A couple of weeks ago, the behind-the-scenes bad guy on Gotham (the pre-Batman Batman show on Fox) was an unseen character called The Dollmaker. If you’ve been keeping up with the current incarnation of the DC Universe, you’ll recognize that name — he’s the cannibalistic villain Barton Mathis, who did the Joker a favor and cut his face off for him.
Because, y’know, it’s the New 52.
But way, way, way before any of that happened, the original Dollmaker made his debut as a Plastic Man villain in Plastic Man #10 (vol. 2)! Reflecting the simpler time that was 1968, this version of the Dollmaker isn’t a literal man-eater and doesn’t sadistically maim anyone; he’s just a crazy hypnotist with a … well, I’ll let you read the story and find out for yourself.
But first some background: In this iteration of the character, Plastic Man is a groovy swinger who hangs out with the super-uptight Gordy (who acts as a best friend/agent constantly exhorting Plas to be a “better example”). He also has a girlfriend named Mike (short for Micheline), who is the daughter of the fabulously wealthy Mrs. DeLute. Mrs. DeLute, of course, haaaates Plastic Man and plots his downfall with the help of her butler, Fawnish.
Now that we know the players, let’s dig into “The Terrible Plastic Twin!” written by Arnold Drake, with art by Jack Sparling.
It always throws me off a little when I see Plas shrink or grow to a giant size, but for someone who can stretch every individual cell, I guess it makes sense. And how great is that birdcage?!
Plastic Man makes quick work of what’s left of the doll gang, but overlooks one that manages to puncture a tire on their runaway parade float. Before they know it, the whole thing is swerving out of control, stopping only after it crashes … hard. We catch up to our hero in the hospital, where Gordy’s in bad shape.
There is absolutely nothing I don’t love about that last panel.
The transfusion is a success. Mostly.
“Still feel a little whoozy …” ha! Gordy promptly sets out to show Plas how a hero with his powers should conduct himself, and how to be a “model of perfection.” Of course, this means he gets an identical Plastic Man suit and starts busting crime, causing more trouble with every outing. Meanwhile, the Dollmaker has recovered his tiny army and made his way to his shop.
To Plas and Mike’s surprise, the cat stretches after the mouse (well, more than a cat normally would), and Plastic Man quickly realizes the well-meaning Gordy has powers he can’t be trusted with. Sure enough, he finds Gordy botching an attempt at stopping a bank robbery (Gordy winds up stuck halfway under the vault’s door), and later untangles him from a flagpole. Plastic Man tries to convince Gordy to just go home until the stretchiness wears off, but he won’t quit until he shows Plas how it’s done.
Gordy’s kind of a jerk.
Speaking of jerks, Mrs. DeLute is throwing a party!
Good question, Mike. While the doll gang is shaking down the party, Plastic Man is busy keeping Gordy from getting run over by a subway car, and then rescues him from a bunch of crooks who get the jump on him in an alley. It doesn’t end the way either the crooks or Gordy think it will.
This would be the last story in what was essentially a 10-issue run, in spite of what later numbering would have you believe. While this was published in 1968, issue #11 wouldn’t see print for eight more years, and while DC picked up the numbering where it was left off, the characterizations would be more in line with the original run of Plastic Man (Woozy would be back as Plas’s pal, for one thing), and pretty much everything that happened in the first 10 issues would be ignored going forward. This would be a source of confusion as the Bronze Age got into full swing, but it was probably for the best — even though concepts like the Silver Age Plastic Man actually being Plastic Man Jr. would have been neat to explore.
… wait, Plastic Man whaaat?! Take that, Gotham!