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!”

Plastic_Man_origin_PM17v2_1

Plastic_Man_origin_PM17v2_2

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!

Advertisements

Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year Four Annual #1

Generally speaking, I haven’t really been keeping up with monthly comics for a while. Which is why I’ve hardly read anything from the Injustice: Gods Among Us storyline, even though it launched in early 2013. But I still have an idea of what’s going on, and I’m glad about that because otherwise I might’ve missed one of the best Plastic Man stories I’ve read in a long time.

The alternate universe Injustice story spun out of a video game of the same name released that same year, and it boils down to the now-tired idea of, “What if Superman went evil?” It’s a trope I personally think has gotten really boring (and has been for a long time, honestly), and any kind of merchandising tie-in makes me leery, so I actively avoided the comic. But based on Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year Four Annual #1 (eesh, what a mouthful), I might revisit the whole thing because Tom Taylor writes the hell out of this issue.

Injustice_Year_Four_Annual_cover

Taylor, who was also the original writer on the series, pulls off something that seems to give a lot of other writers trouble — finding the balance of Plastic Man. Still a seemingly devil-may-care character who cracks wise in the face of undeniable danger, Taylor’s Plas is also formidable, determined, and focused. He mockingly calls out the wrongs he sees, and demands justice from the group that has set itself up as rulers of the world. He knows who he is, who he’s been, and acknowledges his mistakes while still moving forward. He is, in a word, heroic. That’s the kind of Plastic Man I like to see.

The story, which was released earlier this month, opens with a group of protestors/terrorists (depending on who you ask) blowing up the famed statue of Superman. Almost immediately, Flash and Superman are on the scene, and after a super-speed sweep of the park, Flash has rounded up the four protestors. But, as Cyborg tells them from back at headquarters, there should be five of them. While the former heroes look for the missing man, a park bench starts shapeshifting and untying his compatriots — until Superman and Flash come back and arrest him, too. Flash recognizes him and is instantly apprehensive because this kid is Luke McDunnagh, Plastic Man’s son.

Back at the Hall of Justice, what comprises the Justice League decides there can’t be any favoritism and Luke has to be imprisoned along with the other super-criminals. You kind of get the idea that it’s less about nepotism and more about self-preservation, though, as the group also goes on high-alert, especially once Plastic Man actually walks through the doors. In short order Plas manages to insult the group, piss off Superman, and point out that Sinestro has a really evil mustache.

Injustice_Year_Four_Annual_2

I don’t want to give too much away, but what follows is a great sort of heist story, with Plastic Man handily outsmarting and out-heroing his old friends. Tom Taylor’s characterization of Plas is, again, fantastic. I would love to see Taylor take on a regular Plastic Man series; I’ve mentioned other writers in the past, but with this annual Taylor has jumped to the top of my list. Really, if for no other reason than he brought back Woozy Winks in a way that feels real and loaded with subtle depth. Sharing few words (as men tend to do), Plas and Woozy communicate a long and heartfelt friendship, one that would lead an ordinary man to risk Superman’s wrath. In a book filled with great scenes, this might be my favorite.

Injustice_Year_Four_Annual_3

Also pitch-perfect is the artwork by Bruno Redondo, who captures facial expressions, body language, and camera angles with a solid self-assurance that grabs the reader without being flashy. That might sound like faint praise, but Redondo’s work (along with the seamless finishes by Sergio Sandoval and Jordi Tarragona on the final pages) is really wonderful, and I’d even call some panels beautiful. As a whole, from Sandoval’s inks to the coloring by Rex Lokus, I can’t say enough good things about this creative team.

At its heart, the Injustice Year Four Annual (I refuse to type that whole name out again), is a story about family. It’s about the love between a father and son, even when that relationship has been strained to its breaking point in the past. It’s about the continuing break-up of the family that was once the Justice League. And a prodigal son comes home, making a holy mess out of the carefully placed dinner table. I was happy to see Plastic Man was the one stretching his elbows all over that table.

It’s ironic that an alternate universe version of Plastic Man somehow turned out to be a truer version of that character than I’ve seen in a while. If DC ever does get around to putting out a Plastic Man series, or even making him a regular part of a relaunched JLA book, I hope this is the Plastic Man we’ll see. This is the Plas I’ve been waiting for.

It’s Le Gallerie Plastique et Woozy!

Is that even French? I honestly don’t know, but today we’ve got a sorta “Woozy Wednesday” and “Where’s Plas?” mash-up courtesy of this piece by Bill Alger.

plastic_man_and_woozy_winks_by_billalger

I like Alger’s simple, but expressive, lines, and a person could drive themselves crazy trying to follow that crazy-complicated path that Plastic Man has taken. Speaking of which, look at the great job Alger did on the shading and coloring to differentiate the building’s interior from the scene outside! For what looks at first glance like a basic, cartoony image, there’s a whole lot going on here.

Plus, cats!

For more of Bill Alger’s work (including a drawing of Plas helping potty train a kid – no, really), make sure to visit his website.

It’s Woozy Wednesday! Who’s got the aspirin?

Plastic Man v1 (4) (1946)_plastic man 04_33

panel from Plastic Man #4 (vol. 1)

writer/artist: Jack Cole

It’s Woozy Wednesday! Let’s give him a hand!

Woozy_Plastic_Man_80_Page_Giant

When Woozy Winks made his first appearance in Police Comics #13, he already shared something in common with Plastic Man: When fate (or in this case, a wizard with less than stellar swimming skills) gives him extraordinary powers, he’s faced with the choice of whether to use his new abilities for good or evil.

One flip of the coin later and Woozy is a one-man crime spree, stealing and destroying precious sculptures while protected from the long arm of Plastic Man by nature itself! Of course, Woozy partners up with Plas by the end of this story, but in an interesting twist it’s mostly because he’s got a score to settle with Eel O’Brian. (We’ll take a longer look at the whole story in a future review. Naturally, it’s crazy. There’s a trained panther.)

Before any of that happens, though, I’d like to point out that Woozy is TOTALLY GOING TO CUT THAT GUY’S ARM OFF.

panel from Police Comics #13

writer/artist: Jack Cole

It’s Woozy Wednesday! And it’s time for ice cream!

Woozy_Plastic_Man_51

It’s pretty obvious Woozy has got this whole life thing figured out.

Panel from Plastic Man #29 (vol. 1)

writer/artist: uncredited (Jack Cole)

It’s (a sexy ) Woozy Wednesday!

I’ve mentioned before how I don’t think much of Plastic Man being portrayed as a lascivious lech, but for some reason when Woozy does it I find it hilarious. And really, that’s got to be one of the best pick-up lines in history.

Woozy_PM19_v4

You might as well forget The Detective right now, Talia – ain’t no way you’re going to resist that ol’ Winks charm.

from Plastic Man #19 (vol. 4)

Kyle Baker, writer/artist

It’s Woozy Wednesday!

Woozy_Invisible

Panel from Plastic Man #1 (vol. 1)

Jack Cole, writer/artist