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Recap / The Simpsons S2 E21 "Three Men and a Comic Book"

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"Looks like you bought more than you bargained for." (Evil Laugh)

Original air date: 5/9/1991

Production code: 7F21

In this homage to the film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Bart (after only earning 50 cents from an old woman [voiced by Cloris Leachman] who hired him to do dangerous chores), Milhouse [who only wanted to buy a baseball card], and Martin pool their money together so they can buy the first issue of Radioactive Man, but their greed, jealousy, and paranoia turn them against each other and turn the treasured comic book into shredded paper.


  • Accidental Misnaming: Mayor Quimby opens the comic convention with a speech and accidentally calls Radioactive Man "Radiation Man". He gets rudely corrected by Jimbo Jones.
  • Actor Allusion: Of a sort; the kids briefly talk about Richie Rich, Nancy Cartwright's first gig was on the Richie Rich cartoon show from the 80's.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Lisa criticizes the Radioactive Man comic as shallow and uninteresting after Bart mocks her choice in comics, so he shows her the part where Radioactive Man throws a bad guy into the sun and asks him "hot enough for you?" Lisa laughs and admits she stands corrected.
  • Adam Westing: The The Wonder Years moment is performed by that show's narrator, Daniel Stern.
  • An Aesop: Spoofed at the end when, after summing up their trials, Bart just simply shrugs and says it "just kinda' ticks [him] off," learning absolutely nothing. Though the episode plays it straight in how it shows the dangers of paranoia.
  • Aside Glance: Bart while his future self narrates his life (a la The Wonder Years). An annoyed Homer tells him to stop staring into space.
  • Back In My Day: Homer tries to console Bart for just earning fifty cents by saying that fifty cents was a lot when he was a kid.
    Bart: Really?
    Homer: Nah.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Martin, the show's recurring bully magnet, mostly plays Only Sane Man in the boys' feuding. After Bart starts violently threatening him however, he finally snaps, shoving him back and choking him. He also makes perfectly sure Bart knows the comic could have been saved if he hadn't tied him up later on.
  • Big "NO!": Milhouse, when Bart considers letting him fall to save the comic.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: Right on the comic. After it fell into the wet grass and shredded by Santa's Little Helper.
  • Bond One-Liner: One of Radioactive Man's super powers.
    Radioactive Man: (after punching a villain into the sun) Hot enough for you?
  • Breakout Character: Of a sorts. This is the only real appearance of Bart's alter ego Bartman in the show, but Bartman would appear more prominently in early Simpsons video games, Simpsons comics, and other Simpsons merchandise.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Bart overlooks the fact that Martin was only trying to help by not being paranoid.
  • Characterisation Click Moment:
    • Milhouse in most early appearances was just an average friend of Bart. This episode however shows some facets of his comically clueless and wimpy persona, being an indecisive middle man between Bart and Martin when feuding over the comic and bawling terrified during Bart's Friend-or-Idol Decision.
    • This is Comic Book Guy's first appearance, and in the episode, though he does show signs of the douchiness that would go on to define him, the instigating plot of the episode is him being willing to let Bart have a million-dollar comic book for a hundred dollars because Bart reminds him of himself. A few seasons later, he would actually prefer to upcharge an expensive item if the would-be buyer expressed interest in it, much less a truly rare collectible like Radioactive Man #1.
  • Couch Gag: The couch falls backwards, and Maggie peeks from behind.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • Martin points out if Bart hadn't tied him up in his paranoia, he would have saved the comic while Bart saves Milhouse.
      Bart: *grumbles* Shut up! Shut UP!
    • He is also the one who lifts the brick holding down the comic in a manic rant towards Milhouse, leading it to blow away.
  • Cutaway Gag: Mrs. Glick's brother's death in World War I from taking too long to throw a grenade.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • The episode of the Adventures of Radioactive Man TV show from the 1950s has an Enforced Plug for Laramie Cigarettes, with Fall Out Boy asking for a smoke. The title character tells him to wait until he's sixteen.
    • The decrepit Mrs. Glick considers the 50 cents she pays Bart (for a week of backbreaking yard chores) very generous. The creators claim her to have been based on an actual old woman they knew as children.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Bart, Milhouse, and Martin pool their funds together to buy the comic book without considering what the terms of ownership will be.
  • Downer Ending: The boys' collective greed and paranoia causes the destruction of the comic book.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • In a flashback to her youth, Marge is shown as having a hairstyle that's shaped somewhat like a crown. In all other such flashbacks, young Marge's hair is sometimes free-flowing, though is more commonly a shorter version of her usual hairstyle.
    • Comic Book Guy's voice clearly hasn't taken its defined form yet if one listens carefully in the episode. It sounds less exaggerated and more normal compared to how it is later in-series.
  • Fanon Welding: In-Universe, Bart and Lisa theorize Casper the Friendly Ghost is the ghost of Richie Rich due to similar body shapes.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: Bart is left holding Milhouse from falling out of the treehouse as the comic edges to blowing outside. Since he tied up Martin (as the latter calls him out on) he, with some hesitation, chooses to lift Milhouse to safety while the comic blows into the garden, where it's comically destroyed in seconds.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Mrs. Glick's brother, Asa, getting killed in World War 1 by holding a grenade too long. The camera pans away just before it explodes. And when it does, his helmet and one boot fly in view of the camera.
  • Heroic BSoD: Milhouse when left dangling from the treehouse, and it not being positive whether Bart will save him over the comic, breaks down sobbing:
