shoot people and make them racist as they became infected with rage.
As it turned out, Hate-Monger was actually Hitler in disguise; the tyrannical dictator had his consciousness repeatedly transferred from body to body. There was also a version of Hate-Monger, named Man-Beast, who was a werewolf-looking creature with psychic-hate powers. Over the years, writers have taken greater liberties with the character, having him wave Nazi flags around as he fights the likes of Captain America.
2 FLORONIC MAN
Again, drugs are not an issue to be taken lightly. DC Comics simply didn’t care or somehow were unaware that depicting drug-related supervillains in a humorous light probably isn’t the best idea. Do you really want some impressionable child believing they can get powers by snorting cocaine or doing marijuana?
Introducing the Floronic Man. He was a plant/human character hybrid and usually fought the Atom. An exile from an inter-dimensional world, Floronic Man tried applying his knowledge of botany to take over the world. When that didn’t work, he was updated and turned into a Batman villain. Along the way he was decapitated, but some scientists kept his head alive. After touching marijuana, the drug regenerated his body, giving him a cannabis body. Additionally, Floronic Man used some of Poison Ivy's DNA to create a pot child in his quest for world domination.
1 HYDRA CAPTAIN AMERICA
Captain America isn’t called the Sentinel of Liberty for nothing. The superhero has fought countless battles in the name of fighting for righteousness. A wholly incorruptible figure, Captain America is supposed to represent the best in each one of us; he’ll always be there to defend those who are oppressed and fight their oppressors.
Known for punching Nazis in the face, when Marvel decided to turn Captain America into a member of Hydra, and by association a full-fledged Nazi, it was a slap in the face for everything he represented. Fans were outraged. The story explained that everything they knew about the character was a lie. Readers couldn’t believe it. Captain America’s creators were Jewish and to step on everything the hero meant to them, and countless others, was downright offensive. Marvel scrambled to fix things, but it’ll forever remain a stain on their comic book history.
Which of these villains is the most offensive to you? Let us know in the comments!