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The application of high voltages to animated flesh and bone renders the former translucent and the latter luminescent, allowing the skeleton to be seen in the style of a classic X-ray for as long as the current flows. Despite the impressive light show, the victim will usually then still be alive, if a bit singed and shocked.
Sometimes this is not caused by electricity but by another source, like a Disintegrator Ray. In this case, it is more frequently lethal, the skeleton just showing up briefly before the whole body turns to dust. Or, the skeleton is the only thing left behind.
The trope name is a tribute to the "X-Ray Specs" that have been advertised in the back of comic books since time immemorial.
See also Harmless Electrocution.
- Was once a (non-discredited) live-action trope, appearing in various monster movies of the black-and-white era, as well as "The Borderland", an episode of the original The Outer Limits.
- One advertisement for Advertising/Orangina features a man-in-Orangina-bottle in a giant pinball machine, including X-Ray Sparks at one point.
Anime & Manga
- When Ash first meets Pikachu in Pokémon, Pikachu shocks him for a good ten seconds and his skeleton is shown every other second. This later happens to Professor Oak a few seconds after the attack ends.
- One Piece
Brook: This is such a shocker, you can see my bones!! Of course, that's all I have in the first place!!!
- Gigantor: "Battle of the Giant Robots" had a truck display an X-ray skeleton when hit by a robot's weapon.
- Shown in Harukanaru Toki no Naka de - Hachiyou Shou OAV episode "Kokoro no Yukue" when Kotengu is struck by lightning as a punishment for losing a tengu competition.
- Happens to the villains in Yatterman, due to the two main protagonists using electrified weapons.
- Hanaukyo Maid Tai episode 10. Happens to Taro when he's in an electrified chair: Ikuyo Suzuki did it to help him stop falling asleep while studying.
- Naga and Diol both get an electrifying experience from one of Lina's spells in an episode of Slayers.
- Happens to Panty and Stocking in episode 8 of Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt.
- In the Shaman King manga, when Ren uses his new lighting powers on Yoh. And then he looks back and says: You are very good Ren while we still only see his bones.
- In Leonard Le Genie, this happens almost every time Basile has to power up some new invention.
- Tends to happen to Wolverine whenever he's struck by a large amount of electricity. Like Storm's lightning.
- Happens to Marv when he is executed at the end of The Hard Goodbye. Twice.
- Baby Blues. In one strip Hammie does it to his older sister with static electricity.
Films -- Animation
- In Monsters vs. Aliens, briefly happens to Susan when Doctor Cockroach attempts to revert her to normal size.
- Occurs in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs when Flint attaches a jumper cable to an electrical tower at the power station.
- In Fantastic Mr. Fox, Kylie (an opossum) and Mr. Fox climb an electric fence and their skeletons are seen. (This film is stop-motion animated.) It also happens later to Rat when fighting Fox in the sewer. It doesn't end well.
- When Remy and his brother Emile attempt to cook food by chimney smoke in Ratatouille, they get struck by lightning (attracted to the TV antennae) and their skeletons briefly appear for one or two separate frames.
- Scrat when struck by lighting in the first Ice Age movie.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Happens to the title character during the short cartoon Somethin's Cookin' at the beginning, when his fingers get stuck in some electrical sockets.
- Happens to Batty in Fern Gully 2.
- Happens in Cats Don't Dance, near the end when Darla hits a machine with a wrench, her skeleton is seen for less than a second before she flashes many different colors
- Happens to several pink elephants during this part of the song "Pink Elephants on Parade" from Dumbo.
...Look out! Look out!
They're walking around your bed
On their heads! (Clippity-cloppity)
Arrayed in braids,
Pink Elephants on Parade!
- Happens to the goons in Sleeping Beauty when they're all hit by Maleficent's lightning.
- Happens to the Evil Queen in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs as she is becoming the Witch, although you could only see her hands.
- Played with in Winnie the Pooh when Eeyore is struck by lighting. Instead of bones, it's his stuffing.
