Monday, August 25, 2008

Reassessing Radarman by Seth Deitch

Reassessing Radarman

Seth Kallen Deitch

I have got to say that although it has not always been true, today I am a huge fan of Nelson Black who was Radarman’s creator. It’s not his fault that he couldn’t draw worth a damn, for fate had decreed that he leave both of his thumbs on Iwo Jima. It is for this reason that the Radarman comics are not held in very high regard in spite of the striking originality of the storytelling. As a youngster, I dismissed these books which I saw only when I went to get my haircut. For some reason, the local barber never had any Marvel or DC titles, but only Gold Key, Archie and other second and third rate imprints.

Radarman was originally published by Falcon Comics and ran for a few years starting in March of 1963. As I have said, it was not well thought of. I reached for Radarman only after I was sure that there were no copies of Magnus, Robot Fighter in the pile. Even so, a few issues somehow found their way into my collection via bad trades with my playmates and were among the stash that sat behind the furnace in Uncle Shemmie’s basement on Long Island where I spent many a happy summer, only to be rediscovered following his more than timely death in 2006 at the age of 102.

When I came across an issue of Radarman, my first reaction was “What in the name of all that’s pure and sacred is this doing here?” I quickly paged trough it just to see if there were any interesting ads before I tossed it in a trash bag when I noticed that there was a text story. As a youth I generally bypassed these stories that some comic books featured to get onto the next full color story. This time I had the patience of middle age on my side and I discovered that the feature was a chapter of a serialized Radarman novel! Not only that, it was one of the weirdest things I had ever read. I have not read the entire thing as I only have issues containing chapters 3, 9 and 16 and the books are nigh impossible to find at any sort of reasonable price. For your edification, I offer one of those chapters.


Rhonda arrived back at the beach house just a few moments too late, for it was already in the process of being consumed by one of the gigantic mutants. This one looked like it might possibly have been the result of the mating of a bat and a squid which it likely was, and of course it was at least then thousand times the size of either of its parents. She decided to get back in her car and move on before the monster spotted her.

She had to review in her mind as to how her father had gotten so far out of control. Was it less than a year ago that he had been regarded as the world’s greatest fertility specialist? Now he was the world’s most wanted criminal and apparently not even Radarman could find him. Rhonda’s father had searched for the solution that would allow childless couples to finally achieve their dream of parenthood. Not only did he seek to give them babies, but big healthy babies. She comforted herself with the notion that he probably didn’t expect his serum to enable the mating of any two organisms regardless of sex or species or that the offspring would always grow at least as big as a house. Least of all, she prayed he had no idea that these creatures would hunger for human flesh exclusively and have an instinctive desire to smash cities. Even if he didn’t know these things, it seemed careless of him to have simply poured his samples down the sink.

She was forced from her reflections and off the road by a rampaging Grasshopper-mouse the size of an airliner that was tearing its way into a shopping mall and hundreds of people fled in mindless terror. The grasshopper-mouse was briskly gobbling up the slower ones. The pokey little Studebaker wasn’t going to be a solid or swift enough vehicle. She saw a abandoned Jeep parked in the mall lot and ran toward it. Since she had been forced to change cars so frequently in the last few weeks, her skills were well honed and she had the Jeep hot-wired in mere seconds. She had to get back to Waterbury, if there still was a Waterbury and find Jim! He was the only person who knew how to contact Radarman.

Since the mutants had eaten most of the army, Radarman was the only force in the world that could confront these creatures successfully. Even that mighty being, however, might not be able to prevent more from being born. Rhonda sped off between two of the grasshopper-mouse’s six furry legs with the gas pedal to the floor.

In Waterbury, Jim Baskin had run to the roof of the Star-Sentinel building to get a better view of the city. Four immense bunnyhogs were working their way up 19th street although one of them had stopped to do battle with a gorillachicken that had resulted in the complete destruction of Oddfellows Hall. Thankfully, most of the people had been evacuated from that part of town so most of the creatures were just sniffing around. He wished his car had not been destroyed by the manduck. The bizarre catholicity of sexual attraction had not effected him as it had the rest of nature, so it was difficult for him to imagine having the sort of desires that would lead to the conception of such a creature as nature now suddenly seems to allow. He assumed that his microwave charged blood was not susceptible to the same malign influences.

