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Top 10 Most Adult Superhero Cartoons

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
Save these animated heroes for after the kids go to bed. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Adult Superhero Cartoons. For this list, we’ll be looking at animated films and series that are not intended for young audiences, that instead take the medium into darker, more adult-oriented directions. As such, kid-friendly series like Batman: The Animated Series will not be considered, despite being notably mature. We’ll be ranking the list first and foremost on the adult nature of the content, while also taking overall quality into consideration.
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Save these animated heroes for after the kids go to bed. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Adult Superhero Cartoons.


For this list, we’ll be looking at animated films and series that are not intended for young audiences, that instead take the medium into darker, more adult-oriented directions. As such, kid-friendly series like Batman: The Animated Series will not be considered, despite being notably mature. We’ll be ranking the list first and foremost on the adult nature of the content, while also taking overall quality into consideration.


#10: “Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher” (2014)


The MCU may reign supreme, but as far as animated films are concerned, Marvel struggles in a big way. It would be a stretch to call this 2014 movie “great”, but for adult comic book fans disinterested in the bright colors and kid-friendliness of Marvel’s contemporary animated shows, you could do a lot worse. The tone of “Black Widow & Punisher” is a little hit or miss, as is the characterization and dialogue, but there’s not much to complain about when it comes to the fight scenes, which are brutal and incredibly satisfying. Produced by Japanese studio Madhouse, it’s an adult adventure perfectly tailored to those who like superheroes and anime.



#9: “Stripperella” (2003-04)


The late, great Stan Lee made innumerable contributions to the world of comic books, from the co-creation of iconic heroes like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men to his unforgettable cameos in Marvel films. This creation however… was his gift to his adult fans. Rated TV-MA, “Striperella” was an overtly adult series following a superhero/stripper by name of Erotica Jones, voiced by none other than Pamela Anderson. The series only lasted one season and turned away many potential viewers based on its premise alone, but it was more than a gimmick, offering genuine laughs, some clover moments and yes… plenty of adult appeal.



#8: “Batman: Under the Red Hood” (2010)


Now… if we were ranking these cartoons solely based on quality, “Under the Red Hood” would naturally land much higher on our list. It’s easily one of the best animated films ever produced by DC. In terms of being adult-oriented however, it ranks lower. The animation style is notably darker than that of “Batman: The Animated Series”, the combat is far more brutal and there are some drug references, but it’s still fine for young teens. The most adult moment is the brutal scene in which the Joker beats the second Robin, Jason Todd, before killing him in an explosion. It’s an iconic moment from comic book history, but definitely not one for kids.



#7: “The Death of Superman” (2018)


Spoiler: this isn’t the last DC animated film we’ll be talking about today. Though the company has struggled with its cinematic universe, they’ve mastered the art of animated superhero films. In recent years, the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series has adapted some of the most iconic moments in comic book history, including, in 2018, “The Death of Superman”. A faithful adaptation of the epic early ‘90s storyline by the same name (albeit with a few interesting twists), the film was very well received upon its release. Epic in scale, emotionally-driven and tackling mature themes, “The Death of Superman” is everything a longtime fan of Superman could ask for.



#6: “Hellboy: Blood and Iron” (2007)


With the news of a reboot, any and all hopes of a third Hellboy film from director Guillermo del Toro were officially dashed. Living in this new reality, we’ve got a newfound appreciation for the animated “Hellboy” films. Released between “Hellboy” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”, “Blood and Iron” featured voice work by the live action film cast, including Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones and John Hurt. “Hellboy: Sword of Storms”, released in 2006, was fun, but didn’t feel essential. In this follow-up, the storytelling is tighter, the tone darker, the threats all the more frightening, and the relationships better fleshed out. This is a mature animated film that lives up to its source material.



#5: “Batman: Year One” (2011)


Another iconic comic book story, another essential DC animated adaptation. Based on the critically acclaimed run of Batman #404 to 407, written by Frank Miller in 1987, this film explores Batman’s early crime-fighting career and the foundation of his unique relationship with James Gordon. As with most of Frank Miller’s comic book work, Year One was notably dark and mature in its themes; and the film respects the source material in this regard. The level of storytelling in the film goes above the heads of younger viewers, while the language, prostitution and Selina Kyle’s dominatrix outfit make it wholly inappropriate. As IGN put it, "This is real, serious adult entertainment”.


#4: “Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay” (2018)


Released in 2018, this is the caliber of “Suicide Squad” film we should have gotten in theaters back in 2016. You say a villainous ensemble doesn’t make for a compelling cast of characters? We say go watch this animated movie right now. “Hell To Pay” is wholly disinterested in making its characters likable, or having them play the antihero. This motley crew of villains are a backstabbing and unapologetic bunch of criminals, and the film has no qualms with killing them off. The violence is excessive, the squad shoots (and swings) to kill, and there are precious few child-friendly lessons on offer. It’s also quite funny in its own dark way.



#3: “The Maxx” (1995)


Before “The Maxx” came along, people had never really seen a superhero cartoon like it. Come to think of it, even two decades after its release most people still haven’t seen anything like it, because the one-of-a-kind series remains an underappreciated cult classic of the MTV generation. Based on the Image Comics series of the same name, “The Maxx” follows a homeless man who’s a mighty warrior/hero, in the surreal landscape known as the Outback. The animation is ever-changing, the tone absurdly dark and the subject matter (including a serial rapist villain) worthy of a hard R-rating. The series is too dark and heavy (even for some adult viewers!) but it’s undeniably brilliant.


#2: “The Dark Knight Returns” (2012-13)


Released in two parts, the first in 2012 and the second the following year, “The Dark Knight Returns” is an adaptation of one of the most famous Batman stories ever published. A miniseries written by Frank Miller in 1986, “The Dark Knight Returns” explores an alternate future in which an aging Batman comes out of retirement and ultimately faces off against Superman. This a film about flawed heroes existing in a world made up entirely of moral gray areas. The violence on display is extreme, the language is strong, and vices are around every corner. It’s one of the best animated Batman films ever made, but wait until the young Bat-fans are older teens to share it with them.



#1: “Todd McFarlane's Spawn” (1997-1999)


From the same mind that gave us the iconic Spider-Man villain, Venom, the Image Comics character Spawn isn’t fit for young fans of any age, be it in comics, films or this animated series. Airing on HBO, “Todd McFarlane’s Spawn” debuted in 1997 and ran for three short seasons. Today, it is remembered as one of the greatest superhero shows ever produced. And in 1999, it even won an Emmy. The series follows a man betrayed and killed by a friend, only to return to earth as an agent of hell. His gruesome adventures were explicitly adult-only, and featured everything from sex to severed limbs. The series was often grotesque, but was also excellent.

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