- Happens to several submarine crew workers in Atlantis the Lost Empire during the scene where the Leviathan starts destroying the submarine they are in.
Films -- Live-Action
- The first Hot Shots movie actually does this to a live-action Charlie Sheen, although he is only visible through the frosted window of an office door.
- The film Home Alone 2 features Marv (Daniel Stern) being shocked; an effects shot briefly replaced him with a Real Life skeleton puppet wearing the same hair, beard and clothes as him, before turning back to his regular fleshy self.
- Star Wars
- Darth Vader when hit by Force lightning at the end of Return of the Jedi. This displayed not only his skeleton, but some of his mechanical implants. (Which we can somehow see through his armor.)
- Pretty much anyone hit by force lightning is subject to this trope. See also Mace Windu in Revenge of the Sith.
- In Young Frankenstein, this trope is used as the monster is brought to life (using lightning). Only (alas) the monster's skull is shown illuminated under his skin.
- In Willow, occurs as Queen Bavmorda is struck by lightning as a result of her own backfiring magic.
- One of the Green Goblin's weapons in the movie Spider-Man does something similar (though it is more an explosion than an electrical effect).
- The Mask
- Happens to Stanley Ipkiss in the first movie when he becomes the eponymous Mask for the very first time.
- In one sequel, the dad gets possessed and shoots lightning at the bad guy. He starts to flip around and flash into a skeleton.
- In Son of the Mask, this is the fate of Loki when Odin struck him with lightning to remove his godly powers.
- The programs being drained by the MCP near the end of Tron show their skeletons as energy pulses through them.
Live Action TV
- Since 1988, the Dalek energy guns on Doctor Who make the victim's body briefly flash lime green while their bones glow bright white. According to dialogue, the victim dies as their internal structures are chaotically rearranged. Earlier it was just a circular area of film around the victim turned negative.
- Happens to Weird Al Yankovic in the animated video for "I'll Sue Ya", when he tries to use a hair dryer while standing under a still-running shower.
- Champions supplement Gadgets. The illustration for the "Deathwind" Commando Suit shows the victim of its electrical charge attack displaying this syndrome.
- Happens in Little Big Adventure whenever someone is electrocuted.
- This was a feature of Pikachu's electrical attacks in the original (and ONLY in the original) Super Smash Bros Ness, Samus, and several items did the same thing in the original Super Smash Bros., but like Pikachu, they could only do so in the first game. This even provides something of a visual gag if Samus gets shocked, because instead of showing us her skeleton, we just see the human figure inside her power suit.
- Touch Detective Nintendo DS game. One of the characters in Episode 2 can suffer from X Ray Sparks by fooling around with an electrical socket.
- Crash Bandicoot
- Electrocution damage in Crash Bandicoot 2 shows the title character's bony corpse and his pink polka-dot boxers..
- Averted in Crash 3: touching electricity will just make him flinch backwards.
- Weirdly seen in The wrath of Cortex with Crunch Bandicoot. When he (Crunch) prepares an electric blast, his skeleton will be shown with red eyes. Even though he's made out of wind.
- Returns in Crash Tag Team Racing, where Crash shocks himself in the die-o-rama.
- This happens to characters from Darkstalkers when they are hit by an electric attack, but some don't show skeletons when hit (for example, Pyron shows a constellation, Jedah shows runes, etc.).
- Similarly, Street Fighter II does this with anyone who is capable of electricity-based attacks. Which used to just be Blanka, but there are probably new zappy characters here and there. Especially notable as every character had their own "zapped" animation, which was averted completely from the Alpha games onwards with a Pallete Swap instead.
- In Street Fighter 4, the feature of X-Ray Sparks returned.
- Captain Commando too.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Happens to Knuckles in Sonic And Knuckles when he is counterattacked by Robotnik after trying to reclaim the Master Emerald.
