If you ask a person to draw a bomb, this is probably what you will get: a spherical black object about the size of a bowling ball with a fuse sticking out of it. Sometimes it may have the word "Bomb" (or "Boom") written on it in bold letters. Very common in cartoons and comic books, and somewhat surprisingly in the relatively new medium of video games.
This actually has a basis in history: Before the mid-19th century, contact or proximity fuses for detonating explosive payloads had yet to be developed. The only means by which an explosive shell or bomb could be feasibly detonated from a distance was by a slow-burning match cord. In Western militaries, these weapons often took the shape of an iron sphere with a match cord sticking out of one end, and the Cartoon Bomb actually isa realistic representation of such ammunition. The resemblance to cannonballs is not coincidence; they were often designed to be fired out of cannons, or rather carronades, mortars or howitzers. (The "bombs bursting in air" from "The Star-Spangled Banner" were of this variety.) A skilled bombardier could estimate how long it would take for the bomb to fly to the assumed target and cut the fuse to appropriate length so that the bomb would explode exactly at the desired moment.
Early hand grenades also took this shape, as did mortar bombs. In fact, the "pineapple" grenades used by American and British soldiers during World War II were variations on this type of bomb. There were only three major differences. They included a built-in fuse lighter for convenience. (That's the handle-and-pin assembly made famous by the Pin-Pulling Teeth trope.) They were oblong, and they had grooved skin so that they would fragment more easily and disperse shrapnel. (That's why they're called "frag" grenades.)
As Cartoon Bombs generally tend to appear in cartoons and comics, they usually tend to not do any serious damage- at least to characters. They may cause damage to their inanimate surroundings, but usually the worst a victim within the blast range suffers is Clothing Damage and Ash Face, both of which are usually healed by the next scene. As a result, when a Cartoon Bomb is seen in a work, it tends to be more of a slapstick prop as opposed to a deadly weapon. Despite these bombs being very old-fashioned, they're prominently used in many video games, since the black-ball with sparky fuse is very iconic and quickly recognized by players.
This is a subtrope of Incredibly Obvious Bomb, but that also includes more realistic but still blatantly obvious bombs like the classic digital timer (often ticking to make it even more incredibly obvious) attached to a bundle of explosives (which is fairly common in cartoons). Compare Plunger Detonator, which is the standard cartoon way of setting off explosives from a distance. Often thrown by the Bomb Throwing Anarchist.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
BomberNanimon from Digimon Savers...provided you aren't watching the American dub. BomberNanimon also appeared in the card game and some of the video games, and in these media he avoided the Macekre.
Nice Holystone from Baccano! actually uses bombs like this as weapons, although given their small size, they're more like giant cherry bombs.
The opening of Haiyore! Nyarko-san W has a blue bomb with a pink heart get passed around between the main cast members; when it finally explodes (while Nyarko is offering it to Mahiro), it just sprays streamers everywhere.
Tintin: In The Broken Ear, Corporal Diaz throws one through Alcazar's open window. Tintin picks it up and throws it right back, hitting Corporal Diaz on the head and knocking him into a fountain basin. Earlier, Tintin's suitcase is switched with one full of these in order to frame him as a terrorist.
In Revenge of the Pink Panther, members of the French Connection use one of these on Clouseau.
A critical prop in Buster Keaton's Cops — his horse-drawn cart gets in the middle of a police parade, an anarchist tosses such a bomb that lands on the seat next to him, he absently lights a cigarette with it and tosses it over...well, that's how these run-ins always start, don't they?
In the second Lord of the Rings movie, one of Saruman's orcs uses one of these to blow open Helm's Deep. This is somewhat justified as it's the first bomb ever in Middle Earth, or at least since the First Age. Worst. Olympics. Ever.
In the 1982 film version of Annie, a villain uses one of these to try to kill Warbucks.
The Last of the Mohicans (1991): Played historically straight. The siege of Fort William Henry is ended by a French 18-inch mortar bombardment. The lighting of the separate fuses for both the huge iron ball, and the mortar that will then lob it over the walls, can clearly be seen.
