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That's a huge understatement.
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As Western Animation is a medium that is generally seen as more "child-friendly", but when one of these guys appears, they tend to stand out as definitely not-child-friendly especially if the show otherwise follows this belief.


  • Adventure Time: The Lich is a diabolical Eldritch Abomination with an appetite for all-encompassing destruction, and the end byproduct of the Mushroom War. While earlier seasons focused on the wacky antics of Finn and Jake, and the main villain was the pathetic and often ineffectual Ice King, the arrival of the Lich signaled a more serious turn for the series. The Lich caused several character deaths (unusual for a children's show), leading inevitably to a darker shift and a focus on characters' relationships. The fact that The Lich is made from a nuclear bomb also led to a greater emphasis on worldbuilding (in contrast to earlier episodes that tended to have a stricter Planet of Hats structure) and an investigation of the world's dark backstory of a nuclear apocalypse.
  • Aladdin: The Series:
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    • Mozenrath. Prior to his introduction, the recurring villains on the show had been a bunch of cartoonish joke characters like Abis Mal and Mechanikles. Then, suddenly, we meet this highly competent dark wizard with an army of zombies and a magical glove which is slowly eating his flesh. Only his flying eel sidekick prevents him from being too dark.
    • Mirage as well, while most of the villains Aladdin and his friends faced are typical cartoon-y bad guys. Her introduction begins by lighting a village on fire. She was very much Darker and Edgier compared to the other villains, with goals usually being aimed only at making Aladdin and the other heroes suffer, or just outright causing destruction For the Evulz. Her exploits have included kidnapping children and turning them into nocturnal monsters, transforming Jasmine slowly into a poisonous hybrid snake monster in order to destroy her and Aladdin's love, and finally to wipe out Agrabah's very existence with a monolith that permanently erases anything that falls under its shadow.
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  • Markula from Aqua Teen Hunger Force is a really odd, kind of sideways example. He's not any more serious than any other ATHF villain, but his introduction actually brought inter-episode continuity (in the form of a three-episode mini-arc) to a series famous for its complete disregard of the concept. He's also slightly more competent than your average ATHF villain in that he actually puts the main trio in peril, whereas most other villains are just mild annoyances.
  • Barry Dylan in Archer became this over time. At first he was simply another, more competent secret agent Archer didn't get along with, but after he became a cyborg and became (even more) mentally unstable, he killed Archer's fiancée, Katya. When Katya herself was resurrected as a cyborg, he attempts to kill her again, but then just steals her from Archer. He also murdered his boss Nikolai Jakov, simply to spite Archer, and became the head of KGB in Jakov's place. He was eventually stranded on the space station Horizon by Cyril, but later murdered the entire crew. He eventually returns to Earth, but in the interim, Katya herself has taken over his Knight of Cerebus status by taking over the KGB herself and keeping Barry on a proverbial leash. By season six, it's revealed Katya left him, destroying what little sanity he may have had left. After kidnapping Pam and attempting to kill Archer because he happened to see them at the airport, the ensuing fight leaves him a bare endoskeleton by the episode's end. What's worse is he appears to power down for good... only to turn back on and cackle maniacally. Taken to extremes in Dreamland, where he brutally murders Trexler's goons and uses their bodies for a "Last Supper" Steal, and turns out to have been responsible for the events of the season.
  • Although Avatar: The Last Airbender was never exactly light or fluffy, considering it launches viewers right into a 100 year war dealing with the consequences of genocide, things get darker when Firelord Ozai is introduced in "The Storm". We discover that in addition to being the leader of the Fire Nation he also physically and emotionally abused his son Zuko, permanently disfiguring his face with fire and banishing him for speaking out of turn. A reason for this is given in the tie-in comics that further emphasizes Ozai's role thus: Zuko's mother, Ursa, had a lover before the Fire Nation effectively forced her to marry Ozai due to her being Avatar Roku's granddaughter, and cut off all connections from her old life. In an attempt to regain her old life, Ursa wrote a letter that states Zuko's is her lover's son to provoke Ozai into revealing his meddling of letters. She had underestimated Ozai's reaction.
    • When Princess Azula, Ozai's daughter, made her first proper appearance in Season 2, she brought in a level of villain competence that hadn't been seen before. Not even the Gaang was fully prepared to deal with her at that point, leading to the second season ending with a crushing defeat for the heroes and their Darkest Hour in the entire series.
    • Admiral Zhao, while no where near as dangerous or as much of an example of this as Azula, did come off as a greater genuine threat than Zuko in the first season, due to both resources and lacking any of the noble and heroic qualities that Zuko had.
    • Amon from the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra. The couple of episodes before his first appearance were quite lighthearted. Once he showed up, the first season got darker and darker with each episode.
      • The most notable thing about Amon is that he's the only major villain in either of the two series who's never once Played for Laughs or the butt of jokes from other characters.
      • The second season adds another villain with that distinction: Vaatu, the dark spirit of chaos, a victory by whom would bring about the end of humanity. While he isn't able to act until the finale, his presence adds a level of menace never seen in either show before.
      • The Red Lotus from Season 3; a group of four powerful benders with abnormal abilities, their end goal is to "free" the people of the world by destroying all established governments and states. They are also the first villains in both series to actually kill onscreen.
      • Kuvira from Season 4 is a notable aversion of this. While no less threatening than the other villains in the series, Season 4's considerably darker tone and subject matter makes her stand out less in terms of making the plot serious.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!:
    • The show would often slide on how serious its villains got. The most serious were likely the Skrulls as their story arc (the longest in the series) prompted a massive Paranoia Fuel and their manipulations nearly succeeded in breaking up the Avengers.
    • Outside of them, the biggest example is Surtur. While he never got the chance to act as a direct antagonist, the episodes that merely dealt with the aftermath of his actions showed he laid waste to the whole dwarven realm, and to reforge his giant sword, he destroyed the star of an inhabited solar system.
