Animated TV shows brought some of our favorite superheroes to our screens before the movies had a chance to. These shows were able to give life to out of this world characters that probably wouldn’t have even worked on the big screen. They frequently adopted storylines from the comics, ranging from season long plots or just a simple origin story. Could you imagine “Secret Wars” being told in six parts in the cinema? Well, it’d be great. But the 1994 Spider-Man series got there first. How about “The Judas Contract”? Oh wait, Teen Titans did that even before the recent animated version.
Our point is, animated shows give writers and studios a wider scope for their storytelling. But sometimes, they go a little too far. Or maybe the censors just missed the occasional scene or visual that should’ve made them question it. Regardless, there’s many occasions during some of these animated adventures that are actually pretty disturbing once you think about them. How did we not notice them as children? Maybe it was childish naivety, but we didn’t realize some of the inclusions on this list were pretty twisted when they originally aired. Here are 15 disturbing cartoon moments you thought were perfectly fine as a kid.
15 THE THING CRUSHES DOOM’S HANDS
Before we had crossovers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or even in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, heroes made cameo appearances in each other’s animated shows. During the Fantastic Four’s first season, Daredevil showed up In “And The Blind Shall Lead Them”. And of course, Doctor Doom was back to plague the team.
After the heroes had been rendered powerless by Doom, he made his assault on them. Luckily, Ben Grimm was still able to access his supreme strength fighting Doom off. During the fight, The Thing literally crushed Doom’s hands. Ouch. Bone shattering pain, brute force, how did that make it past the censors? And how did nobody remember Ben Grimm committing an act of savagery like that? In comparison to some of the fights we get in live action now, it’s quite tame. But in 1994, that was dark.
14 MAN-APE BEATS BLACK PANTHER TO DEATH
That title isn’t an over-exaggeration, we promise. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes saw the team come together to face a wide variety of threats. When new heroes were introduced, the show did an entertaining adaptation of their origin stories. Including T’Challa watching his father get beaten to death in his Black Panther costume by Man-Ape. For some reason, that episode was deemed suitable for children? Wow.
Utilizing Ulysses Klaw’s sonic weapon, Man-Ape savagely dishes out a beating on T’Chaka. The villain throws the King around like he’s a feather. He keeps hitting T’Chaka before he can take no more and dies in the middle of the arena. What’s worse is that T’Challa is forced to watch, and is even stopped from saving his father’s life. Not cool Wakanda, not cool.
13 DEATHSTROKE BURNS TO DEATH
No seriously, Teen Titans actually killed off Deathstroke. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that, a children’s TV show actually made a bold decision to kill off one of the most iconic and formidable villains in DC’s history. And to make things even better, it was part of their adaptation of “The Judas Contract”.
That’s right, Terra was a big character on Teen Titans as a spy for Deathstroke. And although the show didn’t include the super creepy relationship between the two, it did make the bold decision of having Terra murder Slade by plunging him into a volcano at the end of the story. Slade had her by the throat, but she built up an earthquake that threw him into those fiery depths. Sure, we didn’t see the flesh melt from his bones, but the idea’s still there!
12 DARKSEID DISINTEGRATES DANIEL TURPIN
Sometimes, the worst defeats don’t come from an entire army from Apokolips invading your planet, they come from Darkseid murdering an innocent man. When the New God made his way to Earth, he waged war against humanity, and even briefly beat down Superman himself. Luckily, with the rest of the New Gods coming to defend Earth as the population began to fight back against Darkseid, the Apokoliptian had no choice but to run.
But Turpin had to get the last word in. He had to continue yelling insults at Darkseid as he left Earth. And to make him pay for that, Darkseid literally disintegrated him with his Omega Beams. This wasn’t a gunshot and then cut to black, this was Turpin’s death onscreen for all to see. Sure, it’s not the most visually grisly way to go, but it’s still pretty disturbing for a children’s TV show.
11 SPIDER-CARNAGE COMMITS SUICIDE
So because this was the animated Spider-Man series, they could get away with wilder concepts and storylines a lot more than the live action movies could later on. A prime example being the Spider-Carnage storyline. It’s pretty simple, a Peter Parker from an alternate universe bonds with Carnage and goes on a rampage, looking to wipe out all life in existence.
The main universe Peter brings the alternate Uncle Ben over to try talk sense into the disturbingly creepy Spider-Carnage. He changes his mind about killing everyone, and throws himself into a portal that would kill him instead. He does so with a chilling scream that creeped us out just re-watching the episode for this list. So how did kids cope with it? Yikes. Well, at least the universe is still intact.
10 BATGIRL HALLUCINATES HER OWN DEATH
No seriously, Batman: The Animated Series made viewers think that Batgirl had been murdered. It was genuinely quite upsetting because she’s thrown off the roof by Scarecrow, and plummets on to the roof of a car on the street below. No Bat-Chute to save her, she hits the car.
Just to twist the knife even further, it’s Jim Gordon’s car that Barbara lands on. He pulls off her cowl to come to the realization that Batgirl is his own daughter and cradles her as she dies. That’s upsetting now, never mind when children are watching it! It completely tricks the audience into thinking that she’s died, until a reveal later on in the episode. Scarecrow had dosed Batgirl with a hallucinogen that made her see her worst fear; not revealing to her father that she was a vigilante.
9 RED SKULL MUTATES THE AVENGERS
We all know that the Red Skull is a nefarious villain who will go to extreme lengths to make sure his plans succeed. And if his face wasn’t scary enough, some of his plots are equally as horrifying. How about a ‘body horror’ style episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes where he transforms the team into nightmareish versions of themselves?
