18 Weird, Wild and Wonderful Comic-Book Moments That Happened In or Near a Bathroom
1-2. “The Great Brain Robbery” (Justice League Unlimited, original airdate 03/04/2006)
Did the animators of the old Super Friends series ever show the bathrooms in the Hall of Justice or the Legion of Doom? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there; even super-villains need to tinkle. But nothing they could have shown in those early days of superhero animation could possibly compare to the supreme awesomeness of the two bathroom scenes in this 2006 episode of Justice League Unlimited. In a nutshell: Flash and Lex Luthor have accidentally switched minds, leaving Flash-in-Luthor’s-body to deal with a mutinous pack of psychopaths in the Legion of Doom while Luthor-in-Flash’s-body wreaks havoc in the Justice League’s Watchtower. AWESOME MOMENT THE FIRST: “Ahem. Aren’t you going to wash your hands?” “No, ’cause I’m evil.” AWESOME MOMENT THE SECOND: Luthor, pausing to catch his breath in a Watchtower washroom, feeling a sense of satisfaction in knowing he’s about to learn Flash’s secret identity… and then, after removing his mask, realizing he has no idea who he’s looking at. Pure bliss, brought to you by writers Matt Wayne and the dearly missed Dwayne McDuffie.
3. “Enemy Mine” (The Man of Steel #4, DC, 11/86)
Back when 2013’s Man of Steel was in theatres, Gillette ran an ad campaign inviting people to share their guesses on Twitter about how Superman shaves (given the whole every-part-of-him-is-invulnerable-thing). Turns out there was no need; thanks to John Byrne, who was tapped to revamp the Superman books back in the 1980s, we already had the answer. As seen in this story, Clark shaves by focusing his heat vision on a curved piece of metal from the rocket that brought him to Earth, burning off his facial hair one whisker at a time. “Just as a normal man’s face is toughened by the daily routine of shaving, my own cheeks have become increasingly resistant to the heat-beam,” he thinks to himself for no readily apparent reason. (Seriously, why are superheroes always doing that thing where they talk to themselves about what they’re doing, while they’re doing it? It’s like you or me saying to ourselves, “Luckily, the act of peristalsis aids in the efficient digestion of the breakfast burrito that I have just consumed.”)
4. “The Challenge of Hobgoblin” (Amazing Spider-Man #260, Marvel, 01/85)
“The Challenge of Hobgoblin!” took place at a wild time in Spider-Man’s life. He had just dropped out of college, earning a serious tsk-tsk from his Aunt May… his relationship with the Black Cat was on the rocks… the alien costume he had brought back from the Secret Wars planet was caged and itching for a rematch… Mary Jane had just revealed she knows all about his double life… and on top of everything else, the mysterious Hobgoblin was up to all kinds of mischief and mayhem. Spidey swung into action when Hobgoblin smashed his way into Harry Osborn’s office and demanded his late father’s journals, and their fight through the corporate halls of Osborn Manufacturing ended up in the ladies washroom, where Hobgoblin had to plunge his hand in a toilet after Spidey webbed a lit goblin grenade to it. “You’ll pay for this indignity,” the masked malcontent snarls as he gets away. “You’ll pay one thousandfold! So swears the Hobgoblin!” Pretty fancy talk for a guy who was fisting a toilet bowl five seconds ago, Hobby.
5. “I’ll Take Manhattan…” (Secret Wars II #2, Marvel, 08/85)
Hoo boy. Okay, the first thing you need to know is this series was a sequel to Secret Wars, an insanely popular mini-series based on a line of Marvel action figures that saw a powerful figure “from beyond” transport a whole bunch of heroes and planet to a far-off planet purely for kicks and giggles. In the sequel mini-series, the Beyonder comes to Earth in search of answers to deep philosophical questions like “What is desire?” — and who better to answer those kinds of questions than people in masks who punch each other all day? After following Peter Parker to his apartment, the Beyonder announces his newly acquired physical form is experiencing a “fullness in my lower abdomen”… which Parker says is a signal he has to, er, go take care of business. “Explain,” the Beyonder says. And so Parker explains the mechanics of urination to an omnipotent and all-powerful being who is the sum total of all existence in his own universe. Let me repeat: Peter Parker explains the mechanics of urination to an omnipotent and all-powerful being who is the sum total of all existence in his own universe. Remember, Beyonder: any more than three taps and it’s technically playing!
6. “Get Some, Part Three” (The Boys #9, Dynamite Entertainment, 08/2007)
“In a world where costumed heroes soar through the sky and masked vigilantes prowl the night, someone’s got to make sure the ‘supes’ don’t get out of line. And someone will.” That’s all you need to know about The Boys, aside from the fact that Garth Ennis wrote it (meaning you might want to consider putting it up on the top shelf when the kids are in the room). In this issue, secret agents Billy and Hughie pay a visit to Tek-Knight, a high-tech hero in the Batman mold, and Hughie asks if he can use the loo while they’re down in his subterranean headquarters. And if you’re wondering what kind of nutjob would install biometric security locks on the bathroom door in a secret underground lair that only he and his butler know about… well, trust me when I say you really don’t want to know.
