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We live in the age of gritty comic book movies and adult graphic novels, where you expect a little torture and/or horrific monsters to show up. You'd like to think the writers of, say, Little Orphan Annie would keep things more lighthearted.

Yet a quick perusal of kids' comic book covers tells you that the shit upon these pages can be the stuff of freaking nightmares ...

5
The United States Government Tortures a Blind Ninja Turtle

Archie Comics
"Waterboarding isn't torture! He's a reptile!"

Oh, shit. Did the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles seriously tread into some kind of political anti-torture message by having Michelangelo get his fucking eyes gouged out by the government? This is a franchise about sentient turtles learning martial arts from a giant rat that tried to get a whole generation of children to start using the word "cowabunga." What it's not known for is presenting an unflinching look at the horrors of the modern world.

NMR
In their world, pizza saves kids instead of killing them slowly.

And yet inside that very comic we get a horrifying torture scene involving a pair of pliers:

Archie Comics
Turtles don't actually have balls. This is why.

In the story, a government official is convinced Michelangelo is actually an alien (because that is clearly more plausible than being a Ninja Turtle) and injects him with truth serum. When the serum fails to get results, he decides to go the pliers route instead while video recording it like some kind of snuff film. After all, who wouldn't want to be remembered as the guy who made contact with alien life and then strapped it to a table to yank its teeth out?

We do have good news, though -- the interrogator didn't gouge out Michelangelo's eyeballs, as the cover implies. No, he's blind because a Molotov cocktail blew up in his face during a prior battle in Jerusalem (we're starting to think that all comic book plots sound like utter madness when presented out of context). Still, when Michelangelo continues to insist he is in fact a mutant turtle even in the face of grueling torture, you might think the worst is over. But that's when the official breaks out the electric cattle prod:

Archie Comics
Mikey = Marsellus Wallace, Leo = Butch.

He is rescued by the rest of the gang before that can happen, and the young readers of the comic are left with the lesson that the United States government is far more evil than even the Ninja Turtles' nemesis, Shredder, who looks merciful by comparison.

Nickelodeon
"Shredder 2016: Relatively Quick and Painless."

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4
Hot Wheels Comic Teaches Children Santa Claus Is a Psychopath

DC Comics
Or just a really reckless ambulance driver.

The good boys and girls get presents, the bad kids get run down by Santa's hot rod. Look at his face! Saint Nick is freaking pissed. To top it off, Santa's soon-to-be-victims are a girl whose leg is too injured for her to run away and the good Samaritan trying to administer first aid.

And while you could argue that there are some older teens in the Ninja Turtles audience, this is freaking Hot Wheels here -- tiny miniature racing cars intended for 9-year-olds to build make-believe stunts and races in their bedrooms:

Mattel
Miniature Jaws of Life sold separately.

This was a short-lived comic book series created in an effort to take advantage of every possible marketing tie-in for the toys. Where most covers show cars racing and doing other car shit, some scenarios appear purely Quentin Tarantino-inspired. Here's a couple of gangsters actively trying to murder a pair of cops:

DC Comics
Plus, we're pretty sure no one is wearing their seat belt.

But then, with this final issue, things got dark.

In the story, it turns out the deranged driver is not actually Santa. It's some guy named Ebenezer from the fictional European country of Kalvania, who is trying to assassinate the royal prince of Kalvania in order to claim the throne. ("And remember to buy Hot Wheels, kids!") Like some gimmicky Batman villain, the gun-toting Ebenezer even has his own henchmen dressed as elves.

DC Comics
Sexy elves.

While it's nice to know that Santa Claus is not actually a bloodthirsty killer in that universe, it's hard to imagine that kids who were age-appropriate for Hot Wheels toys weren't left with nightmares of a psychopathic Santa coming after them in a murderous rage. After all, when you hear those sounds coming from downstairs on Christmas Eve, who knows if you're getting Santa or Ebenezer?

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3
The Scalping of Tintin

Casterman
"With your hair, this is a mercy."

Like many old-timey comic book characters, Tintin's primary threat was crude racial stereotypes. So when Tintin visited America in this 1932 comic, it was just a matter of time until he fell into the hands of a crazed, child-murdering Indian chief.

Look closer and you'll find that the cover is even more horrifying than it appears. First, you have the two members of the tribe casually sitting on the ground and watching without any emotional reaction whatsoever. Even better, you can see an empty gun belt around Tintin's waist:

Casterman
"What kind of asshole brings a nothing to a something fight?"

This raises two possibilities: Either young Tintin had a toy gun that the Native Americans viewed as a threat and it was all a wacky misunderstanding, or Tintin was carrying a real loaded firearm for some reason. Want to guess which one it was?

Casterman
Of course, Tintin is from Belgium, and we know what gun nuts the Belgians are.

