The 10 Spookiest Cartoon Bad Guys is a guest post written by Brian Cave. If you like this (and you probably will), go check out his book, Old School Evil, for a whole lot more on cartoon bad guys.
It’s October and you know what that means – the month we celebrate cartoon bad guys that scared the crap out of us. Well, that’s how I celebrate it at least. Villains across the animated spectrum were made to be as scary as possible to the kids that watched them, with varying degrees of success. While some of them failed miserably, there are some bad guys that have engrained themselves in our nightmares.
10. Skeletor from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
For anyone not in the know, Skeletor was the main villain from He-Man’s original cartoon, constantly plotting to steal the secrets of Castle Grayskull. It’s odd that both the castle and the villain share the same facial (or lack thereof). It confused me as a kid who thought they two were linked somehow. He was portrayed by Alan Oppenheimer who gave him a perfect high-pitched nasally voice, even if he didn’t have a nasal passage.
When it comes to cartoon bad guys, we’re starting off pretty light here, but there’s no denying that a bad guy with just a skull for his face is the low-grade nightmare fuel. While Skeletor’s faceless condition isn’t explained in the cartoon (which I think makes it even better), related media says he burnt his face off with acid. Incidentally, my favorite insult Skeletor uses, in a long list of great lines, is calling He-Man “flesh-face.” You gotta give it to him for making fun of someone for not having a completely bare skull as his head.
9. Mumm-Ra from Thundercats
Mumm-Ra plagued the Thundercats from the moment they landed on Third Earth. Powered by the Spirits of Evil, he turned his decrepit mummy form into a massive hulk. While mummies are far from scarce in cartoons, Mumm-Ra skirts the simplistic design seen in later cartoons like Mummies Alive and Tales from the Crypt-Keeper where they have smooth skin under bandages. Instead, he does look kind of rotted with a drooling, toothy maw. I would definitely believe this guy was a real mummy and not some dope in a Halloween costume.
I was tempted to put Mon*Star in this spot, not because either of his forms is particularly scary, the change between them is pretty horrifying with his flesh ripping off to reveal his metal frame underneath. In comparison, all you see is Mumm-Ra’s bandages flying around. Luckily, Mumm-Ra’s bigger form keeps the weird, slobbery mouth his other form has, which has always just creeped me out.
8. Nightmare King from Little Nemo
When I started building this list, I knew nothing about this cartoon. Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland was an American-Japanese animated film based on the Little Nemo in Slumberland comics and was released in America in 1989. In the film, Nemo is invited to Slumberland as a playmate for Princess Camille but inadvertently releases a monster onto the land, the Nightmare King. Initially only showing up as noxious smoke filled with bright red cinders that captures King Morpheus and Princess Camille, it isn’t until Nemo goes to rescue them that we see the Nightmare King’s true self.
Nemo and his friends (themselves a pretty terrifying collection of shapeshifting raccoon things) travel to the Nightmare Castle atop his floating bed. The Nightmare King is a massive demonic figure, all in black with huge tusks and horns, who spreads his cloak and sucks his devilish horde into him for their failure and reveals Nemo’s presence. He’s voiced by Bill Martin, but without the fearsome qualities of his Umbra from Mighty Orbots or Samhain from the Real Ghostbusters (more on him later).
7. Hexxus from Ferngully
Ferngully is the story of elves protecting their rainforest in Australia from destruction. The movie features Robin Williams a few months before his turn in Alladin, and Samantha Mathis a year before she showed up as Daisy in Super Mario Bros. Neither of these roles matches Hexxus, played by Tim Curry. While most of the movie he’s portrayed as a black cloud of smoke with a smile, it isn’t until the end of the movie that we see his real form and it is evil incarnate.
Freed from his prison, Hexxus becomes a giant flaming skeleton cloaked in swirling black sludge. Every move he makes slings oil over the rainforest and he breathes in smoke to stoke his internal fire. He’s defeated fairly easy by the denizens of Ferngully, who incase him in a tree, but the bigger disappointment is we don’t even hear Tim Curry let it loose in that monstrous form.
6. Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit
For most of Who Framed Roger Rabbit Christopher Lloyd played Judge Doom completely straight – the cold-hearted judge of Toon Town hunted down Roger for the murder of a human. It was scary enough when he pulled the thick rubber glove on and executed an innocent animated shoe in his Dip, a mix of paint thinners that melts his victim away as it wordlessly begs for its life.