- Predating this, sprites found from a prototype of Sonic CD revealed that Sonic was originally going to get this effect when shocked by the electric wires of Wacky Workbench, but this was scrapped due to policies regarding the image of the company's mascot (which must've been pretty strict, since in the original Mega Drive/Genesis title, sprites of Sonic being comically stretched while going down the high-speed elevators of Scrap Brian were removed from the final game).
- The title characters in some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game show this effect when they are zapped by beams from roving robots on wheels.
- Touch any electrified material in Little Big Planet, and you get the same result. Sackboy lights up, twitches violently for a few seconds, and then explodes. (Don't worry, he comes back normal from the previous Checkpoint after his Critical Existence Failure.) Hilarity Ensues if the electrified object was moving, as Sackboy is stuck in midair during electrocution, and the object may even go right through him. Some people on YouTube have found a way to save the Electrified Sackboy as a costume they can put on whenever they want, making for a very cool, glowing Halloween effect.
- Mortal Kombat
- In Mortal Kombat 3 (and only there), Nightwolf's lightning and Stryker's taser fatality will make the foe flash blue, and a skeleton can be seen throughout the lightshow. This was removed in Mortal Kombat Trilogy (an update of the same game).
- Somewhat subverted in Mortal Kombat 9. Stryker's X-ray attack has a part where he uses taser and the foe's entire skeleton can be seen, shaking.
- Blaz Blue
- Any victim of Rachel's electric attacks. It's especially visible on the long-duration attack from the electric frog, George XIII.
- Also invoked with Iron Tager's Gadget Finger attack.
- Happens in Leisure Suit Larry V when you stick your fingers in an outlet. As they had decided to remove the accidental deaths from the LSL series around this time, it isn't fatal.
- In Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, Yatterman-2's grab attack consists of her electrocuting her opponents with their skeletons (or inner mechanical parts for robots) showing. For some reason this is the only electrical attack that does this.
- Happens in 3D in Sims 2: attempting to repair anything without enough Mechanical skill causes you to flash as a bright green skeleton, then wind up with your clothing turned to soot and hair completely frazzled.
- Bubble Symphony. Only, little voltage is required to kill a protagonist.
- Puzzle Bobble 2 (arcade): A VS CPU mode cutscene before facing off against a giant lightbulb thing has the player character getting fried.
- Used in the Bioshock plasmid videos to demonstrate electrocution, bizarrely they use the same thing to show being set on fire.
- Occurs in Vanguard Princess when Luna Himeki or support character Eko blows an electrified "kiss" to their opponent.
- Happens in the Metal Slug Series whenever any of the main playable characters gets zapped.
- Happens in Final Fight 2 & 3 whenever a player character is zapped.
- Happens in Space Quest 6 when Roger uses the hand icon on the electrical outlet in his room, resulting a death being reduced to ashes, clothes intact.
- Super Mario
- In Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga, both brothers can display this trope when in contact by electricity.
- In the Super Mario Strikers intro, a hammer bro gets slipped onto an electric fence.
- Also occurs in the sequel Super Mario Strikers Charged to not only a Birdo and a Pianta in the opening clip, but also to all characters when knocked into the electric fence (Or hit by Dry Bone's Skillshot).
- Happens in the Super Mario Galaxy games when Mario (or Luigi) gets shocked. In the first game, if the shock killed Mario, he would die as just a skeleton, but this was removed in the sequel.
- In Magicka, using a eletric component in your spell will shock the enemies and show their 3D rigging.
- Happens in a boss fight near the end of Dixie's Double Trouble. Just hit K.Rool's flight pack and he'll fall onto the electrified floor.
- In Creatures Adventures, norns that are struck by lightning show their skeleton briefly. It's completely harmless.
- Occurs when a spy is blown up or killed by a Bucket Booby Trap in Spy vs. Spy.
- Subverted in Bug!! The title character does blink black and white when electrocuted by a literal lightning bug, but no skeleton appears because he's an insect. However, it could also mean that this trope is played straight with his entire exoskeleton.
