I Love Nuclear Power

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Nukehugger.jpg

Scientist: Young man... I'm afraid you've suffered some of the worst of what our... mighty little friend, the atom has to offer! It can power a city... or level it. Human-insect mutation is far from an exact science. But there are some things we do know... You'll grow. (tsk tsk) Become bigger...!

Dentist: I'm sorry, Bill!
MANT! - from the movie Matinee
Bonk! is fulla radiation, which as we all know is pretty great for givin' people superpowers.
Team Fortress 2, The Scout Update

This is the tendency in fiction for exposure to nuclear radiation or other hazards (including Green Rocks) to result in a character gaining super-powers when a quick death by acute radiation poisoning or a slow and agonizing demise by cancer or leukemia would be a more likely outcome.

Don't try to tell that to anybody on the inside of the fourth wall, though.

Unsurprisingly, this trope seems to have been at its peak in the atom-craze 1950's when anything "atomic" was seen as cutting-edge, but is now falling out of favor as the common person's increased understanding of the negative effects of radiation make it increasingly less believable as a source for superhero mutation. A few superhero characters whose backstory involved gaining powers though irradiation have since been re-written into genetic engineering being responsible to capitalize on a new area of scientific ignorance for viewers.

See also Phlebotinum Du Jour (for more unlikely things that promote superpowers) and Deus Ex Nukina (for more things that nuclear power can arbitrarily solve).

A Super-Trope to Nuclear Nasty, which specifically talks about monsters created by radiation. The predecessors to this trope are Lightning Can Do Anything and Chemistry Can Do Anything; before the discovery of nuclear power, electricity and chemicals were the go-to source for magical do-anything phlebotinum.

Not to be confused with Deus Ex Nukina or Atomic Hate. This trope is why you should never Nuke'Em.

Named for an obscure '80s alternative music hit, oxymoronic as it may seem to use "obscure" and "hit" in the same sentence.

Examples of I Love Nuclear Power include:

Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Godzilla movies aside, this is not a particularly common trope in Japan as, for reasons that should be abundantly clear to anyone with even the barest knowledge of history, the Japanese are much better acquainted with the effects that atomic radiation has on human physiology than most. There are however, a few examples. Many of Osamu Tezuka's early sci-fi manga had radiation doing strange things. Metropolis featured a radioactive metal called Omotanium that could cause animals to grow to giant sizes, create artificial sunspots and even helped create a superpowered Artificial Human. Nextworld features various bizarre mutants created by nuclear testing including the superintelligent Fumoon who may or may not have been created from humans. Oddly enough, nobody ever got cancer or radiation sickness. Tezuka's later Astro Boy series handled this a bit better. The hero still got his powers from atomic energy, but that's because he was a nuclear powered robot. One Astroboy story, "The Coral Reef Adventure", involves nuclear testing in the Pacific & features animals & people who are hideously deformed & dying due to radiation.
    • Also, in one episode of Kimba the White Lion, there's a grasshopper mutated by radiation. Guess what happens? Well, here's a hint: The episode is called "The Gigantic Grasshopper."
    • Ode to Kirihito, on the other hand, is almost realistic about this. Irradiated water causes gradual, painful, and horrible death. Less probably, it makes people look like they're part-dog.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure it is eventually revealed that the apparently mystical Stands were somehow created by an ancient artifact created from a radioactive meteorite.
  • In Patalliro, Patalliro tries to hatch a "super duck" by irradiating a duck egg, but what hatches is just a rather large duck.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Incredible Hulk, as well as his foes the Leader and Abomination.
    • Not to mention She Hulk: Apparently deadly radiation can turn you into a 6'7" green supermodel who can bench a train.
    • Worth mentioning that She-Hulk didn't directly get her powers from radiation but rather a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner, her cousin...
    • And they're only the most famous. The Hulk comics have seen a whole horde of people mutated by gamma radiation over the years.
    • Hell, most of the Leader's schemes revolve around trying to mutate humanity with gamma radiation, most recently in Fall of the Hulks.
    • There's also Red Hulk, who even absorbs radiation. Combining gamma radiation and cosmic power will let you do that, apparently.
  • Spider-Man acquired his powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider.
  • In X-Men, the exact cause of mutant powers are rarely discussed. In the 60's however, Professor X explained his powers as the result of his parents working on the first atom bomb. The Beast's powers have been explained as the result of his father being exposed to radiation, while Sunfire was born in Hiroshima on the day when they dropped the atom bomb. All of these explanations have either been either Ret Conned or completely ignored.
  • Averted Post-Crisis in Superman (albeit played straight elsewhere in the DCU.) The chronic health problems that plague Lex Luthor in both his comic book and cartoon series appearances are a result of exposure to the Kryptonite Ring he wore for quite some time. While it certainly hurts Superman very quickly, having it around you for years will have the same effect any kind of radiation will.
  • Deconstructed in the origin of the Cyborg Superman. In a pastiche of the Fantastic Four, a space shuttle crew is exposed to cosmic radiation but suffer vastly detrimental effects. Two are killed immediately and resurrected in painful or dangerous forms, eventually leading them to suicide, and one is nearly drawn into an alternate dimension. The fourth member of the crew, Hank Henshaw, suffers an accelerated radiation poisoning which rots away his body. However, Henshaw's mind quickly returns to life with technopathic abilities.
    • And rampaging sociopathy.
  • Also lampshaded in the Marvel Universe, when Rick Jones exposed himself to gamma rays to try to develop Hulk-like powers and got cancer instead. He got better, though.
  • The Marvel Comics Elseworld Miniseries Ruins subverts this repeatedly. In its vision of a darker, bleaker Marvel universe, it imagines the "realistic" effects that the numerous radiation-fueled Freak Lab Accidents that gave many of their comic book superheroes their powers (gamma radiation bursts, "cosmic" rays, irradiated spider-bites, etc) could have—specifically, painful disfigurements and horrible deaths. However, the series often leaves in the other unrealistic elements; for instance, the Hulk becomes a mass of tumors, but still violates Conservation of Mass in doing so.
  • In Daredevil toxic waste is spilled on him; he gains superpowers but also gets blinded.
