A meme is an element of culture that gets passed between people in a non-genetic fashion. In other words, it passes between people by "word of mouth" instead of literally being handed down from generation to generation like hair color or eye color. In the world of the internet, though, that concept has become a more specific idea of popular images that get passed around the net and are quickly widespread, with people then developing their own jokes based on the shared image.
Memes have become very effective ways for people to communicate ideas. When Lebron James won the NBA title last year, after hearing a good deal of criticism up until that point, he often posted a meme of Kermit the Frog calmly drinking tea, a statement to say "I don't care about what you say about me, I'm just doing my own thing." As you might expect, comic book characters are common sources for memes. Here are 15 of the funniest superhero memes.
15 DANCING SPIDER-MAN
One of the longest-lasting memes is the GIF of the dancing Spider-Man, which has been making the rounds for so long that the original GIF is so tiny that it looks super-weird when you blow it up like this. Debuting in 2002, it was based on a music video for a Korean girl group called CLEO and their song, "Illusion." The original video had an animated girl dancing and someone obviously put Spider-Man on top of the animated girl and a brilliant GIF was born.
What makes the meme especially cool is how it plays with our very perceptions. If you play a song and watch the dancing Spider-Man, it will appear to your brain as thought Spider-Man is dancing in sync with the music, because your brain will see patterns that really aren't actually there and make a connection that doesn't actually exist, since your brain will, in effect, fill in the missing parts. It's similar to how we can write "spdr-mn" and your brain will recognize it as "Spider-Man"
14 I'M THE JUGGERNAUT, BITCH
One of the crudest memes on this list, and if it weren't so darned famous, we would just leave it off entirely, is the infamous "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch," meme from over a decade ago. Years ago, one of the funniest series of parody videos consisted of these dubbed versions of the Public Service Announcements that ran at the end of episodes of "G.I. Joe." Instead of the sound advice that the Joes were giving kids, weird and hilariously off-kilter dialogue was subbed in its place.
In 2005, a video was released which did the same basic thing to a clip from an episode of the "X-Men" cartoon show featuring the Juggernaut. Echoing the famous bit from the "Dave Chappelle Show," where Chappelle, as Rick James, says, "I'm Rick James, bitch," the Juggernaut makes a similar statement in the dubbed video. The video became so popular that when "X-Men: The Last Stand" came out the next year, Juggernaut (played by Vinnie Jones) actually says, "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch" in the film.
13 BATMAN HATES CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM
A recurring theme in memes are those that spotlight the rude nature of characters, as that translates well to community discussions. Someone could be saying something and then suddenly - wham! - a picture of Batman being a jerk for seemingly no reason. It serves to throw a wrench into the discussion. One of the most popular examples of this type of meme is "Batman Hates Chocolate Ice Cream," which shows Batman seemingly running up and just kicking some poor guy for eating an ice cream cone.
Of course, in the original comic that the panels came from, you would see in the next panel that the person licking the ice cream was only showing one side of his face and the other side was all scarred, as it was Two-Face and he had poisoned a bunch of ice cream, so Batman was coming to stop him, hence the kick to the face.
12 WOLVERINE'S CRUSH
Some of the jokes behinds these memes are "obvious," in the sense that the joke comes pretty clearly from the artwork. Like Batman punching a guy enjoying an ice cream cone - that's just funny on the face of it. However, the funniest meme involving Wolverine is a bit more involved than that. It's a two-panel joke. The first panel is a screen shot of a scene from the "X-Men" animated series, showing Wolverine wistfully looking at a photo (which, admittedly, is already funny on its face, watching a tough guy look so wistful). On the show, it is a picture of Jean Grey.
In the meme, though, the second panel is a screen shot of the photo from the cartoon, only with a different photo super-imposed in place of Jean Grey, with the photo being different each time (typically people who are in the news for bad reasons, like Jared from Subway) and therefore, the joke is that Wolverine is wistfully pining over ridiculous crushes.
11 THE FLOOR IS LAVA
By far, the biggest source for recurring superhero memes (as don't get us wrong - every superhero movie that comes out leads to a bunch of memes at the time of the film's release, but they typically fade away after the film is out of theaters - the memes on this list are ones that lasted longer than that) is the 1960s "Spider-Man" TV series. It an interesting mixture of the unassuming nature of the show, the cheap design elements of the show and just plain ol' creative thinking by the people coming up with the memes.
