Like many entertainment franchises targeted at children, superhero cartoons are also watched and enjoyed by adults. For this reason, or maybe just because they get bored from time to time, the writers of these cartoons often decide to slip in a little something that some of the more sensitive parents in the audience might not particularly appreciate. This can includes everything from innuendos to the occasional barely censored swear word, all of which originated in the writer's imagination, somehow flew past the censors unquestioned, and landed on our TV screens for us old folk to snicker at.
This list highlights just a few of those moments. Maybe you're old enough that you did a double-take at some of these back when they first managed to get to air. Or maybe you were just a kid when these shows were on and had no idea how much went over your head as you sat there in your pajamas, innocently eating cereal or playing with your action figures while your parents confidently left you to your fun. After all, superhero cartoons may have lots of violence and weird alien creatures, but it's not like they put anything unseemly in there... right?
15 BATMAN PROTECTS SOME PRIVATES
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is one of those shows that seems to take special pleasure in flouting the censors at every opportunity. And aside from one episode, "The Mask of Matches Malone!," which was so extravagantly inappropriate that it never aired in the United States, they did a very good job at getting their naughty jokes and innuendos past the censors.
For example, in the episode "Powerless!," the villainous Major Force attempts to steal a quantum vacuum from the army, attacking every soldier who gets in his way. Batman, of course, shows up to stop him and orders him to "leave those privates alone." He may say it with a straight face -- he is Batman, after all -- but there is no doubt that he and all the adults in the audience knew exactly what he was saying.
14 EVERYONE FLIRTS WITH HAWKEYE
In the Avengers Assemble episode named for him, Hyperion bursts dramatically into the Avengers' lives, claiming that he's a great hero from another planet and that he's now here to protect Earth. He ends his introductory speech with a wink at Hawkeye, who is not exactly flattered. "Did that dude just wink at me?" he says, to which the Hulk amusedly replies in the affirmative.
But it's a good thing Hawkeye does not return Hyperion's interest, since he turns out to be a crazy man who destroyed his entire home planet. After Hyperion is defeated, the team celebrates their victory in a diner, where Thor brags about how New York doesn't need Hyperion so long as Thor himself is around. He then winks at Hawkeye for no reason (well, except the obvious one). "Why does everyone keep winking at me?" Hawkeye yells. Oh, you know why, Hawkeye. You know why.
13 IRON MAN'S "SPECIAL" ARMOR
In the episode "The Iron Octopus," Spider-Man pays a visit to Stark Industries only to be attacked by several rogue suits of Iron Man armor, including one with a nose clearly delineated on the faceplate. This is a reference to the (thankfully brief) time in the '70s when the comic book version of Iron Man decided that letting the world know he could smell was a good idea. Spider-Man mocks Iron Man for this decision, as would any other reasonable person.
Presumably in retaliation, Iron Man remarks that Spidey "should be thankful you didn't see the [armor] with the..." Spider-Man is quick to interrupt, saying he doesn't want to hear it, preferably ever. We may never know how Iron Man was going to finish that sentence, but it's perfectly obvious how Spider-Man thought it was going to end.
12 RAVEN'S STRIPPER OUTFIT OF EVIL
Things got quite dire for the Teen Titans at the end of their fourth season. In the three-part episode "The End," their old enemy Slade comes back from the dead, this time in the service of Trigon, an interdimensional demon bent on conquering Earth through his decidedly not evil daughter, Raven. Despite the team's best efforts, Slade captures Raven and shows her a vision of what the future will be like once Trigon is running things.
Apparently, creating this vision requires ripping away large parts of Raven's clothes, leaving her with just enough to not be arrested for public indecency. A scene in which a grown man magically strips a teenager seems like the sort of thing that should have raised a red flag with the censors, yet here we are.
11 DICK EXPLAINS HIS NAME
Language is constantly changing and evolving. A word that was perfect innocent half a century ago might be considered a vulgar insult today. No comic book character has suffered more acutely from this fact than Dick Grayson, Batman's first sidekick, whose preferred nickname is now more commonly used to succinctly describe the inconsiderate jackasses of the world. But Dick Grayson has been one of DC's most famous characters since World War II; it's a little late to change his name now, so what are modern adaptations to do?
