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
"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.
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:
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:
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.
"Shredder 2016: Relatively Quick and Painless."
#4. Hot Wheels Comic Teaches Children Santa Claus Is a Psychopath
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:
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:
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.
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?
#3. The Scalping of Tintin
"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:
"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?
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.
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.
"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.)