ADOLESCENT RADIOACTIVE BLACK BELT HAMSTERSMedium: Comic books
Published by: Eclipse Comics
First Appeared: 1986
Creators: Don Chin (writer) and Christopher Parsonavich (artist)
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been called the biggest property to come out of comic books since Batman. But in the sudden proliferation of direct rip-offs in the comics medium itself, it's more reminiscent of Superman, whose imitators formed what we now know as the superhero genre. The first and most successful Turtles camp follower was Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters. While comics with goofy
names and concepts like Ninja High School, Dinosaurs for Hire and Fish Police may have followed naturally from the Turtles' success, it's the Hamsters who created the environment where such precisely Turtles-inspired titles as Pre-Teen Dirty Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos, Colossul Nuclear Bambino Samurai Snails and Radioactive Wrestling Rodents could exist, however briefly they flourished.
Nobody looks to comics like the Turtles and the Hamsters for gripping adventure or hard-hitting drama. Readers expect parody, and that's exactly what those comics provided. In the former case, it was parody of the entire comic book field, which was overrun with ninjas and teenage mutants at the time; and eventually, as they transcended their origins, parody of adventure stories in general. But in the latter, it was mostly parody of the Turtles themselves, sort of a second-order parody. Parodies of parodies seldom work as well as the things they're based on, but in this case, the original was strong enough to sustain it for a time.
The parodist was Don Chin, the comics entrepreneur who had founded Comics Revue, and later the writer behind Zen, Intergalactic Ninja. His artist collaborator was Christopher Parsonavich, whose credits not connected with the Hamsters are sparse. It was published by Comic Media, a comics store in Eureka, Ca., and distributed by Eclipse Enterprises, publisher of Aztec Ace and Zot!, which used its own imprint as publisher, in 1986.
That first issue explained how the creatures got to be what they were called. The Turtles were named after great painters of centuries past Michaelangelo, Donatello etc. and the Hamsters after action hero movie stars Clint, Chuck, Jackie and Bruce. The Turtles got mutated in a riff on Daredevil's origin, and the Hamsters got radioactive by being shot into space, reminiscent of The Fantastic Four's powering-up. Comic book characters from Wonder Man to Iron Fist have had Tibetan connections in how they got super, and Tibet is where the Hamsters got their black belts.
Unlike other Turtles-inspired multiple-adjectived critters, the Hamsters lasted more than one issue. In fact, they outlasted Parsonavich's involvement with the title, which ran no less than four issues. In fact, they lasted nine regular issues, the last of which was dated January, 1988, and four 3-D specials. What's more, they were back for a few issues in the early 1990s.
They were back again, in connection with a Turtles revival, in 2008. Eclipse had long since folded, but their four new issues were published by Dynamite Entertainment (Scout, Red Sonja). Which doesn't mean its cultural impact is anywhere near the Turtles' league, but outlasting its original publisher isn't too shabby.