Harold Lloyd lost a finger and thumb to a prop bomb like this; later films had him wearing a specially designed glove to disguise the injury.
Get Crazy! (1983) "It's ticking!" "It's traditional!"
The unnamed puppeteer in Funny Man loses half of his head when, thanks to a dimensional portal to a Punch and Judy show on a beach being watched by the eponymous antagonist, a cartoon bomb (labelled as "bomb") is placed on his head and explodes.
One of these is used in Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College, when a rival college member tries to blow up his rival's dorm room, one of the Ghoulies beats him to death bloodlessly with a frying pan which causes the bomb to fly out the window and into the security guard's golf cart, which causes a massive explosion that only leaves him with blackened skin and burnt clothes.
Season 3 of Blackadder had an anarchist (played by series writer Ben Elton) throw one of these at the Prince of Wales who thinks it's just part of the play. It even worked like a cartoon bomb, as in the next scene George is fine save for a few bandages, commenting about how much of a close shave it was before changing the topic.
The Classic Concentration rebus for "blond bombshell" (#103 in Steve Ryan's book) includes this type of bomb.
I Spy: Robert Culp lit one of these off his cigarette in the opening credits.
The Scarlet Pimpernel: One episode had the more realistic version; a hand-sized metal sphere with a fuse, used as a grenade.
In episode 8 of Monty Python's Flying Circus, the "It's" Man is handed one just before he says his word. It explodes over the closing credits.
Ultimate Force: Henno, having jumped out a transit stuffed with tertiary explosives, is on the cliff face when the van detonates, the yield supposedly capable of shifting an entire city block sideways, and Henno climbs up with no apparent ill effects from an overpressure that would normally have collapsed his lungs, throat and sinuses.
The dungeoneers of Knightmare would run across a room-sized Cartoon Bomb from time to time, causing panic and hasty directions to head towards the nearest exit.
The Avengers: A pair of vaudeville clowns kill off a number of folks — one with such a bomb, complete with "BOMB" painted on it in big white letters.
Used occasionally on The Muppet Show. The Swedish Chef finds one in a coconut; a chicken being cooked by the chef lays one; one is used in Rowlf's version of "The Cat Came Back", and one is even used as a joke by Statler and Waldorf.
One of these shows up in the early Doctor Who story "The Dalek Invasion of Earth." Interestingly it was designed to be an atypical bomb—one that could melt through the normally invulnerable Dalek casings before exploding. Even better, the stereotyped bomb was developed by the leader of the resistance, a sterotyped anarchist.
Garbage's video for "The World Is Not Enough" ended with the band performing in front of a giant metal globe with a lit fuse sticking out. However, that was just a stage prop; the real bomb was the robot clone of Shirley Manson, who had killed and replaced the original.
Doonesbury: Newt Gingrich, during his time as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, appeared as one.
One of the most well known of the controversial Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons featured the prophet with one of these in place of his turban.
To show Mac OS X's new memory system, during one demo Apple showed an application built specifically to crash — which now didn't lock up the entire OS. The application was called "Bomb.app", and featured the fuse on a cartoon bomb burning until the bomb went off.
The old Mac program Sound Edit had a fake system error box with an exploding bomb, followed by an icon of a blown-out computer, when you selected "About Sound Edit".
In an infamous promo spot for WCW's 1993 Beach Blast PPV, a one-eyed midget hired by Vader and Sid Vicious plants one of these bombs on a boat in an attempt to kill their rivals, Sting and Davey Boy Smith.
Shows up in the crowd fairly often, where fans of Batista brings signs shaped like a bomb with the text "Batista Bomb" on them, referring to his finishing move.
GURPS Goblins: One of these shows up in a sample scenario. It's fake.
Cyberpunk 2020: An icon of one brute-force cracking program is described as 'a cartoon bomb with a burning fuse'.
One of your units in Stratego is a Bomb, depicted as being of the cartoon variety. Defeats any enemy except the lowly 8th-rank Miner.
As a tie-in to the 2000 movie The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, CVS sold plushes of the main characters. Boris Badenov was depicted as shooting a bang gun, while his significant other Natasha Fatelle held one of these.
