The application of high voltages to animated flesh and bone renders the former translucent and the latter luminescent, allowing the skeleton to be seen in the style of a classic X-ray for as long as the current flows.
Despite the impressive light show, the victim will usually suffer no ill effects
beyond looking a bit singed and shocked
. On the other hand, a Disintegrator Ray
far more likely to be lethal) can also produce these sparks as it zaps the victim to dust (or leaves only the skeleton behind
The trope name is a tribute to the "X-Ray Specs" that have been advertised in the back of comic books since time immemorial.
While this definitely does not happen in Real Life
, the source of this trope is probably the fact that a really high voltage is required in order for an X-Ray machine to produce pictures of your bones.
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Anime & Manga
- When Ash first meets Pikachu in Pokémon, Pikachu shocks him for a good ten seconds and his skeleton is shown every other second. Pikachu then goes for another electric shock, this time affecting Professor Oak as well.
- One Piece
- A common result of Nami using her Climatact to shock some bad guys.
- Parodied by having it happen to, and be Lampshaded by Brook, a living skeleton.
- Gigantor: "Battle of the Giant Robots" had a truck display an X-ray skeleton when hit by a robot's weapon.
- Shown in Harukanaru Toki no Naka de - Hachiyou Shou OAV episode "Kokoro no Yukue" when Kotengu is struck by lightning as a punishment for losing a tengu competition.
- Happens to the villains in Yatterman, due to the two main protagonists using electrified weapons.
- Hanaukyō Maid Tai episode 10. Happens to Taro when he's in an electrified chair: Ikuyo Suzuki did it to help him stop falling asleep while studying.
- Naga and Diol both get an electrifying experience from one of Lina's spells in an episode of Slayers.
- In the Shaman King manga, when Ren uses his new lighting powers on Yoh. And then he looks back and says: "You are very good, Ren," while we still only see his bones.
- In the anime Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, both Maia and Gloria get a shocking experience at the start of episode 26.
- In the anime The Girl Who Leapt Through Space, happens to Bougainvillea.
- Happens to Batch in episode 12 of Mon Colle Knights.
- Happens in episode 7 of Haiyore! Nyaruko-san W to Kūko.
- In Léonard le Génie, this happens almost every time Basile has to power up some new invention.
- Tends to happen to Wolverine whenever he's struck by a large amount of electricity. Like Storm's lightning.
- Happens to Marv when he is executed at the end of The Hard Goodbye. Twice.
Films — Animation
- In Monsters vs. Aliens, briefly happens to Susan when Doctor Cockroach attempts to revert her to normal size.
- Occurs in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs when Flint attaches a jumper cable to an electrical tower at the power station.
- In Fantastic Mr. Fox, Kylie (an opossum) and Mr. Fox climb an electric fence and their skeletons are seen. (This film is stop-motion animated.) It also happens later to Rat when fighting Fox in the sewer. It doesn't end well.
- When Remy and his brother Emile attempt to cook food by chimney smoke in Ratatouille, they get struck by lightning (attracted to the TV antennae) and their skeletons briefly appear for one or two separate frames.
- Scrat when struck by lighting in the first Ice Age movie.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Happens to the title character during the short cartoon Somethin's Cookin' at the beginning, when his fingers get stuck in some electrical sockets.
- Happens to Batty in FernGully 2.
- Happens in Cats Don't Dance, near the end when Darla hits a machine with a wrench, her skeleton is seen for less than a second before she flashes many different colors
- Happens to several pink elephants during this part of the song "Pink Elephants on Parade" from Dumbo.
...Look out! Look out!
They're walking around your bed
On their heads! (Clippity-cloppity)
Arrayed in braids,
Pink Elephants on Parade!
- Happens to the goons in Sleeping Beauty when they're all hit by Maleficent's lightning.
- A variant with the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as she is becoming the Witch: she becomes so shriveled and thin that as she holds her hands up to the sky the lightning flash behind them reveals the bones.
