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March 25, 2020 23 mins

Will, Mango and Gabe are stuck inside this week, and decide to hop on the phone to chat comics... specifically, some of the worst comic creations in all of history. Want to know what killed Captain Tootsie? Or why Arm-Fall-Off-Boy was rejected from super hero glory twice? Plus, we discuss why you should never, ever try to crash an X-Men birthday party disguised as a food product. (There's a good reason.) 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Part Time Genius, the production of I Heart Radio.
I guess what, Mango? What's that? Well? All right, So
one thing I love about comics is all the captains.
What do you mean captain's you know, like Captain America,
Captain Marvel, Captain Planet, And of course I have to

save the best for last, Captain Caveman of Captain Caveman.
But this week I came across one that I bet
you've actually never heard of, Captain Tutsie. If you heard
of Captain Tutsie before, I have no idea who Captain
Tutsi is. Alright, So Captain Tutsie was a superhero debuted
in nineteen forty three during what's known as the Golden
Age of comics. But Captain Tutsie does not feel like

he should have come from this Golden age. Actually, why
is that? Well? For starters, Captain Tutsie was created explicitly
to sell Tutsie rolls. So chances are if you bought
a comic between nineteen forty three and the early nineteen fifties,
it probably included a one page comic ad in which
Captain Tutsie would perform all kinds of daring deeds like

rescuing a pilot of a crashing plane or taking down
a bear with a sniper rifle, you know, all those
amazing things. But the Captain didn't go on these missions alone.
He always brought his secret legion with him. So who's
in the secret legion? You know, it's it's an intimidating crew.
It's three eight year old boys named Rollo, fats So,
and Fisty, and all of them ate a lot of

Tutsie rolls, you know, to kind of help them get
the job done. It just makes sense, and so anytime
danger reared its ugly head, the Captain would just reach
into his bag, pull out some energy packed tutsie rolls,
and they'd all power up for the challenge, you know,
which sounds like a delicious way to deal with the situation.
So what happened to Captain Tutsie Well, I mean, I
know what you're thinking. You would you would imagine that

this sugar fueled bear fighting superhero would just stick around
for ages. But by nineteen fifty, for some reason, the
company this idea he should hang up his shoulder bag
of candy for good. And by that time, other genres
like science fiction and Western's had all really taken off.
So I love the idea that people used to love
to read about adults fighting crime with eight year olds.

But then, but then science fiction put that genre out
of business. Yeah, it's it's weird, but if nothing else,
the Captain is a good reminder that not all superheroes
are created equal. There are plenty of duds in the mix,
and those are the ones we want to shine a
spotlight on today. All the characters who have been saddled
with useless superpowers silly motivations are just unfortunate fashion choices

over the years. In other words, nine oddball comic book
characters they'll probably never make a movie about, So let's
dive ina. Hey there, podcast listeners, Welcome to Part Time Genius.

I'm Will Pearson, and as always I'm joined by my
good friend Manges Ticketer and on the other side of
the soundproof glass delicately working the knobs with these giant
green whole cans. It's been a while since I've seen
these things, but our producer Lowell has dusted them off
and he is going at it. I imagine it's kind
of hard to get the volumes just right when you're
smashing the boards with those whole cans. But we do

appreciate the effort Lole, you know. And after a long hiatus,
joining us once again on the phone, our researcher Gabe Bluesier. Hey,
they're Gabe. Hey, guys, it's great to be back behind
the mike. Thanks for having me, Gab. I'm so excited
to have you here because I know it is your
birthday this weekend. So normally when I washed my hands
now for twenty seconds, I I sing that outcast song
I'm Sorry Miss Jackson to myself, just the chorus. If

you do it twice, you're good. But this weekend I
sang just for you, happy birthday to Gabe when I
was washing my hands, So I like you should feel honored.
But but how is your quarantine going? So far? So good?
You know, staying indoors quite a lot. I'm thankful for
this opportunity to talk to people outside of the house
for a change. And well, how's life in in Birmingham.

