6 Psychotic Punishments Doled Out by Famous Superheroes
Comic book editors realized pretty early on that magazines aimed at kids shouldn't endorse things like, say, murder, so after a brief and misguided period of murderous heroes, all of our superheroes became strictly nonlethal. That remains largely true even today, but ironically, sometimes that unwavering moral code results in so-called heroes meting out far more cruel and unusual punishments than a quick, clean death. For instance ...
Batman Captures an Immortal Villain, Blasts Him into Space
There's something about unkillable foes that gives superheroes license to be dicks. Green Lantern used to alternate between dumping Solomon Grundy on the moon and burying him miles underground. Maybe adhering to such rigid moral standards makes it really tempting to unload on people who can't die. That would explain why Batman has so much pent-up rage to unleash on Lord Death Man, a murderer who keeps resurrecting from fatal injuries like a Japanese Jason Voorhees.
"I know you can't tell from my facial expression, but just assume that I'm pissed off."
This is where we see Batman's true colors. Clearly making up for every time the Joker escaped from Arkham five minutes after being incarcerated, Batman takes advantage of his foe's immortality by dropping him off a building (please note: In the frame preceding the building-toss, it's clear that Batman has already thrown darts into both of Lord Death Man's eyes) ...
"Wait, I'm calling 'eternal life' a fate worse than death? That doesn't sound right. Anyway, I'm throwing you off a building."
... then letting Catwoman run him over with a truck, fold him up like a used napkin and lock him in a safe. Wile E. Coyote doesn't take that much abuse in your average Looney Toons short.
"I'm definitely wishing you guys had some sense of proportion."
To top it off, Batman arranges for Lord Death Man to be placed on a rocket and launched into space.
Why's That So Bad?
This guy is immortal, but has no other powers; there is no reason he can't be put in a regular jail. Also, it's not as if he can't feel pain and can't die; he can, he just resurrects after a little while, which means that he'll keep dying and resurrecting in an environment with no food, water or air. Forever. (Take that, due process of the law!) If you fancy the idea of returning to life every few minutes to find yourself instantly suffocating and freezing, with starvation pangs and a burning throat to boot, get on Batman's bad side.
"Oh hey, before you seal that thing, let's dump some cayenne pepper in his jock strap."
Spider-Man Protests Euthanasia
One of Spidey's lamer villains, robotics expert Mendel Stromm, found himself being assimilated by an artificial intelligence he'd created. Now existing only as a disembodied head suspended in machinery, Stromm managed to summon Spider-Man and let him know that he was just barely able to exert some influence over the AI, keeping it from overrunning every network on Earth and crashing things like hospital equipment and air traffic computers. In doing so, he was in constant agony and knew the AI would soon overwhelm him. So he asked one final mercy of his old foe: to please kill him, ending both his suffering and the threat.
"But before you do, could you scratch right above my left eye? I can't take it anymore."
Unfortunately for Stromm, his archenemy was Spider-Man, rather than, say, Iron Man, who'd have yanked that plug faster than the cork on a bottle of 1975 Chateau Lafite. But Peter Parker wasn't bitten by a radioactive pair of testicles, so he first refused and then just promised to consider it. Later he posed it as a hypothetical question to his Aunt May ... who basically told him to sack up and do the deed. Rather than listening to the sweet, kindly old lady advocating euthanasia, Peter instead uploaded a computer program that would put Stromm and the AI to sleep until he could figure out a way to save one while shutting down the other.
"Hey, buddy, can you make me some sort of prank loop program?" "Sure, here you go!"
Why's That So Bad?
Isn't that just the equivalent of a medically induced coma? Not quite, since the last page illustrates why you don't outsource saving the world: Spider-Man's friend fucked up the program. Stromm's mind is still conscious in some kind of desolate cyberworld, like being in the Matrix if you were literally the only person in it. Worse, though, is Spider-Man vowing he'll work nonstop to free this poor bastard. His exact words are "I won't rest until that happens. I'll come back for you, Stromm ... I promise." That's in 2001. The next time Stromm is mentioned? 2007, when he's rescued by the FBI. Meanwhile, Spider-Man handles such pressing matters as playing Trivial Pursuit ...
"OK, the question is 'Who did you forget about leaving in a hellish limbo while you fucked off with your friends?'"
... going to baseball games ...
"And batting third is most definitely not the guy you left in complete mental torture several months ago."
... and getting his mosh on at spring break.
