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Nightmare Fuel / Superman: The Animated Series

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Accept us. Accept Unity. >:D

Despite the fact that the DCAU is known for its contrast between light and darkness, it doesn't mean that Superman: The Animated Series is Lighter and Softer than Batman: The Animated Series in any way, as the following examples of Nightmare Fuel will quickly tell you.

  • Darkseid, THE Big Bad, is a stone-skinned Evil Overlord from a Crapsack World who isn't amusing or likable or suave like Lex Luthor: he's just cold, calculating, and plain evil. While the show weakened Supes so the villain of the week stood a chance, Darkseid was one of the few to really crack Supes and inflict Clothing Damage. Darkseid after he is all beat up himself isn't a pleasant sight, either.
    • Made worse by the fact that unlike most evil overlords, his people don't hate him or try to overthrow him — they WORSHIP him.
      • Perhaps the most chilling line ever uttered by Darkseid comes when his subjects come to collect his broken form and take him to be healed, having no concept of a life without him:
    Darkseid: I am many things, Kal-El. But here, I am God.
    • Granny Goodness, a sadistic hag who raises orphans to be superpowered killers loyal to Darkseid through torture and brainwashing. And she's voiced by Ed Asner, of all people.
    • In the series finale, when Superman has been brainwashed to believe he was raised by Darkseid, Granny Goodness tells him how he arrived on Apokolips. She tells the truth in that his parents sent him away from Krypton prior to its destruction, but that "kind fate brought you to Apokolips where Darkseid raised you as his own". We're even shown a clip of Darkseid and Granny Goodness finding Kal-El's pod and Darkseid smiling. It's just so bizarre to see the two most evil beings in the universe take the role that the Kents had. The very idea that Darkseid is capable of anything resembling love is laughable, but of course, Kal-El believes it, since he thinks of Darkseid as his father at this point. They even managed to twist Superman's innate sense of justice into something horrible by convincing him that Darkseid simply wants to bring order to an anarchistic universe, which is technically true.
  • Mixed with a Tear Jerker, the death of Dan Turpin. It just happens out of nowhere, and the character in question exploded and was vaporized.
    • Even worse is the fact that the murderer, Darkseid, does it so casually, almost as if it's a spiteful afterthought. And then he warps away to Apokolips and avoids Superman's wrath.
    • The original plan was to have Darkseid kill Jonathan Kent in this fashion. It would have given Superman a more plausible reason to hate Darkseid, but being brainwashed and turned against his adopted homeworld gave him plenty of motivation to want revenge against 'ol Lava-lips anyway.
  • The Toyman is portrayed in his first appearance as completely disturbed, wearing a porcelain mask, sporting a creepy child-speak, and wielding genuinely dangerous weapons. Said weapons include a bouncy ball that gains in speed until it ricochets so fast it can crush steel, toy soldiers that fire real bullets, and "Dopey Doh" — a self-replicating biogenic weapon designed to suffocate its target. And he always seems to come out of the shadows. Even his duck-like Giant Mecha is creepy.
    Duck: (in an almost human voice) "Ruuuhwaah..." (proceeds to smash Mannheim's yacht)
    • Fridge Horror ensues when the Toyman captures Lois Lane and dresses her up as a doll.
    • And when he captures Mannheim, he asks Lois to take notes while he blindfolds Bruno and puts him in front of a firing squad of toy soldiers. how they ever got this past the censors is beyond me.
    • In the follow-up episode, he is now a Stalker with a Crush, is actually made worse in that regard, as the character named Darcy, the model, is later revealed to be a human-like robot he created as a "playmate". Lana catches Darcy removing her face and spot welding her facial circuitry to repair damage from the Toyman's latest kidnapping attempt.
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    • Toyman is especially scary because he's arguably the only one of Superman's rogues gallery who is genuinely insane: not over-the-top comic-book crazy, but actually, certifiably mentally ill.
  • The origin of Parasite: he's in the back of a truck and chemicals spill all over him, horrendously transforming him into a monster than can drain abilities and memories from other people, even Superman. Not to mention what the victims can look like - in his first episode, we see him put major drain on a policewoman, Clark, and Jimmy. All three of them went limp like they'd just had all the life sucked out of them. Also, there's his ability to impersonate his 'lunch' so he can keep feeding without anyone realizing that the person is missing. At one point, he switches to Clark's voice and calls in sick for him. On a related note, Parasite's screams in "Two's a Crowd" are some of the most unnervingly realistic ones placed into a kid's television show.
  • Unity, a local Eldritch Abomination that shares some similarly with Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath; not the first time that the show went to the Lovecraft well (see below). It also wasn't working alone - the Preacher depicted above? He's essentially Nyarlathotep, and reveals a One-Winged Angel form when the Supersibs directly threaten Unity. Especially horrifying during one scene where the Mind Rape portrayed is way too reminiscent of actual rape.