    • Lampshaded in one of the comics; when the empowering accident is discussed, a character points out, "You know what would happen to me if I got hit in the face with a radioactive isotope? I would get leukemia and die."
    • This and many other Marvel origins are given a kind-of explanation in the Earth X miniseries, in that certain people have the ability to gain superpowers. What those powers are is determined by how they get them, but because of this innate "spark", they do indeed gain abilities from things that would kill people without it.
      • This is roughly the same rationalization behind the "metagene" in The DCU.
      • In the mainstream continuity, radiation-based origins have been explained as genetic experiments by the Celestials that were triggered by radiation.
  • Averted in the Doom comic. The Doomguy is very displeased with the fact that radioactive waste is carelessly left lying around.
  • Knuckles the Echidna in the Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog comic books, had his egg irradiated with Chaos Energy from the Master Emerald by his father Locke (himself self-subjected to radiation and genetic testing), granting him powers and abilities far beyond even his own lineage had as the crystal's guardian. Likewise, his ancestor Dimitri, aka Enerjak, became a near-god from excess radiation siphoned off of the Master Emerald. In fact, if a character doesn't have a natural affinity for powering up with the Chaos Emeralds (like Sonic or Shadow), any Chaos-imbued powers they gain are usually a result of this trope.
  • The Flash has a minor recurring adversary named Fallout, a former blue-collar worker who was hired to do work on a nuclear power plant, fell into the reactor, and emerged with translucent green skin and radioactive powers that caused him to inadvertently kill his wife and son. After Flash apprehended him he agreed to act as a living power source for the prison in which he was incarcerated as penance.
    • In fact, Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, gained his powers when he accidentally inhaled fumes of heavy water, a rare non-radiation based version of I Love Nuclear Power.
  • The Golden Age Atom from the Justice Society of America was originally just a short guy who worked out a lot, but when he came out of retirement in The Silver Age of Comic Books he had super-strength because the writer who brought him back Did Not Do the Research. It was later Retconned that he absorbed energy from a nuclear-powered supervillain, which somehow allowed him to survive an atomic bomb blast, after which he gained his powers.
  • Turns out that irradiating the beehive you were studying will mutate the insects and cause them to eat you alive! Don't worry, though, you'll live on in their new-formed Hive Mind, your new body composed of bones and bees! Now you pretty much have to go into supervillainy with this new power! At least, if you happen to be a Nazi scientist in the Marvel Universe.
  • Chen Lu was turned into the Radioactive Man in a Chinese attempt to create a human weapon. Pity they didn't check if he had plans for world domination first...
  • Hilariously parodied in a Dilbert strip sequence, in which Dilbert decides to make himself a superhero costume and stand outside the local nuclear plant, in the hope that an accident will occur and give him superpowers. When he gets there, he finds a dozen other guys, all in various designs of spandex, who apparently all had the same idea.
  • Johnny Alpha in Strontium Dog gained the ability to read minds, see through solid objects, and emit alpha rays from his eyes following strontium-90 fallout during a nuclear war. However, most other mutants in the series are merely disfigured.
  • Taken to its uttermost extreme in Captain Atom - the titular character, rather than merely being irradiated, was actually vaporized by being at ground zero of a thermonuclear explosion. His mind or soul was somehow able to form a new body for itself, one with superpowers. In the Post-Crisis remake of the character, the writers explained this as an effect of the extra-dimensional substance in which he was encased at the time of the blast.
  • DC Comics' other nuclear man, Firestorm, also counts, since his origin involves terrorists leaving Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein to die when they blow up the latter's nuclear plant. The explosion ends up fusing them into a superpowered being instead. Later averted when Stein is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor as a result of being one half of the nuclear man midway through the second series.
    • Also true of his Distaff Counterpart Firehawk, his Russian foe-turned-ally Pozhar, and several of his recurring villains.
    • The New 52 reboot embraces this, turning "the Firestorm Protocols" into an extended nuclear arms race metaphor.
  • Alpha One of The Mighty was once a normal sailor who had ended up floating in irritated waters for hours after testing an atom bomb. It took place in 1952.
  • Quantum and Woody got their powers after they were accidentally bombarded with quantum energy.


