Hidden Gems – Radioactive Man

With so many big names and big events plastered across the shelves of your LCS, sometimes great comics get left behind – buried in longboxes until someone comes along to find these Hidden Gems.

radioactive-man1By Cindy Vance, Steve Vance, Bill Morrison and Matt Groening

I haven’t actively watched The Simpsons in nearly 10 years. There was a time, though, when I was all over the weeknight reruns. And of course I had a fair amount of Simpsons comics. The best of the bunch, especially now, were the Radioactive Man books. Yes, Bongo Comics made a miniseries of Radioactive Man comics, but in a VERY unique way. The series chronicles the tales of Claude Kane III in his fight against crime as the irradiated do-gooder, but it’s not your standard miniseries.

Each issue is pulled from a different era of the character’s 50+ year “history” of comics. Rather than issues 1 through 6, Radioactive Man saw the release of issues 1, 88, 216, 412, 679 and 1000. Each issue is from a different decade and thus parodies conventional comics from that time. The first issue borrows heavily from the Hulk’s origin tale before moving on to Superman’s arctic hideaway. My favorite issue is #216 (though the “Dark Radioactive Man” saga from issue #412 is a close second). Remember the Green Arrow issues where Speedy got hooked on drugs? Well, Radioactive Man faced a much more serious matter. In 1972, “RM” was led to believe his trusty sidekick Fallout Boy had become a dirty hippie. It’s preposterous, but it’s written in a style very reminiscent of old comics and it’s really, really funny. When they caught up to modern times (in 1994), they hit Spawn with issue #1000, giving Radioactive Man a ridiculously long cape a la McFarlane’s alleyway avenger along with two Sam & Twitch-esque detectives. If it all sounds wonderfully weird, that’s because it is.

radioactive-man412To further drive home the point that these are “old comics,” every issue had awesome ads for fake products on the back cover like the old comics used to, such as a 70-piece Vietnam war battle playset (complete with little body bags for your army men) and a very Charles Atlas-inspired mail-away offer. It all just gels perfectly with the overall aesthetic. The art never changes, but the writing style emulates the time frame pretty well.

Character-wise, RM and his supporting cast are parodies of popular characters, and they all overuse the two-letter abbreviations. One of the longest running gags is a take on the Clark Kent/Superman glasses problem. See, the lightning bolt on his head isn’t part of his costume. It’s a piece of shrapnel from the explosion that gave him his powers. Removing it never works out (it turned him into Dark Radioactive Man, after all), so Claude always wears a hat. This leads to some pretty good sight gags where a wind gust blows his fedora off, so he steals Mary Tyler Moore’s hat from her eponymous opening sequence to cover the lightning bolt, among other weirdness.

Sadly, these issues were never collected in paperback, so you’ll have to go eBaying or longbox diving to find the individual issues. If you’re a Simpsons fan, these are definitely worth picking up for the in-universe gags. A young Marge Bouvier had a letter printed in the comic back in the day, for example. Even if you’re not big on The Simpsons, the satire of comics here is pretty damn solid. I definitely recommend these if you can find them.

radioactive-man216 radioactive-man1000

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Who ARE these people!?

Lee Rodriguez is a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Panels On Pages. He is also a freelance graphic and web designer, action figure customizer, swell guy, and an awesome dad.

I'm even on Google+... Kind of.

Comments (5)

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  1. Spider_Fan14 says:

    wow, those do sound awesome. I remember buying an issue of RM that was a parody of Jack Kirby’s New Gods and Darkseid was named “Backseid” and an issue of Simpsons that had a back up of him and an Avengers-like team going against a Hydra-like organization.

  2. Tomer Soiker says:

    “Hydra” must have been that secret evil organization Homer once went to work for.

  3. Jason Kerouac says:

    Intriguing…

  4. potatojoe says:

    I love those comics. Another good one was the “movie” special.

  5. Ben Gilbert says:

    That “Spawn” parody cover had me laughing out loud. I’m definitely going to have to seek these out.

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