Panel from DC Comics Presents #39
Martin Pasko, writer; Joe Staton, artist; Bob Smith, inker
I’m telling you guys, Plastic Man and Batman are like, total bros.
And why not? Sure, there’s the modern idea of Batman wanting to keep an eye on powerful friends and foes alike, but the two also have something in common — they’re both orphans. I don’t think this has ever really been explored in the comics (at least not explicitly), but I like to think Bruce looks at Eel and realizes how easy it could have been for him to go in that initially criminal direction. Instead of having a mansion, an incredibly dedicated butler and a bajillions of dollars to fall back on, Eel wound up in an orphanage when he was 10 years old, alone and with no one to rely on but himself. You tell me which outcome happens more often.
I also like to think that Batman sees the hope for redemption in Plastic Man, which is why he’s tried so hard to support, cajole and browbeat him over the years and through various iterations. Like the Joker, Eel was a crook who was doused with a toxic mix in a chemical factory while trying to dodge the authorities. The difference is that Eel woke up in the care of people who owed him nothing, but still gave him a chance because they saw the potential for good in him. Powerful stuff, and enough to make Eel instantly change his ways and become a hero. A hero, I might add, who enjoys being a good guy, in stark contrast to a certain pointy-eared vigilante.
Besides, look at that smile on Batman’s face; you just know he totally digs hanging out with his old pal Plas!
Artist Hilary Barta is a busy man, but he’s also a really nice guy, and recently he was kind enough to field a few quick questions about his upcoming cover work for Convergence: Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters. Barta, of course, drew one of the best-known versions of Plas in the 1988-89 Plastic Man mini series (written by Phil Foglio), so it’s exciting to see him return to a character he’s so rightfully identified with.
How did the cover assignments come about?
I was contacted by Marie Javins, the series editor, who offered me the covers. She said a “little birdie on Facebook” thought I’d want to draw Plastic Man. She later upgraded that to a very big birdie. But I have no idea to whom who she was alluding.
How many covers will you be doing?
It’s a two-issue series, and I’ve drawn both covers.
What’s it like to come back to the character?
I love Plas, and any chance to draw him is hard to pass up. But I’m not a superhero artist by disposition, and so the Freedom Fighters were out of my usual, cartoony comfort range. All except for Plas, of course.
What are your general Impressions of the upcoming storyline? Do you think readers will be excited by Plastic Man’s return?
The storyline has a connection to events in the DC continuity from a long time ago, and features a New York City under Nazi rule. I have no idea what readers will like — I never have. Series artist John McCrea is really good, and there are some action scenes with Plas stretching and such. So fans of Plas might enjoy those. But this is not a Jack Cole inspired humor book. It’s a superhero action book starring Plas with other Golden Age heroes that has humorous touches.
Speaking of John McCrea, the Hitman artist has been sprinkling some sneak peeks at his interior work for Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters into his Twitter stream for a few weeks now, and it looks fantastic. McCrea seems to have done a good job giving the setting a certain feel, a sense of what a world living under Nazi rule would look like, with just the right amount of grit and undercurrent of menace to give the idea of an underground resistance weight. It also looks like there’ll be plenty of Nazi-busting action, which I whole-heartedly endorse.
That said, this might be my favorite image so far.
Because of course Plastic Man would learn tai chi from the monks who saved him! I don’t know if that was McCrea’s idea or writer Simon Oliver’s, but it’s so perfect I can’t believe no one thought of it before.
Here’s a rough sketch of a crazy-kinetic fight scene, with Plas in the bottom-right corner. And can I just say that The Human Bomb has one of the simplest and best costume designs ever?
This is a gorgeous rendering of what I’m guessing is Rest-Haven, the mountain retreat where monks care for and rehabilitate the acid-doused Eel O’Brian.; I especially like what looks like a nod to Bhutanese architecture. I wouldn’t mind having this framed and hanging on my wall — it’s just beautiful.
And finally, here are a couple of finished panels, with colors by John Kalisz!
Man! Between Barta’s covers and McCrea’s interiors, it looks like there’s going to be a lot to look forward to once the first issue drop on April 29! Only 94 days to go!
I don’t think I could get away with saying Plastic Man is a consistently popular choice for merchandising, but I do think he’s managed to wiggle his way into a lot of toy and figure lines. And in one particular case, I like to think it’s a hint at a growing profile for Plas.
Of course, that all depends on whether this keychain from Kidrobot is new or just new to me, but either way I love it and demand one immediately.
This seems like kind of a big deal because while there are 10 of these vinyl keychains, most of them represent perennial favorites like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. (Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Supergirl and the usual Bat-foes also put in an appearance.) That’s pretty good company, and an interesting choice for the producers to make. It makes me wonder if Plastic Man really is just that popular, or is this coming ahead of some sort of marketing, tie-in push?
And then there’s this:
DISCLAIMER: I have absolutely no idea if this is real or not. I don’t know if this is something that was mass produced at some point, I don’t know if this is a custom job by some anonymous crafty person out there, and I don’t know if this is just some cruel Photoshopped hoax. What I do know is that I need this in my life. It seems so obvious, right? C’mon, DC, let’s make this happen.
Thanks to Scott Slemmons (writer of Hero Sandwich) for sending along a photo of his own Plastic Man keychain, which I’m very jealous of;
As more details are slowly released about DC’s big Convergence event, it seems as if the folks running the company might be realizing they have a history, and one worth celebrating, maintaining and revisiting.
Of course, I’m talking about Plastic Man.
A couple of weeks ago artist Hilary Barta — the penciller for the 1988-89 Plastic Man mini series — posted a picture of his cover for 1989’s Plastic Man #4 on Facebook and casually mentioned it was “the last time I drew Plastic Man on a DC cover–until a few weeks ago.” Naturally, this got my plasti-sense a-quivering: Why would Barta be returning now to a character he so indelibly portrayed 15 years ago? Especially one that has been missing, for all intents and purposes, from the DCU since the launch of the New 52 in 2011?
Could it have anything to do with the upcoming Convergence: Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters?
As Barta answered: “Uh … yes.”
This is great news! Not only does it mean readers will get to finally see Barta working with Plastic Man again, it also speaks volumes about the direction DC might be taking with the two-issue Convergence mini series, and possibly beyond that. The 1988-89 series was satirical and silly, and I hope having Barta contribute what he described as “a couple covers” means DC might finally be willing to stop taking itself quite so seriously. At the very least, it’s a solid acknowledgment of the history — and work — that has been put into the character by previous writers and artists.
And as you can see in this sneak peek Barta also posted on Facebook, he draws a helluva Plastic Man!
Even cropped, it’s a great image and I can’t wait to see the finished cover. Well, I guess I mean I don’t want to wait — but Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters kicks off with issue #1 on April 29, with issue #2 hitting stands May 27.
(And if you’d like to see more of Hilary Barta’s work, check out a preview of his work in IDW’s recently released Garbage Pail Kids Puke-tacular #1 – featuring a cameo by suspiciously stretchy superhero — and at his own website.)