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Comic Book / Radioactive Man

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The Atomic Avenger. The Irradiated Crusader. Bart Simpson's favourite comic.

Radioactive Man debuted in the Plutonium Age of comics, as a reimagining of the Golden Age hero Radio Man. To the world at large, he is Claude Kane III, Millionaire Playboy. But secretly, he is the defender of established order, the champion of the status quo - Radioactive Man!

OK, but seriously, Radioactive Man was a comic series published by Bongo Comics. It started as a miniseries that ran from 1993 into 1994, with another series lasting from 2000 to 2004. It's based on the Radioactive Man comics seen in The Simpsons, and are used to parody the long history of superhero comics.

Radioactive Man provides examples of:

  • '90s Anti-Hero:
    • #1000's "In His Own Image" has a clone of Radioactive Man become a nastier, edgier Radioactive Man, who is much more popular with children and marketing executives. The original defeats him with an attorney.
    • 80pg. #1's "The 1,001 Faces of Radioactive Ape!" features the titular ape undergoing a series of bizarre transformations, the last of which sees him becoming an ultra-muscled, gun-toting thug covered in spikes and belts. After curing him, the two joke about how super heroes would never look that ridiculous in the future.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of comic books. Some more than others. "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" is a parody of Green Arrow / Green Lantern's "Hard-Hitting Heroes", and it barely changes anything.
  • Alliterative Name: Claude Kane, Gloria Grand, Rodd Runtledge, Miles Mando, the Sanctimonious Sanctum Sanctorum.
  • As You Know:
    • Parodied in an issue where a villain, after describing her plan declares "a sudden irrelevant desire to recount my origins!", much to her henchman's annoyance.
      Henchman: (in thought caption) Here we go again...
      Other Henchman: We just went over this at breakfast.
    • Subverted when Magmo the Lava-Man begins monologuing about why he's attacking the surface, only to stop when he realizes he already knows what his plan is.
  • Atomic Superpower: A given with a character named Radioactive Man, who owes his origin to being near ground zero of a nuclear bomb test, along with his side-kick Fallout Boy.
  • Bait-and-Switch: After finding Fallout Boy's long-lost brother, Radioactive Man assures Todd he'll find him a place where he'll get the love and support he needs... at military academy.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Plasmo the Mystic's Sanctimonious Sanctum Sanctorum is a vast expanse of Ditkoesque psychedelia... on the inside. On the outside, it's an unremarkable suburban bungalow.
  • Bittersweet Ending: #412 ends with the crisis averted and Radioactive Man restored to normal, but he's left depressed over losing his chance for a normal life and how he has to shoulder that angst alone.
  • Body Horror: Dr. Crab. He looked like a normal, bespectacled scientist in the first issue, but his signature look was born out of his contact with radioactive materials and shrimp cocktails. #1000 shows the mutation persists, as he turns into Prawn.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: In #4's "The Beauty Queen from the 21st Century!", a curvaceous modern woman is told by a former beauty queen turned agent she is too 'zaftig' to be a model nowadays, so she goes back in time to 1953 when the agent was competing, where her 'zaftig' figure is admired by everyone (including the future agent).
  • Cape Snag: In issue #1000, in order to help with RM's bad publicity, he gets a new cape, which is much larger than his usual one. Much complications ensue, but it does inadvertently save him in a fight with Pneumatica when he trips over it, knocking over a wall and burying the villain in rubble.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In one issue, when Fallout Boy fends off Magmo the Lava Man, two of his bullies notice that Rodd is never around when Fallout Boy shows up. They then come across Rodd's clothes, all folded up neatly. Clearly this means... that Rodd is running around naked somewhere!
  • Comic-Book Time: Radioactive Man notes that Bug Boy has been trying to cure his shrapnel problem for thirty-six years, but has stayed twelve years old all that time. Bug Boy spends the next several hours (off-panel) explaining how that's possible with math before Radioactive Man asks him to get back to his new solution to the shrapnel).
  • Continuity Snarl: Done on purpose. Canonically, Claude got his powers from radiation, and his superhero identity has always been Radioactive Man, but was also active during World War II as Radio Man. Somehow.
  • Create Your Own Hero: Unbeknownst to Radioactive Man for years, Dr. Crab is indirectly responsible for him getting his powers. He hired some mooks to kill Claude's father. Trying to save the day, Claude got lost and found himself at ground zero for the mega-bomb test that his father was developing.
  • Death Is Cheap: Parodied when the eponymous hero is blasted with a death ray, and his sidekick mournfully announces he's dead. One of the other heroes just thinks "show-off. He'll be back by the end of the next issue." He is.
