Not every character has to be a hero. Characters from the Joker to Scarface have proven we’re more than happy to see our favorite figures do some dark stuff. But sometimes, other characters try to jump on the antihero bandwagon, and nominally good guys do terrible things, with the writer totally oblivious.
10Tintin Kills Every Animal In His Path
A boy reporter for a major newspaper, Tintin is famous for his courage and generosity of spirit. At least, he is now. In the early days, he was far better known for mindlessly slaughtering everything to cross his path.
In 1931, Tintin in the Congo hit Belgian bookshelves. Although chiefly known today for its dated portrayals of race, the book also featured a subplot where Tintin goes big-game hunting. His methods are unusual. In one infamous scene, he bores a hole in a rhino’s back, stuffs it with dynamite, and blows it sky-high. In another, he casually mows down a herd of antelope, leaving the ground littered with corpses as far as the eye can see.
Craziest of all comes when a chimpanzee kidnaps his faithful dog, Snowy. Rather than simply shoot the offending beast, Tintin instead kills a different chimp, climbs inside its skin , and uses its still-warm carcass as a handy disguise. After winning the kidnapper’s affection with his chimp-suit, he manages to get Snowy back but not before personally increasing the Congo’s animal extinction rate.
9Supergirl Manipulates A Little Girl For Stupid Reasons
A 1950s addition to the Superman mythos, Supergirl was meant to represent the same values as her famous male cousin. Within weeks of her official debut in Action Comics #252, though, that angle had been dropped in favor of storylines that made no sense whatsoever. The entire plot of Action Comics #257 revolves around her manipulating a child to convince some orphans she’s their fairy godmother.
Part of the original Supergirl’s cover was to work in an orphanage. One day, she decides to give all the orphans a treat by dressing up and pretending to be their fairy godmother. One of the kids, Tommy, isn’t fooled and decides to blow her cover by deliberately making ridiculous wishes. Rather than simply tell Tommy to stop being a jerk and play along, Supergirl uses her powers to prove she’s a real fairy. Chaos ensues.
Tommy’s asks Supergirl to make the “plainest girl” Peggy look beautiful in the mirror, snickering because he considers this impossible. Instead of boosting Peggy’s self-esteem by telling her she’s fine as she is, Supergirl instead blinds everyone in the room and rushes upstairs to get a photo of Peggy’s pretty mother. She then hides the picture in her mirror and shows it to Peggy, convincing her she will one day be beautiful, somehow counting on her not recognizing the stolen photo.
Supergirl fulfills the next dumb wish by hurling an unsuspecting horse through the air.
8Mickey Mouse Beats Up A Gay Man
He’s the mascot of one of the biggest corporations on Earth, so Mickey Mouse’s writers have to be careful not to let the squeaky-voiced rodent offend anyone at all. Go back a few decades, though, and that directive meant something very different from what it does today.
In one early 1930s strip, Mickey gets word about a local tough guy known as Mr. Nipp. Curious to see what “such a tough bird looks like,” he goes to Nipp’s cottage and is confronted by a giant, brawny cat. Quaking in his boots, Mickey asks if the cat is the tough guy he’s heard so much about, to which the cat responds with a cry of “whoops, no!” and a severely camp hand gesture. Mickey then literally kicks his ass, all while calling him a “cream-puff inhaler!”
Odd as this seems to modern eyes, it was part of a nationwide trend in comics at the time. The New York Pansy Craze of the 1930s had resulted in gay men getting a lot of media exposure, most of it negative. Like nearly every other comic in America, Mickey was simply responding to the issues of the time, in this case through the medium of his fists.
7The Doctor Emotionally Abuses His Companion
Running more or less continuously since 1963, Doctor Who has seen 12 actors so far take on the role of the Doctor, a time-traveling alien who can change his appearance. While some versions of the character are more serious than others, none has been as dark as the seventh Doctor. Played by Sylvester McCoy from 1987–1996, the character once spent two whole seasons emotionally abusing his companion, Ace.
A troubled teenage punk, Ace was shown from the start to have serious phobias and issues in her past. So the Doctor spent the next two years rubbing her face in them. When he found out Ace was scared of clowns, he immediately took her to a planet full of killer ones. When he found out Ace was traumatized in an old house as a child, he took her there in the Victorian age to nearly be killed by the monster that caused her trauma. After Ace mentioned hating her mother, the Doctor contrived a way for her to meet her as a child.
This abusive tendency reached its peak in 1989 story “Curse of Fenric,” when the Doctor convinced Ace she was an emotional cripple he had been manipulating purely to further his own ends. Although it was a clever lie to defeat the villain of the week, it still caused Ace to have a complete emotional breakdown.
6Doc Brown Puts Everyone’s Lives At Risk
With his lovable shock of white hair and eccentrically named pet dog Einstein, Doc Brown from Back to the Future is the sort of character it’s impossible to hate. Yet hating him is exactly what we should be doing. For a scientist, Doc is unbelievably cavalier with the safety of others.
One of the first things he does in the original film is use his beloved Einstein in a highly dangerous experiment. After building his time-traveling Delorean, Doc uses it to send Einstein exactly a minute into the future. It’s a dramatic moment, but it ignores that this nuclear-powered machine has never been tested on anything before. It could have killed Einstein in a horrific way.
