Celebrate 75 years with … a whole bunch of Plastic Man origins!

As I’ve said in earlier posts, there’s just something about Plastic Man’s origin that really makes artists and writers want to retell the story. Naturally, creators also want to put their own spin on it, and combined with changes in tone and efforts to update this Golden Age hero for fresh audiences, new things almost always get added to the original.

Because of that, Plastic Man’s origin might stay fundamentally the same, but we’ve also gotten a version of Plas who never met the monks of Rest Haven, another who’s mind was altered by the experimental acid as well as his body, and still another with a notable talent for exposition. Most recently, Eel O’Brian was dunked with strange chemicals thanks to an alternate universe  variant of Batman. (Which is a little poetic, considering the longtime friendship between Plas and Bats.)

There are more versions of Plastic Man’s origins than there are days in the week, so let’s take a quick look at some of them. First up, here is a fairly faithful retelling from Plastic Man #17 (vol. 2) by writer John Albano and artist Ramona Fradon. I say “fairly” because while all the major points are there, the team opted to get rid of Rest Haven and only hints at “Ya putrid punks!”

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And here is how Phil Foglio (writer) and Hilary Barta (artist) kicked off their four-issue mini-series in Plastic Man #1, with “reality checks” by artist Kevin Nowlan. The work by Nowlan helped differentiate the “real world” from the cartoony way Eel O’Brian perceived the world after being doused in acid. Later, Plas befriends Woozy after our portly pal stops him from committing suicide and then reveals that — as a recent resident of Arkham Asylum — he sees the world the same way the Eel does. (This is also the story in which Plas and Woozy leave their futures as either crime-fighters or partners in crime up to a coin toss.) Continue reading Celebrate 75 years with … a whole bunch of Plastic Man origins!

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 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