If you're The LEGO Batman Movie, you have young Grayson say that the other children at his orphanage call him Dick, only for Bruce Wayne to reply with, "Well, children can be cruel." Lego Dick, irrepressible ray of sunshine that he is, doesn't even register the comment.
10 FIRE IS (NOT) A LESBIAN
The version of the Flash who appears in Justice League: Unlimited fancies himself a lady's man and is always on the lookout for an attractive woman who might want to spend time with him. This has led to a number of questionable jokes from Flash's teammates, particularly Hawkgirl. In the episode "I am Legion," Flash is too busy crushing on his new teammate Fire to pay attention to Hawkgirl's chit-chat, so she decides to have a bit of fun with him.
When Flash says that Fire is probably way out of his league -- pun intended, we're sure -- Hawkgirl agrees and says, "I hear she's, you know..." She pauses just long enough to make sure the Flash, and the audience, comes to the wrong conclusion before finishing her sentence with "Brazilian." And just on the off chance anyone thought that was unintentional, Flash responds with a very dry, "Ha, ha."
9 FREAKAZOID IS CALLED A TWINK
The main character of Freakazoid! is an unpredictable blue-skinned hero who spends as much time sneaking inappropriate content past the censors as he does saving people. Like most superheroes, Freakazoid has a secret identity: Dexter Douglas, a nerdy teenager whose family doesn't understand him. This is a good thing, since his father pays little attention to him, his mother is so cheerfully uncaring that a psychiatric evaluation is probably in order, and his older brother Duncan is a bully who loves nothing better than physically and verbally abusing his brother.
On at least one occasion, in "Hot Rods from Heck!," Duncan chooses to torment the long-suffering Dexter by calling him a twink, a term used to refer to young, effeminate gay men and most certainly not the sort of word you want your 6-year-old picking up from a Saturday morning cartoon.
8 BRAINIAC 5 HEARTS SUPERMAN
The short-lived Legion of Super Heroes cartoon features a young Superman traveling to the far future, long after he'd passed into legend as the greatest superhero of all time, to train with a group of young 31st century heroes. All of the Legionnaires greatly admire Superman, but none more so than Brainiac 5, a kindhearted descendant of the original Brainiac, a green-skinned android who often menaces/will menace Superman in the 21st century.
After Superman goes home at the end of the first season, Brainiac 5 misses him so badly that he begins spending inordinate amounts of time in the team's holographic training room, concocting scenarios where he sacrifices himself to save Superman so that Superman will hold his hand and cradle him in his arms as he "dies." Look, Brainy, there's having a crush and there's being unhealthily obsessed, and you clearly crossed that line a long time ago.
7 THE THING GETS NERVOUS
Before they starred in lackluster films, the Fantastic Four starred in a lackluster cartoon. At the behest of Doctor Doom, who is holding the Invisible Woman hostage, Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch and the Thing time-travel back to ancient Greece to retrieve a magical MacGuffin for the Latverian dictator. Our heroes are captured by the Persians, chained to the oars of one of their ships, and forced to row the ship into battle.
It doesn't take long for the Thing to get sick of life at sea, and as soon as he throws one of their captors overboard, he rips the shackles off himself and his teammates. "Let's 86 these chains," the Thing says; "Bondage makes me nervous," which is far more than we ever wanted to know about Ben Grimm's private life. Maybe it would help if he decided on a safe word?
6 "MAN JUICES"
One of Freakazoid's most frequently recurring villains is Gutierrez, an unscrupulous businessman whose morally dubious practices led to the creation of Freakazoid in the first place. At the end of his first appearance, Gutierrez has been arrested and incarcerated for his evil deeds. His cell is cozier and better furnished than most people's houses, but it lacks internet access, and the prison superintendent is reluctant to give it to him.
