Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Better Know A Hero: Plastic Man

2 Guys Buying Comics has been apprised of the fact that a good portion of our visitors are just getting back into comics. We now present the third installation of our quasi-weekly feature, Better Know A Hero.

Name: Plastic Man

Also Known As: Plas, Eel, Not The Elongated Man Or Mr. Fantastic But The Other Stretchy Guy Who Just Happened To Be The First One Thank You Very Much

Origin: Well, the pre-Crisis version is as follows: shot by a security guard and fell in a vat of acid that gave him super stretchy powers. About to die, he was --- this part is awesome --- saved by monks, whose act of kindness inspired him to turn away from crime and become the world's plastic-est superhero. This is much better than the post-Crisis origin, which includes attempted suicide, mental illness, and other grim and gritty nonsense.

Powers: Well, he can stretch and change his body into any shape or form, which has its advantages, particularly if you're flying coach class on a major airline. In fact, not only can he stretch, he can make himself into damn near anything, including chandeliers, nets, cars, subwoofers, and clocks. Extremely durable (natch), doesn't bleed, immune to telepathy and (one would think) x-rays.

How's The Costume?: Eh, if a laced up red leotard and a pair of goggles is your costume of choice, then... perhaps we need to be letting others make that decision for you, know what I'm saying?

Alter Ego: Patrick "Eel" O'Brian, although it's not so much an alter ego as just a name. You'd think with a name like that, though, he wouldn't get overlooked on all the blogs when they do their "Irish Heroes" tributes on St. Patty's Day.

Can He Fight?: Yeah, although judging from the Jack Cole Plastic Man comics they're not so much fights as "disguises himself as innocuous furniture in the criminal lair, then leaps out of nowhere to wrap them up and deliver them to the police". Which is still pretty cool in its own right.

Allies: Woozy Winks, a sidekick who, depending on the era you're reading, is either a normal person magically protected from harm by, um, nature, OR is a mentally disturbed homeless man. I'm not quite sure which one I prefer, although the name "Woozy Winks" is so Stan Lee-esque I imagine Stan shaking a fist in rage every time he sees it saying, "Damn you, Cole! You got there first!" Also: the police and the Justice League.

Enemies: Bank robbers, brains, spies, gorillas, anyone and everything those wacky Golden Age writers could dream up, liquid nitrogen.

Symbol: Um. Moving on. Nothing to see here.

Family Matters: Well, turns out he has a son, the creatively-named Offspring, who showed up in Kingdom and, sources tell me, in 52.

Might Be Cool To: Invite to parties so your friends can play "Spot the Innocuous Piece of Furniture That's Really Plastic Man In Disguise". (Hint: Look for the object that's mostly red with a smidgen of yellow, black, and a generous dose of pink!)

Under No Circumstances: Ask him to do that trick where he presses his hand down on the Sunday comics and imprint them backwards on his palm. Ask him if he sleeps in an egg.

Annual Performance Review: Haven't seen much of ol' Plas lately, which is strange, because his lighter tone and humor potential would seem like a natural fit for DC's stated objective of a lighter universe post-IC. Too bad Kyle Baker's series was cancelled.

What Makes Him So Special, Anyway?: If you haven't figured it out yet, Plastic Man is a Golden Age creation who ranks among the original superheroes, and what's more, one of the first superhero satires. Played mostly for laughs, and even later when they brought him into the JLA he served as mostly comic relief. You're telling me there's no space in the JSA for this legacied Golden-Ager? Hmpf. Also: DC has printed 7 or 8 Archive volumes of the original Plas material (which seems like a lot), so if you're looking for a good place to start, there it is.

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Blogger Derek said...

"Symbol: Um. Moving on. Nothing to see here."

I dunno. Don't you think the goggles are pretty iconic? I don't know if they would count as a symbol, but if I was designing one of those stylized narration boxes DC's been doing lately, I would definitely go for the goggles.

Also, I like the idea of Plas in the JSA. Every team needs a stretchy guy, and Plas is a Golden Age-er. Plus, I'm of the opinion that you can't have too much comic relief.

In fact, I would enjoy a team entirely comprised of comic relief characters. (Those JLI back issues I ordered should get here any day now.)

5:24 PM  
Blogger seth said...

"Ask him if he sleeps in an egg". That seems like the most hilarious thing possible to ask Plastic Man.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Derek: Good point about the goggles, I almost went with that until I got frustrated with Photoshop's inability to dumb itself down to my level where I could slice the goggles off a picture of Plas without them looking like a second-grade art project. :-)

Seth: I agree. The hardest part of writing this installment was figuring out the exact point to put the inevitable Silly Putty joke. :-)

8:54 PM  
Blogger The Fortress Keeper said...

"This is much better than the post-Crisis origin, which includes attempted suicide, mental illness, and other grim and gritty nonsense."

Did somebody really do that? When???

Poor Plas ...

3:25 AM  
Blogger joncormier said...

Kyle Baker's books are a really good starting place as well, if you can't afford the Archive Volumes - libraries may have them as well.

They look like kid centred books but they're really just in a style we're not too used to seeing for super-hero comics. I really enjoyed the first one and haven't found the rest of Baker's work yet, but it is on my list of things to get for sure.

5:51 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I was thinking of the belt for a symbol. The yellow bands with the diamond? I think it gets prominently featured whenever Plas turns himself into a hot-air balloon or a mixmaster or whatever.

I love Better Know A Hero. It's a fantastic feature.

7:26 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Keeper: yep, Plas tried to throw himself off a bridge, despondent over his new powers.

Jon: Excellent point. I read two issues of Baker's series and thought they were extremely fun. Has DC even collected those in trades yet?

Matt: Dammit! The belt! Of course! And thanks. :=)

9:46 AM  
Blogger joncormier said...

Heck yeah, I reviewed one a while back - http://hypnoray.blogspot.com/2006/09/form-of-comedy.html

There are two trades - Plastic Man: On the Lam and Plastic Man Vol 2: Rubber Bandits. It really catches the essence of the original stories but reimagines them as a combo or John K and Bruce Timm style animated imagery. I looks like it should be something other than it is - if that makes sense.

6:20 AM  
Blogger joncormier said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:20 AM  

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