You know, we're we're hanging in there day week two
of of home schooling slash trying to get some work done.
But yeah, it is, like Gabe said, it's really nice
to connect with the outside world. And since Gabe is
the guest and it was his birthday, I feel like
he should kick this off. And and actually, Gabe, you
actually know a lot about comics. No, no offense, Mango,

but I feel like we're just kind of kind of
pretending here. Absolutely all right, So here's my first pick.
I want to talk about a nineteen forties crime fighter
known as the Red Bee. So the Red b is
actually don't tell anyone, but his secret identity is Rick Raley.
He's an assistant district attorney who kind of got tired

of seeing criminals, you know, set free on technic plities,
so he decided to take justice into his own hands.
Of course, the way he chose to do this is
a little bit strange. He put on a yellow and
red stripey costume, of course, and he charged into battle
with an actual b as his side. And I mean,

you you gotta remember this was back in the early
days of superhero comics. The characters they, you know, mostly
took the form of kind of like pulp vigilantes, like
the Shadow or something like that. So they may have
worn colorful costumes, but they fought largely with their wits
and their fists, and uh, you know, they only had
a slight edge over the mob bosses and the crooked

politicians that they were squaring off against. There were no
you know, superpowered supervillains. And in the Red Bees case,
his special edge was Michael. And Michael was a trained
be that lived in a secret compartment inside of his
owner's belt buckle, and uh, you know, he could be
unleashed on unsuspecting foes, you know, whenever he was needed.

So first off, I just love that this killer bee
is named Michael, Like it is so vanilla and killer
Mike was right there for the taking. But also bees
can only sting once before they die, right, so Michael
can't be that much of a help. Well to that,
I say, how dare you? You have obviously never met
a b like Michael, because unlike your average be, Michael

could sting really as much as he wanted without dying.
But that said, you know, you're right, a single bee
isn't all that much of a threat, even one that
can kind of sting with impunity. That is, you know,
unless the criminal is allergic to be stings. But uh,
in later stories the Red Bee he actually upped his
game by stuffing an entire swarm of specially trained bees

into his belt buckle to kind of keep Michael company.
And I don't know about you, guys, but that's my
kind of hero. I love that. It's so ridiculous. So
there have been a few different superheroes named Black Condor
over the years, but the original character from is the best,
and it's all because of his backstory. So here's how
it goes. Uh, there's this archaeologist named Richard Gray. He

goes on this dangerous expedition to Mongolia, and uh he
decides to bring his wife an infant along, and sometime later,
tragedy strikes. The couple is attacked and killed by a
group of raiders. Uh and the baby, Richard Gray Jr. Survives,
but he obviously has no way offending for himself. But
as luck would have it, a flock of highly intelligent

Condors comes along at just the right time, and they
take pity on the boy and decide to adopt him
and raise him as one of their own. So, you know,
Gray doesn't fit nicely into this avian family at first,
but over the years, he actually teaches himself to fly
like the condors who raised him, and that's the origin.
But what's weird about it is he doesn't get packed
by a magic condor. He he isn't struck by a meteor. Right,

He doesn't do anything supernatural. He doesn't wear a jet
pack or a wingsuit. He just straight up flies around
like a bird. And it's all because he just decides
to And that I think what makes this so stupid.
As the first issue explains, like, he simply quote puts
his keen mind to the task of studying the movements

of wings, the body motions, air currents, balance, and levitation,
and after some studying, quote, his determination was rewarded by success.
So he's probably wondering, like, how does an orphan who
learns to fly from condors get the name Black Condor? Right,
human who later takes him in He teaches him to
become human and read and speak and all that, and
he gives him the name Condor because he was raised

by birds and Black Condor because he has black hair. Okay,
that's not quite where I thought that was going. But also,
I mean, does this guy even count as a superhero?
Like it sounds like he's just flying around doing bird stuff.
Once Black Condor gets up to speed, like on the
human world. He eventually migrates to America, where I guess

all the crime is assumes the identity of a U. S.
Senator who has just died, which is such an elaborate story.
But from that point on he starts leading a new
double life politician by day and bird vigilante by night,
which is pretty great. God, that's just so so amazing.
All right, Well, here's another weird Golden Age comic character.

