Is Radioactive Man #1 one of the most meta comics ever published? In May 1991, The Simpsons, “Three Men and a Comic Book”, aired. In the classic episode Bart, Milhouse, and Martin pool their money to buy a copy of Radioactive Man #1 to share between the three of them. Eventually their own greed gets the better of them and the comic book is destroyed in a storm as they fight over it. In January of 1993 Bongo comics published a real life version of Radioactive Man #1.
The comic features two covers, a regular newsstand version and the direct market edition which has a glow in dark image and a poster inside. Published at the height of 90’s speculation, I highly doubt there is an issue of the direct edition with the poster removed. Despite the missed opportunity to have the cover look like the comic featured in the cartoon it is nonetheless a striking image of the titular hero in the foreground and mushroom cloud in the background. Another nice little touch to the parody was that it has a cover date of Nov 1952.
The story itself is a throwback to early superhero origin stories, mashing up bits of the Incredible Hulk and Superman along with other common tropes. One of the most clever bits is the fake advertisement on the back cover which looks like one of the old Atlas ads that promised to turn a wimp into a jock. This ad instead promises to turn a kid into a superhero. The comic strip features a child whose parents are killed, just like Bruce Wayne’s, and he vows revenge by buying Atlasman’s home study course.
Overall, the parody of the comic featured in the Simpson cartoon is both clever and, at the same time, just another comic released at a time when gimmick covers were all the rage and number one issues were plentiful. Despite all that I think, as a Simpsons fan, it is fun to say I own my own copy of Radioactive Man number one, and that I don’t have to share it with Bart, Milhouse or Martin. Maybe I should get it graded. Would that make it even more meta?
I’ve been working on cataloging my comic book collection for years now. It is a long, time consuming, but extremely enjoyable process. As I go through my boxes, bagging, boarding, and entering comics into my database, I sometimes wonder, “Why did I buy this comic?”. Tonight I came across just such a book when I was going through a box of mid nineties DC books, mostly from the Vertigo line: The Invisibles #1.
Generally speaking I think of Vertigo books as being “high brow” comics meant for people who like sequential art but want something more than funny animals, superhero beat ‘em ups, or giant robots. My problem is that there are very few Vertigo series that I have bought and read and been happy about it when I was finished. Warren Ellis’s “Transmetropolitan” was something my brother turned me on to and I really enjoyed. I ended up reading the entire series. More often than not though I find Vertigo to be a pretty boring line of comics. That is not to say I think they are bad comics, after all some of the most talented creators have worked on Vertigo lines, Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman”, Garth Ennis’s “Preacher”, and Grant Morrison’s “Doom Patrol” are some of the most well regarded comics ever published.
While I think The Invisibles is not quite in the same company as Sandman and 100 Bullets, it definitely has its fans. Personally I’m not one of them and that is why I wonder why I bought this in the first place. I suppose it could have been that I knew that Grant Morrison was, and is, one of the top writers in the business. It could have been that I liked Transmet’ so much that I thought I should try other Vertigo titles. It even could have been that my brother said it was going to be good and I acted on his recommendation, something that if you were to ask him now, I have never actually done. Heck, anything is possible I suppose, but for the life of me now I cannot remember what the impetus was that made me buy this comic.
Creators: Writer – Grant Morrison Artist – Steve Yedwell
I own the first five issues of The Invisibles. I remember reading them and not understanding a blessed thing. I re-read the first issue before writing this and I still don’t understand what the deal is. I can understand the angst of one of the main characters, Dane McGowan, and that he is being recruited but that’s about it. I don’t understand why there is a grenade on the cover, why a young John Lennon and Paul McCartney show up, or who and what the heck King Mob is. The art is good and not nearly abstract as the cover might indicate and if I didn’t find the story so boring or confusing I might have given it more of a chance than I did. As it is I only bought five issues and after looking at them now I still don’t care enough to give the series another chance and really go down that rabbit hole.
I’ve read enough about The Invisibles now that I know many people consider it some of Morrison’s finest work, that it is challenging, that you just have to “go with it” to appreciate and enjoy it. The three volumes of the series have been collected several times including a massive 1500 page omnibus so it can easily be enjoyed by new fans. I respect Morrison’s ability to get his story published, for the most part how he wanted to. If you’re reading this and you were a fan of The Invisibles let me know, I’d love to know what you liked about the series and why. For me these are just five comics in my collection that I cannot recall why I bought way back when.
I’ve written on this blog that I’ve collected comics for most of my life. When I was a wee lad it wasn’t so much collecting as it was just buying comics and reading them. My brother and I would look at the comics at the Springdale Stationary and get to pick one after church on Sundays. Like most kids we would read them over and over, not caring about preserving them for the future. They got bent and ripped but that didn’t matter, we still enjoyed the heck out of them. Some of our earliest comics were Disney and Looney Tunes comics, Battlestar Galactica (we loved the TV show), and Shogun Warriors.
I mentioned that we didn’t care about keeping our comics in great condition, we weren’t thinking about the future, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t keep them. Many of the things from our childhood have long been gone from our lives as we moved and grew up but not our comic books. We’ve managed to hold on to those well worn treasures to this day. Look at the picture above. Notice the creases in the cover, the rips and worn edges. Check out the spine of the book, the cover is practically coming off. It has been warped from folding it back so the comic could be read holding it with one hand*. Just looking at this comic brings me right back to 1979, to that stationary store, kneeling on the newspapers with my brother eagerly going through that lower shelf of the magazine rack where the comics were kept.