He uses the ‘Red Dust’ that makes each Avenger into a Red Skull version of themselves. It’s actually quite haunting. But think about it for a second, a villain uses a poisonous gas that completely rewrites everything about the human body to create a horrifying fascist vision. Not to mention their eyes are so piercing that it’s creepy just thinking about them. Lucky Tony Stark knows how to cure everyone huh?
Venom is one of the most iconic Marvel characters, let alone villains. The black Spider-Man suit was a groundbreaking turn for the wallcrawler, not only pushing his personality in a new direction but the series itself. The alien symbiote creepily takes hold of Spider-Man and he wakes up not knowing where he’s been.
Sure, we’ve all probably done some sleep walking in our time, but this is a different ball game. The symbiote could have done anything with Spidey. Let’s then fast forward to how it drips onto Eddie Brock and bonds with him too. Also, we’re surprised Venom didn’t mentally scar everyone who watched it with his huge jaw and slimy tongue. It was pretty disgusting, who thought that was a good idea in a kids show?
7 TERRA COMMITS SUICIDE
“The Judas Contract” is one of the most famous Teen Titans storylines of all time, and even had its own animated movie adaptation earlier this year. Deathstroke uses a metahuman with the ability to control the ground to infiltrate the superheroic team. But when she realizes the good the team do and that she could have a home with them, she fights against Slade.
In their final battle, Terra is being choked by Slade near a volcano (obviously). And to stop him, she builds up her powers and causes an earthquake that kills Slade and petrifies Terra in stone. She did this on purpose to stop the assassin and quash her own internal struggle between her two allegiances. It’s quite an adult ending for a children’s show.
6 DEADPOOL IS IMPALED BY NINJAS
This one might be a little more recent, but that still doesn’t make it any less disturbing once you begin to think about it. During Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man, Peter usually narrates each episode, that is until Wade Wilson interrupts and directly talks to the audience.
He’s introducing himself whilst fighting off a group of ninjas and defeats them all in true Deadpool style. His charismatic nature and crazy fighting style make him a perfect fit for the series. Or he would be, until he realizes that he’s got several ninjas swords lodged in his back. They even show us an over the shoulder shot of the numerous blades that are impaling him. This is still a children’s show right? Wrong. Wade Wilson has taken over, it’s the Deadpool show now.
5 BIRTH OF TWO-FACE
Harvey Dent. We’ve had several different animated versions of the character as well as in live action. But one of the most memorable and hard hitting, was his origin during Batman: The Animated Series. Harvey Dent had a deep seated psychological problem because he’d repressed rage and anger as a child, which had manifested as ‘Big Bad Harv’. When a Mob Boss tried to blackmail Harvey with his psych file, the District Attorney snapped.
‘Big Bad Harv’ completely took over and started a fight with the Boss and his men. The fight caused an explosion that caught Harvey on one side of his face, giving him the iconic Two-Face look. But the suspense the writers created before revealing his monstrous appearance made the episode feel a lot scarier than it was. It’s the episode we best remember from being young!
4 BATMAN CARRIES A DEAD VILLAIN
Well, villain might be a strong word, child would be better. Bruce Wayne knows better than anyone how tragedy affects children. Ace is a young member of the Royal Flush Gang with psychic powers, but she’s also about to have an anyeurism that will kill anyone within her range. Batman volunteers to be the one to take care of the situation.
Instead of using the device made by Amanda Waller that would kill the young metahuman, Batman sits with her. He talks to her about what went wrong in her life, showing a truly emotional and compassionate side to the Dark Knight. She dies peacefully, with no one else dying. Batman carries the child’s body away. Remember, this is a kids show. They committed infanticide as part of an entertainment show for children. Madness.
3 MARY JANE DIES
Well, her clone does anyway. But that doesn’t make it any less disturbing and genuinely emotional. If there’s one thing that the Spider-Man animated series managed to get perfectly was how he dealt with grief. And he certainly had a rough time of it when he found that his wife Mary Jane was actually a water clone made by Miles Warren, aka the Jackal.
But how does she die exactly? Well we’re glad you asked. She evaporates in to thin air during a fight between a Hydro Man clone and Spidey. It sounds silly, but it’s genuinely heartbreaking because Spidey had been married to her for some time when it was revealed that she was a clone. He had to watch this woman that he loved slowly turn into nothing. Even though she wasn’t the real Mary Jane, it still doesn’t make it any less hard hitting for Pete.
No, we didn’t get the words the wrong way round. At one point during the animated series, Spider-Man took his name quite literally. He sprouted four extra arms along the side of his body. This mutation then went a step further, turning him completely into a spider.
But are we talking the typical tiny house spider? No. We mean a huge man-sized spider with pincers, six eyes and a thirst for blood. How was that ever deemed suitable for an animated television show aimed at children? Let’s face it, even though it took some great stories from the comics, it was a kids TV show. This is just animated body horror in the same vein as The Fly or The Thing, just without the gore and guts.
1 AQUAMAN CUTS HIS HAND OFF
No seriously, he cuts his entire hand off. Not by accident, not as a dream, he hacks it off with a sharp belt buckle. Ouch. To set the scene, his brother Orm had captured Aquaman with his son and placed the pair in a volcano. The lava was getting closer to the two, and Aquaman was desperately trying to save his only son.
So, he took some cues from 127 Hours and hacked off his hand so that he could save the two of them. As impressive as that is for a superhero to do, wow. That made it past censorship? We’re amazed. Although we can’t say we’re disappointed, it just shows how tough Arthur Curry can be and it allowed them to give him the incredibly cool hook hand from the comics.
Which of these moments scared you as a child? Let us know in the comments!