    • On a more mundane level, the Red Skull is easily the most vile villain in the show in spite of or in part due to the fact that he is still a mere human (for a measure of "mere").
  • While Avengers, Assemble! may not be as intense as The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!, it has a rather dark villain in Hyperion, a Knight Templar alien "protector", whose idea to eliminate crimes and help people is essentially enslave everyone and have them submit to his ideal, but if somebody doesn't agree with his methods, then he considers you to be a part of a problem. He also has no problems with attacking children and it's revealed that he had enslaved his entire home planet and later destroyed it, simply because the people refused to submit to his totalitarian rule. Aside from one moment where he's comically deafened by Doctor Doom, he's been played dead seriously. Oh, and now he's part of the Cabal.
    • Dracula also qualifies, as his debut episode plays out a lot like a horror film (not to mention that he turned Black Widow into a vampire and nearly killed her, then drank the Hulk's blood and only lost because the gamma radiation turned out to be poisonous to him).
    • The Red Skull isn't a tiny bit friendlier than he was in EMH, either. He starts out as the Big Bad from the word go, but when he kicks his plans into high gear, that's when the show itself does the same.
  • The Bad Santa of Axe Cop. In "Birthday Month", he kidnaps children to make his weapons, wants to kill God to become Jesus and killed Axe Cop's parents in a failed attempt to kill Axe Cop himself when he was a child because he made the Nice List and as the opposite of Santa Claus, Bad Santa often tries to kill good kids.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold, while mostly focusing on campy stories in homage to The Silver Age of Comic Books, occasionally threw in villains with none of the show's usual camp. Ironically, the most serious character in the show wasn't a villain, but one of the guest heroes, The Spectre, essentially a walking Roaring Rampage of Revenge, or the apotheosis of Inspector Javert. With a Creepy Monotone and Voice of the Legion provided by Mark Hamill, he's scary even when he isn't seen displaying his powers.
    • And when he is seen displaying his powers, get ready to not sleep for a long time. He may not be a villain, but prepare for the show to completely forget it's supposed to be Lighter and Softer whenever he shows up.
  • The Old Crazy Farmer/Janitor from Beavis and Butt-Head. Although, partially played for laughs, he certainly is a more frightening and disturbing villain than any other even in the grotesque world of Beavis and Butt-Head.
  • The original Ben 10 series had, for the most part, episodes that feel somewhat like Silver Age stories, with a usually comical feel to it. This rule doesn't apply to Vilgax and Ghostfreak. Vilgax pointedly showed more explicit hints to the first season's Story Arc and Grandpa Max's Hidden Depths. He managed to instill enough fear into Max that he decided to retrieve all of his best gear before going to rescue Ben. He was also so powerful that Ben had to resort to outsmarting him rather than simply using an alien to overpower him in every confrontation up until the movie, where he unlocked Way Big and tossed Vilgax into space. Ghostfreak started out as a rather scary alien in the Omnitrix, but later he broke free and became one of the most ruthless and terrifying villains in the series.
    • Ben 10: Alien Force has the Highbreeds, who opened an entire era of two Darker and Edgier seasons in the franchise.
    • In that same vein, the Forever Knights in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, combined with Took a Level in Badass. In the earlier series and several earlier episodes, they were pathetic mooks that got beaten easily and usually made Monty Python references. In the episode "the Purge" their founder, Old George returns, ends their Enemy Civil War and unites them as one faction to rid the world of aliens, and the excrement hits the cooling device.
    • While Ben 10: Omniverse is Lighter and Softer than the two sequels, Khyber the Huntsman is not played for laughs at all. In fact, he's the first villain in Omniverse to fully defeat and capture Ben.
      • Malware, a villain who first appeared in the first episode and whose origins were explained in "Trouble Helix". His origin episode, while showcasing his Fatal Flaw (a particularly bad case of boasting and talking on and on), also shows that he has committed murder (though not on-screen. The flashback cuts off before it shows the gruesome details), though the rest of the episode showcases him as what just seems to be another villain, until "Of Predators and Prey" reveals that he's the Big Bad, and shows that him, Khyber, and Dr. Psychobos forcefully test the Nemetrix on Phil, with no amount of comedy appearing. And then Malware not only kills some more members of his own species, he tops it off by blowing up his own home planet.
    • In the reboot series, Vilgax himself is definitely one of these. The reboot is as a whole Lighter and Softer than the previous iterations of the franchise, so you'd expect that the main villain would be too. Not this time. Instead, Vilgax is shown with pretty much the same personality he had in the original series, making for a stark contrast with the reboot's typical goofy comedy.
  • Bojack Horseman: While the series started out as a comedy with some dramatic moments, Herb Kazzaz was what started the show's transition into a dramedy that deconstructed television tropes and dealt with issues such as existentialism and mental illness. While not a villain per say, his refusal to forgive Bojack for stabbing him in the back all those years ago, even as he's dying of cancer, as well as calling him out on his behavior, was undoubtedly the heaviest the show had gotten at the time. And to make matters worse, this was their last interaction before Kazzaz died. Despite having passed away by Season 2, the encounter would stick with Bojack throughout the series and kick start his Character Development, as well as his doubt as to if he's a good person; leading to even more depressing and devastating storylines along the way.
  • The Boondocks Season 4 has Ed Wuncler II, whose sociopathic antics are rarely ever Played for Laughs, who keeps the Freeman family in a multi-million-dollar debt, and his plans to "help" them only digs them deeper. Robert ends up having to literally sell himself into slavery, and later they have to work in a slavery-themed amusement park called Freedomland, along with others in his debt as slaves. He later attempts to cut off Huey's foot for defying him.
  • Toadborg from Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars. The Air Marshal was ineffectual. Toad troops were ineffectual. Toadborg was powerful, cold, calculating and competent.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers:
    • The episodes with Verminous Skumm as the primary villain tend to be Darker and Edgier than the rest of the series. He's one of the only villains who specifically wants to hurt and kill people, not the environment.