*Editor’s note – when we were a little older and actually started collecting comics the practice of folding the comic around itself was the first habit we had to break to be “serious” collectors.
Writer – Doug Moench Artist – Herb Trimpe Inker – Dan Green Letter – Jim Novak Colorist – Andy Yanchus Editor – Al Milgrom EiC – Jim Shooter
The open splash page has the reader at Shogun Sanctuary where the amazing Shogun Warriors are being recharged with solar power. Dr. Tambura is working with his staff on preparing the mechs for their next adventure and their pilots are training on how to control them better. Elsewhere the villain, Maur-Kon, is working on a plan to defeat the doctor and his “giant robots” by using science instead of his evil magic.
As the new group of pilots get to know each other better we get some background on one of the pilots, Ilongo Savage, an oceanographer. Story-time is interrupted by Dr. Tambura as he takes the team, Richard Carson, Genji Odashu, and Savage to review their last battle. They need to learn more about the machines they are piloting and how to best use their abilities. There is a pretty cool explanation of what Carson could have done better against the Rok-Korr elementals they faced in the last issue.
Back at Maur-Kon’s volcano lair his techno-mages have created the awesome Mech-Monster. A giant purple and yellow machine that looks a bit like a dragonfly with a bull’s head. The team gives Maur-Kon a demonstration of the weapons on the monster, canons on the side of its head and a laser blaster built into the tale. Maur-Kon is pleased and tells his mages that they’ll test the monster against the Shogun Warriors tomorrow. Meanwhile his lieutenant, Magar, who believes in magic over technology, has other plans for the fearsome machine. He takes control of it after everyone has left and brings it to the “Pool of Dark Life”, a lava pool that will be used to convert the machine into some unknown terror. He is interrupted by some guards and loses control of it, but his goal is achieved. The Mech Monster is transformed into a living, breathing, creature that still seems just as powerful as the original creation.
At Shogun Sanctuary the team has wrapped up their training and Genji decides she wants to take Combatra out for a test drive to see if she can put some of her newfound knowledge to practical use. Dr. Tambura gives her the thumbs up and she heads off into the night. While Genji is out she comes across the nearby city which is engulfed in flames. The living mech monster has attacked and now has its sights on Combatra. Genji calls back to HQ for assistance and prepares to defend herself and the city. She splits Combatra into the five individual ships that form the giant robot in an exciting cliffhanger that will lead right into the next issue.
As far as the story goes this is a really good example of a kids comic of the era. There was a Shogun Warrior toy line that the comic was meant to support and after reading this comic I don’t know how any kid wouldn’t be asking their parents for a new toy. The Shogun Warriors are prominently featured but there is a lot of character development and exposition to support an actual story.
It’s been a long time since I read one of these comics but I got everything I needed to know about the characters in this single issue, or at least enough to understand what is going on. The leader is the brainy scientist Dr. Tambura, the crew features a diverse team of young professionals, and the villain is the menacing Maur-Kon who uses science and magic to accomplish his goals. We learn about the abilities of the Shogun, that Radian is powerful and Combatra is actually a collection of vehicles that form the big warrior. That particular idea would be featured in much of the programming my brother and I enjoyed in the era from Voltron, to the Transformers, and the Gobots just to name a few.
This particular copy of Shogun Warriors #4 is an artifact from my childhood. It is a saddle stapled newsprint periodical that my brother and I managed to hold onto for forty one years. Despite the fact that most of the things that were part of our childhood are nothing more than memories now my brother and I never threw out our comics. They were more than advertisements for toys or disposable bits of entertainment to us. They were a shared experience. They were gateways to other worlds. They were what fueled our imaginations and they were important to us.
I’ll close this out this trip into the long boxes with a picture of the cover of the next issue that features Raiden battling the Mech Monster.
When I was young John Romita Jr. (or JRJr) was one of my favorite artists. Sure I loved Carl Barks, Sergio Aragones, and John Byrne, but JRJr was different. He had a style that had a lot of lines in it, there was a lot of detail to his work. For me it was new, fresh and different enough from his contemporaries that his work always stood out in my eyes. I first remember him from when he was working on Daredevil. He helped create Bullet, Typhoid Mary and Blackheart. His work can be decisive, I think he is the kind of artist that you either love or hate.
His style wasn’t always like it is now, or even when he was working on Daredevil. His earlier work was more reminiscent of his father’s work. Take a look at the page below from Dazzler #1. It is much more traditional. Even his work on the X-men was not quite in the style that would become his signature look. As much as I love his early work now, it is his line filled style that is familiar to most readers that I really love. He may have lost a bit to his touch over the years but I still like picking up a comic, like this Suicide Squad issue, and finding his name in the credits.
As an added bonus the scene on this cover actually happens in the comic. It is probably the best scene in the issue and actually makes the overly sexualized Harley Quinn funny for a brief moment. For all those reasons I think that this cover by John Romita Jr. is an awesome cover!
I have been a fan of the All-Star Squadron for almost as long as I have liked comics. The Justice Society and the All-Star Squadron characters are some of the greatest ever created. This cover features some of my favorites, Dr. Midnight, Starman, Hawkman, and Wonder Woman all drawn by the amazing Jerry Ordway. The characters pop off the page. Ordway’s style is classic and isn’t flashy. The figures are clean, well proportioned, and strong. The colors of the costumes really shine on the blue, star filled, background. This is the kind of cover that I’d love to own as a poster. All in all it is a classic comic with an awesome cover and I love it.