“Three Men and a Comic Book” is the 21st episode of the second season of The Simpsons. The title is a parody on the 1987 film Three Men and a Baby and the 1990 sequel Three Men and a Little Lady.
Bart attends a comic book convention and finds the first issue of Radioactive Man
at the Android’s Dungeon sale table for $100. He doesn’t have enough money in his own allowance and his parents refuse to give Bart extra money. So Bart turns to Mrs. Glick
, who has some rather unsavory chores around the house that he can do. She only gives him 50 cents for his hard work. Bart protests, but Mrs. Glick imagines he thanked her. Bart returns to the comic book store, only with a few cents extra, and runs into Milhouse
. He talks them into pooling their money and buying the first Radioactive Man
comic from Comic Book Guy
. None of them want to let the comic book out of their sights and decide to spend the night together in Bart’s treehouse. As a storm approaches, Martin devises a plan so that the three boys have equal access to the comic. As he attempts to leave with the comic, Bart stops him. Bart gets progressively more paranoid
and becomes convinced that the other two are conspiring against him.
Eventually, each boy is at each other’s throat. When Martin gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, Bart thinks he plans on stealing the comic book and subsequently ties him up. Meanwhile a storm is raging outside. Milhouse falls out of the treehouse as a gust of wind takes hold of the comic so that it flies towards the entrance. Bart reaches out to grab Milhouse by the hand. He is forced to decide between Milhouse and the comic. After mulling over his options, Bart chooses Milhouse and pulls him up into the treehouse. The comic flies out the door and is shredded by Santa’s Little Helper, and zapped by lightning.
The next morning, the three boys reflect on how their inability to share lead to the destruction of the comic book, although Bart, at least, has learned nothing from the experience. Fortunately, the three had not noticed that the last panel has been safe and clear in a bird's nest and only torn from the other panels.
Characters making a first appearance in this episode are:
- Radioactive Man’s origin is nearly identical to the Marvel character, The Incredible Hulk.
- Fallout Boy (Radioactive Man’s sidekick) is an obvious parody of Batman’s young sidekick, Robin.
- The scene where Bart saves Milhouse from falling out of the treehouse is taken from the 1942 Alfred Hitchcock film, Saboteur.
- The part of the story where Bart, Milhouse and Martin begin arguing over the comic book is lifted from the 1948 film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
- The Radioactive Man commercial for Laramie cigarettes is a take-off of The Flintstones starring in Winston cigarette TV commercials, which aired during the 1960s, or of past looser regulations regarding cigarette advertising in general.
- The warning of the convention emcee not to ask questions of Dirk Richter's death (which the kids fail to obey) is likely reference to the mysterious death of Superman actor George Reeves. It may also refer to the unexplained murder of Bob Crane.
- Daniel Stern provides the voice of “Adult Bart” reminiscing about the time he got a job doing errands for Mrs. Glick (since he failed to convince Homer to loan him the requisite $100 for Radioactive Man #1), just like Stern did his “Adult Kevin” voice-over on The Wonder Years. The song playing during Stern's narration is The Byrds' cover of Turn! Turn! Turn!, which was the second song to play on The Wonder Years first episode.
- Milhouse initially goes into the comic store to buy a 1973 Topps card of the former Boston Red Sox great, Carl Yastrzemski. “when he had the big sideburns.” Carl’s 1973 Topps card in real life does indeed show him with distinctive sideburns.
- When the boys first unwrap the comic book, Martin describes it as "The stuff dreams are made of," which is how Bogart's character describes the Falcon at the end of the movie, The Maltese Falcon.
- When Bart begs Mrs. Glick not to apply iodine to his wounded arm, she grabs his arm and the scene shifts to their silhouettes as Bart screams, mirroring a scene in Gone with the Wind.
called the episode's Treasure of the Sierra Madre
parody the ninth best film parody in the show. "Bart turns [into] a perfect Bogart
– grizzled, paranoid and sleep-deprived. With lighting and camera angles half-inched from Huston
, this priceless gag is joyfully pitched over the heads of 90 per cent of the audience.