alicemacher: Lisa Winklemeyer from the webcomic Penny and Aggie, c2004-2011 G. Lagacé, T Campbell (Default)
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An example of the clinically realistic way superhero comics depict the onset of mental illness.

We're all familiar with the long-discredited Golden Age trope in which exposure to radioactive elements gives people beneficial super-powers. But even then, there were comic-book characters who weren't so lucky when exposed to radiation, voluntarily or otherwise. In the "voluntarily" category, for example, we have Professor Henry Ross, who just wanted to invent a cure for death.


From Batman vol. 1 #8 (Dec. 1941-Jan. 1942). Story by Bill Finger, pencils by Bob Kane, inks by Jerry Robinson and George Roussos. About 3 1/3 pages out of 13.

Professor Ross successfully tests a radium serum on dogs put down at a shelter, and brings them back to life. His institute director, however, points out that there are no traces of radium in the dogs' bodies, so for all he knows Ross could've just substituted living dogs for dead and pocketed the radium for himself. He demands Ross's resignation.







Ross takes the poison, having left the radium serum and instructions for his associate, Johnston. Sure enough, Johnston restores him to life, with no apparent trace of radium in Ross's system. Hours later, however, Ross unintentionally kills a rose and a sparrow with his touch. Johnston comes by to report that upon re-examination he did find radium traces, and oh yeah, Ross seems to be green and glowing. Unthinkingly, Ross grabs Johnston's arm, killing him too.

Managing to avoid arrest for homicide, because the coroner can't find evidence of foul play (it also helps that his skin's no longer green or glowing), Ross gets to work on an antidote for his radioactivity so he won't kill anyone else. He soon finds one in the expensive (fictional) drug Volitell.







Ross goes around stealing the drug from hospitals, attracting the attention of the media, as well as Batman and Robin. The dynamic duo catch him in the act, but he manages to escape by removing a glove and zapping the iron pipe they've been climbing down. The heroes make it to safety, even managing to retrieve the glove he left behind. Back home, Batman dusts the inside of the glove for fingerpints (which was technically possible in real life even then, but not that feasible; forensic scientists instead learned how to take glove prints).

The professor takes more Volitell and, having apparently cured himself again, visits his girlfriend Mary Lamont with the exciting news. One guess what happens next.







Soon, the police are staking out Ross's house, looking for the stolen Volitell, so it's back to the lab for him.







Nicely understated writing there, Bill. Anyway, Batman suggests Gordon call off the surveillance, in hopes that'll draw Radium out. Sure enough, he returns for the Volitell he'd concealed in a phony book. But our heroes are waiting for him.







During the scuffle, Radium escapes yet again, heading for the shipyard, apparently so we can have a climactic, proto-Dick-Sprang style fight.







To answer your question, narrator: Professor Radium appeared in the Batman daily newspaper strip from Sept. through Nov. 1946, then was nowhere to be seen until Infinite Crisis, when he turned up as part of the villainous Nuclear Legion. Apart from that, there was a New 52 story in which a bad guy named Hugh Marder wore a radiation suit similar to Radium's.
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