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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Plastic Man 1 - for reals this time! Plastic Man begins

A few months after making a kind of appearance in the Dial H for HERO series in House of Mystery, Plastic Man makes his full out debut in DC Comics in Plastic Man 1 (Nov/Dec 66). Plastic Man had been a Quality Comics character in the 1940s, making his debut there in Police Comics 1 (Aug. 41), and going on to get his own book. His series had been popular enough to last long after the Golden Age of heroes had ended, and in fact was only cancelled in 1957, when DC bought the Quality Comics line. Plastic Man had been created by Jack Cole, and the series had truly amazing art. Honestly, I have never been much of a fan of the character, but even I could appreciate the incredible dynamism that Cole endowed the strip with. Plastic Man had been a criminal, Eel O'Brian, who was shot and doused with chemicals while robbing a factory with his buddies, who abandoned him. Taken in by monks, he awoke to discover his ability to stretch and completely alter his body's form. His first story saw him turn on his old friends, adopting the Plastic Man identity to capture them and turn them in. Plastic Man became an agent for the FBI, but would still maintain his Eel O'Brian identity from time to time to work undercover. He had one main supporting character, the fat and incompetent Woozy Winks, who also had a criminal past, and strong tendencies towards making a quick buck, not always legally.

The cover of this issue proudly proclaims that this is the original Plastic Man, although later issues will make it clear that that is not the case. The story is by Arnold Drake, with art by Gil Kane. I find that astounding. It looks nothing like Kane's work. He is trying really hard to make the series look like Jack Cole's stuff, but not quite succeeding.

The story introduces a surprisingly large supporting cast. His sidekick is Gordy Trueblood, who runs a pet store.

He also has a villain, Dr. Dome, who is presented as an old enemy of Plastic Man. Dr. Dome will appear in every issue of the series for the first few months, along with his daughter, Lynx, who has a crush on Plastic Man, but still helps her father with his evil schemes.

Plastic Man also has a girlfriend, Michelinie (Mike) De Lute, daughter of a wealthy woman who despises Plastic Man.

In this debut story, Dr. Dome enlists Professor X in using a bunch of weapons designed to kill Plastic Man, all of which fail. Plastic Man brings in Professor X, but Dr Dome remains free to plot. Oh, and there is also a cop, Captain McSniffe, who doesn't think much of Plastic Man.

Some elements of this issue are decent, but it tries really hard to be crazy and funny, and often fails. I think the biggest part of the problem is the large cast of relatively annoying supporting characters, though.

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