- Played with in Winnie-the-Pooh when Eeyore is struck by lighting. Instead of bones, it's his stuffing.
- Happens to several submarine crew workers in Atlantis: The Lost Empire during the scene where the Leviathan starts destroying the submarine they are in.
- In Shark Tale, Ernie and Bernie, the two Rasta Electric Jellyfishes, make fishbones flash whenever they shock a fish with their tentacles.
- During the musical number in Eight Crazy Nights in which all of the townsfolk are singing about how badly they treated Whitey over the years, this happened to Whitey when they made him be the TV antenna.
- During the credits sequence to Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph faces Blanka when going into Street Fighter II, but before Ralph can even do anything, Blanka zaps him, revealing the wrecker's gigantic skeleton.
Films — Live-Action
- The film Home Alone 2 features Marv (Daniel Stern) being shocked; an effects shot briefly replaced him with an actual skeleton puppet wearing the same hair, beard and clothes as him, before turning back to his regular fleshy self in the next scene.
- Star Wars
- Avoided with Emperor Palpatine, but not Darth Vader, when the Emperor hits himself by Force lightning, caused by the surprise of being lifted by Vader, at the end of Return of the Jedi. Nothing of the Emperor is displayed, but Vader touching him and conducting the Force lightning displayed bits of Vader's skeleton and some of his mechanical implants.
- Pretty much anyone hit by force lightning except Emperor Palpatine in Jedi is subject to this trope. See also Mace Windu in Revenge of the Sith.
- In Young Frankenstein, this trope is used as the monster is brought to life (using lightning). Only (alas) the monster's skull is shown illuminated under his skin.
- In Willow, occurs as Queen Bavmorda is struck by lightning as a result of her own backfiring magic.
- The Mask
- Happens to Stanley Ipkiss in the first movie when he becomes the eponymous Mask for the very first time.
- In one sequel, the dad gets possessed and shoots lightning at the bad guy. He starts to flip around and flash into a skeleton.
- In Son of the Mask, this is the fate of Loki when Odin struck him with lightning to remove his godly powers.
- The programs being drained by the MCP near the end of TRON show their skeletons as energy pulses through them.
- Ghostbusters. While the electrical bolts are hitting Dana Barrett and Louis Tulley and turning them into Gozer's demons Zuul and Vinz Clortho, you can see their skeletons inside their bodies.
- Happens to Gadget in the live-action Inspector Gadget movie.
- Since 1988, the Dalek energy guns on Doctor Who make the victim's body briefly flash lime green while their bones glow bright white. According to dialogue, the victim dies as their internal structures are chaotically rearranged. Earlier it was just a circular area of film around the victim turned negative.
- During The Aquabats! Super Show! musical number Doing Science, Eaglebones receives this when messing around with electrical circuits.
- MythBusters: When examining the effects of lightning striking a house, the animations showing Adam or Jamie electrocuted while on the phone or under the shower naturally portray this with X-Ray Sparks.
- Happens to "Weird Al" Yankovic in the animated video for "I'll Sue Ya", when he tries to use a hair dryer while standing under a still-running shower.
- Champions supplement Gadgets. The illustration for the "Deathwind" Commando Suit shows the victim of its electrical charge attack displaying this syndrome.
- Dungeons & Dragons, Ravenloft setting adventure Web of Illusion. In Mahakala, Arijani's temple to Kali, there's a room with a trap that hits the PCs with lightning bolts. One of the illustrations shows a lightning bolt hitting a PC's head and the PC's skull showing through their skin.
- Paranoia. The illustration of the use of the mutant power Electroshock shows the victim of the power being electrified, with the victim's skeleton shows through their skin.
- Toon supplement Tooniversal Tour Guide, "Dungeons and Toons" setting. The illustration for the High Voltage Handshake shows a victim of the spell displaying his skeleton through his skin.