Fanfiction[edit | hide]

Stop playing in the runoff from the twelfth division. That is not the way to go about gaining superpowers. You are a Shinigami. You already have superpowers.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Referred to by the school nurse in Sky High; "The kids who get bit by radioactive insects or fall into a vat of toxic waste, their powers usually show up the next day. Or - they die."
  • After The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, this became a very popular way to create a giant monster.
    • Godzilla is the most famous example.
    • Them is another good one.
  • Class of Nuke 'Em High is about a high school next door to a leaky nuclear power plant.
  • Something similar in Dark Storm: Exposure to dark matter causes anything to disintegrate. Except if it's a human. Then he gets dark matter-controlling super powers. Somehow.
  • In "Mant!", the film-within-a-film of Matinee, radiation combines a shoe salesman with an ant. (He gets bitten while getting a dental x-ray.)
  • As seen in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, Beginning of the End has radiation not only increasing the size of crops, but the size of the grasshoppers who eat the crops! The army then suggests dropping a nuclear bomb on the insects, to which Crow quips, "Oh great, maybe they'll get larger!"
  • In X-Men: First Class, Big Bad Sebastian Shaw believes that mutants are the "Children of the Atom" and believes all mutants are immune to radiation because of this. This is why he plans to turn the Cold War nuclear, beliving that the radiation will wipe humanity out but spare mutants.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in The Onion book Our Dumb Century, where a headline from 1963 declares "Boy Bitten by Radioactive Spider Dies of Leukemia". The body of the article mentions that this is the sixth atomic accident fatality in the last month, referring to Dr. Bruce Banner and Reed Richards and friends.
  • In Perry Rhodan, the first Mutant Corps consisted almost solely of individuals endowed with various Psychic Powers due to their parents' exposure to radiation—including, though not limited to, the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • In Gone (novel), people can die from radioactivity (and some of them nearly do), but it's also a potential cause for the superpowers that some of the kids have. It's also what the local monster feeds on. Justified, because Gone (novel) takes place in an Alternate Universe where the laws of science have been rewritten.
  • In the Confederation Handbook, mutations from cosmic radiation are said to be the cause of Pilgrim powers, though not in the short term as often depicted by this trope, taking multiple generations.
  • In the Jakub Wedrowycz stories, the Chernobyl power plant incident released radiation since used as a handy explanation or theory for the appearance of psychic trees, talking wolves or dinosaurs.
  • In Isaac Asimov's Foundation, everything good is atomic. The kingdom of Anacreon is seen as horrifyingly barbaric for their burning of fossil fuels.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Subverted in Stargate Atlantis season three, where a couple characters die from a machine that exposes them to radioactivity that causes exploding tumors. Yeah, we thought it was rather improbable too.
  • Spoofed on The Daily Show, with a Public Service Announcement stating that exposure to radioactive mist and substances will, in fact, not give you superpowers. Radioactive animal bites, on the other hand, assure them.
  • Penn and Teller: Bullshit! did an episode praising nuclear power, declaring it much safer, cheaper, and more reliable than other forms of energy such as oil and coal.
  • Brutally averted in Farscape where Crichton builds a wormhole-controlling device with a nuclear power source. His ally turned enemy steals it and in the ensuing chase, the radiation shield protecting the power source is knocked open, meaning Crichton has to make a split-second jump towards the device to render it safe. He fails, absorbs a lethal dose of radiation and succumbs to his illness by the end of the episode.


Music[edit | hide]


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Viciously averted in GURPS where too much radiation will cause all sorts of horrible things to happen to you even if you successfully make a save against the effect. In fact radiation damage causes a build up of genetic damage that is incurable without special powers or advanced technology. However, "weird radiation" can result in powers.
  • Embraced lovingly by every edition of Gamma World and its sister setting, Metamorphosis Alpha.
  • Promethean: The Created has the Zeka, named after the Russian gulag prisoners who worked the uranium mines. They're the result of several demiurges who exposed corpses to nuclear power, triggering the Azoth to reanimate them. They may have the worst luck of any Promethean - they're living fallout, doomed to exist only in radiation-filled hellholes. And if they pull off the Great Work and become human? They have an excellent chance of dying from radiation poisoning thanks to their innate radioactive contamination. No wonder so many of them turn to The Dark Side.
  • In Deadlands: Hell on Earth, being exposed to supernaturally-charged radiation could potentially give useful mutations (like an extra mouth that consumes the life essence of all that die near you), or it could give you a horrible deformity (like an extra mouth that never SHUTS the HELL up), or it could just kill you. Then, there are the rad-priests called Doomsayers, who prove that, if you love radiation enough, it just might return the favor.
  • Some superheroes (and villains) in Champions received their powers from nuclear radiation or being descended from people exposed to radiation.
  • This may or may not be the cause of the mutation of every last citizen of Alpha Complex in Paranoia.
  • One possible Origin in Super Munchkin involves stubbing one's toe on a "super ultra radioactive block of stuff".