    Milhouse: I didn't even want the comic! I wanted Carl Yastrzemski with the big sideburns!
  • Ignored Epiphany: They apparently learned nothing in the end.
    Bart: We worked so hard, and now it's all gone. We ended up with nothing because the three of us can't share.
    Milhouse: What's your point?
    Bart: Nothing. Just kinda ticks me off.
  • Hero of Another Story: It is implied that the other boys' vigilence with the comic is due to going through similar hell as Bart to get their funds for it (especially evident by Martin's diatribe at Comic Book Guy).
  • I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!
    Bart: Listen lady, I can leave here without screaming! I can leave here without saying a bad word! But there's no way I'm saying thank you!
    Mrs. Glick: You're welcome.
  • Inflation Negation: Poor Bart was only paid 50 cents (adjusting for inflation in 2019, that's still not even one dollar) after busting his hump all week working for Mrs. Glick. Glick herself seems to think that's still considered large payment and is completely unaware of Bart's disappointment.
    Homer: When I was your age, fifty cents was a lot of money.
    Bart: Really?
    Homer: Naah.
  • Karma Houdini: The old woman, Mrs. Glick. She continuously pours iodine on the scratches Bart endures while working for her despite his pleas and painful screams. Then she pays him a paltry fifty cents for a week's worth of hazardous chores, and mistakes his attempt to call her out on her BS as him thanking her.
  • Lack of Empathy: After the panel moderator specifically asked everyone not to talk about Dirk Richter's final years, Bart's first question is about if his ghost haunts the bordello where he was shot to death. Fallout Boy's actor breaks down in tears.
  • Lemonade Stand Plot: One of the ways Bart tries to raise money for Radioactive Man Issue #1 is by running a lemonade stand. When nobody stops to buy lemonade, Lisa tries to help Bart by turning some of the letters on the sign and Bart's hat around to play on the customers' sympathies. This still doesn't work, so Bart decides to sell beer instead. Though it is more successful than lemonade, it does get him in trouble with Officer Lou and Officer Eddie, who tell him he needs a license to sell liquor, but let him off easy when he gives them free beer. Homer is also horrified when he finds out that Bart sold his beer.
  • Nerds Speak Klingon: Comic Book Guy mentions that he has a Masters in Folklore and Mythology, part of which involved translating The Lord of the Rings into Klingon.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: At the comic convention, Bart asks if Dirk Richter, the man who played Radioactive Man in the old TV show, haunts the bordello where they found his bullet riddled body. The actor who played Fall Out Boy breaks down in tears, asserting Dirk was a wonderful man and screams "Can't you little vultures just leave him alone?!" The kids don't understand where this came from.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Rivals!: Bart, Milhouse and Martin go in on buying the first issue of Radioactive Man for $100 and end up destroying it during their squabble.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: Martin just wants to share the comic book and keep his fair ownership, Bart becomes outright insane and paranoid, while Milhouse, though occasionally siding with his paranoia, calls him out when it goes too far.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Dirk Richter, a superhero TV actor who suffered a tragic death under mysterious circumstances, is pretty clearly based on George Reeves.
  • Parody Assistance: The Wonder Years moment even has Daniel Stern provide Bart's Inner Monologue. (It likely helped that Stern was the brother of David Stern, a writer and creative consultant for The Simpsons at the time.)
  • Radiation-Induced Superpowers: The origin of Radioactive Man's powers (via nuclear bomb testing).
  • Randomly Reversed Letters: Invoked by Lisa on Bart's behalf when she reverses a few of the letters on his lemonade stand to up the pathos factor. It doesn't work.
  • Ridiculous Exchange Rates: Bart attempts to exchange a foreign coin collection at the bank to raise money and is was very annoyed to find out all of the coins were only worth three cents total. Then again, the collection (a gift from Patty & Selma) was likely a cheap airport souvenir and probably just as worthless in its country of origin.
  • Sanity Slippage: Bart, in a The Treasure of the Sierra Madre homage, becomes incredibly paranoid and violent about sharing the comic with Martin and Milhouse. The others to a lesser degree get rather possessive about it.
  • Self-Deprecation: According to Matt Groening, Comic Book Guy was originally designed and written to resemble all of his most negative traits.
  • Shout-Out:
  • So Proud of You: Parodied. When Bart declared he was through with working, claiming it was for chumps, Homer stated he was proud, saying he was twice Bart's age before he figured that out.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Mrs. Glick's brother, who died in World War I from pulling the pin on a grenade and monologuing too long about who the grenade is supposed to avenge before intending to throw it.
    Asa: This one's for you, Kaiser Bill. Special delivery from Uncle Sam and all the boys in "D" company. Yeah, Johnny, Harrison, Brooklyn Bob, and Reggie. Yeah, even Reggie. He ain't so stuck up once you get to — (grenade blows up)
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating:
    Homer: Are you gonna stop bothering me?
    Bart: No.
    Homer: Are you?
    Bart: No.
    Bart: OKAY!!
    Homer: I win! In your face, boy! How do you like them apples?
    Marge: Homer, don't gloat!
    (Homer gives Marge a "whatever/spoiled sport" look)
  • You're Insane!: Milhouse calls Bart crazy when he accuses him of planning to kill him in his sleep to get the comic. But what really sets Bart off is when Milhouse threatens to tell his mom.
    Bart: Hey Martin. Tell him what we do with squealers!
    Martin: (currently tied to a chair) I dunno! Is it worse than what you do to people who have to go to the bathroom?


Video Example(s):


Held a Grenade Too Long

Mrs. Glick tells Bart how her brother was killed in World War I after holding a grenade for too long. Probably should of said a shorter speech.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (31 votes)

Example of:

Main / BoomInTheHand

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