- Street Fighter
- "Street FighterII" has Blanka (pictured above) who can shock his opponent with his power he learned from eels.
- "Street FighterIII". Necro, Urien and Ryu each have some sort of electric attack that'll display their opponent's skeleton.
- The return of Blanka in "StreetFighterIV" also welcomes the return of X-ray sparks. Also the new zippy-zappy mistress C. Viper makes this happen.
- "StreetFighterXTekken" features Blanka and Cole from inFAMOUS 2, who comes from a game all about electric powers.
- Happens to the title character in Alex Kidd in High Tech World.
- Occurs in the doujin game Arm Joe.
- In Balloon Kid, touching a spark at any time causes Alice to get electrocuted and knocked out.
- Happens in the beat-em-up game Battle Circuit.
- Used in the BioShock plasmid videos to demonstrate electrocution, bizarrely they use the same thing to show being set on fire.
- BlazBlue series: has Rachel, who can shock her opponent by planting a lightning rod, a stun gun or summoning a bullfrog that electrifies itself. The skeletons of the victims look extremely cartoony.
- The Tesla Cannon in Blood does this to its targets; even the ghost-like Phantasm's skeleton becomes visible!
- BloodRayne Betrayal:
- If Rayne is struck by Kagan's lightning, her skeleton flashes for the duration of the spell. Also happens when you beat him the first time, he electrocutes her to stun her.
- The "Electric Eyes" also do this if you try to go Raven Form in front of them. For some reason, the electric frogs do not cause this effect.
- Occurs in Blood Storm whenever a character is electrocuted by the character Talon.
- Maria from Castlevania: Symphony of the Nightwill show her skeleton whenever she's electrocuted.
- Crash Bandicoot series:
- In Creatures Adventures, norns that are struck by lightning show their skeleton briefly. It's completely harmless.
- This happens to characters from Darkstalkers when they are hit by an electric attack, but some don't have a skeleton to show when hit (for example, Pyron shows a constellation, Jedah shows runes, etc.).
- Happens in a boss fight near the end of Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie's Double Trouble. Just hit K.Rool's flight pack and he'll fall onto the electrified floor.
- In Nexon's game, Dragon Nest, this happens if you or an enemy is affected by the "electrocuted" satus debuff.
- In the first Duke Nukem I, this happens when the title character takes damage from any source.
- Happens to any character that hits the electrical sign stage hazard in Eternal Champions.
- This happens to any enemy in Fable III when using the Shock Gauntlets. Killing them with it leaves their corpses as bare skeletons.
- Happens in Final Fight 2 & 3 whenever a character is hit by an electrical prod. In Final Fight 3, this extends to enemies as well as the character Dean can electrocute all characters around him, including his own teammates.
- The first inFAMOUS game did not feature this. inFAMOUS 2, however, has this happen upon hitting someone with a bolt attack, as well as when using the Bio Leech.
- Occurs in both King Of The Monsters games.
- In the Sega Saturn game The Legend of Heroes II: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch, originally called The Legend of Heroes III: White Witch in Japan, can occur when any playable character is struck by a lightning spell.
- Lego Batman 2. If Batman gets an electrical shock (e.g. from the Joker) his skeleton can be seen inside his Batsuit.
- Happens in Leisure Suit Larry V when you stick your fingers in an outlet. As they had decided to remove the accidental deaths from the LSL series around this time, it isn't fatal.
- Happens in Little Big Adventure whenever someone is electrocuted.
- Touch any electrified material in LittleBigPlanet, and you get the same result. Sackboy lights up, twitches violently for a few seconds, and then explodes. (Don't worry, he comes back normal from the previous Checkpoint after his Critical Existence Failure.) Hilarity Ensues if the electrified object was moving, as Sackboy is stuck in midair during electrocution, and the object may even go right through him. Some people on YouTube have found a way to save the Electrified Sackboy as a costume they can put on whenever they want, making for a very cool, glowing Halloween effect.