    • Zarm, Spirit of War and Destruction, began as The Corrupter, turned the Eco-Villians into a dangerous Legion of Doom who ruined the world and nearly killed Gaia twice.
    • Captain Pollution even with his Totally Radical surfer persona, became an effective Evil Counterpart to Captain Planet.
  • Danny Phantom:
    • Vlad Plasmius himself served this role in the first season. His first appearance marked the beginning of the show's main Story Arc, and subsequent episodes that featured him tended to be darker in tone. He was also the first villain to utterly curb-stomp Danny.
    • Even though he appeared in only one movie, Dark Danny, Danny Phantom's Bad Future version, made quite an impression as the most dangerous and evil villain in the entire series, even worse than Vlad Plasmius.
  • Daria: Tom Sloane is an interesting example. While not a villain (which this show doesn't have much of, and in fact, he's not an obnoxious guy), he could very well be responsible (whether directly or indirectly) for driving the series into a more realistic and character-building show.
  • DCAU:
    • Darkseid and the armies of Apokolips in Superman: The Animated Series. While Superman wasn't a goofy show, being largely a good combination of silliness and seriousness, the eight episodes where Darkseid appears are much more serious than regular episodes. In "Apokolips... Now! Part 2", Darkseid kills Dan Turpin, a major supporting character; and in "Legacy Parts 1 and 2", Superman is brainwashed by Darkseid to attack Earth and many other planets, killing who knows how many people. It culminates with a brutal brawl between Superman and Darkseid.
    • Justice League Unlimited had several end of season threats amping up how much darker things were. The last season had this from the beginning via Gorilla Grodd (himself a recurring Knight). What would top this? At the end of that season, Darkseid returns and sets out for revenge against the Earth. Not only does he set crust digging machines all over the world to cover the entire surface in boiling magma, he also brings a kryptonite knife to carve out Superman's heart as a war trophy.
    • Likewise, Amanda Waller, starting in Season 3 but becomes much more pronounced in Series 4. She masterminded the Cadmus Arc and the episodes dealing with Cadmus and their experiments were among the darkest of the entire show.
    • Justice League had a few even before it became Justice League Unlimited that never appeared there, yet still had a lasting impact:
      • First of all there's Vandal Savage, who was one of the League's most recurrent foes in the first two seasons, and arguably the most dangerous. In his first appearance, "The Savage Time", he changed history so that the Axis Powers win World War II and he's set up as the dictator of a totalitarian world government, based in the US; the League (sans Batman, who didn't have a Ripple Effect-Proof Memory due to circumstance) spend the entire three-part Season One finale trying their best to fix this, and the stakes are high. His second appearance in "Maid of Honour" isn't as dark, but remains serious as he marries Princess Audrey of Kaznia (after covertly paralysing her father with poison) and tries to seize the world using a space station that can initiate a Colony Drop on any part of the world he wishes. His final appearance is in "Hereafter, Part II'', where it's revealed that his latest plot to Take Over the World wiped out humanity and civilisation; this dark tale ironically had him as The Atoner in the Bad Future, and after helping Superman return to the past to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, the reformed future Savage is erased from the timeline content that he was able to redeem himself.
      • Next there's the Justice Lords, an Alternate Universe version of the League who became Knight Templar despots that seized power after President Lex Luthor had this reality's version of The Flash executed on trumped-up charges and nearly started World War III. The Cold Open is deliberately designed to Freak Out! the audience with Luthor a ranting madman threatening to hit the Big Red Button when his Shut Up, Kirk! works, and Superman incinerating him with his heat vision, making viewers realize something is not right; cut to two years later, and the self-titled Justice Lords are planning to enter the main timeline after stumbling upon it in order to enforce their own brand of "justice"... Tellingly, this storyline actually plays into the establishment of the Cadmus arc, as the Justice Lords are what the League (save Flash) could become if they gave in to their darker impulses.
      • Finally, the Thanagarian army in Season Two finale "Starcrossed" (which has a case of Nothing Is the Same Anymore). Odd hints about Hawkgirl not being who she seems come together and we discover she is The Mole, sent as an advance agent to Earth, and her entire backstory was a lie; then it comes out that the Thanagarians are lying about protecting Earth from the Gordanians and have far darker motives, and by the end of Part I the Javelin is destroyed, the League captured and Hawkgirl has picked her side. What follows sees the original Watchtower destroyed in order to stop a device that would destroy the Earth, and while Shayera manages to redeem herself it leads to her becoming The Exile from Thanagar for her treachery, and her teammates are torn about whether they can trust her again; she ends up leaving to find atonement (her relationship with John Stewart greatly damaged and their Relationship Upgrade undone), and events set up Unlimited from there. What makes the Thanagarians so dark, besides their lasting impact on future storylines, is that unlike some villains, they aren't one-dimensional at all - their commander, Hro Talak is a terrifying case of He Who Fights Monsters as he's ready to do anything to end the Gordanians, including mass murder via the destruction of an uninvolved inhabited world, and his scenes with Shayera when he learns she loves Green Lantern and not him are uncomfortably close to Domestic Abuse thanks to battle choreography; next to nothing involving Thanagar in the future is portrayed in an idealistic light from then on, including when some of them return in JLU.
  • Played with in The Dreamstone with Zordrak. While he appears in each episode dishing comical banter to his far less threatening minions, the Urpneys, he is a genuinely intimidating villain, and the odd time he has an active role in a plan it is usually a sign things are going to get a bit more serious.