  • Defictionalisation:
    • The first issue seen in "Three Men and a Comic Book" becomes the basis for the real #1 published as part of the first miniseries. 80pg. #1's "To Betroth a Foe!" defictionalizes the "Radioactive Man Marries Larva Girl" story also seen in the same episode.
    • Radioactive Man: The Official Movie Adaptation does this to the Rainer Wolfcastle-starring movie we see getting made in the episode "Radioactive Man", with all the out-of-context scenes turned into a coherent narrative.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The comics have fifties sensibilities played for laughs, so characters have disdain for reds and pinkos. Radioactive Man will go after peaceful hippie protesters the same as violent criminals because he believes proclamations of peace and love are communist propaganda. He dislikes discrimination but is obliviously proud to be an American when kids are put through the same and believes that citizens should unquestioningly follow authority such as the president.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In #1, Radioactive Man stumbles upon a few kids shoplifting. The one he talks to is Rodd Runtledge, who goes on to become Fallout Boy.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The first miniseries had a minor arc of Claude's dad traveling the world trying to find out what became of his wife after a plane crash, leaving Claude to wrestle with his own problems alone. The final part reveals that Claude's mother's brain has been in Pneumatica the whole time, and she gets her memories back by the conclusion. The family is reunited, with both parents knowing Claude's secret and fully supporting him.
  • Evil Gloating: Par for the course, as Radioactive Man's various opponents love to just go on and on about how great they are and how pathetic the opposition is. When RM himself is briefly turned evil and insane in #412, he happily indulges in this and remarks he finally understands why his old foes all did it: because it's fun.
  • Expy:
    • Backseid is a copy of Darkseid, except he's always seen... well, from the back.
    • Radioactive Man gets more development in the comics than he does in the show. As it turns out he's part-Superman (well-respected superhero with a long-standing crush on a reporter), part-Batman (foppish layabout with a teenaged sidekick), and part-The Incredible Hulk (got his powers from an atomic bomb).
    • His sidekick Fallout Boy is a mix of Robin (teenaged sidekick who lives with superhero), and Spider-Man (social outcast with an elderly aunt).
    • Bleeding Heart is Captain America (patriotic superhero, with the name change after his faith is shaken) mixed with Green Arrow (vocal left-wing after massive upshift in life) and Iron Man (the Superior Squad's financial backer and former weapons developer).
    • Weasel Woman is a gender-flipped Wolverine.
    • Plasmo the Mystic is just Doctor Strange (fancy cape, tendency to make dramatic proclamations). He later turns out to have his own version of Baron Mordo, the Ancient One, and Dormammu.
    • Captain Squid is Aquaman.
    • There are two for Marvel Comics's Scarlet Witch: The Scarlet Floozy (villain) and Lure Lass (heroine).
    • The villainous organization ECZEMA are a spoof of Marvel's HYDRA, right down to being led by a cat-suit clad woman (Madame Eczema for Viper), and having their own chant.
  • Evil Gloating: A power-crazed Radioactive Man, driven insane after receiving an overload of power, hangs a lampshade on this, saying he now knows why villains do it: Because it's fun.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Spoofed with the Secret Bonfire Club, who meet in a darkened room. One of their member comments on why it is if they're so rich they can't afford lightbulbs.
  • Flashback Cut: When Brain-o turns out to have infiltrated the Superior Squad's headquarters, they ask how he did this. Cut to Hypno-Head telling a bored Brain-o to infiltrate their headquarters.
    Bug Boy: That wasn't much of a flashback!
    Brain-O: Eh.
  • Foil: Purple Heart/Bleeding Heart/Heart of Darkness is one to Radioactive Man because whereas he is Static Character perpetually stuck in the fifties, Miles is constantly reinventing himself with every new era and often acts as his Straight Man.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Rodd Runtelidge, also known as Fallout Boy, was a shoplifter and small-time gang member when he met Radioactive Man. After meeting Radioactive Man, he starts cleaning up his act, and promptly becomes a social pariah.
  • Funetik Aksent: Dr. Crab, arch-enemy of Radioactive Man, speaks with a stereotypical German accent, which gets more ludicrous the more he mutates. At one point, Radioactive Man misunderstands a statement of his. He doesn't known what being "keelled" entails, but he's pretty sure he doesn't want to find out.
  • General Ripper: Subverted in one issue, with a general who looks like J. Jonah Jameson, but is actually reasonable, trusting and even-tempered.
  • Good Is Dumb: Radioactive Man is (more or less) a good person, but is completely lacking in any manner of common sense.
  • Here We Go Again!: A Plasmo one-off has him and his rival get into a fight over a mystical item they find at a yard sale, which ends when a third party outbids them. The story ends with a Clea look-alike showing up at the yard sale asking how much for the Terrible Toaster of Tibuli...