- In Lollipop Chainsaw, this happens to Juliet if she gets struck by Vikke's lightning bolts in Stage 2. Nick's skull (for those who have not played the game, Nick is a severed head who is Juliet's boyfriend, and is attached to her hip) is also visible as well, and he always makes a funny little remark as he and Juliet are shocked. Oddly enough, these are the only electrical sources that make their skeletal structures visible, being hit by any other electrical source simply makes Juliet fall on her back. You even get a trophy/achievement for being shocked 10 times, and the trophy/achievement icon shows...guess.
- Can occur in the game Mach Breakers.
- In the Wii game Madworld, when anyone who gets thrown at an electric sign (or other source of electricity), or when the protagonist, Jack, is hit by electricity, their blocky skeletons will be seen. Also, one of the bosses, Rin-Rin, requires you to counter-attack her attacks by kicking her into a video monitor, resulting in this. (It is also possible to throw her into electric signs too, but it's not very easy to do so) Unfortunately, this trope didn't return in Anarchy Reigns (the spin-off of Madworld), so instead electrocution is portrayed realistically in that one.
- In Magicka, using a eletric component in your spell will shock the enemies and show their 3D rigging.
- Happens in Makai Kingdom when anyone is hit with an electric based attack.
- Metal Gear series:
- When Volgin shoots lightning at Naked Snake, the screen will instantly flash black and you can see an x-ray of him.
- The North American instruction booklet for Metal Gear Solid 4 has a comic book sequence explaining how to play the game, the functions of each weapon, etc. When demonstrating the Metal Gear Mk. II, the Mk. II tazes a guard, making his skeleton visible.
- Also seen in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, when Strangelove is electrocuting Big Boss during the torture sequence.
- Happens in the Metal Slug series whenever any of the main playable characters gets zapped.
- Mortal Kombat 3:
- Nightwolf's lightning and Stryker's taser fatality will make the foe flash blue, and a skeleton can be seen throughout the lightshow. This was removed in Mortal Kombat Trilogy (an update of the same game).
- When it's time to finish off Cyrax or Sektor, they will short circuit, showing off an x-ray their cybernetic skeleton.
- Happens to the title character in arcade game Nemo.
- Occurs to any character when they touch an electrical material in The Outfoxies.
- Occurs in Persona 4: Arena.
- Occurs in Pocket Fighter.
- Happens to the characters in Po Po Lo Crois, as well as most of the enemies when they are hit by an electric spell.
- Occurs in the freeware game Rena Story.
- Happens in the Sailor Moon fighting game with salior juptier.
- In Stage 2 of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Video Game, you frequently run into movie sets that have people in Godzilla and alien costumes. The people in the alien costumes will shoot bolts of electricity at you from their ray guns, resulting in this. The same electrocuted sprite (as well as the burning sprite) is used for all characters, but were made primarily for Scott's body shape and structure, so both sprites will make Stephen Stills look skinny for a second, or Ramona and Kim look flat-chested.
- Happens in Sengoku 3 if you use a lightning technique to any of the enemies. Even to the poor little monkeys.
- Occurs in the first Shock Troopers game. Unfortunately, this was removed in the sequel.
- Happens in the arcade game of The Simpsons. Interestingly, when Marge gets zapped you can see that she has bunny ears hidden in her hair.
- Happens in The Sims 2: Attempting to repair anything without enough Mechanical skill causes you to flash as a bright green skeleton, then wind up with your clothing turned to soot and hair completely frazzled.
- Occurs in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.
- Sonic the Hedgehog series:
- Happens to Knuckles in Sonic and Knuckles when he is counterattacked by Robotnik after trying to reclaim the Master Emerald.
- Predating this, sprites found from a prototype of Sonic CD revealed that Sonic was originally going to get this effect when shocked by the electric wires of Wacky Workbench, but this was scrapped due to policies regarding the image of the company's mascot.
