Ok, so maybe that headline is some sensationalist hyperbole, but that’s just the way King Kirby would like it. The comic in question is Radioactive Man #197 from Bongo Comics’ Simpsons line. This is from 2000’s Volume 2 of Radioactive Man which is one of the most charming, humorous parody comics of all time. It even won the 2002 Eisner Award for best humor publication. Basically it’s fake issues of a long running Radioactive Man comic, who is the Simpsons Universe’s main fictional superhero. He’s basically a pastiche of all types of characters with a lot of Superman. This series has issues 4, 7, 100, 106, 136, 197, 222, 575, and 711 and each one represents a different comic era and parodies the styles, plots, and creators of those times. It’s all brilliant and I can’t recommend these enough (As well as the pitch perfect epic Radioactive Man Vol. 1!!)
This issue is set in 1971 and parodies that era in comics and it is a tongue in cheek love letter to Jack Kirby and his Fourth World Saga as Radioactive Man has to deal with The New Guard and the battle between the inhabitants of Ragnarokaway and New Gentry. It’s just the best for it’s puns and poking loving at all the New Gods material. This issue is written by Batton Lash (who sadly just passed last year), and he does layouts which are finished by legendary Archie artists Dan DeCarlo and get this, inked by Mike Royer who inked most of Kirby’s Fourth World material. Colors are done by Chris Ungar and Nathan Kane and the lettering is by Karen Bates. The issue starts putting in the hilarious jokes right on the cover, with that trademark Kirby hype up writing.
“Looking for a miracle, mister? Want to live forever, people?” is how they start this thing off. If youre not already smirking, I dont know how to help you. Right away you can see the art is a beuatiful amalgam of Simpsons style a la Kirby. Were introduced to our Darkseid analogue who is called Backseid. We never see him turn around in this comic. Insert the very apt Simpsons “That’s the joke” meme here.
Backseid plans to conquer Earth and he’s overheard by a character Yentah. The joke here is that he’s the gossip of the New Guards, hence the name. Yenta is the Yiddish term for a lady who gossips. Yentah runs to Obrian of the New Guard and tells him what’s happening.
This is our Orion analogue who will drive most of our plot and go to Earth, just like Orion does in New Gods. I love that The New Gods here live on New Gentry. the pun being “the Gentry” were the upper class social standing people in Britain and gentrification, the term for when the lower class or affordable neighborhoods’ inhabitants are pushed out in favor of the rich and the whole social class of the area is transformed. Such a good pun.
There’s a lot of hilarious dialogue in this such as Obrian stopping Yentah from gossiping or the Kirby style narration and thought bubbles.
One of my favorite jokes is the above, when we get a dramatic tight shot of Radioactive Man’s civilian identity and it’s revealed to be Backseid’s servant Markee zooming in too close on his face as they spy on him.
The way they make fun of comic tropes on every page is so enjoyable. “The pathos is unbearable!” is a line I think I’ll mutter anytime I read a regular comic. A lot of this issue is making fun of the tired trope in superhero comics about when two heros meet, they end up fighting due to a misunderstanding until they work it out. It’s done so humorously here as the civilians know it’s going to occur. I love how both Radioactive Man and Obrian both think the only way to tell if someone is telling the truth or not evil is to slug them first.
My favorite part of this issue however has to be that their version Highfather is High King and it’s just Jack Kirby himself. Check the cigar held by the ornate staff.
In the original comics “The Source” would reveal oracles of a sort to Highfather. I love how in this it’s just Yentah writing gossip on walls with tomato sauce or “The Sauce” if you will. Just take a moment to appreciate the glorious power of Simpsons/Highfather/Kirby. What an utter delight.
Later, after more hero vs hero fighting, High King sends the “Whatever People” to Earth to get Obrian and we see them all announce their pun names and how everyone is starting to get confused at all the characters and plots being thrown at you all at once, a common comic trope. I laugh so hard at the corny way they introduce their joke names and personalities.
It’s all wrapped up in a pretty funny way as Obrian starts losing it, just like Orion does when he goes into feral mode, and you see he’s a commentary on the current at the time Iraq war, as an irrational war hungry guy. It kind of comes out of nowhere, but fits the sharp satire that’s been in here since the cover. “A lot of celebrities in New Gentry have come out against the war.” and “We’re going to send inspectors into Ragnarokaway to see if Backseid has weapons that might destroy the universe” really throws me back in time to the chaotic days of the Iraq War. Honestly it’s such a great, topical way to wrap up the war idea that hangs over the Fourth World books in this pun filled lampoon.
And then we wrap up this pointed commentary with Radioactive Man amidst the devastation he and Obrian caused shouting how he’s “Ready to protect and serve!”
I urge all of you to seek out this amazing hilarious comic. I can guarantee you won’t find another comic about The Simpsons, Jack Kirby, the Iraq War and basically every comic trope ever. I think the reason it works so well is it’s not out to hurt anyone with it’s satire. In actuality, it’s showing how great King Kirby’s stuff is through a loving tribute filled lens. Only the greatest works get parodied and only the greatest parodies stand equal to or surpass the source material. This is one of those works.