Be not fooled, Faithful Spoilerites!  Though this issue may bear a publishing date of the year 2000, what’s inside is pure 1963 Silver Age madness.  It’s the greatest Radioactive Man story ever told!  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Radioactive Man #100 awaits!

RadioactiveMan100CoverRADIOACTIVE MAN #100
Writer: Batton Lash
Penciler: Bill Morrison/Hilary Barta
Inker: Steve Steer, Jr./Bob Smith
Colorist: Chris Ungar/Nathan Kane
Letterer: Chris Ungar
Editor: Bill Morrison
Publisher: Bongo Comics
Cover Price: $2.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4.00

Previously in Radioactive Man: In the beginning, there was Tracey Ullman, whose variety show featured short cartoon interludes about a dysfunctional family of yellow-skinned weirdos, which spawned its own cartoon sitcom.  That show, which internet wags are happy to tell you hasn’t been funny since Season 3, created a complex mythos, including the fact that delinquent son Bart’s favorite superhero is a squared-jawed paragon known as ‘Radioactive Man,’ who serves as a general parodic figure for anything they want to mock about the comics industry.  Naturally, then, when the comic license for The Simpsons was given, the adventures of that selfsame hero had to be part of the package, starting with a six-issue miniseries in 1993 that poked fun at nearly every age of comics.  Seven years later, our hero reappeared on the stands with this issue, whose framing sequence begins in the Android’s Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop, where Bart and his pal Milhouse are being dressed down by the owner for mishandling his classic back issues…


If you’ve ever heard Comic Book Guy speak, you can clearly hear him right now.  (Apropos of nothing: As a fat guy with a goatee who used to work in a comic shop, I was once forbidden by the owner to ever use the Comic Book Guy voice in the store, upon penalty of “She would smack the hell out of me.)  Waxing rhapsodic about the quality of this back issue, CBG relates his own tale of youthful nerdery, explaining that this issue inspired him not only to love comics, but to live comics…


His narration carries us into the pages of Radioactive Man #100 (including an inside-cover house ad resembling DC’s Silver Age advertisements, a fake indicia page featuring the issue’s copyright and more, as well as the first of many inside-jokes, this one involving Carmine Infantino’s ‘pointing hands’ caption-boxes) to the city of Zenith, where the ceremonial opening of a time-capsule from 1863 gets weird…


News of the rampaging robot carries fast, but Radioactive Man is nowhere to be found!  The panicking populace comes to the attention of Zenith’s Mayor, who realizing his solemn duty to summon the greatest hero the world has ever known to once again pull his fat out of the fire…


That Atomo-signal gag is a good one (note also another pointing caption, and the reference to inker Joe Giella, one of the stars of DC’s Silver Age books.)  The robot cowboy runs amok in the streets of Zenith, getting the attention of R.M.’s colleagues in the Superior Squad…


…who are otherwise occupied by a ridiculous plotline (that also serves as a brick joke from a previous house ad.)  Humor in comics is a mixed bag, generally speaking, especially when it’s self-directed, but Batton Lash makes it all work, with subtle moments (such as reminding us of the literally dozens of people in on Radioactive Man’s secret identity, none of whom know about the others) and more obvious ones, such as the exposition that comes with the arrival of R.M.’s sidekick Fallout Boy…

RadioactiveMan1006My eleven-year-old was stunned and a little disappointed to find out that one of her favorite bands takes its name from this minor sidekick, but I explained to her that this will be the least of the disappointments awaiting her if she reads enough comics, which seemed to help things not at all.  Rushing back to headquarters, Fallout Boy uses his Cosmic Communicator to call throughout the multiverse, searching for his missing boss-hero, to no avail.  Alternate earths, pocket dimensions, even the Radioactive Ape of hidden Simian City have no idea where the hero has gone.  Finally, he desperately contacts the Radioactive Man of the future…


Unbeknownst to young Rod Runtledge, that future hero is actually himself, grown into his mentor’s role and costume, and his advice is utterly useless, thanks to his older self’s panic about changing the timelines.  (That, by the way, is one of the most true-to-life parodies of the melodrama and angst of the Silver Age I’ve ever read.  Anybody who is familiar with the future Legion stories or the fanciful tales of Batman II can probably attest to that fact.)  Fallout Boy, thanks to a tip from the comely Miss Zenith, remembers that R.M. has his hidden sanctuary, the Containment Dome, where he can regroup in times of stress.  After a couple of pages of gags about finding the unlisted phone number, Radioactive Man is ready to leap into action!


This joke is entirely for the benefit of Major Spoilers Editor-In-Chief and massive Silver Age Flash-fan, Stephen, who desperately wants the TV Flash to get his ring-popping costume trick to work.  It’s also an example of the most amazing part of this book: The way artist Hilary Barta meshes The Simpsons strange house style and designs with the eccentricities of art in the Silver Age of comic books.  While the Atomic Avenger prepares for action, Fallout Boy returns to battle to get his chiclets rattled by the robot, while the villains behind the scheme finally reveal themselves…


Professor Broome (surely a reference to Silver Age Flash scribe John Broome) is stunned to see a robot falling out of the skies of 1863, and to occupy himself before his time-travel rays wear off, repairs it, reprogramming it to hate and destroy Radioactive Man when it is unearthed in the future.  Only one question remains:  Where did the beastie come from?


Before that question can be answers, a bigger problem with the robot becomes clear: It’s gonna kill both Dr. Crab and Dr. Broome right now!


Before Broome can blast Radioactive Man away with his Time Machine Gun, Fallout Boy arrives to save his boss’ bacon, causing Broome to shoot the cowboy robot, blasting it back in time…

…to 1863.  Where his earlier self finds and repairs it and sends it forward to…

…Wait, my head hurts.  Before the villains are sent off to jail, Fallout Boy accidentally gives them an idea for a villainous plan (as his future self tried to warn him, earlier in the issue) and finally wonders where the dang robot actually CAME FROM!


…a question that it answered with a pretty good pun and a Silver Age handwave, once again evoking the best of the Silver Age stories, whose motto seems to have been “Don’t think about it too much, just have fun on the ride.”  It’s a sentiment I’m pretty well down with, as is the Comic Book Guy, who finishes his reverie in the present…


Aaaaand a final shot at the state of collectibles in the new millennium brings it all around full-circle.  A wise man once said “Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard!”, and modern funnybooks give this phrase even more weight.  But this issue works for me, both in terms of jokes than land and meaningful commentary.  Indeed, the Radioactive Man stories skewer all eras of comic book history with flair and affection, and this issue especially hits home, with its letters page jokes about the editor refusing to return to art to the creators to the fake ads for amusement parks and ridiculous candy, and even a letter from 5-year-old Homer Simpson, a huge fan of Radioactive Man’s adventures.  Indeed, Radioactive Man #100 is one of the strongest overall issues of this sporadic title, and one of the funnier pastiches of comic history to be had, earning itself a well-deserved 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  As someone who wishes there were more comedy-style comics on the stands, I can tell you, this one is fun, whether you get the references or not (but if you don’t, hit me up, I’ll see if I can explain ’em!)



A clever take on Silver Age tropes, managing to combine the Simpsons art-style with Silver Age DC Comics, making for fun pastiche all around...

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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