Ramona Fradon — well-known Aquaman artist, co-creator of Metamorpho, and, of course, a celebrated illustrator of Plastic Man — turns 90 today!
Fradon left an undeniable and indelible mark on Plas (and a ton of other characters), and is still doing it today as a working artist available for commissions. It’s no wonder her work remains popular: Not only does she have an appealingly old-school, clean-line style, but she continues to refine her art with an expressive sophistication and deceptive detail that always impresses.
Still, it’s her Bronze Age Plastic Man work that’s my favorite, so let’s celebrate Ramona Fradon’s birthday by giving ourselves the gift of this uncolored splash page from Plastic Man #16!
What a great page from a great artist! Happy birthday, Ramona Fradon!
As you may or may not know, my wife and I recently moved a few states over from Austin, Texas, to Chicago, Illinois. Getting everything ready for the move took up a lot of time (which is why the blog has suffered lately), but we’ve been here for a couple of weeks now and I didn’t waste any time hitting some of the local comic shops!
There seem to be a ton of shops in Chicago, and I’m lucky enough to live within a mile or so of two of them. Even luckier, I went to Alleycat Comics and found these:
It might be hard to tell from the photo, but that’s Plastic Man #2 and #3 (vol. 2), featuring the work of writer Arnold Drake, artist J. Winslow Mortimer, and complete with Go-Go Checks! The issues are a little beat up, but Alleycat was letting them go for a fair price and the staff was super friendly, so I left feeling like I’d gotten more than a good deal — I had a good experience. (And a couple of Plastic Man comics to add to the collection!)
Oh, and if you think Alleycat is just a clever name, guess again:
IT’S ACTUALLY AT THE END OF AN ALLEY. (No cats, though.)
I also managed to swing by Graham Crackers Comics-Edgewater, where they had a display for the Funko DC Super Powers keychains. I was excited when these were first announced, and then completely forgot about them. So I didn’t know they were being sold as blinds — basically, you buy a package without having any idea what’s in it, and hope you get the one you want.
This was especially painful because, hanging right there as part of the store display, was the one I wanted — a nice, fat-headed Plastic Man. Trying to decide whether or not I was willing to roll the dice, I mentioned my dilemma to the guy behind the counter. (I don’t remember his name. I’m a jerk.) And he said, “Hey, no problem — I can just sell you that one.”
I’ve been doing a lot of running around lately, which is the best, lamest excuse I can come up with for not updating this blog more often. Luckily, Plastic Man has been in the aether in just the past week, so let’s hit the highlights!
It was announced last week that creators Jesus Merino, Evan “Doc” Shaner, and writer Steve Orlando will be working exclusively with DC Comics, a result of DC’s ongoing effort to lock up talent in its run-up to the Rebirth non-relaunch thing. All three have already been doing work for the publisher, and it’s a good idea to keep them around on a long-term basis.
The best part for me, though, was knowing Shaner will be one of the architects of this latest iteration of the DCU. Not only does he have a wonderfully old-school style that’s worked so well with Captain Marvel, Flash Gordon, and others, but he’s also got an obvious affinity for Plastic Man. He’s done a number of pieces featuring Plas just for the fun of it, and then he said this in the press release announcing his exclusive deal:
… The Flash Gordon artist went on to praise the characters he’ll possibly get to work with, as well as the Hanna-Barbera characters he’s been tapped to pencil, saying, “Superman, Captain Marvel, The Flash, Plastic Man, and so many more — these are some of my favorite characters of all time …” [emphasis mine]
It’s a faint trail, but it leads me to believe that we’re finally going to see Plastic Man’s return to the DCU! And if Shaner is the artist working with the character, that’s even better (and something I’ve advocated for a while now). Every time DC does one of these reboots, I hope that Plas will be part of the new setting, and almost every time I end up disappointed. But this time, I’m both cautiously and enthusiastically optimistic — don’t break my heart, DC — give us more of this!
Recently I had the privilege of being a guest on Ryan Daly’s Secret Origins podcast! It’s one of my favorite shows, so it was a thrill to be on. The podcast covers every issue of DC’s 1980s series Secret Origins, and we talked about the second half of issue #30 — featuring Plastic Man! Ryan is also joined by Bradley Null to discuss the first half of the comic, highlighting Ralph Dibny, aka, the Elongated Man. The show and the comic are lots of fun, so go give it a listen (and while you’re at it, browse through the other podcasts that are part of the Fire and Water Podcast Network — you won’t be sorry).
Part of what’s been keeping me busy lately was a trip to my hometown, where I finally got to visit Asylum Comics and Cards, one of the few comic shops in the city. (Seriously, El Paso, what’s up with that?!) Asylum is a great little shop, with a good mix of new comics, back issues (including treasury editions!), and toys and figures. And the owner is willing to negotiate prices on back issues, which means I got this sweet baby for a very good price.
It’s always a thrill to find back issues of Plastic Man, especially when they’re from the Steve Skeates/Ramona Fradon run, but it’s even better to bring them home with you.
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!