November 11, 2009

Wacky Comic Wednesday: Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters #1

arbbh1Published in 1986 by Eclipse Comics, Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters #1 was the comic that started it all for writer Don Chin. That name should sound familiar, because during The Wacky Month of Zen I dropped the hint that we would be covering some of Don’s work in the future; and my friends, the future is now! Don took advantage of the 90s comics boom in 1992 when he founded Entity Comics. Some Zen titles were published under the label, and Don served as both Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for the company until 1997. Amongst other things, he has written for Cracked magazine, penned the Stargate comic book movie adaptation, and even designed pop culture phenomenon, William Hung’s website! Ain’t that the cat’s pajamas! According to a fan page, Don enjoys watching American Idol, the San Francisco Giants, listening to contemporary Christian music, fishing, weight lifting, and like yours truly has a (useless) degree in theatre. So aside from the last factoid about theatre and our mutual enjoyment of the Hamsters, Donald and I have absolutely nothing in common.

Now, it’s pretty obvious what Hamsters is spoofing, and the series should come as a compliment to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans everywhere. Why? Because given how Hamsters debuted only 2 years after the premiere of the first Turtles comic, it’s evidence that the TMNT quickly became mainstream pop culture icons! This premier series lasted until 1988 and totaled 9 issues. Also published by Eclipse was the 4 issue mini-series Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters: 3-D (1986) and Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters: Massacre the Japanese Invasion (1989). While Hamsters may be the original (and the best) TMNT parody, there were plenty of imitators: Geriatric Gangrene Jujitsu Gerbils published right after Hamsters in January of 1986 by Planet X Productions, Mildly Microwaved Pre-Pubescent Kung-Fu Gophers published in July of 1986 by Just Imagine Graphics, the Sultry Teenage Super Foxes published in 1987 by Solson, and Marvel’s 1989 one-shot, the Power Pachyderms. Some of these will be covered in future editions of WCW, and all are ridiculous in their own right, but none are as original as the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles satire featured today.

So what’s this premiere issue of the ARRBH all about?

How’s this for an introduction: “On their own, each is a wimp fine fighter, but put all of them together and they form the unstoppable, uncanny, fantastic, invincible, spectacular, amazing, new, improved, 1986, bio-degradable (okay—- enough already) ADOLESCENT RADIOACTIVE BLACK BELT HAMSTERS!” Did you catch all of those mainstream comic book references?

The story begins in space with a giant glob of radioactive cosmic jello heading on a crash course to our beloved planet Earth, threatening its very existence. NASA along with the United Nations declare that a group of aeronauts must pilot an explosive equipped rocket into the heart of the jello in order to take it out. The United States, Canada, and Europe produce a selection of pilots for the journey; Billy Carter, Bob and Doug McKenzie, and the Sex Pistols, but Poland offers the best solution- a group of four hamster brothers named Bruce, Chuck, Jackie, and Clint! The hamsters are selected, and the brothers accomplish their mission (although it takes’em long enough!), but when their ship crash lands back on Earth in Tibet, they are taken in by a group of monks who train them in the ways of the black belt. Why a black belt? Well, as a monk blatantly points out, “to hold your pants up stupid.”

Like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, each Hamster has a weapon of choice; Jackie fights unarmed, Bruce wields a bo, Chuck uses nunchucks, and Clint… well, Clint uses a gun. Their training is rigorous, as they are taught methods to control their anger, learn how to tie their shoes, watch bizarre episodes of The Brady Bunch, and drink beer. Once their training is complete, the Hamsters are assigned their first mission from the monks: to deliver a mysterious package in San Francisco to one of the monks’ brothers. The Hamsters were given this mission because the UPS rates are outrageous in the middle of nowhere, Tibet… duh.

While hiking through the snowy Tibetan mountains, the brothers are confronted by the drug dealing Abominable Snowman. They hilariously kick the crap out of him, stealing his car and money which allows them to purchase plane tickets. The Hamsters travel in disguises described as “generic ugly American,” and on their flight they watch a bone-tickling movie starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Cheech and Chong. Just use your imagination to get the gist of the plot. However, the plane is suddenly hijacked by members of the PLO (Pot Luck Organization) which consists of a viking, a hockey gear wearing guy, a scuba dude, a Middle Eastern woman with an AK, and a little kid wearing a crown armed with a sling shot. The four brothers know that their destiny commands them to defend their fellow passengers, but with this terrorist group they may have bitten off more than then their bucked teeth can chew…

Don Chin’s writing is wacky, silly, and playfully funny as he presents his furry creations in entertaining fashion. Just like his other work, Don packs this issue with cultural references of the day. I think I picked up on most of them, but given how I was still wearing diapers when this comic came out, I’m sure a few went over my head. The black and white art by Parsonavich fits the style of the comic nicely with it’s squiggly lines and dotted details. The two creators even make a couple of appearances throughout the issue!

As an encore, there are a bunch of silly quotes on the back: “I am not looking forward to the rest of this series!” – Swill Eisner, “If you’re lookin’ fer fun and excitement- look elsewhere!” – Wilt Simonsen, “This will never be the new standard by which comics will be judged.” – Santa Klaus Janson, “Our lawyers will be in touch!” – Beastman and Lard, “They held me at gunpoint! What else could I do?!” – The Publisher. What’s a great spoof without a little self deprecating humor?

Now for some quotes:

“Ha-Ha-they all have buck teeth! And hairy palms…. you know what that means…” – some monks

“Lemme get this straight: to avoid potential conflict, one should 1) File your income tax early and 2) Stay away from gay bars?” – Bruce

“Naw, it’s all Chin’s doing… he’s such a cheapskate- do anything to make a buck- even cut down on ink!” – one of the Hamsters

“This stuff you’re selling rots the brain faster than Marvel’s Secret Wars!” – Bruce

“Aw Yoda, don’t die on me man! I toldja not to mix those funky mushrooms in with your stew, but you had to do it anyways, didn’t ya, ya little green s*#t!” – Cheech

That’s it for now, but if you feel like this article didn’t fully satisfy your Hamster fix, fear not! There’s plenty more Hamster action for you in future editions of Wacky Comic Wednesday!

Andy Liegl



  1. It may even be possible, using treats as rewards, to train the hamster to carry out some of its natural activities.

  2. The Movie Lady

    Depending on what month in 1986 it was published I was either in a womb somewhere or laying around being a blob. Still, I love cultural references and I’d like to see how many I pick up on as well. Hamsters sounds like a kick in the pants, much like your article… nice!

  3. billy

    Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Cheech and Chong. Hmmm

  4. Thanks for the review, Andrew! You can read ARBBH #1 for free online here:

    Don Chin

  5. @sexslings- I’m not sure if this is a comment by an actual person, or a sex bot, but I found it comical regardless.

    @TheMovieLady- what’s this about my pants?

    @Don- Thanks for the assist Don! I knew I was forgetting something!

  6. […] Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters series which Chin created 8 months earlier in the same year. The issue was spotlighted last month here at Wacky Comic Wednesday, so check out that review for Clint’s origin and a […]

  7. […] with the talking animal theme and take a look at Dynamite Entertainment’s 2008 reboot of the Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters written by Keith Champagne (The Mighty, Robin) and drawn/inked by Tom Nguyen (Blackest Night, Green […]

  8. […] patch over the hamster’s left eye… who is it? Why, it’s Jackie- one of the original four Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt […]

  9. […] already stated, this series has done a fantastic job of paying homage to Don Chin’s original Hamster books. I particularly like the pacing of the series and the structure of how the characters […]

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