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • Since the conceit is that these comics are part of a greater Shared Universe, we occasionally see the other members of the Superior Squadron having their own adventures.
    • Claude's mother, Camellia, was actually a secret agent for the government. She was on a mission during World War II when her plane crashed, as opposed to the simple vacation that her husband and son thought she was on.
  • The Hilarity of Hats: Since Claude has a lightning bolt-shaped piece of shrapnel stuck in his head, in his civilian identity he's forced to hide it with a variety of hats, which usually make him look incredibly silly. His mansion even has a gallery of hats he's been forced to don over his career.
  • Historical Injoke: Radioactive Man assuring Richard Nixon he'll always have the support of America's youth.
  • I Have Many Names: One of Radioactive Man's fellow superheroes changes his name frequently. He starts off as Purple Heart, later changed to Purple Badge of Courage after delivered C&D notices by the U.S. Army lawyers, then Bleeding Heart, then finally Broken Heart, when he becomes a brooding anti-hero. Bleeding Heart seems to be the one that won out in the end.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Radioactive Man is stuck with a piece of metal embedded in his forehead which cannot be removed, thus denying him the ability to go out and about without a hat.
    • The bolt was removed after one of Radioactive Man's deaths, but it was subsequently revealed that the bolt essentially served to moderate and limit Radioactive Man's power; he was brought back to life by the subsequent power boost, but the power increase affected his mind and drove him insane, making subsequent attempts to remove it even more challenging as the full length of the bolt is needed to stop Radioactive Man going evil again.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: Invoked during Radioactive Man's latest funeral, where's it's pouring down due to several men operating a massive hose, making it look like it's raining. The nearby newsreporter is standing in the dry of a lovely, clear day.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: In the first issue, an unlikely sequence of events leads to Claude saving Gloria from criminals with a sheet over his head. He's about to demonstrate that he's a hero when the criminal vows to kill all of that masked man's loved ones, and in one of the few scenes which isn't entirely played for laughs, Claude decides to remain anonymous to protect Gloria. This continues even after several of his villains discover his secret identity.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • #216's "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" has the title character and fellow superheroes Bleeding Heart and Black Partridge traveling across America. After stopping at a diner, Partridge thinks to herself the idea of superheroes travelling across America is ludicrous. Just to ram the point home, what's clearly Oliver Queen and Hal Jordan can be seen behind her.
    • Another parodies the whole idea of Spider-Man, with Radioactive Man declaring at the end that spider-based heroes with real life issues will never catch on.
  • Jerk Jock: Subverted in one Radioactive Man parody of Spider-Man's origin, with a jock who's trying to be supportive towards a nerd, who assumes he's this. He's even seen lamenting his inability to "help his fellow man".
  • Jive Turkey: Purple Haze, one of Radioactive Man's teammates. Lampshaded, of course.
    Henchman: Oh, you lousy stereotype!
  • Large Ham: The mayor speaks in bombastic monologues in the style of the most loquacious man in comic books, Stan Lee. His staff are long burnt out on them.
  • Latex Perfection: A staple of classic superhero comics, this trope is present in some issues...
    • In #1's "Dr. Crab's Commie Comics", child psychologist Dr. Hedrick Hertzmann accuses violent comic publisher Willaim Maimes of being a communist working with Dr. Crab when discussing how said comics are contributing to the causes of juvenile delinquency. After a stack of Maimes's comics are found in Crab's lair and Maimes is apprehended, Dr. Hertzmann ducks into a stairwell and removes his latex mask to reveal J.J. Bellwether, a rival comic publisher jealous of Maimes's violent comics outselling his kid-friendly comics, who had hired a detective to smuggle Maimes's comics into Dr. Crab's lair and created the alias of Dr. Hertzmann to cover up his actions.
    • "The Radioactive Man of 1995" has a space alien who had been trapped on Earth for forty years wear a realistic rubber human mask when posing as a Mad Scientist operating a robot to kidnap Gloria Grand and get his spaceship back.
      Alien: Wait! I can explain! (peeling off mask) This incredibly lifelike human face is really just a cheap foam rubber mask!
    • In "Risky Be the Rumpus Room", the Superior Squad goes to work out in their automated rumpus room, with their new Latino butler Javier operating the room's machinery. But then Javier unmasks to reveal their old enemy Brain-O - a Brain Monster under a glass helmet he had worn his human mask over - in a scheme to destroy the Squad.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: In an issue where Radioactive Man and Bleeding Heart encounter the Black Partridge, who attacks them. They point out this is the standard, and ask if they can skip things as they're in a hurry and Radioactive Man doesn't like fighting women.
  • Like Father, Unlike Son: Claude Kane II is a respected scientist, philanthropist, and adventurer, whereas our hero Claude Kane III starts out as an entitled idiot that never does anything of note. He gets better as Radioactive Man, of course, but he's still pretty dimwitted and clueless in contrast to his father, and it's often not an act to throw off suspicion.