  • While Magica DeSpell has always been an Evil Sorceress, in DuckTales (1987) (and its source comics) she's portrayed with humor and her goals and abilities are limited. DuckTales (2017) treats her much more seriously; the show upgrades her into a powerful Humanoid Abomination who wants to outright kill the heroes, and encourages her niece to become equally ruthless.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show: Eddy's brother. Considering that he is the only villain in the entire series who has dedicated all his life to physically assaulting children, starting with his own brother Eddy. While his abuse on Eddy is still displayed in a cartoony manner, the trauma is played in a poignant light and is probably the single most serious scene in the entire series. Not to mention the fact that meeting him put Eddy's entire character into perspective; it's implied that his brother was the only person Eddy had to look up to as a role model, despite the implication that his brother would abuse him on a regular basis when he lived in the Cul de Sac. It's no wonder Eddy grew up to be as scheming and emotionally unstable as he did.
  • In the Joe Oriolo Felix the Cat cartoons, we have the Master Cylinder, who is a lighter example — he was introduced into the (child aimed) series as this to offer something resembling a legitimate threat to Felix, something not really offered by the hapless villainy of Professor and Rock Bottom. While his victory streak is the same as Professor's and he's a Laughably Evil personality, he at least gets the edge over Felix right off the bat in most of his appearances and offers threats bigger than just the petty thievery the Professor's crimes consist of — for example, In "Master Cylinder Captures Poindexter", he comes dangerously close to destroying the Earth with a meteor he hijacked. On top of that, while Professor has an on-and-off rivalry with Felix, Master Cylinder is almost always hostile and antagonistic towards the cat.
  • Armondo Guitierrez has shades of this role in the early episodes of Freakazoid!. Most of the villains were primarily Sketch Comedy caricatures, providing laughs first and conflict second, but the cliffhanger ending of "The Chip: Part 1", where Guitierrez has Dexter tied to a chair and orders a man with a gun to kill him, is played completely straight. In his second appearance, he returns as Freakazoid's fully realized Evil Counterpart and only loses by a fluke.
    • The character still has a bit of comedy in him; in his first appearance he tends to unintentionally quote Khan Noonien Singh, while in the second he gained Freakazoid-like wackiness along with his powers, in particular flipping out whenever Freak calls him a weenie ("DON'T SAY THE WEENIE WORD!")
  • Given that Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 is more competent than previous incarnations of the character, he tends to bring a serious tone whenever he shows up.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Gideon Charles Gleeful starts out as some brat with a crush on Mabel. Then he tries to cut off Dipper's tongue for "getting in his way". Then he summons a demon, and nearly succeeds in taking over the Mystery Shack.
    • Bill Cipher introduces himself as this silly triangle-like creature, and then he rips out a deer's teeth! In his second appearance, he gets Dipper to make a Deal with the Devil, and then steals Dipper's body, and abuses it for his own amusement. And then he and his buddies break into reality to unleash The End of the World as We Know It. Things don't get better for a while. Bill may look and sound silly, but even Gideon is terrified of what he can do.
    • The Author, aka Great-Uncle Ford, when he makes it into the series proper. Although firmly in the side of good (he might even count as Big Good), his many revelations (in particular, his history with Bill Cipher) really ups the ante and shows just how high the stakes are.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
    • As an inverse example during Season One, before the show developed its trademark wackiness, there was Yog Sothoth who in its brief role was played as straight as one would expect from a cosmic horror from the writings of H. P. Lovecraft to be.
    • A zig-zagged case would be Nergal Jr. whose first appearance was played without any jokes and was a mix of horror and sadness. By his next appearance he softened up considerably and became much less edgy, even though he was still more serious than the average recurring character.
  • King Hiss in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002). Shortly after being released, he defeats Skeletor and his entire army of evil warriors, before breaking into Castle Grayskull. Although temporarily defeated, he later returns and destroys the royal palace of Eternia.
  • The second season of Hero: 108 has Twin Masters, an Omnicidal Maniac and embodiment of Chaotic Evil determined to destroy all life in Hidden Kingdom. Their introduction take the show from lighthearted to a more serious action show.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, the most recurring foes are the inefficient members of the Dark Hand, but they serve in every season different Arc Villains that each bring seriousness to the plot.
    • For the majority of the 1st season, the heroes clash against the Dark Hand, unaware that they're working to release the enigmatic Sealed Evil in a Can draconic demon Shendu. When Shendu is released in his full power for the season finale, he betrays the Dark Hand and nearly kills Tohru, sets out to destroy all of Asia to avenge his imprisonment and nearly manages to kill the title hero before he's defeated thanks to Jade. He's then killed, but he returns to cause trouble as a spirit in the next season and is resurrected in the 3rd season. Whenever he regains his true form and full power, it's treated with utmost seriousness.
    • The 2nd season has Shendu's seven powerful demon siblings who are imprisoned in the Netherworld. When any of them is released on Earth, the silly tones diminish immediately. This is especially pronounced during the Demon World duology when they're all free and in control of the Earth. A special mention goes to the Moon Demon Tso Lan, who attempts to alter the Earth's landscape by disrupting the Moon's gravity field and gets the least amount of jokes of all the show's villains. The Water Demon Bai Tza tries twice to flood a city to create for herself a new underwater kingdom, and she comes close to succeeding on both occasions. The exception is the Sky Demon Hsi Wu who ends up repeatedly as a Butt-Monkey partly due to being the smallest demon.
    • The Arc Villain of the 3rd season, Daolon Wong, first appears as a recurring minor foe in the 2nd season, but he shows himself to be a credible threat even back then. He's the most humanlike and hapless of the Arc Villains, but he's always treated much more seriously than the Dark Hand or any other human foe that appears in the series. He becomes Uncle's Arch-Enemy in his first appearance mainly because Wong reveals that he "defeated" Uncle's (later confirmed to be deceased) teacher, making him one of the few villains in the show who's confirmed to have killed someone. He's also responsible for bringing Shendu back from the grave in the 3rd season and kicking off the 4th season's plot by (accidentally) awakening Tarakudo, the king of the Shadowkhan.
  • Warhok from the Kim Possible Grand Finale. He planned to take Kim to his homeplanet to kill her and mount her on his mate Warmonga's wall.