  • Karkull. In the comics, he's a guy who can turn into shadow; in the series, he's basically another Nyarlthotep Expy. He turns the Daily Planet into a portal to elsewhere and it promptly starts spewing out shoggoths, which possess any unlucky humans that happen to be nearby including Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. At the end, as Superman goes to the bottom to catch the tablet that can re-seal him, a barely-perceived Outer God starts rising up to consume him. Also, when Karkull is chanting out a spell, the words he uses are real, as a literal Ominous Latin Chanting.
  • Metallo, a criminal who, after being jailed by Superman, agrees to be turned into a cyborg by Lex Luthor; then, after the transformation is complete, he realizes that he doesn't have any sense of touch, taste, or smell, and it drives him mad, as he's pretty much deprived of your senses and stuck in an unfeeling metal body for the rest of his life. The part when he rips off half of his fake skin is the exact moment he realizes exactly what he has become.
  • The Joker's laugh in the scene for “World's Finest"; when he's destroying Metropolis, he has a deranged look on his face.
    • Not to mention the mob boss after a dose of Joker Venom. Unlike most victims (who either go comatose or die with a grin frozen on their face), this guy just kept laughing.
  • The Stinger at the end of the three-part pilot "The Last Son of Krypton". Hapless alien explorers discover Brainiac's satellite pod after he ditched Krypton like a rat escaping a sinking ship. Brainiac then bursts out of the pod, and things get ugly very fast. He murders the aliens so brutally that we actually see their blood splatter on the walls. He is cast in shadow the entire time, which just makes it worse.
  • The series generally stays away from any real violence, except in one memorable incident in part two of "The Main Man", where Lobo grabs a Sandworm by the tail and rips off its skin.
    • In another instance from "The Main Man", Lobo is pacified by two Green-Skinned Space Babe robots who hit him with sleeping gas by folding up the entire top halves of their skulls to reveal hoses.
    • The Preserver's true form. Normally he takes the appearance of a sage-like levitating alien with a soft, soothing voice, but when forced to become physical, he turns into a hideous, red abomination with enormous claws and More Teeth than the Osmond Family. His voice also gets significantly deeper and raspier. He also literally tears his way out of the skin of his first form.
  • The ending of "The Late Mr. Kent". Detective Bowman is desperately trying to figure out why Clark Kent wasn't killed by his car bomb. In the very last scene, he finally realizes he's Superman. And then the lever to the gas chamber he is being executed in is pulled.
  • The brief moment in Bizarro's debut episode when he breaks open one of Lex's Superman cloning jars onto the floor and the yellow unborn Superman body slides towards Lois' feet.
  • The climax of "My Girl", where Superman saves Lana from being covered in molten lead in barely the nick of time, then she has to desperately get to higher ground as the factory is flooded with it.
  • At the end of "Absolute Power", Mala and Jax-Ur are sucked into a black hole, screaming as the gravitational tides stretch and spiral out their bodies into fractal infinity...
    • Also, consider this sobering fact: Black holes, like the one that just obliterated two of the most-powerful villains Superman ever faced? They exist for real, and aren't depicted in an unrealistic way in this episode at all.
  • More mundane than most, but still disturbingly effective (and realistic) are the attempts on Lois' life in “Target”. A stalking creepy soft voice and the emphasis that no matter where she goes, she's not safe and it's no surprise that she starts to have nightmares about being murdered. Worse off, the culprit ends up being someone Lois thought she could trust who turned from affable to murderous the second he was found out.
  • Another mixture with Tear Jerker is when Superman finds the stasis pods containing Supergirl's family and we're shown the frozen corpses of Supergirl's parents and brother.
  • In "A Little Piece of Home," Lex all but explicitly orders Mercy to kill a scientist for his cooperation with Superman. He does this in a way that is startlingly subtle, especially for a cartoon. He merely claims it would be an awful thing to wake up and find that something terrible had happened to him. Cue a grim shot of Mercy giving the poor doctor a death glare.
    • Earlier in the episode, as Lex and Mercy are reviewing the surveillance footage of Superman's failed attempt at capturing two common crooks that robbed his museum:
    Lex: Vito and Sam Corali. See that they're dealt with.
    Mercy: (writes something on a small note pad) Done.
    • In "The Way of all Flesh," when Superman tells Luthor that Dr. Vale, the scientist that turned Corben into Metallo, is being tracked by the police, Luthor replies:
    Lex: What makes you think there's any of him left to find?
    • What makes this even scarier is that Lex had been pulling crap like that possibly years before Superman showed up, having anyone who impeded his operations or failed him marked for death with no one to save them. Adding to that, more people die just because they keep getting in Lex's way. True sociopath indeed.
      • While The Joker at least adds humor to his implied body count, there is almost nothing funny about Lex's cruelty. Simply put, you're dead if you get in his way. No punchline, sometimes no warning, and sometimes without reason other than for his convenience.
      • In "My Girl", he tries to have Lana killed when she discovers his connections to the black market. Interestingly, he actually feels regret about this.


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