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • City of Heroes explicitly uses this; by taking a mission to save the local nuclear reactor from villains, you mutate and get to re-organize your powers.
    • And inverted with the Radiation powersets, which use green radiation to weaken and harm enemies and buff allies (likely based on a bit of Did Not Do the Research Rule of Cool in regards to real world radiotherapy). The signature character Positron is well-known for his radiation powers, and (until recently) having to wear a containment suit of Powered Armor all the time so he doesn't blow up.
  • Fallout had the ghouls, people who were scorched and sterilized by the atomic blasts. On the bright side they now live for centuries (which explains the presence of ghouls in Fallout 2). Some even glow in the dark and they're absolutely immune to any kind of radiation (in fact, they even require a minimum of radiation to survive and it heals them). Rats also mutated to the size of a pit bull, and cows grew an extra head. Other species such as the Deathclaws have more ambiguous origins, while Super Mutants on the other hand were created via a virus that forced them to 'evolve'.
    • In Fallout 3 as a side effect of having to become irradiated for a survival guide research mission, the player character can develop a mutation that causes his crippled limbs to fix themselves if he is irradiated. Though it's half due to the therapy, which involved "Twisting your DNA like a kitten with a ball of yarn!" Cars also got miniaturized nuclear reactors as engines just before the end of the world.
    • The games have some Armed with Canon issues, making this entirely unclear (especially as to ghouls) as to what's going on. That's the problem when you mix Science! and science.
      • The uneasy compromise arrived at by the time of New Vegas seems to be that radiation only creates a ghoul in just the right amount. Too little is just a person with Deadly Radiation Poisoning, a little too much is a mindless feral ghoul, a little more than that is a Glowing One, and more than that is a very, very dead human.
      • Though this does make the non-feral Glowing One, Jason Bright, even stranger.
    • FYI, the Deathclaw was a creature created by the US Government, who intended to tame them and use them on Special Operations against the Chinese. After the War, Deathclaw escaped into the wasteland and started breeding.
    • Also, the games have Radaway, which can harmlessly[1] remove radiation from you, quick and easy. Even if you're a single rad away from dying, enough bags of orange goo will have you as fresh as the day you left the vault. How this works is anyone's guess, but anyone working with nuclear material in real life would love something like that.
    • It should be nated that the Fallout universe runs on the "Science!" of fifties science-fiction rather than hard science as even the laws of physics are subject to Rule of Cool. There are examples of realistic radiation exposure from a nuclear war in the occasional Apocalyptic Log that are as nightmarish as the radiation spawned monstrosities because they're done realistically.
    • While radiation sickness will still eventually kill you in Fallout: New Vegas there are two perks that make you stronger the more radiation you absorb, Rad child and Atomic!. You still get radiation sickness effect but gain a healing factor, speed boast and fast action point recovery.
  • STALKER includes mutants (of human origin), that can survive several shotgun blasts, as well as others that float and turn invisible, all as a result of the radiation from Chernobyl.
    • The wasteland in STALKER was created long after the Chernobyl accident by a secret weapons lab operating in the Exclusion Zone. It has nothing to do with radiation.
