When the Super Powers Collection was released in 1984, the line of action figures was almost instantly beloved. It was also instantly ubiquitous, getting a huge marketing push from Kenner and DC Comics, including three different mini-series for each year’s new set.
Naturally, each mini-series highlighted the latest characters to be immortalized in blister packs. By the time they got to the third release, everyone had finally come to their senses and brought in Plastic Man! I’ll talk more about the figure some other time (spoiler: it’s great), and instead let’s focus on the time an android told Cyborg about Plastic Man’s origin in Super Powers #2 (vol. 3).
In between battles with Darkseid and his minions, the Super Powers gang take advantage of the downtime to shoot the breeze instead of bad guys. Cyborg confides in Plas and Cyclotron (a character created for the toy line), telling them that he doesn’t trust another new addition, Samurai. (You might recognize Samurai as a refugee from his original spot in the Super Friends cartoon.) Plastic Man defends Samurai, reminding Cyborg that no one should be judged before they’ve had a chance to prove themselves.
It turns out Cyclotron knows exactly why Plas feels that way.
Boy, penciller Carmine Infantino was born to draw androids, right?
As far as retellings go, this is a pretty faithful, economical version of Plastic Man’s origin. I really appreciate how writer Paul Kupperberg organically eased the story in, doing a nice bit of character building while he was at it. A lot of later writers would completely ignore Eel O’Brian’s life before becoming Plastic Man, overlooking a rich background to draw from and build upon. But in a few panels, Kupperberg tells us something important about Plas — he hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from, and that tempers his sense of justice and fairness as a hero today. I love it.
Also, he plays ping-pong against himself, which is fantastic.
Tomorrow … the origin of Plastic Man!