7. “Old Ghosts” (Watchmen #8, DC, 04/87)
And then there are the moments in a bathroom you don’t see. Those of you who recognize Rorschach in the scene above will have a pretty good guess as to what kind of business he was taking care of in that washroom during a prison riot and breakout. What I like about this scene is how the banter between Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre acknowledges the necessity of a superhero costume that takes the call of nature into account. Yes, Michael Keaton may have looked spiffy in all that shiny black plastic and body armor, but I bet he had a harder time going to the loo than a bride on her wedding day.
8. “The Laughing Fish” (Detective Comics #475, DC, 02/78)
This scene takes place during “The Laughing Fish,” a classic Batman story from the all-too-brief 1970s run by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers. The main plot finds the Joker poisoning the fish around Gotham City as part of his insane scheme to demand royalties for every Joker-faced fish caught by local fishermen; here, he takes a break from that murderous romp to deliver a message to Rupert Thorne, a crooked city councilor who recently tried to figure out Batman’s identity. The Joker warns him in no uncertain terms to back off, because the pleasure of unmasking and killing the Dark Knight is something the Joker reserves for himself alone. No surprise, the Clown Prince of Crime knows how to make an entrance, but I can’t help but wonder (a) how someone with the Joker’s face and outfit got anywhere near this elite rich-guy club, much less inside its men’s washroom, without attracting attention and (b) how long he stood inside that stall waiting for the right moment to announce his presence to Thorne.
9. “Colin the Barbarian” (Excalibur #46, Marvel, 01/92)
Boy, if I had a nickel for every time some raging purple barbarian smashed through the door while I was brushing my teeth… Don’t worry, though, everything’s cool; that’s Kylun, the champion of an alternate Earth, who only ended up crashing through Nightcrawler’s bathroom door because that’s the doorway that an enchanted portal on his Earth connected Kylun to when he walked through it. Yeah, I agree, it doesn’t make much more sense when I explain it. At least brushing his teeth was all Nightcrawler was doing in there when Kylun smashed his way through. Dude, a bathroom door gets closed for a reason.
10. “Ceremony, Part 1” (She-Hulk: Ceremony #1, 1989)
It’s not often a scene set in a bathroom gives birth to an urban legend about why a writer quit a title, but that’s She-Hulk for you. Back in 1989, John Byrne started a new ongoing title, The Sensational She-Hulk. Around the time it debuted, there was another Marvel project starring the character, a two-issue “prestige format” story titled She-Hulk: Ceremony. Because he was the writer of the new regular series starring the character, Byrne was offered a chance to review the mini-series for any inconsistencies with his scripts; all his edits, save for one, were accepted by editor Bobbie Chase. As Byrne told interviewer Scott Tipton in 2007, he felt this panel, in which the gag is the pile of broken razors on the table next to the tub, didn’t make sense: “My objection… was that Jen would not do this (even if she needed to shave her legs, which arguably she did not). The first time she tried, the first time the razor broke, she’d get on the phone to her pal Reed Richards and say ‘Here’s my problem…’ Reed would have an Atomic Leg Shaving Apparatus (which, knowing Reed, would be big as a Volkswagen) delivered to her apartment within the hour! Problem solved.” The razor gag stayed in, Byrne later complained of unauthorized edits to his stories, and he was soon off the book, only returning when another editor was assigned to it. Imagine how different it all could have been if they just had She-Hulk get a wax instead…
11. “Drain Storm” ( Marvel Comics Presents, Marvel, 11/89)
Yeah, so it’s like this: if the people behind this Ant-Man movie that I keep hearing is going to happen soon are out there reading this… then allow me to suggest you might want to leave this career “highlight” out of your script.
12. Fantastic Four (2005)
When the late, great movie critic Roger Ebert reviewed 2005’s Fantastic Four, he was slightly underwhelmed by the screenplay: “Are these people complete idiots? The entire nature of their existence has radically changed, and they’re about as excited as if they got a makeover on Oprah.” I can only imagine how many times he rolled his eyes during the gee-aren’t-our-radically-redesigned-bodies-handy-for-performing-mundane-tasks montage about halfway through the film, which included this scene in which Reed Richards uses his newfound stretching power to fetch a fresh roll of toilet paper from another room. Mind you, most of us keep a few extra rolls within reach of the toilet… but we all can’t be super-geniuses like him, I guess.