  • Team Fortress 2 invokes this trope (parodiously, as always) with the 'Bonk!' energy drink for the Scout. As the advertisement tells us, "Bonk! is fulla radiation, which as we all know is pretty great for giving people super powers."
  • The Zebesian Space Pirates in Metroid Prime use Phazon, a radioactive substance, to create elite troops. If the player reads the Pirate Data entries from your scan visor, it is learned that some of those exposed to Phazon radiation go insane and attack their allies.
    • Some? Try all. Including you, eventually.
    • Metroid Prime: Hunters features the Battlehammer, a weapon with a miniature nuclear reactor. This is the Cyborg Space Pirate, Weavil's, weapon of choice. He has one on his arm and one on his crotch.
  • Human biotics (people able to manipulate dark energy, granting them telekinesis and other fun powers) in Mass Effect are stated in the in-game Encyclopedia Exposita to result from intrauterine exposure to "element zero," the game's particular flavor of Applied Phlebotinum. Of course, any given element zero exposure is several orders of magnitude more likely to result in terminal brain cancer or other fatal congenital defects, so pregnant women aren't exactly lining up outside the eezo refineries.
  • The Hierarchy in Universe At War love radiological weapons. This may be because radiation heals purebred hierarchs, and they get to use the dead and dying indigenous population as zombies.
  • The TEC in Sins of a Solar Empire never leave home without a truckload of nukes for siege purposes. The Marza dreadnought can also be upgraded to re-purpose one for ship-to-ship warfare. Their superweapon, the Novalith Cannon, fires a massive, high-yield nuclear bomb at their hapless enemies' planets. One shot reduces the planets' population by 90%, and makes the rest die of radiation poisoning, two completely sterilizes the planet and makes it unusable for 5 minutes in real-time, which works out to several weeks game-time.
  • The UEF in Supreme Commander. They have two types of nuclear reactor, and one of their experimental weapons fires mini-nukes. Their Hero Unit can be armed with a backpack missile silo which can build one each nuke and counter-missile.
  • Touhou has Utsuho Reiuji, a hell raven with the power of manipulation of nuclear fusion, a control rod that doubles as an Arm Cannon that would make Samus Aran jealous, a concrete boot on one foot and "electrons" orbiting the other.
    • She also plays this trope literally—in one of the fighting game spinoffs, she's surprised to learn there are people beyond the barrier who don't like nuclear power.
    • Also, the kappa and a couple of mountain goddesses seem to have a strange love for this new power.
      • It was those goddesses who allowed Utsuho to gain that power in the first place as part of their plan to gather faith by advancing the technology of Gensokyo.
  • The "Frei" line of spells in the Persona series.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, where Wonderella uses radiation to accelerate fermentation of some beer that she's brewing...radiation from her cell phone. This naturally creates a beer monster, and then things get weird.
    • As if they weren't already weird.
  • Also parodied in one of the Sluggy Freelance stick-figure fillers where Torg is bitten by a radioactive animal and gains the superpower to lose his teeth and hair. Fortunately, aliens are nearby to cure him and give him real superpowers.
  • A Softer World had it both played straight and parodied here.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, "crazy space radiation" seems to do a lot of, well, crazy things, like grant superintelligence to dinosaurs and create "NASAGHASTS", malevolent astronaut ghosts. It's not surprising, considering how the comic is influenced by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other '80s nostalgia full of this trope.
  • Parodied in Shortpacked! - Mr. Terrific was bitten by a radioactive "T".


