Fantastic Four: Hollywood's Radioactive Obsession

On some level, movie house irradiation is nothing more than a magnifying glass, amplifying the best and worst in anybody. That perhaps explains why each of the Fantastic Four is bequeathed a different super power, and each new power comes at a personal price.

Ben Grimm loves being the fist-pounding Thing. But as a hideous man-mountain of rocks, he's got zero chance of getting a date, leaving him perpetually crying on the inside.

This much is true: When the fickle finger of fallout points at you, the salubrious effects are a mixed blessing at best, and the effects are irreversible. As Mr. Burns on "The Simpsons" once put it, "A lifetime of working with nuclear power has left me with a healthy green glow … and left me as impotent as a Nevada boxing commissioner."

But if a little fallout has made Mr. Burns what he is -- and isn't -- today, what can we say of Homer Simpson, America's most celebrated nuclear plant technician?

Is it an accident that each "Simpsons" episode begins with Homer carelessly tossing a radioactive rod from his car door? Or that Bart is obsessed with "Radioactive Man" comic books? The fallout in Springfield never ends. And maybe that is a good thing.

One other note in radioactive news: July 5 marks the 59th anniversary of the most incendiary fashion innovation of modern history -- the bikini.

In 1946, French designer Louis Réard named his provocative new beachwear in honor of the Bikini Atoll, the Pacific island where some of the first atomic bombs were tested -- and the outfit has been having a similar effect on men ever since.

At the time, Réard claimed he was forced to invent the skimpy swimsuit because fabric for high fashion was rationed during World War II, and not because it was the next best thing to a peep show.

Just like Mr. Fantastic's super stretching ability, chalk up this poolside innovation as one more unintended consequence of the atomic age.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.

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