  • King of the Hill: Leanne Platter. The whole reason Luanne lives with her aunt and uncle is because her mom stabbed her dad with a fork. Only appeared on screen in one episode where she gets released from prison, but it's clear she hasn't changed a bit.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes had a very quirky and upbeat first season. Season 2 opened with Imperiex making it to the past to conquer it, setting up the Darker and Edgier season.
  • Megas XLR: The appearance of Evil Coop marks the only time in the show's run were the villain was taken completely seriously. Given he destroyed his dimensions' versions of the Glorft, the S-Force, RECR and even Megas.
  • Surprisingly enough, Mr. Bogus actually shows one in the form of Bogus's Evil Counterpart, Baddus. Introduced in the second season premiere episode "Computer Intruder", this mean, green, more gremlin-like version of Bogus will often show up, depending on the tone of the episode. Baddus was introduced to indicate that while Bogus is a goodhearted gremlin, Baddus is actually the opposite, striving to make things miserable for Bogus and/or the denizens of Bogusland.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: The Cluster usually straddles the line between serious and comical, but for purely serious villains there was Armagedroid, a gigantic robot designed to destroy all weapons and almost killed Jenny in its first appearance, and Gigawatt, a towering electricity-eating energy vampire who although a bit quirky, proved to be one of Jenny's most difficult opponents.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Since Discord turned up in Season 2, the stakes definitely got high because of him. While Nightmare Moon was previously defeated by the Big Good Princess Celestia, and failed to effect the heroes before they redeemed her by the Elements of Harmony, Discord was immediately established as too powerful for Celestia and succeeded in mentally breaking the heroes leaving the Elements, his only weakness, ineffective and previously tormented the land as an Evil Overlord. They singlehandedly turned the setting into a Crapsaccharine World with a dark past and the previously infallible forces of good were proven vulnerable, and the previously light series started to get darker episodes and themes.
    • Lord Tirek from the Season 4 final "Twilight's Kingdom" steals everyone's magic and cutie marks, without which it would cause The End of the World as We Know It. To hammer the point home, see Discord up there? Tirek managed to one-up Discord by playing and emotionally breaking him, something no-one thought was even possible considering that was Discord's schtick. He also destroys Golden Oaks Library, Twilight's home, the first time the heroes suffered a permanent loss. Season 5 onward proceeds to have even darker moments.
  • The Beast in Over the Garden Wall is an absolutely terrifying villain, as any scene with him is taken seriously and immediately drops all the humor before he appeared.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Him, compared to the rest of the show's Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain cast, had a much more disturbing presence (even noted frequently by the cast and the narrator) and frequently supplied Mind Rape or other much deadlier tactics of bringing the girls to an end. Granted he also often supplied Nightmare Retardant and did have the occasional bumbling or comedic role (he was a Sissy Villain after all and one of the most daring villains on a Cartoon Network comedy ever;) but he was still miles deadlier than most of the Rogues Gallery, especially when he was the villain of the episode, in which none of the scenes with him were Played for Laughs note . And then there's the episode "Speed Demon" where he turned Townsville into a living hell on Earth when the girls accidentally traveled forward in time. One exception is season 4's "Him Diddle Riddle" in which if the girls don't solve all his riddles in time, Professer Utonium would have to pay for breakfast. And the 2016 reboot's HIM is no slacker. Just as diabolical, deadly, and twice as inconspicuous with his ploys as before.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: While the show was usually light-hearted in nature, there were many episodes featuring a ghost that was truly sinister, serious, and far more lethal than most threats the boys in gray faced. Notable examples include the Boogieman, who scared the living daylights out of children For the Evulz, and the Grundel, whose M.O. was corrupting kids to transform them into members of his own kind. One example that really stands out, though, is Mee-Krah from the episode "Standing Room Only". The episode in question was from one of the Lighter and Softer later seasons, but Mee-Krah was an Eldritch Abomination that sought to devour every ghost it could find and had caused an alarming swath of destruction before the Ghostbusters succeeded in destroying it.
  • ReBoot:
    • The Web Creature. The thing itself only appeared in three episodes, all told, but that doesn't matter. The damage had been done.
    • Megabyte himself is an example. Despite being there from day one, he inverts the typical Villain Decay of 1990s animation. He goes from season one's daily nuisance, to season two's master manipulator, to actually having won in season three and taking over the mainframe in the Cliffhanger.
  • Regular Show:
    • Anti-Pops (real name: Malum Kranus), the Big Bad of Regular Show's final season. While he had his share of comical moments, the show doesn't gloss over the fact that he is an Omnicidal Maniac that's willing to kill over even the most minor of inconveniences. By the finale, his actions nearly destroy the entire universe and manages to kill the entire cast, save for Mordecai, Rigby, and Pops. Fortunately, their deaths were reversed after Anti-Pops' demise, albeit at the cost of Pops sacrificing his life to stop Anti-Pops once and for all. Needless to say, Anti-Pops is the greatest threat the park staff have ever faced.
    • Despite only appearing in two episodes, Klorgbane the Destroyer may be an even greater example. Not only did he kill one of his brothers in cold blood in his debut episode, but Skips' Story reveals that he was responsible for the death of Skips' girlfriend, Mona. While not as powerful a villain as the entry above, Klorgbane has the distinction of being the only villain in the show whose actions are never played for laughs.
  • Rick and Morty gives us Evil Morty. Despite having only appeared in two episodes, they were both wham episodes where his identity was a huge reveal. In the first, "Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind", he is The Quiet One who only has two lines (which are completely devoid of any kind of humor) and is the assistant of the episode's Big Bad, Evil Rick...in appearance. In actuality, he is the true mastermind, controlling Evil Rick remotely, and gets away completely undetected at the episode's end. He dives further into this in his second appearance in "The Ricklantis Mix-up", in which it's revealed that the recently elected new leader of the Citadel of Ricks, President Morty, is actually Evil Morty. His first acts as President are to murder the Shadow Council of Ricks that planned to use him as their Puppet King and have their bodies (and those of many others who died during the episode) Thrown Out the Airlock, along with a still-living Rick and Morty who knew about his identity. At this point, he is undoubtedly the biggest threat to the "main" Rick and Morty that the series follows, and they don't even know he exists.