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Antimatter particles and radioactive rays are legitimate powers in Chaos Fighters. They are considered Non-Elemental in its magic system, though.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in the Earthworm Jim cartoon for one episode where Jim, attempting to get superpowers to replace the weak super suit copy he was stuck with, used comic book methods. His efforts include getting trapped in a nuclear reactor, which gives him a glow-in-the-dark rash, and being bitten by a radioactive flea, which causes him to gain out-of-control leaping powers and grow flea legs from his head.
  • Played straight and parodied in the Family Guy episode "Family Guy Viewer Mail #1". The Griffins are exposed to radioactive waste, and each gain separate powers (Stewie got telekinesis, Brian got superspeed, Chris got pyrokinesis, Peter got shapeshifting, Lois got super strength, and Meg could...extend and retract her fingernails). They proceed to wreak havoc in Quahog, and in an attempt to gain superpowers to stop them, Mayor Adam West rolls around in radioactive waste:

Doctor: Mayor West, you have lymphoma.
Adam West: Oh my.
Doctor: Probably from rolling around in that toxic waste. What in God's name were you trying to prove?
Adam West: I was trying to gain super powers.
Doctor: Well that's just silly.
Adam West: Silly, yes... idiotic... yes.

  • Likewise the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Super Hero", where Master Shake exposes himself to toxic waste that, instead of giving him super powers, causes him to slowly melt.
    • Another episode featured a nuclear powered grill that through the magic of radiation was able to bring piles of snot to life (and melt the polar ice caps). Well it was sort of a dream, but it took up the entire episode and given the setting...
  • Listen to the theme-song for the old Spider-Man animated series: "Is he strong? Listen, bud, he's got radioactive blood!" ...in real life, people with radioactive blood aren't particularly strong.
  • Played a bit more logically in Batman Beyond: The radiation that turned Derek Powers, the Big Bad, into the super-powered Blight was actually therapy for a dose of his own experimental nerve gas. Somehow, their combined effects turned him into a glowing green skeleton, possessing explicitly radiation-based superpowers and weaknesses, with a half-life of one season.
  • Used in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, as a G Rated Fantastic Drug. Mira gets addicted to phasing through nuclear cores, which ups her power and speed to somewhere in the range of Superman and Flash. Though I suppose this could also be a subversion, as she suffers radiation withdrawal, complete with unkempt hair, dark circles under her eyes, and general creepiness.
  • Two recurring villains of The Mask: The Animated Series got powers this way. First, they were two stupid teenagers that decided to get superpowers. They go to the nuclear power plant, get radioactive - and realize they forgot to bring a bug to bite them just before passing out by poisoning. As the ambulance is taking them away, an accident causes one to crash into a putty shop (turning him into the shapeshifting Putty Thing) and another into an aquarium (turning him into the harmless Fish Guy). Fish Guy didn't get anything good out of the deal either; even as a fish he still couldn't swim.
  • Parodied in Fairly Oddparents. The Crimson Chin's origin story has him bitten on the chin by a radioactive celebrity.

Charles Hampton Indigo: So has the radioactivity affected your love life?
Celebrity: Grrarrr!

  • Danny Phantom used this trope a little lightly. The hero was radiated by ecto energy that altered his genetic structure.
  • The Simpsons, of course, has their own Radioactive Man, and arguably the most popular of the two.
    • In the episode where the family became farmers, Homer iradiates the crops with plutonium borrowed from the nuclear plant in the hope that they grow bigger, like in the movies. Instead, he ends up with normal-sized tomatoes, only they have combined with tobacco to form "tomacco".
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has The Atomic Flounder, a retired villain originally for a one-off gag. He later appeared in a Show Within a Show episode during his prime. His first appearance followed the more common use of the trope, with atomic breath, however the second also brought some Body Horror into the mix.
  • On Batman: The Brave And The Bold, B'wana Beast gets his powers from drinking water contaminated with nuclear waste. (In this comics it comes from a special elixir and helmet.)


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Parodied by this shirt.
  • Gaia loves to subvert that trope: Chernobyl has become a wildlife haven
    • On the other hand, the (perception of the) level of radiation released in the mind of the public is very different than the reality and the animals aren't necessarily going to worry about the level of radiation anyway.
    • Bear in mind, it was only after the first few weeks after the disaster that wildlife began to thrive in Chernobyl, after the radiation levels dropped. After that, the radiation was still dangerous for humans, but not for animals- most animals have much shorter lifespans (about ten years or so), and thus do not have enough time for the radiation they've absorbed to turn into cancer. You still can't eat any animals there of course.
  • Not a case of Truth in Television. A 10 Sv (1,000 REM) dose of ionizing radiation has a lethality of 100% within seven days. Death caused by severe diarrhea and intestinal bleeding, by the way. One of the worst ways to die.
  • The true story of Thomas Leopold a radioactive pedophile.
  • For a few decades after its discovery, radiation was marketed as some kind of cure-all drug. For those too lazy to click, consider the specific case of Eben Byers, who drank three bottles of radioactive water a day to stay healthy. The Wall Street Journal ran an article after his death titled "The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off".
    • Many radioactive quack cures include:
      • Radithor, mineral water mixed with radium.
      • Doramad Radioactive Toothpaste, which contained thorium, though its actual radiation level was rather low.
      • The Revigator, a ceramic crock for irradiating water. Though it too had rather low radiation levels, the water would often be contaminated by lead.
  • Shoe-fitting fluoroscope The Pedoscope, a gimmicky device once found in shoe stores that would x-ray your feet to find the perfect fit. Featured once on the show Pawn Stars, disassembling it found that the x-ray tube inside gave off ten times more radiation then conventional x-ray machines.
  • This is the theme of one 1959 DC PSA, "The Atomic: Servant of Man".
  • These bacteria are immune to radiation. And certain species of fungi actually eat radiation via the same chemical that gives you a tan! Nature is weird.
  1. More or less. Radaway was addictive up until Fallout 3, but the withdrawal effect was perfectly harmless so long as you stayed away from radiation