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?