  • Professor Pericles the parrot from Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, who is hands down one of the most frightening villains in the franchise's history.
    • The Freak of Crystal Cove, AKA Mayor Jones, is even worse then Pericles. His deeds involve: Chasing off the original Mystery inc. Kidnapping the son of two of their members as insurance to raise as his own, scarring Pericles and pinning Mystery Inc's dissapearance on him, and causing the dissolving of the present Mystery Inc. as Fred leaves to find his real parents, Daphne blames it on Velma for not figuring it out sooner, Shaggy gets shipped off to military school and Scooby gets sent to a farm. And all this from a villain on a Scooby Doo show.
    • The finale has a final one, though only for its two-part sequence: the Nibiru Entity, a being whose evil has projected onto everyone, and is responsible for all the costumes, all the cruelty, and all the evil, including that of the previous two. Once freed, he kills Pericles, eats the original Mystery Incorporated, and eats all of Crystal Cove. His destruction raises this to a meta-level — as he was erased from the timeline, all the evil characters grew up to be good, and everyone's lives are for the better, bar Daphne's sisters.
  • South Park:
    • Season 20 onwards has Heidi Turner. Ever since she has been given a major importance boost, the show has become less humorous and more story driven and dramatic, with her abuse at the hands of Cartman being played dead seriously for the most part, showing the negative effects the abuse had on her mental and physical health.
    • Lennart Bedrager also from season 20. He is arguably one of the most serious villains in the entire history of the show. Aside from a few comically serious moments in his earlier appearances, there's really nothing all that funny about him. While the damage his TrollTrace system causes upon implementation is shown in a rather exaggerated manner, he's presented as a legitimate threat and is most definitely not Played for Laughs.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil has Toffee, an "Evil Efficiency Expert" who manages to manipulate Ludo, the main villain up to that point, into hiring him. From that moment on, viewers know something is up. This comes into fruition when, by the season one finale, he has taken control of Ludo's army, kidnapped Marco, and defeated Star, forcing her to destroy her wand after outright telling her that he is nothing like Ludo. And that was only the first stage of his plan, as in the second and third seasons, he proves to be even more dangerous by effortlessly defeating the Magic High Commission and Queen Moon, manipulating Ludo into killing Glossaryck, and very nearly killing Star. We also learn that Toffee killed a previous Queen, Moon's mother and Star's grandmother, Comet Butterfly. Even though he is defeated in the third season, it can be argued that he still won in the end, as the series finale has Star fulfilling his goal of destroying all magic in the multiverse anyway, and our heroine begrudgingly acknowledging that "Toffee was right".
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • The introduction of the extremely competent Bounty Hunter Cad Bane at the end of the first season was the point where the installment took a major turn for Darker and Edgier.
    • The installment takes an even darker turn midway during the third season with the introduction of the Nightsisters, a viciously misandristic cult of witches who use their Black Magic to brainwash and painfully transform a warrior named Savage Opress — the brother of the infamous Darth Maul — into a mindless instrument of their revenge against Count Dooku.
    • At the end of the fourth season, the darkness levels are taken Up to Eleven when Darth Maul himself makes his return. Over the course of the fifth season, he goes on a galaxy-wide killing spree, resulting in the death of hundreds of innocent civilians (including children), the brutal takeover of the peaceful planet Mandalore, and the cold-blooded murder of Obi-Wan Kenobi's Love Interest Duchess Satine right in front of Obi-Wan's eyes.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • The Inquisitor takes over this role as Darth Vader's personal assassin. Unlike the other Imperial villains in the first season, most of whom were either Punch Clock Villains or comedically incompetent buffoons, the Inquisitor is an unfettered loyal servant of the Empire who comes the closest to killing the heroes. In their first encounter with him, he tricks the heroes into infiltrating a prison containing Jedi Master Luminara Unduli, only to reveal that she was Dead All Along and the prison was a trap to kill any rebels. In his subsequent appearance, he cemented his status with such acts as torturing Kanan and remorselessly executing the Imperial officers Aresko and Grint on Tarkin's orders. Even Agent Kallus was horrified by the Inquisitor's brutality and sociopathy.
    • Tarkin himself should not be underestimated either. When he arrives on Lothal, he comes down hard on our heroes, and makes it abundantly clear that failure will not be tolerated.
    • The Wham Shot at the very end of the first season finale and previews of the season two premiere indicate that Darth Vader is stepping up to serve this role. And boy, does he show it by undoing everything the rebels managed to complete for the past several episodes, by orchestrating Minister Tua's death and framing the protagonists for it, and then by remorselessly trying to kill his former padawan Ahsoka
    • Like with The Clone Wars, Darth Maul brought tons of Family-Unfriendly Violence and other dark themes to the show. For starters, he bisects the Seventh Sister after Ezra refuses to, stabs the Fifth Brother, and then slashes Kanan in the eyes with a lightsaber, permanently blinding him.
    • Thrawn is even worse than the others. He is able to outsmart most of the rebels and defeat The Bendu.
  • Steven Universe began as a purely lighthearted, episodic show about Steven and the Gems fighting random monsters or having a comedic day. However, that all changes when Jasper is introduced, acting as the first threat to make Steven realize how serious the conflict with the Gem Homeworld really is. And that point is only driven home when Yellow Diamond comes into the picture.
