10 Random and Geeky Facts About Pop Culture Bombs and Bullets

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Independence Day is on its way and all around the United States, we will be seeing “bombs bursting in air”—in the form of fireworks.

Also in July, the story of the father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, hits theatres. Oppenheimer’s creation lead to such horrifying advancements in nuclear weapons that it prompted him to utter his most famous quote loosely taken from Hindu scripture: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Explosives can be frightening (or very useful if used by professionals), but the stylized goofy bomb or bullet always seems to find its way into pop culture.

Before July’s fireworks glow, here are 10 completely random and geeky facts about those fake bombs in live-action and animated films and television.

1. The 1966 television movie Batman based on the series contains one of Adam West’s campiest and most famous lines as the Caped Crusader. He says, “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb,” as he looks for a safe place to dispose of a conveniently long fizzing bomb. The phrase has been so popular it has become synonymous with the sentiment, “Some days bad things will happen.”

2. Batman may be trying to get rid of bombs, but his favorite enemy, the Joker, loves them and loves to decorate them. In Batman: The Animated Series alone, Joker used different custom explosive devices from grenades to little bombs to dynamite bundles, all bearing his signature grin. He is a chemical weapons genius, so Joker Venom is most often what these explosives contain. In the comic world, authors like to call it by different names. Joker’s bombs (or other means of gas dispersement) may contain Smilex, Smylex, Laughing Gas, Joker Gas, Happy Gas, Giggle Gas, Joker Juice, Laughing Toxin, Laugh-A-loads, Perma-Smile, Smiley Gas, and Joker Toxin. All of these are pretty much the same thing.

3. In the Marvel Universe, Green Goblin is also fond of customized explosives, with his Pumpkin Bombs being first used against Spider-Man in the 1964 Amazing Spider-Man #17. These bombs have been armed with different gasses, lasers, or wings, including a special stun gas meant to specifically weaken Spidey himself. Despite the fun Halloween look of Green Goblin’s bombs, real “Pumpkin Bombs” (named for their large round shell shape) were aerial bombs used during World War II.

4. One of the cutest bombs made an appearance in the hit Super Mario Bros. Movie this year: the Bob-Omb! These little living, moving, might-blow-up-in-your-hands bombs first appeared in Super Mario 2 in 1988. Since then they have had many variations and colors over the years. Their leader, of course, is one of Bowser’s big minions, King Bob-Omb (aka Bomb King or Big Bully). Mario Kart Tour even had a Gold King Bob-Omb for a limited time.

Marvel, DC, and Nintendo’s bombs with happy faces. Image collage: Lisa Tate

5. The Bob-Ombs aren’t to be mistaken for Bullet Bills. These are the nifty torpedo-like bullets shot from the Bill Blaster (formerly Turtle Cannon) and are also anthropomorphic beings with a mind of their own. They really have it out for Mario, and if they want to nail that little plumber, there are red, guided missile-like Bull’s Eye Bill variants. The cutest variants, however, are the squishy yarn Woolet Bills in the 2015 game Yoshi’s Wooly World and the kitty-eared Cat Bullet Bills from 2013’s Super Mario World 3D.

6. The groundbreaking 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit featured several live-action versions of bombs and dynamite sticks in the Acme Warehouse, some used for comic props during Eddie Valiant’s Weasel-killing comic dance. Some of those bomb props have sold in various prop auctions for around $1,000 a pop… or, rather, a boom.

Valiant Bullets
Even the bullets have personality in the Toon Town world from ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit.’ Image © Walt Disney Pictures

7. Eddie is more attached to his set of long-neglected Toon Bullets that came with a revolver gifted to him by Yosemite Sam. What they lacked in smarts they made up for in personality. This is likely because they were was based on real-life western actors, including Pat Butram, Walter Brennan, and Andy Devine. Butram himself even provided the voice for one of the bullets.

8. One classic western actor, Slim Pickens, is likely best known by later generations sharing the screen with a bomb. This is the famous scene in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb where he rides a nuclear bomb to his death like a rodeo bronc rider. Pickens was a rodeo bull rider before being drafted in WWII and then heading into acting.

9. One character that should NEVER be around explosives is Wile E. Coyote. In his pursuit of the Roadrunner, this poor desert carnivore has been blown up a bunch! There are great breakdown charts of this from, of all places, an animal trap and repellent company, Havahart. This company did their homework on his many demises, and he was blown up a total of 73 times. He has also fallen to his death 95 times, been smashed by something 70 times, and run over 43 times, among several other unfortunate ways to lose to a roadrunner.

If you can endure it, here’s 11 full minutes of evidence animators clearly hate coyotes. Poor pup.

10. By the way, why do cartoon bombs often still look like big round black iron balls? Well, according to an article on Atlas Obscura, cartoonists like to use visual “shorthand” most people will recognize. In reality, bombs have long stopped looking like cannonballs with a fuse (they can look like pretty much anything now), but the black ball idea remains “explosively” simple to recognize.

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