Team Fortress 2: Initially, the class emblem on the Demoman's shirt was one of these. It was changed to a representation of the game's sticky bombs when they wanted to sell car decals of all of the class emblems; presumably a car with a picture of a bomb on it, even a cartoon one, would be cause for alarm. The full-color icon representing Demomen in the scoreboard and non-melee Robot Demomen in Mann vs. Machine mode, however, is unchanged (he's not the only class with such a mismatch; the Heavy has a chain of bullets in the scoreboard and a fist on his shirt, and has been this way since the beginning).
And now, he has an unlockable grenade launcher (the Loose Cannon) that fires miniature cartoon bombs.
The bombs in The Legend of Zelda are pretty much like this, only due to NES colour restrictions and tradition, respectively, they're deep blue rather than black.
Link uses smaller, hand-grenade sized bombs of a similar style in the Super Smash Bros. series. Unlike the main Zelda games, they're small enough to be carried in one hand, though where he pulls them from remains a mystery.
And where Mario has Bob-omb, Zelda has Bombchu: mouselike explosives. There are enemy versions called Real Bombchu (apparently what the regular bombchu are based on?) whose tails end in cartoon bombs. (They can walk up walls just like the bombchu item. You... basically want to not get their attention in close quarters.) And now, bombfish, which look like fish with cartoon bombs in their mouths. (The advantage is that they can be used underwater unlike normal bombs.)
In The Caverns Of Hammerfest, the protagonist's means of offense are spitting and kicking snow cartoon bombs that freeze the enemies within their explosion radius. One power-up plays this much more straight, transforming them in the actual, black and bowlingball-sized bombs we all are familiar with.
The Black Bomb chips in the Mega Man Battle Network series are of this nature. The fuse doesn't come lit, however, meaning they need to be hit with fire or tossed at a fire element enemy to get them to explode.
In the sixth game, the same bombs appear to impede you in Dustman's garbage recycling minigame, occasionally flying his way along with the garbage he needs to vacuum up. This gets the simple Hand Wave that in the Undernet, it's typical for the navis to keep dangerous objects like that on their person.
The bombs thrown by the Peek-a-boom enemies, used against Large Fry and found lying around in various levels in Wario Land Shake It are this kind, and look almost exactly like the page image.
Likewise, the first game has bombs with wings that try to latch onto your head.
The cover of TrouBalls depicts a glasses-clad guy holding a lit Cartoon Bomb.
World of Warcraft has several mobs that are large cartoon bombs being carried by little robots with big goggles that run up and explode at you. Engineers can also make a pet version of it that follows them around and doesn't explode.
They're one of your main weapons in CJ's Elephant Antics.
In Dynamite Dux, one of the weapons used by the duck protagonists Bin and Pin (blue and red respectively) is this. Bean was based off of these two, although such bombs are the only weapon he's been seen using, at least in the game-verse.
One of the first, if not the first, video arcade game to use this imagery was the Golden Age arcade game Kick. You had to catch falling balloons on your head, but you had to avoid the similar-looking falling bombs. (During development, the dropped-things-to-avoid were anvils, but the game's designers didn't think the average player would recognize anvils.)
Peacock in Skullgirls uses many of these, decorated like billiards 8-balls. They walk, drive cars and fly planes, and one of her super moves involves a bomb large enough to blow both her and her opponent clear across the screen if they get caught in the blast.
In Thief 2, the Mechanists' steampunk robots and cannons fire this kind of bomb. What's strange is that in gameplay, the bombs tend to hit the player character with full force and then rebound off you in the other direction, and then explode a few seconds later. The initial impact tends to kill you before it even explodes. It's at once terrifying and hilarious.
Beach Spikers for the Nintendo Gamecube had a mode called "Countdown" where the ball was replaced by a cartoon bomb. When the players hit the ball, it caused a "timer" to count down; whichever side had the ball/bomb when it exploded lost.
In Ōkami, one of the brush techniques creates a 'Cherry Bomb' for the orb and stem shape of these things. It's meant to be a firework, rather than just a bomb, but it looks almost the same.
Bomb Jack and Mighty Bomb Jack had plenty of such bombs to be collected. They could light up, but would never explode.
