Move over Kwik-E-Mart, the center of Springfield's universe will fall upon the Android's Dungeon for the release of what Bart Simpson has been waiting all summer for - "The Great, Extreme, Ultimate and Totally Awesome Radioactive Man Event," brought to comic stores by Radioactive Man's new publisher, Krusty the Clown.
The saga unfolds in three different Bongo Comics titles released in three successive weeks in June - "Simpsons Comics" #155, "Bart Simpson Comics" #48 and "The Simpsons Super Spectacular" # 9. All three issues are written by Batton Lash, while art is courtesy of Tone Rodriguez on pencils and Andrew Pepoy on inks. When the dust settles, Radioactive Man - and his biggest fans, Bart, Milhouse and Martin - will "never be the same," promises Lash.
"The key to this series is how the hype effects people who aren't interested, and the people who are really interested," Lash told CBR News. "Bart, Martin and Milhouse love this character. When promises are made regarding the character, they get their hopes up. And they get nervous when they're told that 'things are going to shake-up the Radioactive Man universe.'"
For those not familiar with the exploits of the irradiated avenger, the shtick is this: Radioactive Man comics have been hitting the newsstands with stunning regularity for the past 50 years, producing a whopping 1,000 issues. In that time, Radioactive Man has seen all the comics fads come and go, from meeting his Earth-2 counterpart to gold foil hologram covers.
"Radioactive Man" is a unique artifact - a spoof comic based on a minor character from an animated TV series. "With 'The Simpsons,' you have to follow that universe. With 'Radioactive Man,' you can do anything - they've given me carte blanche," said Lash, a writer and illustrator of 30 years whose current work includes writing "Archie: Freshman Year"" and the long-running "Supernatural Law" series.
"Radioactive Man" has spoofed Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Image Comics and Gold Key comics. Now, the character will spoof the current trend of the yearly big summer event. At least a dozen big events are referenced in "The Great, Extreme, Ultimate and Totally Awesome Radioactive Man Event," and Lash promises that any superhero reader who's ever been let down by the way a summer event unfolded will get a laugh out of this series.
"[Readers] will relate to every crossover event and continuity-changing thing that they were promised, anticipated and ultimately disappointed in," Lash said. "If they read this series, they'll see that they're not alone in their feeling of dissatisfaction [with excessive crossovers]."
Lash wouldn't reveal any of the specific spoofs in the three issues - he wants readers to be able to enjoy the surprise -- but he did say that all the "events" he spoofed were those which he personally did not like. "I hate it when a character is killed for the sake of shock," Lash said. "It's mean-spirited, it's shock for shock's sake."
Lash stressed that he didn't want his message to be misconstrued -- there are some great superhero comics being written these days, even some of the big "event" comics. It's just that some of these comics, to him, miss the point, and are more about selling comics than about entertaining readers with a good story.
After calling himself a "notorious big-mouth," Lash decided he felt comfortable taking aim at one series in particular: "Marvel Zombies." "It flies in the face of everything Stan [Lee] and Jack [Kirby] and Steve [Ditko] created - it's negative and it's mean," Lash said. "Even in the old EC comics, people came back from the dead for justice. To see Captain America-or whatever they called him- as a rotting zombie? That's an awful statement - it's a shame to sink to those depths just to sell some comics."
Lash said another problem with the big event comic is plain overkill. "'Crisis' was an unexpected treat in the mid-'80s. Now we get something every summer. One of the things that made it a treat was that it didn't happen all the time."
Batton Lash does hope that Radioactive Man's summer event will do something that the regular summer events are known to do -- expose the character to a few more fans. "Good retailers recognize [with 'The Simpsons'] you have the world's most recognizable characters - put them in the window, it brings new customers in. Sadly, most stores don't carry us. It's far more important to them to put up the new West Coast Avengers line-up because they like preaching to the choir. But then they bitch about people buying comics at book stores. But people feel like comic stores are a closed club.
"It goes back to the 'events' I'm spoofing. They're writing for fans of comics for forty years, and even they get pissed off. Comics are a business. Most of us wanted to do this since childhood. It's a fun business, but that's been lost on a lot of professionals."
Lash's previous writing credits include "Archie meets the Punisher," and his regular comic strip that he's been producing for different publications since 1979, titled "Supernatural Law." A native New Yorker, Lash studied at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, under the tutelage of industry legends Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman.
Writing a comic based on a Simpsons character hasn't been too much of an unordinary challenge for Lash because of a lesson he learned from Eisner. "Even in my own projects, like 'Supernatural Law,' I try to have a gag every page," the writer explained. "Will Eisner said, 'Every page should have a beginning, a middle and an end.' He would go even further - every tier should have a beginning, a middle, an end. Even every panel, a beginning, a middle, an end. But he was Will Eisner, he could actually do that!"
Lash now works with another legend of pop culture with his work in the Simpsons universe, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. "Matt's been very gracious with me. And he has the most important job of all on the Bongo team - he signs the checks," Lash laughed. "I'm always flattered when I tell them an idea, and they say, 'Okay!' As long as it's a fun spoof, they never have any problems.
"My mandate with 'Radioactive Man' is this: even if a new reader has never heard of the books I'm spoofing - he'll still be able to enjoy a silly comic."