arbbhPublished in 1986 by Eclipse Comics, Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters #1was the comic that started it all for writer Don Chin. Now, it’s pretty obvious what Hamsters is spoofing, and the series should come as a compliment toTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans everywhere. Why? Because given how Hamsters debuted only 2 years after the premiere of the firstTurtles 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. All are ridiculous in their own right, but none are as original as the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles satire.

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 of course, 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 in Clint, 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 (Ken Meyer Jr. pencilled the Clintseries) 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

So there you have it my friends, a review of the original Hamster book!