About half the people reading this were first exposed to superhero comics via out-of-context panels used as internet memes, and the other half feels incredibly old right now. But if you look up the original issues, you'll often find that the memes were actually underselling the glorious stupidity and insanity of these comics, like the one where ...

There's A Comic Full Of The Joker's "Boners"

The Famous Meme:

The fact that the word boner used to mean "stupid mistake" and now means "erection" turns the Joker into an exhibitionist.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Joker complaining about Batman making him pull a boner
DC Comics
"In fact, stop calling me 'Joker.' I'm going to become the Boner."

The Not-So-Famous Context:

Sooner or later, everyone with an internet connection is exposed to the "I'll show them how many boners the Joker can make" panel. What you might not know is that the Joker actually made good on his promise, because this issue is packed with more confusing boners than a bumpy bus ride:

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Joker complaining about Batman making him pull a boner
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Joker plotting boner crimes
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context a newspaper announcing Joker's boner
DC Comics

In the story, the Joker not only pulls off a series of crimes based on famous boners (as in, blunders) from history, but he also tries to "force" Batman into a boner of his own. Robin and Commissioner Gordon are quite worried about the boner the Joker has in store for Batman, but Batman doesn't seem terribly concerned about the veritable bonerstorm coming his way.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Batman and Robin discussing Joker's boner
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Batman Commissioner Gordon and Robin discussing the Joker boner
DC Comics
"This can't go on. I am ordering you to take this gun and shoot him in the boner."

In order to stop the Joker, Batman and Robin decide to "study the great boners of all time." It's hard work, but it eventually pays off.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Batman and Robin reading library books on famous boners to stop Joker
DC Comics
"You take the Kamasutra, I'll look at the collected works of Ron Jeremy."

The story ends when the Joker gets so distracted thinking about Batman's boner that he fails to notice his own, which is also the exact plot of 80% of Greek tragedies.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Joker being arrested by Batman and Robin for boner crimes
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Joker being arrested by Batman and Robin for boner crimes
DC Comics
You know you've gone too far with the boners when even a teenager is fed up with them.

Captain America's "WANK" Sound Effect Happened Twice In One Issue

The Famous Meme:

An unfortunate sound effect makes it look like Captain America is getting requests from his OnlyFans followers.

Marvel Comics
This is also the plot of at least 850 dreams starring Chris Evans every night.

The Not-So-Famous Context:

First of all, the dude getting bossy with Captain America there is called the Voice, and his buddy who's gonna need dental surgery is the Controller. The latter sounds like a villain who can make superheroes spontaneously develop carpal tunnel syndrome, but no -- both characters have the power to control minds. Meaning that they do have the ability to make other people jerk it on demand, so we're lucky that Cap didn't drop his pants right then. Or earlier, during the other, lesser known "WANK" instance in the same issue:

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context the panel of Captain America defending himself with his shield and it going WANK
Marvel Comics
Uh, you're moving your hand in the wrong direction.

The Voice and the Controller typically pester Ant-Man and Iron Man, respectively, but this issue is part of the "Acts of Vengeance" storyline, in which various Marvel villains decide to trade enemies so they can find out what it feels like to lose to a completely different superhero this month. This master plan falls apart when the villains start bickering among themselves ... especially the one who's a Holocaust survivor and the one who's a literal 1940s Nazi. In fact, the issue right after the famous "WANK" moment ends with Magneto turning on the Red Skull and trapping him in a dark underground bunker with nothing but some jugs of water (but, sadly, no Walther PPKs).

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Magneto burying Red Skull underground in revenge
Marvel Comics
"Can I at least get some hand lotion? I ... have dry hands."

Doctor Doom's "Toot" Comic Is Even Dumber Than You Think

The Famous Meme:

Doctor Doom cements his status as the most evil being in the Marvel Universe by tooting a horn DESPITE BEING TOLD NOT TO.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Dr Doom blowing his horn and it going toot
Marvel Comics
Thanos just started screaming in fear.

The Not-So-Famous Context:

If you're thinking this was a part of some sinister plan that was taken out of context to make Doom look ridiculous: nope! This entire comic is ridiculous, because it was part of Spidey Super Stories, a series designed to hook up 6-year-olds into Marvel comics so that they'll spend $40 on lenticular cover variants every month when they grow up. In order to make the comic more relatable, the characters themselves act like they're little kids in adult bodies. That, or everyone's suffering from devastating brain damage. 

The comic starts with Doom running into Namor, Prince of Atlantis, and immediately proposing that they conquer the world together. Namor doesn't feel like it (he probably had other stuff to do that day), so Doom slaps a mind-control collar on him and forces him to fight Spider-Man. Or "Spidey," as the comic calls him the entire time, because Marvel thought the word "Spider-Man" was too highbrow for their target audience.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Dr Doom mind controlling Namor to make his horn go toot
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Namor fighting Dr Doom so he can toot the horn
Marvel Comics
"You shall do as Doomy commands, Nam-Nam!"