This is Victoria Murdoch. But unlike the Red Bee and
the Black Condor whatever, Victoria was a supervillain who went
by the name Asbestos Lady, and that just sounds so scary.
But Victoria was a brilliant chemist gone mad, and she
used her knowledge of asbestos to create this fireproof suit
for herself, which she then used to carry out a

series of arson based robberies. I mean, it's a dated
idea now, because asbestos will get you crazy sick, obviously,
but her m O was to use a flamethrower to
create this wall of fire around the bank, and then
with the police held at bay, she would rob the
place inside her asbestos lined suit. So she eventually became
a recurring arch nemesis for the human Torch, whom she

fought using the special asbestos bullets that she designed just
for him. I mean, she must have been like super smart,
knowing how to do all this stuff. But of course,
if you know anything about asbestos, you know that draping
your body and the stuff is not particularly safe. But
in ninety seven, asbestos was viewed as this miracle material
and it was the go to choice for fireproofing, popping

up in everything from roof insilation to firefighter uniforms. So
Victoria Murdoch spent nearly two decades in this asbestos suit
when weirdly, science caught up with the storyline, and it
is sad to say that it's a case of art
mirroring science. It was later revealed that she had succumbed
to mesothelioma. Dark dark, Oh my gosh. All right, well,

here's something I never would have guessed before this week.
The first ever cross dressing superhero was a character named
Madam Fatal, and they were created way back in ninett
of course, you know that said the depiction is about
his nuanced and thoughtful, as you might expect given that era,
and you know, the character was never meant to explore

gender expression or anything weighty like that, but it's it's
still pretty amazing that this happened at all, right, Like
I mean, for all kinds of reasons. And you know,
once I explained this, you're you're gonna see what I mean.
So here's how the story went down. A young girl
in Manhattan gets kidnapped from her father, who's a wealthy
actor named Richard Stanton. Stanton decides to kind of put

his talents as an actor to use in order to
get his daughter back. So he goes undercover and he
infiltrates the gang that took her. But here's the thing.
Stanton decides that, for some unknown reason, the best way
for him to gain access to this shady criminal underworld
is by dressing up as an elderly woman with a
cane and introducing himself as Madam Fatal. It's, you know,

an unusual choice that's never really explained in the story. Um,
you know, Stanton is a good fighter, he's a master
of disguise, so it didn't really have to be the
old lady. You know, he didn't have to go that route.
But you know, whatever works, I guess, and h in
the end, it helped Stanton get his daughter back. So
you know, that basically means that Adam Fatal is kind

of like the Mrs doubt Fire of superheroes, and no question,
you can't beat that. So now I want to talk
about some characters with questionable superpowers, and uh, I'm gonna
do that with this DC character known as Matter Eater Lad.
I've actually talked about matter Eater Lad before because he's
kind of a favorite of mine. And the thing he
does is eat matter, like that's all he does, but

it's all types of matter, and uh, you name it,
he can eat it, no problem. And while that ability
isn't all that helpful on the battlefield, it does come
in handy if he's trapped somewhere because he can just
eat his way out, or if he needs to dispose
of a dangerous object, again he can just eat it.
The last powers were deemed useful enough to earn him
a spot on the Legion of Superheroes, and this was

back in the nine sixties. I think the most modern
aspect of matter eat the Lad's powers is that he
is a supertaster, so not only can he eat anything,
but he can also analyze the composition of anything he
puts in his mouth, which makes me wonder if normal
supertasters don't like grapefruit or cilantro or super spicy foods.
I wonder if that's like his kryptonite could be. I

think the question it raises for me. The thing I'm
more confused about is why do they call him a
lad when he is clearly an adult man. That's a
good question. Maybe he's got like a growing boys appetite.
I have no idea, but we do have more characters
to dig into right after this break, Welcome back to