It isn’t until the end of the movie that Judge Doom’s true nature is revealed. After being flattened by a steam roller, he gets back up and inflates himself, popping his eyeballs out in the process. When he turns back to Eddie Valiant and confesses to killing his brother, Judge Doom’s eyes are swirling red and turn into daggers while his voice reaches an ear-splitting crescendo. After turning his hands into animated weapons and almost killing Eddie, his previous high-pitched laughter shifts to higher-pitched screams as he’s drowned in Dip and melts away, echoing the Wicked Witch in Oz, “I’m melting! I’m melting!”
5. Chernobog from Fantasia
The next three entries on the list, while spooky on their own, are even scarier when presented with context. The first features in the Night on Bald Mountain portion of Fantasia, presenting a horrifying demon and the denizens of hell right after seeing crocodiles and hippos dancing ballet. What a shift in tone!
It starts with Chernobog (whose name I didn’t know until Kingdon Hearts came out) waking atop Bald Mountain, unfurling his massive leather wings. He sweeps his hands through the air, casting his lunar shadow over village after village, summoning forth his ghostly horde. The fires of hell erupt before him, spewing forth dancing demons. The entire scene if nightmare-fuel, only limited by the fact that Chernobog doesn’t do anything but watch and smile as naked spirits and skeletons frolic and covert before him.
4. Tirac from My Little Pony
For girls tuning in to the first episode of My Little Pony expecting to see Twilight Sparkle and Pinky Pie enjoying a picnic, they got a rude awakening. Instead, they were introduced to Tirac, a devilish centaur in possession of the Black Rainbow. Tirac’s goal in the episode was to kidnap four ponies to complete his flying chariot.
With horns and fangs, all black with a red face and arms, Tirac keeps the power of darkness in a thrashing bag around his neck. Opening the bag releases the Black Rainbow, which washes over the ponies and transforms them into snarling dragons. Tirac is such a stark contrast to what I would ever expect to show up in MLP, even voiced by Victor Caroli, the narrator from Transformers, who gave him one of the best evil voices out there.
3. Horned King from Black Cauldron
Disney villains run the gamut from evil wizards to evil businessmen to evil lions, but one thing they hardly ever are is evil living corpses. Appearing in his castle amidst a wind of electric smoke and a burst of flame, the Horned King makes his entrance in the Black Cauldron. He uses the power of the Black Cauldron to summon an army of undead warriors so he can take over the land of Prydain.
The Horned King is basically a walking ghoul with antlers, his skin brown and mottled, his face rotting away revealing bright red eyes and sharp jutting teeth. For a Disney villain, it’s almost unheard of to see a villain so grotesque. His undead army is a matching sight, living skeletons that immediately murder the Horned King’s mortal henchmen. Even his death is gruesome, as the cauldron recalls its undead army, it sucks the Horned King into it, ripping his flesh from his bones before pulverizing his skeleton. It’s no wonder Disney kept this movie locked away for so long.
2. D’Compose and Gagoyle from Inhumanoids
This one’s a tie. Originally, I thought D’Compose was the shoo-in as the scariest bad guy in Inhumanoids, a cartoon known for only having scary bad guys. With his big skull-like head with red fangs, to his exposed rib cage, D’Compose is a nightmare of the highest caliber. Add in Chris Latta’s screeching voice and his power to turn a human into a monster with merely a touch, and D’Compose takes the gruesome cake.
But then I remembered Gagoyle, a one-time monster from the series. This massive, child-like cyclops with a transparent stomach gives D’Compose a run for his money, especially when it munches D’s arm off and you can see it floating around in his guts. It’s easily one of the grossest things that happens in a show full of gross things.
1. Anything from Real Ghostbusters
I’m not saying all the ghosts in the Real Ghostbusters qualify because ghosts are spooky, it’s because they’re all terrifying. The art style of The Real Ghostbusters was one of a kind. Even when showing something that shouldn’t necessarily scary, like a family of ghosts that included a huge baby, the design was downright grotesque. Usually covered in boils and having an exaggerated feature like a giant nose, practically any ghost on the cartoon was enough to creep out a kid’s imagination.
While the show did have a few more memorable ghosts, like Samhain and the Boogeyman, those were known more for their plans or popular themes. But when the show is able to make a possessed subway train something to shy away from, you know the animators and artists did their job well.