In theory, superheroes should be a perfect fit for public service announcements and such, because they represent that rare combination of moral rectitude and saying things kids actually care about. The problem is that the people who write those comics aren't always the most mentally balanced individuals out there, so what should be a simple PSA about safe sex, gender equality or being kind to animals turns into utter madness.
#6. Spider-Man Stops a Diabolical Plot to Get Teens to Have Unprotected Sex
In 1976, Planned Parenthood teamed with Marvel Comics to release a special Spider-Man comic to discourage teenagers from having unprotected sex. You might expect the story to involve your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swooping in to talk to kids about their private parts (again), but the staff at Marvel decided that wouldn't be awkward enough. Instead, the comic introduced an evil alien called the Prodigy who has the power to make people believe anything he says. Naturally, he uses that power to convince teenage girls that they wouldn't get pregnant from having sex.
We literally cannot think of another use for this power.
But it gets much stupider. The reason why the Prodigy wants teenagers to get it on without protection is to create thousands of babies to take back to his home world of Intellectia for child labor, which will somehow aid them in conquering other planets.
Our puny minds can't comprehend the transcendent genius of a giant baby snatch.
So, let's get this straight -- rather than simply using his persuasive powers to convince able-bodied teenagers to return to his home planet as slaves, the Prodigy planned to wait for at least nine months until the babies were born, then abduct the infants and wait for them to develop the necessary fine motor skills to perform child labor, all the while having to deal with middle of the night feedings and diaper changes. Which, according to Spider-Man, might be the worst part.
It's not like the staffer who wrote this was bitter about where her life went or anything.
Of course, Spider-Man saves the day. The epic battle culminates with Spidey obstructing the Prodigy's vocal cords by shooting webbing fluid down his throat so he can no longer speak his persuasive lies (or, like, breathe). Our hero then stands there making a joke while the villain lies on the floor hilariously choking to death.
Seems like the perfect opportunity to teach kids about oral sex.
The comic ends with a list of tips, including "Masturbation won't make you insane" and "Being attracted to someone who's of the same sex doesn't mean you're homosexual." That's all great (and kind of a relief), but why couldn't they start there? What lesson does the actual comic teach kids beyond "Don't trust people with large foreheads"? Oh, and "Spider-Man would be a terrible father," apparently.
#5. Captain America Beats Up Asthma
As a general rule, good comics don't have the words "compliments of your physician" on the cover. In a giveaway comic to raise awareness of asthma, Captain America faces the Asthma Monster, a villain with an asthma-inducing weapon called an "Aller-Gun" (which cleverly sounds like "allergen," as the comic itself points out).
Captain America also tangled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome Monster and the Late-Stage Syphilis Beast.
As it turns out, the Asthma Monster is just a bitter guy with asthma who, instead of simply getting an inhaler, decided to build a protective suit, invent an asthma gun and "fix it so nobody in the world could breathe." While Captain America foils the villain's plan with the aid of two asthmatic children, the comic sends a pretty crappy message that all it took to become a supervillain was having asthma.
"... you could have just grabbed him, but, you know, that's good, too."
To defeat this foe, Captain America has no problem with endangering the lives of the two asthmatic children. Unsurprisingly, the kids suffer an asthma attack while riding on Captain America's motorcycle, but we learn that they can get through it without the aid of inhalers just by relaxing, as Cap instructs them to do.
"My technique is called 'Not stopping the bike while two children choke to death'."
It turns out that Captain America had asthma as a kid, too, but he beat it by learning to calm himself in times of stress. Yeah, we're sure it had nothing to do with those magical steroids that turned him into an Aryan superman.
The Asthma Monster was so awesome that a few years later, a follow-up comic was released in which he returned with a whole gang of allergy-themed villains, including Furball, a monster made out of your pet's fur:
And probably a whole lot of shed pubic hair.
Rugburn, the cigar-smoking, rollerskating representation of dirty carpets:
This is what you get for putting out blunts on the rug.
And Dust Dragon, a creature that hides in dirty ventilation systems:
Geez, Cap. Kind of a step down from punching Nazis, isn't it?
... none of whom ever appeared in a comic again, sadly. Here's hoping for an appearance in the Avengers sequel.
Ultimately, the Asthma Monster reforms, and despite having literally tried to smother everyone on the planet, he's allowed to serve time for his crimes by performing community service, including coaching a children's swim team (seriously).
"Wait, he doesn't have asthma anymore? Get this man out of jail!"
#4. Batgirl Is Willing to Let Batman Die for Pay Equality
No matter how dark and brooding Christopher Nolan tries to make him, it's always going to be a little hard to take Batman seriously as long as evidence still exists that the campy Adam West TV show happened. Batman's comical adventures were so popular back in the day that in 1973, five years after the show ended, the U.S. Department of Labor decided to recreate it for a tongue-in-cheek public service announcement.
The U.S. Department of Labor, a name that is synonymous with humor and adventure.
The commercial, intended to promote equal pay for women, reunited Burt Ward as Robin and Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, albeit with a stand-in for Adam West as Batman (because of course Adam West had gone on to an award-winning film career in many other timeless roles). How exactly does a Batman ad promote equality, you ask? By having Batgirl refuse to rescue him and Robin from a ticking time bomb unless Batman agrees to give her a raise, of course, thus single-handedly setting back the feminist movement 40 years:
With the Dynamic Duo about to be blown up by the bomb, Batgirl decides that this is as good a time as any to complain that she's "paid less than Robin." Isn't Robin supposed to be a minor, though? Aren't there slightly more urgent laws that Batman is breaking by having him risk his life for a paycheck? So, we guess the Department of Labor's message here is "Gender discrimination sucks, but reckless child labor is groovy."
"He pays me mostly in smooching, though."
Eventually the timer on the bomb starts to ring, and Batgirl pauses before deciding whether to disarm it, with a cliffhanger ending that leaves us unsure if they all died or not. While the ad was meant to give a voice to women's rights, Batgirl comes across as a sociopath who's willing to commit murder (and suicide) for money. On top of that, Batman, despite being a multimillionaire, would sooner go to his grave than just throw Batgirl a few extra vacation days or stock benefits.
Then again, if he does give in to Batgirl, next thing you know he'll have Alfred refusing to clean all the bat guano in the Batcave unless he gets a raise, too, so we sort of see where he's coming from here.
"Do you have any idea how expensive fake rocks and Bat-Shark-Repellent are?"