"Please welcome to the stage Stromm Headguy and the Not Suffering Robot Bodies!"
We're just saying, Iron Man would've killed him 20 times by now, or at the very least not left him in the waking nightmare that is a conscious semi-coma of paralysis.
The Justice League Banishes the Crime Syndicate to Limbo Forever
The Crime Syndicate of America is basically the evil-twin version of every good superhero in the Justice League.
It was the closest we'd ever get to seeing Wonder Woman make out with herself.
These jerks came from a universe where evil was good, American Christopher Columbus discovered Europe and Superman ate kryptonite (probably). Naturally the Justice League triumphed, because it was the '60s and comics literally would not be sold on newsstands if the good guys didn't win.
After the battle, the Justice League was faced with the decision of what to do with these chumps, because alternate universes are tricky and killing them might cause you to disappear yourself or turn into a dog or something. Eventually the League settled on the most humane solution, which was to encase them in a 15-inch-diameter bubble and chuck it into a limbo dimension between worlds. And put up a bunch of signs in various languages warning anyone who came near not to set them free.
"Sir, our illustrators don't know any other languages."
"Just scribble. That'll look foreign enough for our readers."
Why's That So Bad?
It starts to get dicey when you realize that this wasn't a temporary holding cell but a permanent prison -- the CSA was put in there in 1964 and not seen again until 1978, still trapped in that damn bubble. Nor was there any kind of suspended animation at play, since later stories show them talking and moving around inside. Presumably there was something about how the dimension keeps them from needing to eat or drink. Or something about how there aren't any toilets in the bubble.
"It's not a metaphor. If we don't get out soon, I'm going to literally fill this bubble with super shit."
Beyond bodily functions, however, there's the matter of mental stimulation. No books, no contact whatsoever with the outside world. There's sure as hell no room for exercise in that bubble. Think about it: Our most hardened criminals in solitary confinement, the worst degenerates society has to offer, usually get at least a little time and room to stretch their legs. Hell, even Hannibal Lecter got to walk around a gymnasium on a leash, and that dude ate fucking faces!
Of course, the CSA does have each other to talk to, so to approximate that, imagine being locked in a tiny room for years with the four biggest assholes you know. Also, you're a massive asshole, too. People have gone insane in better conditions than that.
"What? Dude, I didn't even say anything to you. You're scaring us."
They could all take turns having sex with each other, but, Christ, one of them is named "Johnny Quick" and another has an owl on his head; it'd get old, not to mention really weird, pretty fast.
Daredevil Plays Russian Roulette With a Quadriplegic Foe
The issue begins with Daredevil sneaking into the prison hospital room of his enemy Bullseye, who hasn't been seen since he gave DD's ex-lover Elektra the Raphael Special with her own sai. Naturally, Daredevil sought to avenge her death, leading to a fight that ended with Bullseye falling multiple stories to the street below. Now completely paralyzed, Bullseye can only watch in horror as Daredevil takes out a pistol ...
"To make me look super fucking cool. Blam blam, pew pew pew!"
... and begins playing a game of Russian roulette with him.
"Now I'm going to read to you a poem I wrote about my dad."
Over the course of the issue, Daredevil relates a depressing story while alternating turns between himself and Bullseye. Tension mounts as pages fly by and the chambers of the gun click empty, one by one. Finally, Daredevil concludes his tale and readies the sixth and final turn, which of course is Bullseye's to take. Carefully aiming the pistol at a face that can't even turn away, Daredevil squeezes the trigger ...
... and nothing happens, because the gun was never loaded.
At least not with the letter C.
Why's That So Bad?
Shooting someone is bad, and it sure is great that Daredevil didn't do that, but psychologically torturing someone who can't move or even speak for hours isn't exactly work fit for a superhero. Bullseye is presented with two possible outcomes, one of them welcome (watching his greatest foe splatter his own brains all over the wall). The other, death, is terrifying, yet arguably favorable as well, offering release from the prison his body has become. Instead, after listening to a long sob story that, as a sociopath, he's by definition incapable of caring about, Bullseye receives the only outcome that's truly a complete loss for him: no change, except probably the need for a new catheter. If you're still not convinced, try replacing Daredevil and Bullseye with two random guys, and see how quickly it becomes a thriller/horror story.
"Now, we're going to play the same thing, only with a knife."