There are so many funny ones (some of them are also quite ribald), but the one that made us laugh the most plays on a traditional game played by kids growing up, which is when they pretend that the floor of their room is lava and that they can only get around by jumping from chair to chair. Similarly, Spider-Man is doing the same thing, to hilarious effect.
10 SOMEDAYS, YOU JUST CAN'T GET RID OF A BOMB!
Another great sources for memes is the 1960s "Batman" TV series. One of the hallmarks of the "Batman" series was that the show was incredibly campy and over-the-top. That over-the-top nature makes clips from the show transfer to GIFs really well, because even in small details you can easily get across what Batman is thinking. In addition, since what is happening on the actual show is so absurd, it adapts well to memes that superimpose even more absurd objects into the scenes.
For instance, in the very popular "Somedays, you just can't get of a bomb!" GIF, it shows Batman running around with an absurdly over-sized bomb. That, in and of itself, is funny, but people over the years have also added in other objects in place of the bomb. One popular one adds a drawing of a bike and the GIF is suddenly now "Why are you stealing my bike, Batman?" And Batman's frantic looks on his face works with a guy who just stole a kid's bike just as well as it goes with a guy trying to get rid of a bomb before it blows up.
9 HOW DO I SHOT WEB?
Perhaps the biggest source of ire for people on the internet are "noobs," people new to either the internet or to the community where the memes are being posted. Whether you are liberal or conservative, it seems like everybody hates new people coming into their conversations, and thus many memes have developed over the years to make fun of this group of people.
One popular way of doing so is a Spider-Man meme, using a drawing from the "Amazing Spider-Man" comic strip, with Spider-Man asking an absurdly stupid question, "How do I shot web?" (imbecilic phrasing and also a question that he should know the answer to), which people can use to reply to new users who ask a similarly stupid question. This meme was inspired by a new user who kept repeatedly asking the question in some forum about a character in a version of the video game "Half-Life" who also shot webs. It annoyed people enough that it quickly translated to Spider-Man and a great meme was born!
8 I'M THE GODDAMN BATMAN
This is the first meme on the list where it is not a visual meme, at least not in the same way as the others. Up until this point, the image we have shown has been key to the actual meme. The words might be altered, but the visual stays the same. Here, it is the opposite. In "All Star Batman and Robin" by Frank Miller, Jim Lee and Scott Williams, fans were amused (in a mocking sort of way) by how Miller kept having Batman say "I'm the goddamn Batman."
So the meme takes that phrase and adapts it to other photos, typically of someone ostensibly trying to look imposing, like a little kid dressed as Batman, and then by adding the phrase, "I'm the goddamn Batman." It highlights how the person in the image does not actually look imposing, but silly instead. Plus, it's always funny to laugh at the phrase, "I'm the goddamn Batman!"
7 SPIDER-MAN TWINS
One of the 1960s "Spider-Man" memes that has become very popular recently is the use of Spider-Man "twins" (presumably one of the characters is actually the Chameleon disguised as Spider-Man) in a meme. Once again, one of the things that makes the whole thing extra amusing is how low rent the "Spider-Man" cartoon looks at times - just look at how half-assed his costume is in that drawing! They just gave up on finishing the stripes on the front of his costume!
In any event, this meme has been used a lot recently when it comes to making comparisons between people, especially when in instances where Person A insults Person B while doing a lot of the same things that Person B does themselves. It also comes up in sports a lot, like when similar players guard each other and someone will say, "Player A guarding Player B like..." and then the shot of the two Spider-Men glaring at each other.
6 THE HAWKEYE INITIATIVE
The Hawkeye Initiative is a Tumblr account that shares drawings by volunteer artists of the superhero Hawkeye drawn in the same poses that female characters are drawn in on comic book covers (and interior art, as well, but especially covers).
The idea of the initiative is that it can both enlighten and amuse, as naturally, a male superhero like Hawkeye being drawn in the same poses as a typical female superhero looks absurd, but at the same time, while it is funny, it also makes it clear that female superheroes are often put into ridiculous poses only because they are female. Thus, when you see a male character put into the same pose, it shows how ridiculous that the pose was in the first place. Many of the drawings submitted to the website have been shared all over the internet and have become memes in and of themselves. A popular target for the Hawkeye Initiative treatment is J. Scott Campbell, as shown in this sample image.