- The first In Famous game did not feature this. The sequel, however, has this happen upon hitting someone with a bolt attack, as well as when using the Bio Leech.
- This happens to any enemy in Fable 3 when using the Shock Gauntlets. Killing them with it leaves their corpses as bare skeletons.
- Happens in Makai Kingdom when anyone is hit with an electric based attack.
- Happens to the characters in Po Po Lo Crois, as well as most of the enemies when they are hit by an electric spell.
- In Bloodrayne: Betrayal, if Rayne is struck by Kagan's lightning, her skeleton flashes for the duration of the spell. Also happens when you beat him the first time, he electrocutes her to stun her.
- The "Electric Eyes" Also do this if you try to go Raven Form in front of them.
- For some reason, the electric frogs do not cause this effect.
- The "Electric Eyes" Also do this if you try to go Raven Form in front of them.
- In Nexon's game, Dragon's Nest, this happens if you or an enemy is affected by the "electrocuted" satus debuff.
- In Balloon Kid, touching a spark at any time causes Alice to get electrocuted and knocked out.
- Exploited in one strip of Cyanide and Happiness in order to take an actual X-ray.
- Spoofed in Rusty and Co: who would have guessed that Mimic has a jawbone?
- Any number of Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry cartoons.
- Happens in one Looney Tunes cartoon, where Taz gets zapped up by a christmas tree's lightbulbs.
- In the 2006 Christmas Special, Daffy Duck gets hurled onto an telephone wire.
- In the 2011 remake, The Looney Tunes Show, Daffy Duck and Bugs bunny get struck by lightning, revealing rabbit and duck bones.
- On Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, this happens to each of the five Rangers at least once throughout the series. In the episode "Does Pavlov Ring a Bell?", Monterey Jack shakes hands with the electrically charged lab rat Sparky and receives an electric shock strong enough to reveal his skeleton.
- Inspector Gadget
- Happens to Chief Quimby in every Title Sequence, while inside a safe, as the self-destructing sheet of paper explodes to his face.
- Happens to Inspector Gadget too, in the episode "Gadget and Old Lace", when he is shocked by the electric chicken.
- In one episode of Dexter's Laboratory, the title character was repeatedly shocked by a robot.
- In Home Movies, Duane and McGuirk both show their skeletons in electrocutions, unusual for a show that's otherwise low-key and absent of exaggerated cartoony action.
- Played straight in The Fairly Odd Parents; in the process, also shows Wanda with a BONE inside her hair swirl.
- Asajj Ventress, when hit by Dooku's force lightning in Star Wars: Clone Wars.
- Happens from time to time in Darkwing Duck. Pretty much any episode with the lightning-wielding Megavolt.
- In SpongeBob SquarePants, the title character and Patrick shock themselves and this happens... even though they're both invertebrates and therefore have no skeletons.
- Total Drama Island
- Demonstrated in an episode of the first season where Heather gets shocked by an Electric Jellyfish.
- A teaser for Total Drama World Tour features this happening to Duncan when he gets hit by a laser beam.
- In the Beavis and Butthead cartoon "Head Lice," this results from the misuse of a bug zapper.
- Happens in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series during the webslinger's battle with Electro.
- In season 1 episode 6, Vampyro shocks Sadlygrove with a mere touch, causing X-Ray Sparks.
- Happens to Posho at the beginning of episode 12... from the Eniripsa's vigorous "healing".
- Adamaï gets his turn when struck by the giant gerbil's lightning in season 2 episode 1.
- In The Legend of Ogrest special episode, it happens to Long-Tail the Ecaflip when struck by Otomaï's lightning potion.
- Happens in Jimmy Two Shoes, naturally to Samy.
- When Pinky and The Brain have their "genes spliced" in their show's opening theme, instead of bones, the electricity used to give the two mice their intelligence actually makes DNA strands appear in their bodies.