The Flash Forces Zoom to Rewatch the Worst Moment of His Life Forever
Once a respected FBI profiler, Hunter Zolomon's misdiagnosis of a serial killer led to his father-in-law being killed and his wife leaving him. Then he befriended the Flash, only to be crippled by one of Flash's enemies. Rather than accepting the shit sandwich life dealt him, Hunter asked Flash to go back in time using his cosmic treadmill -- an actual treadmill that Flash built that helps him go back in time (comics are stupid) -- and prevent his crippling. Flash refused, so Hunter tried using the stupid freaking treadmill to do it himself. This led to an explosion (sure), which led to Hunter gaining chronal powers that made him even faster than the Flash (fine) at the cost of creating little rips in time and windows to the past (comics are stupid).
Wait, is that Stallone in the third panel?
Deciding that Flash's refusal to help was due to him not having experienced true loss, Hunter renamed himself Zoom and set about tormenting Flash's friends and family, ostensibly to make him a better hero. Unable to defeat his former friend in a fight, the Flash finally resorted to shoving Zoom headfirst into one of the time windows, effectively putting him into suspended animation.
It's like a swirlie, only with time.
Why's That So Bad?
A permanent coma from which the victim can't be awakened isn't so terrible; it's that he's stuck watching, on constant loop, whatever was going on in that particular window. And this one just happened to be showing the moment Hunter assured his wife that their perp would not be armed, only to watch his father-in-law/mentor be shot in the head right in front of him, followed by being shot in the knee himself.
Nothing like a perpetual "I told you so" from the universe to really humble a man.
Imagine the absolute worst moment of your life -- when you were in that terrible car accident, the day your fiance dumped you, that time you saw your parents having sex -- then magnify it by 10. Then imagine your eyes are being held open, a la A Clockwork Orange, while that moment is replayed in front of you over and over, forever. Also, it was your former best friend who did it to you. Hard to believe the entire thing could've been avoided by a careful viewing of Back to the Future II.
Mister Fantastic Turns POWs into COWs
If hopelessly fucking up a space mission and walking away with superpowers and being adored by millions will foster a healthy ego, Reed Richards is the kind of rich genius who looked at that ego and said, "Yes, I'll have some of that, please. A little more. You know what, just leave the bottle." When the high that comes from having people call you "Mister Fantastic" with a straight face wears off, you've got to do something to replace it, and alien invasion + bored genius = opportunity! That was the case early in the Fantastic Four's career, when they successfully repelled a race of alien shape-changers called the Skrulls but were left with three captives. Noting that "no jail could hold them," Reed's solution was to force his prisoners to take the form of cows, then hypnotize them and ship them off to a random farm in upstate New York.
Where they excelled at shitting and blank stares.
Why's That So Bad?
On the surface, that just sounds like typical Silver Age goofiness. Where it gets disturbing is when you realize Richards didn't command the Skrulls to look and act like cows; he hypnotized them into thinking they were cows. Taking a group of beings with human intelligence or greater and knocking their IQ down to that of nature's most grillable animal is the equivalent of psychic lobotomy, since Richards had no intention of ever reversing it. Considering that's basically how One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ended, someone should've been out there with a few pillows sending those once-mighty conquerors to Skrull Valhalla. (Skrulhalla?)
"But first, pull my finger!"
Still, being a cow isn't so bad. After all, what do we tend to do to cattle? If you said "Milk them," you're right. If you said "Kill them, slice them into cuts of meat and eat them," you are also correct! And you're not even a supergenius. Which is why it's so odd that Richards wasn't keeping tabs on these alien cows he created, allowing them to be mixed in with regular cattle and sent to a slaughterhouse.
"I don't have a thesaurus. Is 'justice' a synonym for 'cruel and unusual punishment'?"
The meat would be consumed by many people, some of whom died. Others developed superpowers and a fatal neurological disorder and decided to seek revenge by exterminating all Skrulls. But really -- when you eat tainted pork, do you declare jihad on pigs, or blame the farmer who allowed his diseased swine to be butchered? Richards may not have killed the Skrulls, but he made them stupid, left them in a prime position to be killed and decided it wasn't worth his time to keep an eye on them. The only question is who had it worse: the Skrulls, or the people who unknowingly ate alien flesh?
Yeah, we're gonna go with the flesh one.
Until remembering Simpsons quotes is a paid position (with benefits), Drew Anderson writes things on the Internet. You can read his food reviews here and his movie reviews here.
For more superhero actions that left us speechless, check out The 5 Creepiest Sex Scenes in Comics and The 6 Most Ridiculous Superhero Weaknesses.
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