  • Logic Bomb: Radioactive Man gets into a fight with Hyper Hedgehog, a supposed hero driven underground. Radioactive Man determines he's not real, but rather a figment of his imagination. As Hyper Hedgehog dismisses this, he suddenly disappears in a puff of logic.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Gloria Grant loves Radioactive Man (and they've even married a few times), but she can't stand Claude Kane.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Spoofed, naturally, in issue #1000, when it turns out recurring foe Pneumatica is actually Claude's mother, her brain having been removed and put in a robot body after a plane crash.
  • Meaningful Background Event: In the very first issue of Radioactive Man, when he gets his powers, an earthworm can be seen burrowing into the ground. Much later on, that earthworm turns out to have gained powers as well.
  • Never Heard That One Before: A purveyor of violent comic books is arrested thanks to Radioactive Man (who is being manipulated by another comic book publisher to take out their competition). As he's dragged off on suspicion of being a communist, he swears he's a capitalist, in it for the money. The police aren't listening.
  • Never My Fault: As far as Dr. Crab is concerned, his mutation is Radioactive Man's fault rather than his own for fooling around with radioactive material.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The villains hoped to use the Regresso Ray in #1000 for their own purposes (such as de-powering Radioactive Man). Not only does that not work, but the villains end up inadvertently causing the Luke, I Am Your Father moment involving Pneumatica mentioned above.
  • No Sympathy: Played for laughs in #412 when a funeral is being held for Radioactive Man. Fallout Boy is genuinely sad, but while the others look it, their thought bubbles reveal they're more concerned about their own problems than the death of a colleague. It turns out no civilians bothered to attend at all, with Gloria noting there was better attendance during RM's previous funeral.
  • Noodle Incident: In one story, which was never published in the real world, Radioactive Man was rendered invisible and immaterial, but was still able to perceive the world. After hearing how people talk about him when (they think) he's not there, he has refused to speak to Captain Squid ever since.
  • Oblivious to Love: A Running Gag is Captain Squid pining for Lure Lass and her for him, yet both thinking the other is simply uninterested.
  • Other Me Annoys Me: Radioactive Man doesn't get along with the Radioactive Man of Beta-Earth, in one instance trying to trick the guy into sacrificing himself at the drop of a hat (albeit after circumstances which led him to believe Beta-Earth had been destroyed and the other him wouldn't have anywhere to go).
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: An issue has Radioactive Man and his associate, Bleeding Heart, disguise themselves as hippies, largely by wearing hippie clothing over their superhero outfits.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Radioactive Man represents the conservative 50s viewpoint, no matter the era he's in, so when he and fellow superhero Bleeding Heart are kicked out of a diner for dressing like hippies, and Bleeding Heart ruminates on how they live in a country where people are denied service just because they're slightly different, Radioactive Man chimes in with "it makes me proud to be an American."
  • Power Limiter: That lightning bolt on Radioactive Man's head isn't part of his costume, it's a piece of shrapnel lodged in his skull that channels off some of the radioactive energy coursing through his body. Removing it ramps up his power levels, enough to bring him back from the dead, but also turns him evil.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Radioactive Man really wanted to go see a showing of Cinderella, but thanks to his crime-fighting activities, he misses the day's last showing.
  • Sanity Slippage: According to the makers of Radioactive Man, the artist and inker behind the last big crossover event had to be institutionalised, there were so many characters.
    Inker: The roll call never ends! It never ends!
  • Show Within a Show: The conceit is that these Radioactive Man comics are the actual ones enjoyed by Bart and friends in The Simpsons (for example, an issue allegedly from the 1970s features a letter from young Marge Simpson). This also lets the writers parody comic book tropes and well-known stories (to illustrate, an issue dated from the 1990s might parody the comic book "Dark Age").
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Instead of the Bat-Signal, Radioactive Man has the Atomo-Signal, which is an actual explosion (the mayor's aid observes that they need to sort out a better signal).
  • Take That!: Each Radioactive Man story has at least one Take That! included, usually aimed at something from comic book history.
  • There Was a Door: A characteristic of Radioactive Man, who will smash through a wall when there was a perfectly good window available. Sometimes he even smashes a separate hole on his way out.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: In the original run, the series is a Defictionalisation of select issues from throughout comic book history, and so the issue numbers jump up in large increments: They are #1, #88, #216, #412, #679 and #1,000.
  • Unwanted Assistance: With the Squad's training room turned against them, Plasmo keeps trying to move Purple Badge of Courage, and every time he does Purple gets bludgeoned harder. He's quite grateful when the machinery finally attacks Plasmo instead.