Part Time Genius. We're talking about the strangest characters in
comic book history. So just before the break, Mango introduced
us to maybe my favorite name of superheroes today, matter
Eater Lad, which is such a weird name, and it's
something we're all very thankful for, I'm sure. And and
speaking of descriptively named superheroes with absurd powers, there's no
way to get through this episode without talking about the

next one. It's another classic DC hero arm fall off
boy that that is exactly what his name is. The
character made his debut in nineteen eighty nine, when he
auditioned for a spot on the Legion of Superheroes and
promptly got rejected for having a power that was even
weirder and less useful than Matter Eater Lad, whom you'll
recall did earn a spot on the team. So once again,

it's all right there in the name, arm fall Off
Boy has the ability to remove his arms without being harmed, so,
for instance, any issue where he tries out for the team,
he demonstrates his skill by pulling off his arm and
wielding it like a makeshift club. Now, needless to say,
this fails to impress the legionnaires, who quickly brush him
off with a polite no thank you. But apparently the

arm fall Off Boy was deterred by the rejection because
he actually returns a few years later, this time going
by the decidedly cooler name Splitter. I don't know, I
kind of like arm fall Off Boy, but unfortunately the
Legions sees through the rebranding and rejects the poor guy
for a second time. Yeah, that's rough. I think we

can all agree the new name was a big improvement, though, right,
I mean, I mean, I guess, if we're being honest,
it was just so stupid before that. It it almost
seemed worth it, and arm fall off Boy is just
inaccurate on all counts. I mean, first off, according to
the comic, all of his limbs can be removed, legs included. Secondly,
his limbs don't just fall off on their own. He

actually has to pull them off if he needs to
improvise a weapon. And Lastly, I mean, this is how
much I've analyzed this game. Judging from how beefy he
looks in the artwork, this guy is no more a
boy than you know, Mad Eater Lad was a lad.
So it's a stunningly off based name. And now now
I'm talking about this, I'm actually starting to get worked
up about his eye. Sound angry, Yeah, that's wrong. I

mean the weirdest part to me is that the whole
limb removing power is just so underwhelming, right, Like, why
would you want that power at least with matterader Lad,
Like maybe you can win the Coney Island Hot Dog
Eating contest or you know, something like that, But if
you're going to rip off your arm to use it
like a club, why not just carry a club? Yet,
It's like this guy has absolutely no access to anything else,

and it's almost it's like would an arm really be
that great of a club to use, just like Fleshy
and everything, not even all that horror. But I guess
it sounds like we all agree the Legion of Superheroes
probably made the right call on rejecting him. Yeah both times. Actually,
all right, So my next pick is a Marvel character
from the nineteen seventies named three D Man, and he's

another case where the concept itself is interesting, like it's
pretty cool, but the usefulness of his powers, that's that's
the part that's lacking. So for starters, his powers really
don't have anything to do with three D at all,
which makes sense because you know humans already see in
three D. Anyway, that part didn't stop the character from
sporting a red and green costume, complete with his own

pair of three D glasses, which are actually very bad
for your eyes. And when it comes to his origin story, well,
I mean, it's honestly just as out there as his
name in costume. So here's how it went down. Before
becoming three D Man, Chuck Handler was a test pilot
for NASA who was abducted by an alien race called

the Scrolls. And while Chuck did manage to escape his captors,
he was caught in an explosion in the process, and
the resulting radiation vaporized him instantly. It sounds like that's
the end of the story, but this is actually where
things get weird. Because Chuck's brother, How he watched this
whole event unfold and his Chuck was being vaporized, two

images of him were imprinted on his brother's glasses, you
follow it. So, as it turned out, when How concentrated
really hard on those two D images of his brother,
he could trigger a dimensional shift that would cause How
to reappear as three D Manah, And that is, of

course a superhero with strength, speed, and reflexes equal to
that of you guessed it, three human beings in peak
physical shape like the three of us basically. But there
was a catch to all this. Whenever three D Man
was summoned, How Handler's body would just kind of slip