- In Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed, going through an electrical current in the Curien Mansion track, Graveyard Gig, will have this happen to you. It also occurs when you drive through the laser grids in Race of AGES, or when Gillius or Metal Sonic attack you with their All-Star attack. Also, Metal Sonic apparently has a skeleton, Sonic and Shadow's quills are part of their skulls while Aiai and Meemee's ears are part of theirs, the Sonic characters have toe bones despite not having toes, Ulala and Pudding have very slim and nice bones, and Wreck-It Ralph, of course, has a gigantic skeleton.
- Happens in Space Quest 6 when Roger uses the hand icon on the electrical outlet in his room, resulting a death being reduced to ashes, clothes intact.
- The slot machine death ray and the Sarien pulserays in the first game both completely turn Roger to ashes with this effect.
- Occurs when a spy is blown up or killed by a Bucket Booby-Trap in Spy vs. Spy.
- The Street Fighter series does this with anyone who is capable of electricity-based attacks. Which used to just be Blanka (pictured above), but there became new zappy characters here and there as the series progressed. Especially notable as every character had their own "zapped" animation, which was averted completely from the Alpha games onwards with a Palette Swap instead. In Street Fighter 4 and Captain Commando, the feature of X-Ray Sparks returned.
- Happens in Street Fighter x Tekken whenever any character gets electrocuted by Blanka and Cole.
- Happens in Streets of Rage.
- Super Mario Bros. series:
- In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, happens all the time to Mario if he gets zapped by any of Luigi's lightning techniques. Can also happen to him too.
- In the Super Mario Strikers intro, a Hammer Bro gets slipped onto an electric fence.
- Also occurs in the sequel Super Mario Strikers Charged to not only a Birdo and a Pianta in the opening clip, but also to all characters when knocked into the electric fence (Or hit by Dry Bone's Skillshot).
- Happens in the Super Mario Galaxy games when Mario (or Luigi) gets shocked. In the first game, if the shock killed Mario, he would die as just a skeleton, but this was removed in the sequel.
- This was a feature of Pikachu's electrical attacks in the original (and ONLY in the original) Super Smash Bros.. Ness (with PK Thunder), Samus (with Charge Beam), and the Ray Gun did the same thing in the original Super Smash Bros., but like Pikachu, they could only do so in the first game. This even provides something of a visual gag if Samus gets shocked, because instead of showing us her skeleton, we just see the human figure inside her power suit. On the other hand, when Kirby and Jigglypuff get hit by electric attacks, only their eyes are visible, implying (sensibly) that they have no skeleton. Funnily enough, Mario and Luigi's noses appear to be part of their skeletons.
- In Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, Yatterman-2's grab attack consists of her electrocuting her opponents with their skeletons (or inner mechanical parts for robots) showing. For some reason this is the only electrical attack that does this.
- The title characters in some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game show this effect when they are zapped by beams from roving robots on wheels.
- In Episode 2 of Touch Detective, the main character (who is a little girl) can suffer from this by fooling around with an electrical socket.
- In Um Jammer Lammy, if Lammy and/or Parappa starts performing at either the Bad or Awful rank on the Teriyaki Yoko stage, they will be struck by lightning resulting in this effect. It is seen again in a flashback in the Stage 7 cutscene, when Lammy plugs in electrical equipment.
- Happens to Valkyrie and Xandra in Valkyrie no Densetsu.
- Happens to every fighter in Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer.
- When Galactus starts consuming Battleworld during the events of the Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, limited series, the effects of his machinery absorbing the world cause all the inhabitants, all the heroes included, to succumb to this effect, leaving their skeletons visible. Thankfully, he's stopped before this can be completed.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- In the 1953 adaptation of The War Of The Worlds a soldier is hit by the Martians' Disintegrator Ray. There's a closeup shot of him as his body glows a bright green, with the skeleton showing through the glow, before the whole thing fades away and the unlucky victim vanishes into nothingness.
