Celebrate 75 years of Plas with … the origin of Plastic Man! (part 1)

This year is Plastic Man’s 75th anniversary in comics, and May 14, 2016, will be the exact date marking Plas’ first appearance in Police Comics #1 all those years ago. In honor of this momentous milestone, not to mention Jack Cole’s artistry in creating such a completely original and obviously enduring character, I’ll be sharing the various retellings of Plastic Man’s completely bonkers origin story (and a few extras, here and there) throughout the week.

One of the things I like about Plastic Man’s origin story is just how quotable Cole’s original 1941 story is, both visually and written. Later creators have obviously loved being able to pay homage to both of these elements in their own work, and who could blame them? Believe me, this won’t be the last time you see Eel O’Brian getting cheeky while shouting, “Great Guns! I’m stretching like a rubber band!”

First up we have a condensed version of Plastic Man’s origin as published in Adventure Comics #467, written by Len Wein, with art by Joe Staton and inks from Bob Smith!


And I seriously just noticed that the shadowy men of D.I.P. in the last panel are also dead ringers for past versions of the Chief!

As an added bonus, here are the Plastic Man entries from Who’s Who in the DC Universe — both the original 1986 run-down and the 1990 update.




You can see how hard writer Phil Foglio (with art by Hilary Barta) was dragging Plastic Man over toward a more wacky and literally mentally unstable version of Plas (a version I’m on record as not being a huge fan 0f), and how much of the 1986 entry (art by Joe Staton) was jettisoned post Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Tomorrow … the origin of Plastic Man!

Celebrate Plastic Man’s 75th anniversary with Comixology!

Guys. GUYS. I usually try to avoid shilling for any particular distributor or company, but Comixology (a service I actually both use and enjoy) just announced a weeklong sale in honor of Plastic Man’s 75th anniversary!


It’s a pretty good sale, offering 50 percent off a nice selection of comics hitting all the highlights from Plas’ long and storied history. Any of the comics listed would be a good choice (with a possible exception, your mileage may blah blah), but if you want to focus on one run in particular, I’d wholeheartedly recommend the Kyle Baker issues. And the entire 20-issue series is available, so get to it!

(You can’t go wrong with the Phil Foglio/Hilary Barta four-issue mini series, either. Or the Adventure Comics books. Or the original Golden Age stories by Plastic Man creator Jack Cole. Or … hell, get ’em all!)

Speaking of the Golden Age, it may be surprising to some that Plastic Man has been around long enough to celebrate a 75th anniversary. It’s always worth remembering that Plas hit the stands on May 14, 1941 (cover date August 1941), in Police Comics #1. This was only three years after Superman’s debut, but Plastic Man was already a wholly original creation, and a nearly instant hit for Quality Comics.

Since then, Plastic Man has enjoyed an almost constant presence, in comics, cartoons, figures, and various DC marketing efforts. Even when the character doesn’t have his own ongoing series or featured spot in a team book, he’s never too far away. The titles being offered by Comixology are a good way to see how Plas has developed over time, and why he remains a favorite of fans and creators alike.

The sale ends May 9, so don’t miss your chance to pick up some great Plastic Man titles!

Writer Simon Oliver hints at his plans for Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters

With the April 29 release of Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters #1 slowly inching closer, the two-issue Convergence mini-series is finally getting some love from the comics press. Newsarama posted a great interview with PM-FF writer Simon Oliver yesterday, and it gives some insight into what readers can expect when the first issue finally drops.


Oliver mentions more than once his aim to explore the emotional depth of Plastic Man, and that is really encouraging. That doesn’t mean I want Plas to become an angsty mope – far from it. But I do think the character has been allowed to be seen as a one-note clown, a court jester dancing around the more-serious – and more seriously taken – superhero royalty. It’s easy to forget that Plastic Man is also a former most-wanted criminal turned Nazi-fighter and government agent. Plas gives a writer plenty of avenues to explore, many that are much more interesting than the prankster role he’s usually shoe-horned into. As I’ve said before, Plastic Man is definitely a smart-aleck, but he’s no dummy.

Here’s some of what Oliver had to say:

But I got to kind of pick the storyline and characters, at first honestly because of the Nazis in New York City angle, but then when I started digging more into Plastic Man, who he was, who he had become, I really started to find that emotional connection I honestly didn’t expect going in.

And then there’s this:

I think one of the things I picked up on going in was in the past, readers had felt Plastic Man had fallen a little too hard into the comic relief role, without making him dark and gritty (which is itself becoming a well-worn trope). I wanted to stay true to who I felt Plastic Man was, but at the same time show some inner conflict, and at the heart of this huge story is his coming to terms with who he once was and who he is now.

Sounds good to me! And as Oliver also said, the book’s “got robot superheroes and frickin’ Nazis in it!”

Go read the whole interview for more about Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters mini-series, and be sure to put it on your list for April!

cover image by Hilary Barta

Plastic Man in color, plus The Sad Case of the Missing Credits

I’ve mentioned a couple of times how much I’m looking forward to Hilary Barta’s covers for Convergence: Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters, and thanks to the artist we got a couple of sneak peeks at what readers could expect when the title is released in April. But now that that the solicitations are up on the DC website, we finally get to see the full-color version for the first issue.


That is one explosive image! (Pun intended – I apologize for nothing.) It’s a dynamic drawing, and the colors really help Plas and his Nazi-punching pals from the Freedom Fighters jump off the page … even though the solicitation makes it sound as if the heroes might be teaming up with history’s biggest villains.

STARRING HEROES FROM CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS! You have to see this story to believe it! Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters are on the gallows in a New York City taken over by Nazis, when robot super heroes attack from Futures End and enemies become allies.

Like most things, that could be completely awesome or utterly terrible. I’m curious to see where writer Simon Oliver takes it. While we’re on the topic of covers, let’s talk about that Chip Kidd variant.


Pretty cool, right? I’m a fan of Kidd’s design work, and not surprisingly I think what he did for Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits is among his best. Unfortunately, while I love his variant cover, I hate the fact that the solicitation only mentions his contribution and not the original artist — who in this case is iconic Plastic Man artist Ramona Fradon.

Let me make it clear: I don’t blame Chip Kidd for this. I’m sure if it was up to him he’d gladly give credit where it’s due; he is, after all, an artist himself. Instead this seems like the sadly familiar circumstance of DC Comics overlooking the creators who have, and continue to, provide them with content. (You might’ve noticed, for example, that I didn’t mention who did the coloring for the Barta cover; that’s because DC didn’t actually list it). I can only hope that Fradon is mentioned somewhere in the book’s credits, just as I hope all of the original artists are credited. DC might not see it as the obvious thing to do, but it would be the right thing to do.

But just in case: The image above is from Plastic Man #17 (vol. 2), written by John Albano, with art by Ramona Fradon and inks by Bob Smith. The colorist, unfortunately, was not included in the original credits.

For what it’s worth, I admire (as always) Kidd’s eye for imagery. When choosing from the artists who have depicted Plastic Man in the past, he could hardly have done better than Ramona Fradon, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for this variant in my local shop.

Semi-breaking news! Hilary Barta returns to Plas with Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters covers

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.)

It’s Woozy Wednesday!


Like lots of comic book scamps, the fourth wall means nothing to Woozy.

Panel from Plastic Man #4 (mini-series)
writer, Phil Foglio; artist, Hilary Barta; inker, John Nyberg