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!

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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.

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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!

Where’s Plas?!

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I mean, seriously, where has he been?!

  • from Adventure Comics #478
  • Martin Pasko, writer; Joe Staton, artist; Bob Smith, inker

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.

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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.

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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.

It’s Woozy Wednesday!

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Panel from DC Comics Presents #39

Martin Pasko, writer; Joe Staton, artist; Bob Smith, inker

Where’s Plas?!

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from World’s Finest #273

Martin Pasko, writer; Joe Staton and Bob Smith, artists

It’s Woozy Wednesday!

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panel from Plastic Man #18 (Volume 2)

John Albano, writer; Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith, artists

Note: Thanks to my good pal Dan, I’ve finally gotten my hands on a complete run of Plastic Man from the mid-60s/late-70s. It’s an interesting series, not least of all because of the eight-year gap between issues #10 and #11 and the change from swingin’ superhero to a more classic kind of crime fighter (with humor left intact). And did I mention the first 10 issues actually starred Plastic Man, Jr.?

I’ll talk more about that in the future, but for now let me point out some things I noticed about Woozy in the second half of this run:

• he’s clever

• he’s always ready for a fight, and more than willing to mix it up with the bad guys (he even says, more than once, that fighting and taking a punch is what he’s best at)

• more than in any other series, he serves as an equal partner to Plas (and he’s not above dropping a gentle insult now and then)

• he wears a floppier hat that makes him look like the Hawaiian Punch guy

• he’s a lot of fun, and I wish more creators would write him like this

Where’s Plas?!

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OK, I gotta admit — this one might be a little easy.

from Adventure Comics #474

Marv Wolfman, writer; Joe Staton and Bob Smith, artists