Since Gutierrez can only gain superpowers by logging onto the internet, he threatens the superintendent, saying that if he doesn't get his internet he will "keep on squeezing you until all your man juices run dry." We're not totally sure what that means, but the superintendent reacts with an appropriate mix of fear and disgust. Needless to say, Gutierrez gets his internet.
5 LIVEWIRE ISN'T BIG ON PROTECTION
In the episode "Double Dose," Superman goes up against Livewire, whose powers are electricity-based, and Parasite, who can suck the life force and/or superpowers out of anyone he touches. Before going to confront such dangerous crooks, Superman covers himself head-to-toe in latex, which is resistant to electricity and leaves Parasite no opening to drain him.
While this may be a logical course of action when you're fighting villains like these two, the final result brings to mind an altogether different sort of covering. And in case the resemblance went over anyone's head, Livewire helpfully hangs a lampshade on it, telling Parasite, "The Boy Scout brought protection." Unfortunately, Superman's protective suit is not as durable as he may have liked, as Livewire manages to break right through.
4 GUNSEL OR GUNSEL?
Most people know the word gunsel from the works of Dashiell Hammett and have interpreted it to mean a criminal who carries a gun. Its original meaning -- the meaning that Hammett was absolutely aware of -- was a reference to being gay, specifically, a young man in a relationship with an older one. This has led to some rather... interesting uses of the word, especially in children's entertainment.
In "The Man Who Killed Batman," low-ranking crook Sid the Squid seems to luck into killing the Dark Knight. Far from being happy about this, The Joker kidnaps Sid to make him pay for eliminating his favorite archfoe and even calls him a "weasely little gunsel." At this point in the episode, we haven't once seen Sid the Squid with a gun, so we're pretty sure we know which meaning The Joker intended.
3 THE BAYVILLE SIRENS
For X-Men: Evolution's first two seasons, the existence of mutants is kept secret, so the X-Men have to be discreet about their adventuring. One day, the female students at Professor Xavier's school decide they want some credit for their good deeds. Calling themselves the Bayville Sirens, they don dark clothes and immediately become a sensation on the local news because of their effectiveness at stopping crime.
The entire episode is pretty uncomfortable, given that it features underage and barely-of-age girls calling themselves "sirens" and dancing suggestively, but the moment of supreme awkwardness comes as the Sirens drive around looking for criminals. Rogue complains they need to find a better place to change into their costumes, but Boom-Boom tells her not to worry because "no one will believe that toll booth guy," implying that a bunch of teenage girls jumped into a toll booth and undressed while a grown man watched.
2 MÁS Y MENOS DROP THE F BOMB
Más y Menos are teenage brothers who can run very fast, but only when they're holding hands. They are first introduced in the episode "Titans East," when Titans mainstay Cyborg goes to check on a new group of teen heroes, the titular Titans East, who are trying to set up shop in Steel City. The twin speedsters are drawn to look very short and childlike, which makes it all the more shocking when they start swearing in Spanish.
After the Titans try and fail to repel a villain who has invaded their headquarters, Más y Menos get so aggravated that they berate every single one of their teammates, ending with Cyborg, about whom they say "este viejo nos está jodiendo," which pretty literally translates to "this old man is f*cking with us." Apparently running their dialogue through an internet translator was too much effort for the censors.
1 JIMMY CALLS SUPES A "DICK"
When he gets infected by red Kryptonite, Superman transforms from his usual bighearted self into a jerk who pulls petty stunts like making it rain on beach goers and sticking a little girl's cat in a tree. Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, responsible reporters that they are, tell their editor Perry White about how their friend has seemingly gone to the dark side. Jimmy in particular is quite blunt about what's happening --maybe a little too blunt for what is allegedly a kids' show.
"Superman's turned into a real di..." he manages to say, before Lois heroically jumps in to save their G rating by finishing the phrase as "different person" in place of the not-so-kid friendly insult Jimmy was about to throw out there. Really, Jimmy, after so many years as Superman's squeaky-clean pal, we would have thought you'd know better than to use such language.
Which of these offenses is the worst to you? Let us know in the comments!