Later, as Doom makes Namor give him a tour of his underwater kingdom, he's captivated by the horn hanging in the throne room and rudely blows on it against Namor's wishes. This causes a large underwater creature to show up, possibly because its mating call happens to sound like "TOOT." Doom looks at the monster, which is barely bigger than a truck, and announces that he will use it to conquer the entire world. Somehow.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Dr Doom and Namor talking about the horn that goes toot
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Dr Doom has the tooting horn that makes him Master of the World
Marvel Comics
Plot twist: the horn is actually a massive spliff and Doom is tripping balls.

Luckily for mankind, Namor breaks free of the mind-control collar and breaks the horn with Spidey's help, causing the monster to drag a helpless Doom to his underwater lair. At this point, the "heroes" just sorta assume that Doom must have enough air in his armor for whatever the monster is planning to do to him down there, so they don't even try to help him. That's what you get when you toot Namor's horn without permission.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Dr Doom captured by the monster who was commanded by the tooting horn
Marvel Comics
Children's comic book writers are legally obligated to end all stories on the absolute dumbest pun they can think of. 

Captain America's Manboobs Kicked Off An Entire New Universe

The Famous Meme:

This one's part meme, part optical illusion. It is said that if you successfully manage to imagine Captain Boobmerica's body from another angle without your brain exploding, you unlock access to a higher dimension.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context Captain American as drawn by Rob Liefeld with giant pecs
Marvel Comics
"Hey, my eyes are up here. Probably. Not sure the artist didn't forget to draw them."

The Not-So-Famous Context:

Of course, that image was never in a real Marvel comic. No, it was in a Marvel magazine proudly promoting a 12-issue series drawn by the superstar artist behind this non-Euclidean masterpiece, Rob Liefeld (the M.C. Escher of the '90s). This was part of the "Heroes Reborn" stunt, when Marvel farmed out some of their top characters to the same guys who'd quit the company to form Image Comics a few years earlier. That's a little like if Coca-Cola gave up one day and said, "Screw it, we're just gonna start selling you Pepsi."

In order to justify the relaunch, Marvel actually killed off characters like Cap, Iron Man, Thor, and the Fantastic Four in the main Marvel Universe and revived them in another reality. In this new universe, Cap has lost his memory, but at least he gained a new power: the ability to drastically change his body mass between panels with no explanation.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Captain America as drawn by Rob Liefleld
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Captain America as drawn by Rob Liefleld
Marvel Comics
Doing twelve issues of Cap's corpse rotting in the old universe would have been more aesthetically pleasing.

Liefeld also got to co-write and draw The Avengers, which established that, if Cap is twice as tall as a regular person, then Thor is like the size of a skyscraper. Sometimes, anyway.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Captain America and Thor as drawn by Rob Liefleld
Marvel Comics
His fist is bigger than his head, and more expressive.

If you can't believe that Marvel would let this guy draw Cap for twelve issues, well, neither could Marvel, because they fired him after six. That might explain why "Heroes Reborn" is the one part of the '90s that Marvel hasn't completely strip-mined for nostalgia purposes ye--

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Marvel Comics announcing their Heroes Reborn series
Marvel.com
Oh, never mind.

Batman Dooms Robin By "Touching" Him

The Famous Panel:

Ah, yes: the panel that convinced us Batman writers had to be doing this crap on purpose.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Batman, Flash, Atom, and Green Lantern realized they have doomed those who they have touched including Robin
DC Comics
Hopefully that will be determined by a court of law, Batman.

The Not-So-Famous Context:

Although this comic came out in 1966, the subject matter feels pretty topical today: it's about Batman and other members of the Justice League catching a virus and dooming their loved ones due to lack of social distancing. To be fair, it makes sense that Batman would think of Robin while the other heroes thought of their girlfriends, because he had no girlfriend at the time -- it was him or Alfred. There are no good options here.

What doesn't make sense is ... everything else in this weird-ass issue. One thing the famous panel doesn't mention is that the virus turned Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern into giants, making the regular-sized heroes look hilarious when standing next to them:

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Green Lantern and Batman as giants towering over a tiny Superman
DC Comics
"Never talk to us or our super son ever again."

Also, in a rare commitment to realism, Batman spends most of the issue looking stupid since he's too big for his costume (GL can just will himself a bigger one, and Flash's is super-flexible). Batman is stuck like that until Wonder Woman knits him a double-sized one, which is her most significant contribution to this adventure because, again, 1966.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Wonder Woman making a costume for a giant Batman
DC Comics
"I'll take double mayo on that sandwich, too."

The whole virus thing turns out to be a plan by some alien to trick the Justice League into letting him join the team. Here's hoping our virus storyline also ends with Superman punching the secret culprit and everything going back to normal within one page.

Superman's "Punish Me, Daddy" Is, Shockingly, Not Photoshopped

The Famous Meme:

If you hadn't seen this one before, well, good luck forgetting it now.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Superman being spanked by his giant father
DC Comics
Russell Crowe only signed up to play Super-Dad because he thought this would be in Man of Steel.

The Not-So-Famous Context:

This issue came out in 1971, when DC really should have realized how it'd end up looking, and was written by Denny O'Neil, a writer acclaimed for bringing socially relevant topics to superhero comics. In this case, the social issue O'Neil wanted to raise awareness of was "What if Superman and Green Lantern were complete dumbasses?" 