Consider also the source of the plutonium that powers this potentially dangerous machine. Doc bought it from Libyan terrorists, in exchange for building them a bomb he designed to fail. As a result, the small town of Hill Valley is invaded by heavily armed killers, who are forgotten by the movie’s end. Taken together, Doc’s actions could have potentially killed him, Einstein, Marty, and anyone walking around Hill Valley late at night while terrorists were on the rampage. No wonder some viewers consider Doc the villain of the piece.
5Swamp Thing Steals His Friend’s Body For Sexual Hijinks
Photo credit: DC Comics
A plant-human hybrid (or an elemental god, depending on what version you’re reading), Swamp Thing isn’t the best-looking superhero around. Nor is he biologically compatible with human beings. So when he and his lover Abigail Holland try for a baby, they only have a few realistic options on the table. Rather than settle for adoption, Swamp Thing kidnaps John Constantine’s body and uses it to impregnate his wife.
Constantine wakes up to find he’s been rudely shoved out of his body. When he goes to investigate, he discovers Swamp Thing brazenly using it to have sex with Abby. Although the two had previously discussed this as a means for Swamp Thing to sire an heir, the comic makes it pretty clear that the vegetable god didn’t hang around to get his friend’s consent. As an added kick in the teeth, Constantine is left at the mercy of all sorts of evil demons while Swamp Thing gets his groove on.
4The Ghostbusters Commit Genocide
Following the monster success of their film, the Ghostbusters were quickly spun off into an animated series. Although generally a watered-down take on the film’s anarchy, the series did have one area where it outdid its predecessor. The Ghostbusters were cruel to the point of mass murder.
As the name implies, the Ghostbusters universe is one where consciousness doesn’t end at death. Human souls hang around, ensuring a form of immortality. At least, they did until Mee-Krah appears in season four of the show. A ghost-eating demon, Mee-Krah murders so many of the dead that ghosts line up at Ghostbusters HQ to be captured. So what do the Ghostbusters do with these thousands of scared and helpless souls? They feed them to the soul-destroying demon.
As Mee-Krah approaches New York, the Ghostbusters protect the city by leading him out to sea. To do this, they leave a trail of ghosts for the demon to eat. They next release 1,612 ghosts into his maw simultaneously, killing him from either indigestion or inconsistent writing. New York is saved, and no one ever mentions the unbearable suffering Mee-Krah’s ghost victims endured again.
3Donald Duck Became A Nazi
By 1943, the Second World War was shifting up a gear, and everyone was getting involved. Comics were portraying Superman advocating inter-ethnic violence, and studios were cranking out propaganda pieces at high speed. Occasionally, this high-octane rate of production resulted in some unusual narrative choices. The most unusual of all was the Disney film that made Donald Duck an enthusiastic Nazi.
Known as Der Fuehrer’s Face, the Oscar-winning short takes place in a Germany overrun by an oddly diverse selection of stereotypes. Working in a factory is lowly drone Donald, who spends the movie assembling artillery shells, reading Mein Kampf, and shouting “heil Hitler!” At one point, he even transforms into a giant swastika.
The short, featuring Donald goose-stepping and saluting images of Hitler, was intended as a satire on the crumbling Nazi state. It’s not until the very end that our favorite rasping duck wakes up to discover he’s still a citizen of America—a fact he celebrates by kissing the Statue of Liberty, while wearing Stars and Stripes pajamas.
2Superman Is The Worst Boyfriend Ever
One of the Internet’s favorite pastimes is taking out-of-context pictures of Superman and using them to prove he’s a jerk. While most instances of “Superdickery” can be explained away by reading the story, some have no mitigating circumstances whatsoever. Nearly all of these latter types involve Lois Lane.
In one Silver Age story, Lois worries about getting old. When she and Superman visit a scientist who has perfected an anti-aging ray, Lois is naturally curious to try it. To teach his beloved not to be so vain, Superman programs the ray to turn Lois into a baby. He then humiliates her by bottle-feeding baby-Lois in front of her rival Lana Lang, all while chanting, “So drink up baby . . . or papa spank!”
This isn’t the only time Superman has treated their relationship like a competition in sadism. Another time, he tricked Lois into thinking she’d sold her soul to the devil in exchange for his hand in marriage. Then there was the time he secretly blasted her with a weight-gain ray to make her fat and then spent the whole issue taunting her because of her size. This mocking wasn’t even part of some grand plan. Supes just did it because he loves emotionally abusing his girlfriends.
1Everyone In Thomas The Tank Engine Is A Sociopath
Photo credit: ITV
A laid-back children’s show about talking trains, Thomas the Tank Engine is considered by many parents to be the dullest thing they’ve ever had to watch. But this boring atmosphere is merely a front. At heart, every single character in the show is a cruel sociopath who constantly mocks the misfortune of others.
In one episode of Thomas and Friends, the red train James needs a new coat of paint. After only the undercoat has been applied, he’s suddenly called away to work. As a result, he’s left bright pink instead of red. Every single other character in the show bullies him horribly for this, with the Diesel train calling him a pansy. In a different episode, the boastful train Gordon comes off the rails and falls into a muddy ditch. Rather than rescue him, all the other trains line up to laugh at him, until Gordon breaks down in tears of humiliation.
These are only the lighter episodes. In the darker ones, the characters’ behavior crosses the line from emotional cruelty to outright sadism. Like the time Henry gets walled up in a tunnel for months on end. Or when the bus with big ideas is crushed under a bridge and converted into a henhouse. Or when the Troublesome Truck is literally torn apart while struggling with a train. For a soothing kids’ show, the average Thomas episode has more violence and vicious sadism than three seasons of Game of Thrones.