into a comatose state, you know, even as his mind
remained aware of his brother's actions due to this uh
psychic link between them. So it was kind of a
raw deal for How He's just sort of laying there
on the ground while all this is happening. But I
guess at least he got to see his brother again,
you know, I mean, so long as he never lost
those classes. I feel like I honestly heard everything you said,

and I have no idea how his words go together
to make a story. But uh, but I have a
pretty good character to close this out. So first though,
I thought it might help to give our listeners a
quick refresher on the nature of superpowers. So in the
Marvel universe, for example, like superpowers can come from just

about anywhere, right Like, it could be like a spider bite,
a seramon lab, a gift from the gods, or, in
the case of the X Men, just this randomly occurring
genetic mutation. These mutations can manifest in all kinds of
different ways, you know. It could be like telekinesis, ice powers,
healing abilities, whatever, and no one really has a say
in what they get. So the best example of what

a crapshoot these mutant powers can be is this villainous
character known as I Scream, And that's spelled like I
as in the organ and scream like the sound. So
I'm kind of curious, like, what kind of mutant power
do you think I Scream wound up with? Yeah, I mean,
based on his name, maybe he can shoot like a
concussive sound waves from his eye is or something like that.

I'm imagining this is like this super intense there, like
he can stare so intensely that his foes just run
away screaming and tear. That's got to be what it is, right,
So I didn't tell you there was gonna be a quiz.
I think you both provided excellent answers, but but you're
both wrong. What this guy can actually do is turn
his body into ice cream. It honestly makes no sense because,

like I, Scream is a mutant who discovered an early
age that he was gifted with the power to turn
into any flavor of ice cream that he wanted. And
as you might imagine, that was pretty underwhelming, especially compared
to like all the things that other mutants could do.
So ice Cream kind of grew up with this chip
on his shoulder and and one day he wanted to
get revenge on, you know, more of the high profile

show off mutants in the X Men world. So this
is what he did. He waited until one of the
X Men had a birthday, and then on the day
of the party, he managed to sneak into the mansion
where they lived by disguising himself as a massive tub
of banana split ice scream. I mean, it's a truly
full proof plan. I feel like, yeah, that's what That's
what ice Cream thought too, except that the X Men's

telepaths caught onto the scheme pretty quickly and the team
was able to shut the intruder down without much of
a fuss. And you might be wondering, like how they
do it. They just lowered the temperature in the room
where ice Cream was hiding, and pretty pretty soon the
villain was frozen into a solid block of ice cream
and couldn't change back into his human form. That seriously
might be the most humiliating defeat in comic history. And

that's saying something. Yeah, I mean, the weird thing is
like things actually get worse from for for ice cream
from there, like, the X Men hired a clown for
the birthday party that day, and after helping the team
defeat their intruder, the clown actually got to keep the
frozen ice cream as payment. And since ice Cream hasn't
been seen or heard from since, you can probably imagine
what happened to him next. Wow, this is kind of

a hot take, but I'm just gonna say it. He
had it coming, if for no other reason than he
spells his name in such deliberately misleading way. Being eaten
by a clown, it seems like a just punishment for that. Yeah,
I'm so glad you're not a judge, although I do
guess you have a say. And who wins the trophy today?
And and and I'm leaning towards Mango taking it? But

but what do you think, Gabe? Yeah, it's got to
be him. I mean, Black Condor, Matter Eater Lad and
now ice Cream. That that is a trifecta of truly
terrible superheroes. I badly want to see a team up
movie with those three, and for that, I think the
trophy is yours, Mango. I don't think anyone wants to
see a movie of the three. But thank you so much,

and it's an honor um I will say. That's it
for today's Part Time Genius from Will gave Lola myself.
Thank you so much for listening, and take care of
yourselves out there. M Part Time Genius is a production

of I Heart Radio. For more podcasts from my Heart Radio,
visit the I Heart Radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever
you listen to your favorite show h

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