13. “A Weapon to Unify” (Villains United #4, DC, 10/2005)
Once upon a time, a select group of really evil super-villains tried to organize all the other super-villains in the world to fight their common enemies. But the funny thing about some super-villains: they’re not exactly team players and don’t really play nice regardless of who’s trying to call the shots. This 2005 mini-series saw the debut of the new Secret Six, a group of rebel super-villains and one of the better ideas to come out of DC during the 2000s. In this issue, a sneak attack on an enemy base begins with Rag Doll (a contortionist who can twist and squeeze his body into any right spot) getting inside via a route that no one had likely ever considered a security risk: “Okay, lady, I got your fancy security system all set up. Teleporters, shape-shifters, shrinkers, super-strong types, whatever you call them guys who turn intangible… nobody’s getting inside this secret fortress, I guaran — ‘what about the plumbing,’ you ask? Heh, good one. Like anyone’s going to climb up through the john to get inside. Just sign here, please.”
14. “Today I am a Man” (American Splendor #2, DC/Vertigo, 12/2006)
Remember the first time you had to fix a toilet? I do. We had just bought a house and all three toilets started acting up at the same time, refusing to flush and running all night. After replacing the entire flush assembly from all three toilets (and a nearly liquefied gasket seal in one of them), I was feeling pretty good about myself. Heroic, even. In fact, I kind of identified with how Harvey Pekar felt in this autobiographical short story about his own efforts to fix an overflowing toilet. Sure, they try to tell you that you are a man at your Bar Mitzvah, but it’s only when you fix a toilet and get it done right that you really feel like you’ve earned that title.
15. “Arthur, Interrupted” (The Tick, original airdate 01/24/2002)
If you haven’t checked out the live-action Tick series on DVD or Netflix, you really should (and at only nine episodes in length, it’s very marathon-friendly). Based on Ben Edlund’s superhero spoof about a guy in a tick suit with super-strength and “drama power,” it enjoyed a two-year run as an animated series and the live-action series (starring Patrick Warburton of Seinfeld fame) has become a cult favorite because of the sheer lunacy of the scripts. In this episode, the Tick’s crimefighting partner finally “comes out” to his family about his choice to be a superhero, and they force him into a psychiatric hospital as a result. And really, where do they get the nerve to call him crazy, just because he fights crime in a moth suit… and he lives with a guy who never removes his own superhero suit… a guy who engages in an episode-long battle of wits with a malfunctioning toilet, accusing the bathtub of taking the toilet’s side… and… um, actually, yeah, I can totally see why they would think that.
16. “Percussion” (Planetary #23, DC, 08/2005)
Let’s face it, being a henchman is no easy gig. You have to do all the heavy lifting, it’s your job to deal with the crying and screaming hostages, and let’s not even talk about how your medical and dental won’t even begin to cover the damages when a superhero rearranges your face. But despite all the risks and hassles that come with working for an evil mastermind, you’d think a fellow would be able to take a goddamn leak without anyone trying something funny. No such luck for this guy; in this issue of Planetary, the two men in white seen above are attempting a rescue mission, and the poor fellow standing at the urinal has something they need. Moral of the story: a bathroom is a really, really bad place to be when you’re dealing with a guy who can freeze anything solid, and doesn’t care about the continued functionality of your body parts as much as you do.
17. “And Who Shall Mourn For Him?” (Silver Surfer #5, Marvel, 04/69)
Look, it’s not like anyone is surprised to see superheroes on the same team — especially superheroes who share the same address, like the members of the Fantastic Four — treating each other as more than just teammates. But even family members expect a certain amount of privacy when dealing with mundane grooming tasks like shaving or taking a shower. So… what’s up, Ben and Reed? Are you two in the habit of sharing a bathroom when one of you is taking a shower? Or should we assume this is a one-time deal because the shower in Ben’s is acting up again? And how does Susan feel about this cozy moment in the loo? Enquiring minds, people!
18. “The Potty’s Over” (Epic Illustrated #25, Marvel, 08/84)
The bathroom has been a prime location for many horror scenes, both in movies (cue Psycho music) and in real life (cue memories of that last bad burrito you ate), so it’s no surprise to find a few comic-book horror tales taking place there, too. There was “99 44/100% Pure Horror!”, a 1952 EC story about a guy who turns his murder victim into soap and ends up getting his just desserts when he mysteriously drowns in the shower, and there was “On a Dead Man’s Chest,” another chilling EC tale in which a man and his sister-in-law plot to kill his brother by making a fall in the bathroom look like an accident. But none of the classics can compare to the grisly fate that befalls the bathroom bludgeoner in this 1984 tale written and drawn by horror-meister Berni Wrightson. Marvel’s Epic Illustrated was published in the 1980s to compete against the Heavy Metals of the world; freed from the Comics Code Authority, nudity and gore were par for the course. In this 11-page story, an abusive husband surprises his wife in the shower, and she accidentally causes his death when he accidentally strikes his head on the sink. Figuring no one would believe her story, she dismembers him and flushes his gooey remains down the drain, grateful the work is taking place in a room that’s easy enough to clean up afterwards. As you can probably guess, she doesn’t get off that easily; her husband’s extremely gross-looking remains snake their way back up the pipes, and he exacts his revenge just as she’s enjoying a nice hot bath. I guess you could say she “washed out” as a murderer, eh? Right, I’ll… I’ll let myself out.