- This happens repeatedly in The Avengers, with the first appearance of Thor, he uses mystic lightning on frost giants, showing their skeletons. In the first appearance of the Hulk, he is struck by an electrical weapon that reveals his skeleton.
- In the episode The Last Roundup of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, this happens to Derpy when she jumps on the lightning cloud.
- Happens to Ed in the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy movie finale, he also transforms into various forms of himself that has been used previously on the show.
- In book 9 of the Lone Wolf series, The Cauldron of Fear, it is shown with this illustration of a soldier trying to attack Zakhan Kimah while the latter is protected by the Orb of Death, the poor Red Shirt ending up disintegrated by the magical aura.
Films -- Animation
- Happens to Ursula at the end of The Little Mermaid, as a result of King Triton's trident electrocuting her just moments after Prince Eric stabs her with a harpoon.
- Happens with Jafar's death scene in The Return of Jafar.
Films -- Live-Action
- In the 1953 adaptation of The War of the Worlds a soldier is hit by the Martians' Disintegrator Ray. There's a closeup shot of him as his body glows a bright green, with the skeleton showing through the glow, before the whole thing fades away and the unlucky victim vanishes into nothingness.
- During a battle in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Crash and the Boys catch the business end of a fireball launched by Matthew Patel and his backup singing Demon Hipster Chicks as he sings "Slick".
- In The Wheel of Time books, someone hit with balefire has their colors "inverted" and just fades from view in the brilliant white light of the Death Ray.
- Notoriously used in the Made for TV Movie The Day After to show those closest to Ground Zero being vaporized. Not only is this appropriate, it's actually pretty close to accurate--or at least, close enough for TV's sake. In Real Life in a nuclear blast, for those closest to Ground Zero, their soft tissues would be vaporized a split-second before their hard tissues (bones) would be. Obviously, no-one has lived to tell the tale of whether or not these twin processes happen fast enough for the eye to see, but both processes happen fast enough for the dead person's shadows to be literally burned into the ground.
- The effects themselves were realistic, but the special effects department's choice of photographs on which to create the effects made less sense. A few seconds earlier, Kansas City was a scene of panic and rioting; the people shown being vaporized are enjoying a day by the riverside, at weddings, in schools, in bars and coffee shops, etc. Some of the photos used in the vaporization scenes are actually stills from earlier in the movie.
- Super Nova, the second Lexx TV movie, shows Giggerota's skeleton briefly, because the super nova's shockwave dissolved her flesh and clothing a fraction of a second before her bones. It probably wouldn't happen like that in real life, but it looked cool enough that it was used in every version of the show's opening credits.
- F.E.A.R. has the Particle Beam Gun, which vaporizes the flesh off its victims' skeletons.
- The taser weapon in the Sega Genesis game Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition is insanely powerful, able to kill dinosaurs and people in a single shot. When you use it, you see the skeleton of whoever or whatever you use it on before they collapse into ashes.
- The Ray Gun from Another World, when it hits a victim, leaves a charred black skeleton that quickly crumbles into dust.
- Raiden's Bowdlerized fatality in the SNES port of Mortal Kombat involves him shocking the opponent to such a degre that they're reduced to a skeleton which collapses into a pile of dust.
- In The Order of the Stick, this happens to victims of the "Disintegrate" spell, whether they resist and only take damage, or are killed and next turn to dust.
- In Looking for Group, Richard applies on Cale a fried-to-a-crisp-by-fireball variant.
- Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic. Lamia, meets lightning strike.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Baxter Stockman was was placed in a disintegration chamber by Krang after one failure too many. A fly entered the chamber with him, and after a brief X-Ray spark Stockman was transformed into a giant mutant fly. This instance provided plenty of Nightmare Fuel; Baxter Stockman was pleading frantically for his life before and after being thrown in, and his screaming skeleton during the X-Ray spark was truly horrifying.
- "Extremely high voltage? Well, I don't need safety gloves 'cause I'm Homer Simp-" (he touches the wires and is electrocuted)