The story starts with Supes and GL getting into an argument when they both try to stop a meteor shower at the same time, so they decide to hold a contest to determine who gets to be Earth's protector. Part of the contest involves facing a vision of their biggest fears: GL sees a big yellow spider, and Superman sees ... his dad, who's now a giant and wants to spank him. Why? Because he's disappointed in Superman for becoming a superhero instead of a scientist.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Superman being yelled at by his giant father
DC Comics
"You bring shame to our family by, uh, saving countless lives every day."

Superman agrees that he screwed up there and lets himself be spanked for a while ...

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Superman being spanked by his giant father
DC Comics
This was some kid's first Superman comic, and they're definitely a serial killer by now.

... before slowly realizing that his giant undead dad is probably an illusion and moving on with the contest. Of course, the whole competition turns out to be an elaborate ruse by a villain, so in the end, no one's the winner. Well, except comic book readers with a very specific, very gross fetish.

Mr. Fantastic Only Hit His Wife To Save The City, You See

The Famous Panel:

A classic Fantastic Four moment seemingly created to be used as a reaction image during internet arguments.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Reed Richard Mr Fantastic slapping Sue Storm The Invisible Woman
Marvel Comics
The argument being made is usually "I am terrible."

The Not-So-Famous Context:

This is from the story by Cracked's old buddy John Byrne in which the Invisible Girl is brainwashed and turns into an S&M-loving villain called Malice. In fact, all of New York City is being mind-controlled into becoming uncharacteristically violent and rude (though she's the only one who gets to wear a sexy outfit, for some reason).

Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards comes up with a convenient device that can stop the collective violence before all of New York punches itself to death, but Malice shows up to stop him. And so, reasoning that her feelings are "inverted," Reed has no choice but to go all MRA and spout some misogynistic bullshit to make her hate him for real.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Reed Richards arguing with Sue Storm
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Reed Richard arguing with Sue Storm
Marvel Comics
"Quick, Johnny! We must record a two-hour YouTube rant about feminism and become the most unsexable men on the planet!"

Words alone don't seem to be working, so our hero decides to slap his wife -- you know, for the good of mankind. This sets her right, and she's back in his arms in no time.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Reed Richards arguing with Sue Storm
Marvel Comics
Daredevil's like "By the way, I know a pretty good lawyer. Just saying."

A perfectly sensible storyline, and definitely not something Byrne wrote backwards after drawing that slapping panel for his personal amusement one night. And speaking of famous slaps ...

Batman Slapping Robin Is The Least Insane Part Of That Comic

The Famous Meme:

This is one of those memes that has transcended into meta-memedom and inspired hundreds of spin-offs and variants. Long after all other Batman media is forgotten, the image of a guy in a pointy-eared cowl slapping a child while yelling "MY PARENTS ARE DEEAAAAAAAD!!!" will continue spreading throughout the cosmos.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Batman slapping Robin yelling My Parents Are Dead
DC Comics
Our ancestors will assume this was a common Christmas tradition, down to the costumes.

The Not-So-Famous Context:

Batman doesn't actually say those words in the original comic, but he might as well, because the whole thing is bonkers. This is from an "imaginary story" which shows us what would happen if Batman had grown up thinking his dad was murdered by Superboy, a question no comic book reader had ever wondered about.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Thomas Wayne being killed by a Superboy robot accidentally by Lex Luthor
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Batman realizing Superboy killed his father
DC Comics
"NO! We were gonna see the new Zorro movie tonight!"

In this reality, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman for the specific purpose of screwing with Superman. When Robin tells him that's the stupidest thing he's ever heard, Batman not only slaps the little "brat" ...

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Batman slapping Robin
DC Comics
The meme inverted this to make Batman look like even more of a deviant by suggesting he's left-handed.

... but also wipes his memory and sends him back to the orphanage with all the emotionality of someone returning a defective Furby.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Batman hypnotizing Robin
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Batman giving Robin back to the orphanage
DC Comics
He also left the orphanage a negative Yelp review.

Shockingly, it turns out that Superboy didn't murder a rich Gotham City doctor for some reason -- a young Lex Luthor accidentally did it while clumsily piloting a remote-controlled Superboy robot. Unfortunately, Batman only deduces this seconds after helping Luthor trap Superman in a kryptonite case to kill him.

8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Lex Luthor and Batman captured Superman
8 Famous Superhero Memes That Are Even Dumber In Context  Batman strangling Lex Luthor
DC Comics
Truly, a Sherlock Holmes for our age.

Upon realizing that he's been living a lie, Batman goes "haha, whoops" and breaks Superman out of the kryptonite case, getting shot by Luthor in the process. Batman dies moments later, at peace with the fact that Superman was innocent, and also that he's a massive moron who wasted his entire life. As for Robin, presumably he was haunted by inexplicable nightmares about a giant man-baby slapping him for the rest of his miserable existence. The end! Buy comics, kids!

Follow Maxwell Yezpitelok's heroic effort to read and comment every '90s Superman comic at Superman86to99.tumblr.com.

Top Image: DC Comics

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