He had to protect the city! He touched his ring and spoke the word. “KLYSTRON!!!!” He was surrounded by the familiar energetic discharge that altered his very atoms and where once had stood an ordinary science teacher was now the astounding RADARMAN! He leapt from the roof held aloft by the power of Radion energy and he scanned the horizon with a powerful radar field. As he found the mutant that was closest to him, a sixty foot tall rosebush-dog. The creature was loathsome beyond description and Radarman was consumed with disgust. He directed a stream of microwaves at the heart of the creature which barked and whined and fell over onto a gasoline truck that exploded upon impact sending flaming petals everywhere. The superhero moved on the next mutant, a snailgiraffe, and was about to engage it in battle when he spotted the Jeep making its way up Industrial Parkway. Flying high over the city, Radarman scanned the vehicle and, to his horror, discovered that the driver was Rhonda! He dove down to street level and landed in front of the car which slowed to a stop. Rhonda leapt out of the car and ran toward him.

“Radarman! Thank God!”

“Rhond….er, Miss Grant! Why are you here? It’s simply not safe!”

“I need your help, Jim Baskin is somewhere in Waterbury! We were separated when a squirellswan destroyed the TV studio in Oakville!”

“Jim is safe, Miss Grant. I got him out of here.”

“Where is he? I must find him!”

The electromagnetic paladin hesitated for just a second.

“He is in a secret lab working on an antidote to the fertility serum. In the meantime, I’m trying to find your father and save as many lives as I can.”

Yet again, Radarman wondered why he kept up the charade of a double life. Rhonda was his fiancé after all, but he still harbored the fear that she would consider him a freak if she knew.

His musings were interrupted by an awful roar from the snailgiraffe as it crawled toward them along the highway. From the opposite direction came a mushroomcow. Radarman picked up Rhonda and lifted into the sky just as the two hideous mutants collided. With his left hand, he sent a blast of microwaves against them and something strange took place. The two evil beasts vibrated and then seemed to liquefy and flow into one another forming a towering mound of raw protoplasm. Then the mound started to bud off pieces that were living creatures having the characteristics of both mutants. In mere seconds there was a herd of mushroomcowgiraffesnails milling about and rapidly increasing in size.

“This is an unanticipated development,” said Radarman.

“I’ll say! I have my father’s notebooks, but they’re in the car in the middle of all those mutants.”

“I have to go and get them!” Radarman flew Rhonda to the top of an office building and left her there safe for the moment and then headed back to the Jeep. He hovered over it and heated the air under it with a microwave beam slowly lifting the car into the air. Once it was high enough, he pushed it through the air to the top of the building where he had left Rhonda.

In an office in the abandoned building, the super hero and the science reporter went over the books to see what they could find out.

“This is astonishing!”, Said Radarman, “According to this, the creatures we have encountered are only the beginning! The serum has effected all life on a molecular level. As of now any living species has been enabled to produce young with any other living species, and that is quite bizarre enough, but the serum will soon be effecting things on the sub-molecular level! When that happens, living things will be able to produce offspring with inanimate objects!”

Rhonda was perplexed. “Inanimate? You mean a cat could successfully mate with a saxophone, for instance?”

“Precisely! And it won’t end there. The serum is designed to also act at the conceptual level!”


“A living thing or a non-living thing will be able to produce young with abstract concepts!”

“Huh? Do you mean that we could see a hybrid of a footstool and justice? A hamster and algebra? A dog and doggedness? ”

“And each and every one of them hungering for human flesh! Terrifying, eh? This must be stopped! The entire universe is threatened if there is a general breakdown in the differences between one thing and another.”

Rhonda had imagined many ways in which the world might come to an end, but this had not been one of them. They both sat for a moment in silence when suddenly, the window exploded inward.

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