    • Before that, in the mid season, the appearance of Lapis Lazuli foreshadowed the conflict between the Crystal Gems and the Homeworld. And shown us a different shade of morality on the Crystal Gems that kept her locked in the mirror for thousands of years.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
    • Lord Dregg of the 1987 cartoon. The fact that he plays his actions more seriously than Krang, the Shredder and his goons, who were all Laughably Evil Harmless Villains, definitely shows that this guy means business.
    • The first episode of those Red Sky seasons introduced Berserko, a rogue scientist from Dimension X, vying for revenge on Krang, and also cause trouble on Earth. He's far more serious than any of the other villains in the show, except Lord Dregg, and this is the episode when the show takes a Darker and Edgier turn.
    • The Shredder was made crueler and more brutal and competent in the 2003 cartoon. This was just a small change compared to his even more completely monstrous self in Turtles Forever. And so far he's been this in the 2012 series. Even with the show operated on Rule of Funny, none of the scenes with him were Played for Laughs. When the Turtles actually face off against him for the first time, they end up getting their shells handed to them; they only manage to escape because the Shredder was distracted by Xever and Bradford mutating. Following that, the show got darker with the other main villains the Kraang becoming far more of threat with the gradual reveal that their plan was to terraform the entire Earth to suit their needs. Shredder's seriousness as a villain in this series only gets worse when he mutates and eventually kills Splinter.
    • In the 2012 series, once Dogpound becomes Rahzar, he's nobody's comic relief anymore.
  • Teen Titans: Though he was introduced in the very first episode, Slade didn't take center stage until the end of the first season, and the previously light and comedic storyline took a much darker turn. Though humor episodes were still very common later on, any time Slade's around things get dead serious very fast. Things get even darker with the introduction of Trigon, Raven's father who takes center stage as the Big Bad of Season 4, with Slade (previously thought to have been killed off at the end of Season 2) being brought back as Trigon's herald., though they return to normal after both are defeated. Needless to say, this was a show that tended to dance a jig up and down the Sliding Scale of Seriousness Versus Silliness.
  • Total Drama is a dramatic, but still fairly lighthearted reality show with antagonists more focused on winning the game and voting out their competition than causing lasting harm to others and even the ones that do have redeeming factors to balance it out, however two antagonists from season 5 vastly contradict this and prove to be some of the darkest villains on the show:
    • The Malevolent One, or Mal for short, is a sociopathic alternate personality of Mike. When he's not breaking people's video games and phones, he regularly goes around harming people For the Evulz. Such incidents of this include, but are not limited to, brutally beating down Izzy in a boxing match when all he had to do was defeat her, attempting to knock Zoey off a cliff, and later drown her, attempting to leave Cameron to die by pushing him in the way of bloodthirsty animals effected by the Harvest Moon while Cameron was blind, breaking Alejandro's wrist as well as using Svetlana's athletic abilities in such a process that makes her slowly fade out and causes her pain to beat the crap out of Alejandro in a challenge, and attempting to toss Heather into a pool full of toxic waste even though she was trying to help him win a million dollars. Not only that, but it's revealed he actually got himself/Mike sent to juvy, before Mike could seal him inside his mind.
    • The second part of the season Pahiktew Island has Scarlett who reveals herself to be a Mad Scientist who programmed her brother's toys to attack him for 6 years after he pulled her hair. Then willing to let the island blow up if Chris doesn't give her the money. She's so vile that Chris wasted no time eliminating her on the spot after everything was said and done with.
  • Megatron of Transformers Animated is another semi-example like Slade and Rubilax. He was there from the beginning, but once he gets his body back, things get bad.
    • And then when Shockwave gets involved, things get worse.
    • The biggest one in the series is Lockdown. He has no comedic traits, is only interested in getting paid and claiming trophies from his victims, and is often regarded as the most evil Transformer in this series. Infact, his debut episode Thrill Of The Hunt, establishes that the series is not as immature as the art style makes it out to be. Lockdown's actions also led to the dark and troubled pasts of both Ratchet and Prowl. What's worse is that his backstory, alternate mode, and blank rubsign obscuring his faction brand all seem to suggest he was a former Autobot.
    • Prometheus Black/Meltdown is one for the human supervillains of Animated; the other villains, like Angry Archer, Professor Princess, and the Headmaster are all very comical and very much played for laughs. Meltdown, however, is played as a legitimate threat to the Autobots and also engages in some pretty horrific genetic experimentation, turning unwilling subjects into horrible monsters.
    • Unicron, essentially the Transformers equivalent of Satan. Transformers: The Movie opens up with him destroying an entire planet full of life, helping setting up the tone for the first of the movie.
    • Transformers: Beast Wars II is an incredibly light-hearted show with hilarious characters, that hardly ever takes itself seriously. And its villains are no exceptions - Galvatron - the Big Bad is a narcoleptic who spends most of the show asleep, leaving his inept kid brother Megastorm to run the show with effeminate The Dragon (Starscream), a thug who can only repeat his own name (BB), and Beavis and Butt-Head (Thrust and Dirge) under his command. Cue the last 10 episodes of the show, where Galvatron wakes up, takes command, and we learn that he has a gigantic Doomsday Device en route to Gaia, which he intends to use to destroy the whole planet and siphon the Anglomois energy. And then things go grimdark... Gigastorm (Megastorm after his makeover) is fatally wounded and dies in Galvatron's arms, and the whole series ends with all the Maximals sacrificing themselves to destroy the Nemesis, in the end flying up to 'robot heaven'. Granted, Beast Wars Neo retcons this.
    • Transformers: Prime is very much Darker and Edgier compared to earlier shows in the franchise, but its far more evil depiction of Megatron, snarkiness aside, still puts into their trope, with plans he gets involved with often extending beyond killing the Autobots to wiping out all life on Earth, along with a world of pain for anybody who tries to get in his way that isn't Optimus Prime. There are two more notable and recurring ones, the former being Soundwave who's almost always creeping other characters out, and the latter being Airachnid, who commits genocide for fun and is brutally cruel to the point that other Decepticons hate her.