5 COOL STORY, BRO
One of the most popular superhero-related memes is not really all that connected to the world of superheroes, but rather that a panel from a comic book just happened to fit a particular phrase really well. The most common uses of memes in community conversations is to quickly get across a response without actually having to type out your response. Like if you're shocked by something someone just said, it's easier (and probably gets the point across better) to post a shocked meme than it does to explain how shocked you are.
Similarly, if someone is telling a boring story and you want to mock them, an easy way of doing so is sharing a meme where you show a smiling guy giving you an earnest thumbs up and saying, "Cool story, bro." The panel in question came from an issue of "Incredible Hercules" (by writers Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak and artists Clayton Henry and Salvador Espin), where Hercules was signaling an "attaboy" to his young friend, Amadeus Cho, who was flirting with a girl.
4 HAIL, HYDRA!
Last year, the comics world was shocked by the ending of the first issue of "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #1 (by Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz). The issue revealed that when Steve Rogers recently regained his Captain America powers, the Cosmic Cube that gave him his powers also altered Cap's reality so that he was now a sleeper agent for Hydra since he was just a kid. He revealed this by seemingly killing a fellow superhero and then stating, "Hail Hydra."
This quickly led to a series of popular memes where people would take the basic framework of the Captain America panel, but superimpose other characters where Cap was and have them make similarly shocking statements, both for comedic effect and also to highlight how people felt that the reveal was such a blow to Captain America's history that they wanted to come up with other ideas that would be just as devastating. Like Daredevil saying, "I could see the whole time" or Batman saying, "I killed my parents."
3 THIS IS NOW A SPIDER-MAN THREAD
As you have seen from the rest of this list, memes based on the 1960s "Spider-Man" show have practically taken over the internet. They have proven so popular that once one person starts sharing them, that leads to others and suddenly, whatever your thread was originally about no longer matters, as now your thread is about sharing awesome Spider-Man memes. This, of course, then led to a meme of its own, referencing how that sort of thing happens, there are now a number of memes showing Spider-Man declaring that the thread is now a Spider-Man thread.
This approach also works for people who feel that a particular thread topic has gotten too divisive or too dark, then this meme could be used as a way to change the subject, as in, "Hey, let's talk about something else, like Spider-Man memes!" It has become a very popular meme and it speaks to the fun factor that these "Spider-Man" memes carry with them.
2 LUTHOR STEALING 40 CAKES
In the late 1970s, Warner Educational Services though that it would be a great idea to use DC Comics characters as part of educational texts to help kids learn. There was a more elaborate system that involved having kids read short comic book stories and then answer questions about them (for this project, DC altered the ethnicity of some of their characters to make them more diverse, like Zatanna became the African-American hero, Conjura).
Another one of the projects was the "Super Dictionary," an illustrated dictionary that had comic book characters to go with each of the words, with the characters then working the word in question into sentences that put the word into contest. Very often, these words would not make a whole lot of sense even in the context of the examples given. The most ridiculous was one where the number forty was defined by showing Lex Luthor stealing 40 cakes. "As many as four tens"? That doesn't help kids, that's just weird!
1 WHAT DID YOUR PARENTS GET YOU FOR CHRISTMAS, BATMAN?
This meme using a panel from an old issue of "World's Finest Comics" about an alternate reality where Batman was convinced as a young boy that Superboy murdered Thomas Wayne. He devoted his whole life to getting revenge on Superboy (later, Superman). He became a superhero just to eventually get close enough to Superman in order to kill him. He ended up taking in Robin just like in the real comics, but when Robin figured out Batman's plan, he tries to stop him and instead gets a good face-slapping (and then his memory wiped clean).
The shocking nature of Batman slapping Robin like that made someone thin of other reasons why Batman might slap Robin, and came up with the idea that Robin asked Batman what the Dark Knight's parents was going to get him for Christmas, which enraged the (way too obsessed and tightly wound) Batman into slapping him. A version of this meme with empty word balloons lets other people come up with ideas on what Robin could say to Batman that would make him mad enough to slap him like that. Hilarity ensued.
What is your favorite superhero meme? Let us know in the comments section!