Yeah, the plot of the comic is that Tintin goes to Chicago to clean up Al Capone's crime syndicate and pursues a gangster to "Redskin City," where he buys a gun. The hero is then captured by the Blackfoot tribe, tied to a post, and told that the entire tribe will torture him. Slowly.

Casterman
After which they'd send him to Brussels? Ouch.

Fortunately, Tintin is able to work free from his ropes and escape. Then he's captured by cowboys, and this happens.

Casterman
"We don't take kindly to Half-Macklemore/Half-Opies 'round these parts."

That is not Photoshopped. They hang both him and his freaking dog.

(Note: The rope breaks.)

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2
ALF Sexually Assaults a Seal

Marvel Comics
You can't spell "seal fucker" without "ALF"!

Let's all just stop for a moment and drink in that image. Note the expression on the seal's face. Note the sweat flying off of ALF's face. Note his inexplicable command of "So hurry up already!"

While many people remember ALF as the star of the '80s sitcom about an alien from the planet Melmac who secretly lives with a human family, ALF also got a child-friendly comic book, which lasted for several years. Judging by the covers, things got, well, a bit weird:

Marvel Comics
Thank you, artist, for drawing ALF's crotch bulge.

Readers who bought the seal issue in anticipation of seeing 20 pages of ALF sticking his furry dick into a number of screeching zoo animals were disappointed (and quite frankly deserved to be). The whole thing is, in reality, a long and tortured joke referencing the mock warning on the cover: "Caution: Do not buy if safety seal is missing!" In the 1950s, concern that comic books were corrupting America's youth led to the creation of a "Seal of Approval" by the Comics Code Authority. This seal was basically a stamp printed on the cover to let parents know their children will not grow up to be criminals if they read the comic.

ACMP
Only kids who skipped their comics became criminals.

The idea behind this cover was that ALF is holding a metaphorical Seal of Approval in place, while telling you, the reader, to "hurry up already" and buy the comic. But at some point the artist said, "Well, wouldn't it be even better if ALF was raping the seal?" He then realized he was talking to an empty office, because everyone else had knocked off for the day.

Of course, they clearly knew how it would look, given the inclusion of the mock disclaimer: "No animals were injured during the making of this cover." Although the seal plainly looks traumatized.

Warner Bros. Television
We're suddenly getting the true meaning about ALF's compulsion to eat pussy cats.

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1
Old-Timey Comic Children Were Constantly About to Be Murdered by Strangers

Dell
Oh no! He's about to punch pupils into her eyes!

If there's one thing old-timey comic books knew, it was that you could sell a shitload of copies with a cover promising an elementary school child was about to get stabbed to shit. This Little Orphan Annie cover, featuring both Annie and her dog about to get ventilated by a shadowy figure with a dagger, was typical of the genre.

Here's an even more horrifying take, featuring Richie Rich:

Archie Comics
Just a suggestion, try using some of that money to buy a fucking flashlight.

In a cover that's equal parts Home Alone and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Richie is completely unaware of the shadow creeping down the hallway toward him. It's tough to make out, but if you look closely, you can see that whomever (or whatever) is casting that shadow has a goddamned hook for a hand:

Archie Comics
Also shown: Richie's loyal sidekick, Giant Bag of Cash.

Probably the most alarming example of the "come see this child be the victim of a gruesome crime" genre is this edition of Little Archie, in which a home invader is about to kill little Archie in bed. If he's lucky.

Archie Comics
If he's unlucky, the masked figure might just be ALF.

If you've ever wondered what Archie Andrews, the perpetual teenager who never smokes, curses, or engages in any typical rebellious teenager behavior was like back in elementary school, then Little Archie is the comic book for you. And what you find is that beneath Archie's good-natured personality is a dark pit of childhood trauma. In the comic itself, the burglar enters through a window in a living room, which we suppose is a little less disturbing than the molestation implied by the cover. In the comic, the intruder does have a loaded gun ... and Little Archie winds up using it.

That's right. It starts when Archie's father tries to tackle the burglar, but dives into some furniture instead. At that point, Little Archie goes all Dirty Harry, and he uses a slingshot to knock the gun out of the burglar's hand.

Archie Comics
Skills that would surely prove useful later in life.

Little Archie then picks up the burglar's own gun and tries to murder his freaking ass. He misses, but nearly kills his own father in the process. Holy shit!

Archie Comics
"Whatever, I'm still ahead of those Wayne and Parker boys."

If you can't read that last panel there, little toddler Archie's reaction to nearly being killed, attempting murder, and nearly blowing out his own father's brains is to blithely comment on one of his missing roller skates in the yard. Call us crazy, but we're thinking this would not have been the first life ended at the hands of Little Archie.


Follow Adam Hirschfeld at Cracked here.

Related Reading: Ready for some more insane comics? We've got Robin with a machine-gun right here. If you'd prefer your children's comics with a dash of old-timey homophobia, well...you're messed up. But we can help. And we've got all these hilariously awful examples of product placement to boot.

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