1987: Radio Boy

Radio Boy (1987) #1 by Chuck Dixon, Jim Engel, Flint Henry, et al.

We’re getting to the end of an era: The black and white boom has gone bust, and Eclipse would withdraw from this market soon, and approach a new, lucrative idea soon: Japanese comics. Just two months after this book, Eclipse would start its assault on the US comics market with three bimonthly translations (Area 88, Kamui and Mai, the Psychic Girl), so I assumed that this was a way of testing the waters.

It’s nothing of the kind. Bizarrely enough, it’s ostensibly a parody of Japanese comics (and Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy in particular) published months before the vast majority of the US comics-reading audience had even seen a Japanese comic book.

And reading it, it becomes clear that the creators of Radio Boy haven’t seen a Japanese comic book, either. I’m guessing from the stilted English that they have seen badly dubbed versions of Godzilla, though.

Or perhaps they’ve just read about somebody having seen badly dubbed versions of Godzilla, because it’s just painful to read.

The two shorter backup features are funnier and look slightly more Japanese. But that’s just because nothing looked less Japanese than the main story.

The last one is inked by Timothy Truman and has a couple of jokes that work, but, not to harp on the same point over and over… That looks more like a European montage sequence.

They do namecheck Tezuka in the Jim Engel-penned biography of the purported creator of these comics Hawiya Nistamicha (get it? huh? huh?), and it does show that they aren’t as unfamiliar with Tezuka as I had assumed after reading the comics. The bit about the various “The Japanese”, going through Paul Terry and Izzy Sparber before settling on “The Japanese Walt Disney” is funny, and citing “the woman who draws Love Is” as a person who’s influenced by him is, too.

It’s such a bizarre comic book. I wonder whether fans of Japanese comics would find it offensive now, or just be as nonplussed as I am.

I was unable to find anybody that had anything to say about it on the web, but this came close.

In the Comics Journal, Dale Luciano reviewed it in issue 117:

Another unheralded sleeper.

Radio Boy from Eclipse Comics is a silly piece Of tomfoolery, a send-up Of Japanese adventure/superhero comics and the animated cartoon series based on them. A talented crew of funnymen, including Chuck Dixon (who wrote the scripts for the three featured stories in Radio Boy), Jim Engel, Flint Henry, and Timothy Truman, wring a goodly share of throwaway laughs from this goofy, fast-paced lampoon. (In a funny swipe at the mode of editorial writing that accompanies so many descriptions of Japanese comics, Radio Boy is credited to “Hawiya Nistamicha,” identified as the “Feudal lord of the Funnies” who, before he became a comics legend in Japan, gave up a career as a sumo wrestler when “a paralyzed buttock in an early match soon put an end to his dreams.”)

It’s really a one-joke comic—like Scott McCloud’s Destroy!, I assume Radio Boy is a one-shot—but the joke is irresistible. Particularly inspired is the lead feature, in which Radio Boy does battle with “Mitsu, the Plant Demon.” The Osamu Tezuka parody is hilarious, and Dixon makes nonsense poetry out of a clever approximation Of stilted translation. A typical caption reads, “Radio Boy lies most unconscious. His mind is being stupid of the danger that he is being surrounded on all sides with.”

Radio Boy is good silliness.

“Clever approximation.”

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