- Fire example: During a battle in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Crash and the Boys catch the business end of a fireball launched by Matthew Patel and his backup singing Demon Hipster Chicks as he sings "Slick".
- One of the Green Goblin's weapons in the movie Spider-Man does something similar (though it is more an explosion than an electrical effect).
- In The Wheel of Time books, someone hit with balefire has their colors "inverted" and just fades from view in the brilliant white light of the Death Ray.
- Tom Clancy's carefully researched and highly descriptive "activation" chapter from The Sum of All Fears had a particularly brutal version of this trope. The police officers' bones received enough X-rays to fluoresce at a level that not only incinerated them but very likely burned off the man's flesh. Not that it mattered a few nanoseconds later, but the mental image is still rather terrifying.
- Notoriously used in the Made-for-TV Movie The Day After to show those closest to Ground Zero being vaporized. Not only is this appropriate, it's actually pretty close to accurate — or at least, close enough for TV's sake. In Real Life in a nuclear blast, for those closest to Ground Zero, their soft tissues would be vaporized a split-second before their hard tissues (bones) would be. Obviously, no-one has lived to tell the tale of whether or not these twin processes happen fast enough for the eye to see, but both processes happen fast enough for the dead person's shadows to be literally burned into the ground.
The effects themselves were realistic, but the special effects department's choice of photographs on which to create the effects made less sense. A few seconds earlier, Kansas City was a scene of panic and rioting; the people shown being vaporized are enjoying a day by the riverside, at weddings, in schools, in bars and coffee shops, etc. Some of the photos used in the vaporization scenes are actually stills from earlier in the movie.
- Super Nova, the second Lexx TV movie, shows Giggerota's skeleton briefly, because the super nova's shockwave dissolved her flesh and clothing a fraction of a second before her bones. It probably wouldn't happen like that in real life, but it looked cool enough that it was used in every version of the show's opening credits.
- First Encounter Assault Recon has the Particle Beam Gun, which vaporizes the flesh off its victims' skeletons.
- The taser weapon in the Sega Genesis game Jurassic Park Rampage Edition is insanely powerful, able to kill dinosaurs and people in a single shot. When you use it, you see the skeleton of whoever or whatever you use it on before they collapse into ashes.
- The Ray Gun from Another World, when it hits a victim, leaves a charred black skeleton that quickly crumbles into dust.
- Raiden's bowdlerised fatality in the SNES port of Mortal Kombat involves him shocking the opponent to such a degre that they're reduced to a skeleton which collapses into a pile of dust.
- In Brain Dead 13, both Lance and Moose suffer from this in one death scene involving one of the deadly lightning rods, and both bodies become gray and blink their eyes a bit before they become dust.
- In Fallout 3, critical hits by energy weapons can reduce a target to ashes.
- If Bug! gets killed by a lightning bug, he turns black and crumbles. Otherwise, the first instance occurs.
- Zombies that are killed by Lightning Reed attacks or electric shock power-ups in Plants vs. Zombies 2 do this.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Baxter Stockman was was placed in a disintegration chamber by Krang after one failure too many. A fly entered the chamber with him, and after a brief X-ray spark Stockman was transformed into a giant mutant fly. This instance provided plenty of Nightmare Fuel; Baxter Stockman was pleading frantically for his life before and after being thrown in, and his screaming skeleton during the X-Ray spark was truly horrifying.
- In the original Courage the Cowardly Dog short, "The Chicken From Outer Space," after Eustace is mutated into a giant murderous chicken, Courage proceeds to vaporize him with a ray gun. Eustace turns into a skeleton a few times before dissolving into ash.
- Secret Squirrel episode "Scuba Duba Duba". Scuba Duba hands Secret Squirrel an electric eel. When the eel shocks him Secret's body momentarily disappears, leaving only his skeleton.