In the WarioWare series, the timer for each microgame is represented by a cartoon bomb (in games since Touched, one with Wario's face on it).
In Fruit Ninja, you actually have to slice as many fruit thrown at you while simultaneously avoiding these type of bombs that were mixed among said fruit. Slicing apart the bombs will result in an instant Game Over.
Wrecking Crew has this kind of bomb as a stage feature, though the manual calls it "dynamite".
The TNT Boxes in the Japanese version of the Crash Bandicoot series have a cartoon bomb on it instead of "TNT".
This is what you get if you summon a BOMB in Scribblenauts. The fuse doesn't light when you interact with it; it simply flashes for a couple of seconds before exploding. Any contact with fire causes it to detonate instantly.
In Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, these take a form similar to Bob-Ombs but look more like traditional cartoon bombs with arms and legs. When Luigi activates them with his flashlight, they typically chase after him until they explode.
Standard cartoon bombs show up as well; they are used by some ghosts to try to attack Luigi; Luigi may find them in barrels or other objects; and at one point, he even rides a sled that fires cartoon bombs from a cannon.
Danger Mouse has at least five in the opening sequence alone. Not to mention the page image.
Discussed in The Venture Bros., when the Monarch and his henchmen reminisce about the good old days. 24 happily refers to it as simply a "round bomb", while miming the shape with his hands.
In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Game Over for Owlman!", in the big climactic fight scene, The Joker basically pulls out a big Cartoon Bomb and runs around, giggling like the maniac he is, for the entire fight.
Inspector Gadget: In the opening sequence, Gadget thinks he's arresting Dr. Claw, but then the chair spins around, it's a phony arm, and guess what's on the chair? Then the explosion forms the title, with the Inspector himself forming the "I".
Occaionally used by MAD Agents (natch) during the show, though they actually tend to be bright red as opposed to black.
The Tick: A favorite of The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight. For bigger jobs, though, he uses a more advanced, disc-shaped Incredibly Obvious Bomb, complete with visible timer and beeping.
On Jimmy Two-Shoes, they are used by Heloise on Lucius, and by a weevil on Beezy in the same episode.
The Simpsons: Not surprisingly, these are occasionally seen in some "Itchy and Scratchy" segments, although they tend to do a lot more damage to poor Scratchy than to the majority of other victims on this page.
In House of Mouse, one of the short cartoon segments was called "Donald's Dynamite", in which Donald Duck finds a Cartoon Bomb while doing some mundane activity (fishing, bowling, et cetera) and tries increasingly desperate and zany things to dispose of it, none of which work.
In an early episode of Family Guy, when Meg is trying to interview Quahog mayor/resident Cloud Cuckoolander Adam West, he ditches her by having an aide slip her a cartoon bomb. The explosion leaves Meg with Ash Face, and a Daffy Duck-like bill, which she uses to say "Of course you realize this means war!"
This also shows up near the end of the first act of the Mr. Bogus episode "Bogus Private Eye". Bogus and Brattus confront the weasels in the sewers while disguised as gangsters, which includes Brattus trying to blow open a safe with a cartoon bomb, with disastrous results. Hilarity Ensues.
On an episode of Duckman, the detective is visited by a Robin Leach-type character who insists someone is trying to kill him. As evidence, he shows Duckman a note, a gun, a knife, and finally a cartoon bomb with the fuse lit. Duckman dismisses the first three as coincidental; when presented with the bomb, he nonchalantly says, "I get these every day," and casually tosses it out the window.
A diagram of a cartoon bomb appeared in this speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United Nations in 2012. Netanyahu drew a red line on the cartoon bomb, to argue that Iran must not acquire enough medium-enriched uranium to build its first nuclear bomb. Unsurprisingly, his critics widely mocked his use of a cartoon bomb drawing.
Reflecting its real life origins, a stylized cartoon bomb appears in insignia of several real life military units, including, but not limited to, the British Grenadier Guards, the French Foreign Legion, the Italian Carabinieri, the artillery troops of Finland, Norway, and Portugal, and the Danish Royal Guards.