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Scariest 80's Cartoon Villains

Cartoon heroes had a hard time making an impression on the TV watching youth of the 20th century without a good villain to knock around each episode. In the absence of a terrifying villain, how did we know who we were supposed to be triumphing over during imaginary playground battles? Monster of the week shows rarely kept the interest of children that craved the predictability of an evil arch-nemesis to pop-up and make our favorite protagonists look “mucho mighty” for another installment of their ongoing rivalry. A scary bad guy was essential, but sometimes the showrunners took the monstrous characters to the next level. So let’s look back at some of the Scariest Cartoon Villains of the 80’s.

Mumm-Ra, Thundercats

Somehow The Mummy crept into the “Classic Monsters” club back in the 30’s and has managed to get his membership card renewed year after year, despite the fact that a good kick to the chest could easily turn him into a pile of dust. There’s nothing scary about a shuffling corpse held together by gauze, that is unless he can transform into a muscle-bound terror like the Thundercats’ big bad, Mumm-Ra!

He starts out so unassuming, hunched over and covered in bandages, even Snarf could probably take him. Then, with a few verses of black magic poetry he’s hulking out with red, glowing eyes and sporting a headdress worthy of mardi gras. The truly terrifying thing to me (besides the idea of what’s lurking under that skirt) is the amount of stringy spittle jiggling around Mumm-Ra’s mouth. Truly disgusting. If I were Lion-O I would be less concerned about Mumm-Ra pummeling me to death, as I would about him drooling all over my Claw Shield and having to clean the mouth slime off my Sword of Omens. Blegh!

Catrina, My Little Ponies: Escape From Catrina

Sure, she looks cuddly, but this kitty has claws! You may be asking yourself why I was watching My Little Pony TV movies in 1985. Well at that point, every cartoon show related to a toy (and 99% of them were) was fascinating to me and I wanted to know the stories that went with along with the plastic figures I saw hanging from pegs in stores. This is also the reason I rented the Barbie and The Rockers VHS, but I digress. This psychotic feline terrorized the sweet Ponies with her weather witch powers derived from a magic potion and that’s where the horror came into play for me.

Catrina was obviously a stand-in for an abusive, alcoholic step-mother. She had a very Mommy, Dearest type vibe with her regal robe and perfectly done up hair, which made her look glamorous, until she got hooked on Witch weed potion that turned her into a maniac. This drug abuse allegory was really frightening to me as a kid. To see a middle aged female character who had the ability to be maternal, totally flip out by ingesting substances was a total shock to my system at 3 years old, when I thought all women were kind “Mommies”. Eventually Catrina hits rock bottom, threatening to drop a baby pony down a well, but after an “intervention” she sobers up and becomes a friend. So there you have it, Scary Cat Witch Homicidal Lush meets My Little Pony is not recommended for young viewers.

Dr. Scarab, Bionic Six

Sometimes a villain is just unsettling to look at. Mon-Starr from Silverhawks was evil looking, but had a sleek robotic body. Cobra Commander was just a possibly deformed guy (or evolved snake-man, depending on how you feel about G.I. Joe: The Movie being cannon) in a cool helmet. But then there was Dr. Scarab from the awesome 80’s adventure series, Bionic Six. To put is simply, this blob-like leader of the bad guy legion of freaks was not pleasant to have wandering around my TV screen. Maybe it was just the comparison to the heroic Bennett family who were all attractive, athletic types against his pale, misshapen form, but Dr. Scarab’s character design always gave me the willies.

His complexion was unhealthy, his face skin was saggy and combined with those ruby red lips he looked like an evil melting Grandma. We also can’t leave out the fact that he was wearing actual doctor gear which could easily cause flashbacks of traumatizing visits to the exam room of poking and prodding pediatricians. Ultimately the scariest part was that he wasn’t a monster, just an ugly human with some machine parts strapped to his body. Theoretically some real person could actually end up looking like Dr. Scarab. Can you imagine running into this guy at the grocery store when you were 5 years old? Ahhhhhh!

Pretty diverse list I must say, but fear comes in many forms. I’m sure you had many more scary animated bad guys that frightened you as a child and I would love to hear about them in the comments section below. If you dare to relive the horror.

Tweet your tales of cartoon terror to me at @hojukoolander on Twitter.

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Rabbitearsblog Posted on Aug 01, 2019 at 07:47 AM

Oh man! Mumra was something else!

Hoju Koolander Posted on Oct 15, 2015 at 02:35 AM

@vaporman87 You are totally right on that Aeon Flux idea. Just stretch Dr. Scarab on the rack for a few days and he would fit right in. D'Compose is pretty nasty looking. By the way, your daughter and my wife are in agreement on Mumm-Ra.

@NLogan That no-face zombie looks like The Blank from Dick Tracy lost his/her trench coat and had to make due with an old Halloween costume.

Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 14, 2015 at 10:11 AM

And my daughter, though she doesn't watch Thundercats much, says she finds Mumm-Ra to be very creepy. So, she thanks you for the nightmare fuel.

Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 14, 2015 at 10:06 AM

Those were all pretty creepy, but the ones that scared me most as a kid were two of the more popular ones... Charlie The Funland Robot and the Ghost of Captain Cutler:

NLogan Posted on Oct 14, 2015 at 05:32 AM

For Scooby Doo villians I would say the creepiest were The Ghost of Dr. Coffin from the Harum Scarum Sanitarium, the No-Face Zombie, the Ghost of Milo Booth, and the Phantom Shadows.

NLogan Posted on Oct 14, 2015 at 05:14 AM

I second Mumm-Ra the Ever-living and Venger and raise you Lolth also from Dungeons and Dragons who lures our heroes with an escape route only to lead into her trap as she is a giant spider-woman!

I also think the Skeleton Warrior Dekkion was pretty cool even though he wasn't exactly a bad guy.

jkatz Posted on Oct 13, 2015 at 09:55 PM

Scariest 80's supervillain? You mean besides Reagan?

Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 13, 2015 at 04:02 PM

Dr. Scarab reminds me of something you might see on Aeon Flux (the MTV cartoon). Doesn't he have that same kind of look?

I would add to this list:

Venger from Dungeons and Dragons, and D'Compose from Inhumanoids. Pretty creepy guys:

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