      • Prime also has Silas and MECH, the show's only human villains— their obsession with discovering the secret of Cybertronian biology led them to repeatedly try to kidnap and vivisect Autobots and Decepticons alike. And on top of that, they had no problem threatening harm on any fellow humans who got in their way. They ripped out Breakdown's optic and cut into his chest, found Jack's house and abducted his mother, cut out Bumblebee's T-cog, and eventually used Breakdown's body as a new vessel for their leader after he was fatally injured.
    • Transformers: Robots in Disguise is intentionally a much Lighter and Softer show compared to Prime, with Decepticon villains who are mostly comedic and not that threatening. The exception, however, is Steeljaw, their de facto leader. His introduction sees him easily subdue the Autobots sent to capture him, and he displays a level of cunning and savviness seen nowhere else in the show before easily escaping from justice. He plans to force the other escaped prisoners under his thrall and form them into a new army to take the Earth.
    • Beast Wars, while Darker and Edgier compared to its precursor, does have several light-hearted moments during the first season. Season two introduces Rampage, a Serial Killer who's an expy of Hannibal Lecter. His appearance marked the show's descent into more nightmarish territory, and episodes where main characters get Killed Off for Real.
      • Tigerhawk, when his shell was possessed by the Vok. His arrival was directly responsible for throwing Beast Wars into the endgame phase and the Nemesis two-parter that followed contained some of the bleakest moments in the series.
  • TRON: Uprising has Cyrus. While TRON: Uprising was already much Darker and Edgier than most other Disney animated shows, it becomes even more so when he shows up.
    • He comes across as friendly and seems to be a good guy (albeit a disturbing one, what with his face... tattoos), until he reveals his plan to blow up the entire Grid.
    • Later, he forces the Renegade to make a Sadistic Choice in an attempt to ruin his reputation, and it works.
    • Before Cyrus, there was Dyson. A vicious piece of work that even the show's primary villain was terrified of. Fantastic Racism against Isos to start with. Then add Cold-Blooded Torture against Tron Dyson's primarily responsible for that impressive collection of scars. Tron has such a vendetta against the guy that he almost kills Beck for getting in the way of revenge. We kinda suspected he was starting to slip from Disney Prince status before, but the episode cemented just how bad the situation actually was.
  • While the show on a whole is lighter than previous continuities, Ultimate Spider-Man's version of Venom is, half the time, not played for laughs and there are less Imagine Spots whenever he manages to make an appearance. Similarly, his creator, Doctor Octopus, while hardly ever seen outside of his lab, also appears to have no humorous quirks and if he's in an episode, the episode has a likeliness of taking itself seriously.
    • And when Norman Osborn becomes the Green Goblin, things really get dark.
  • Both lampshaded and played straight in The Venture Bros. episode "Victor Echo November." When Phantom Limb gets in an argument with Harmless Villain The Monarch, he shows his superiority by calling for the immediate killing of the Venture family, whom the Monarch has ineffectually antagonized for the whole series. When the Guild henchmen prove to be much more dangerous than The Monarch's Mauve Shirts, Dr. Venture asks, "This is different, isn't it, Brock?" Brock replies, "Yeah, we might not win this one." Later on, the Monarch himself becomes much more threatening by Season 4. When the person he's after is not Rusty Venture, he can come off as downright scary.
  • Wakfu:
    • Season 1 has Nox. When most of the villains of the series are harmless, being slightly ridiculous or just not evil at all, Nox is one hell of a dramatic villain. He is eager to destroy any living things to get their primordial energy, including a baby that he stalked for ten years. And some flashbacks seems to indicate that he's responsible for the death of his own family, and ready to kill anyone/anything to bring them back to life. Altougth it might be a slight subversion, because he was introduced in the very first episode; the later villains were more light-hearted.
    • Season 2 is relatively light-hearted, since the true Big Bad isn't revealed until episode 20. The villains preceding him all have humorous elements that make them less serious, even Rushu. Qilby the Traitor however is a real piece of work. He wants to suck the World of Twelve dry of its wakfu for completely selfish and petty reasons, and unlike Nox he has no real redeeming qualities. Season 2 become a lot more serious when he stops pretending to be a nice guy.
  • In season 2, Wander over Yonder introduces Lord Dominator, a villain so powerful and sadistic, she manages to leave the other four main cast members trembling in fear and all the other villains bowing down to her. Normally, Wander's friendliness can get through to even the meanest people—not this one. By the end of the season, she had destroyed every planet in the galaxy, except for one, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes in terror. She's also notably the first character to actually KILL a sympathetic character on-screen.
  • Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa has Skull Duggery, the skeletal ghost of a greedy miner who died in a cave-in while trying to retrieve his hidden fortune of silver. It's especially notable in his second appearance "Skull Duggery Rides Again", where he teams up with two other ghosts in a plan to raze Cowtown.
  • Miss Power from WordGirl. Magnitudes more powerful than every other villain and WordGirl herself, and much more intelligent. Pretends to be a hero and trains WordGirl while slowly corrupting her and the citizens. When WordGirl finds out she's being played, Miss Power simply beats her up and takes over anyway. And given the nature of her powers, she's pretty much the embodiment of bullying.
  • Chase Young of Xiaolin Showdown was introduced as the Big Bad in the second season. In the first season, the villain had been Jack Spicer who's comically beaten once an episode. While he was partly taking orders from Wuya (an evil spirit with no physical form), she was also strictly comical, except in the Season One finale. Chase, however, was a strictly non-comical and threatening villain.
    • Wuya deserves special mention. Like Rubilax, her snarking makes her strictly comedic for the most part... Then she gets free and suddenly the laughing stopped.
  • Apocalypse from X-Men: Evolution. After he appeared, the series got less goofy and more serious, with more dramatic tension and more focus on stories about mutant persecution, less on high school drama. Apocalypse's ultimate genocidal plan really emphasized this.


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