Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Plastic Man (1964 - 1967: The New Look)


By Deejay Dayton
November 23, 2019 - 09:09

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Plastic Man made his DC Comics debut during the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look. Despite having been purchased many years earlier, when DC acquired all the Quality Comics characters, nothing had been done to revive the popular hero until this time. Plastic Man was brought back, sort of, in an issue of the Dial H for Hero series in House of Mystery, and then launched into his own book in late 1966.

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Plastic Man made his Quality Comics debut in Police Comics 1 (Aug. 41), and went 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.

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The cover DC’s Plastic Man 1 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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Plastic Man 2 has a great cover, but not so great a story. After some opening comedic byplay, which sees Plastic Man, Gordy Trueblood and Mike DeLute enjoying an afternoon in the park, while Dr. Dome fails to kill Plas, the villain decides to go back in time and attack the hero before he gained his powers. In order to find out who Plastic Man was, and how he got his abilities, he uses a machine on his daughter, Lynx, splitting her into three people, and sending her out to interview those who might know his secret. The first Lynx goes to talk to Captain McSniffe. He relates an origin for Plastic Man that is closer to the truth than the other ones. We see Plastic Man as Eel O'Brian, and he gets shot, falling into a vat of chemicals, which give him his abilities, as they pursue the villainous Spider. Mike DeLute's mother is the second one to provide an origin story, which sees pre-Plastic Man dealing with an Asian villain with a repulsively stereotyped accent. It's a combination of milk and acid that turn him into Plastic Man. Gordy provides the third origin story, in which Plastic Man gains his powers from a diseased goat, while fighting a talking frog.  Since the three origins are set in different locations, not only does Dr. Dome not know which, if any, is true, he has no idea where to go if he goes back in time. My big problem with this story is that, for readers who do not know Plastic Man's origin, this would simply leave them confused. And as Plastic Man's origin had already been clearly told, there was no reason to keep it any sort of secret.

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Dr. Dome is pictured on the cover for Plastic Man 3, which is a bit of a shame, as it gives away his presence in the story. The tale begins with Mike DeLute and her mother at a shipboard party. We meet quite a number of men who are interested in her, but of course she only has eyes for Plas. One of those who expresses interest, the Duke of Wheelington, after being rejected, announces that he holds the patent for the wheel, and prevents anyone from using anything with a wheel in it. Plas tries to stand up to the guy, and the Duke uses this as an excuse to place a multi-million dollar tag on any wheel usage. He has a family tree that goes all the way back to caveman times, using this as proof of his claims. It's all preposterous, and, in my eyes, not terribly funny. Everyone blames Plastic Man for pissing off the Duke, and causing the situation. Mike DeLute's mother convinces her to marry the Duke so that he will waive the charges on them. Plastic Man interrupts the wedding to claim that his ancestor invented fire, so anything made using fire belongs to him. That irrelevancy aside, he then undresses the Duke and exposes him as really being Dr. Dome. Who we knew had to be in the story because of the cover. The fire scene pictured closes out the unfunny story.

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Dr. Dome is back yet again in Plastic Man 4. This time around Dr. Dome enlists the help of Madame Merciless, who has some offensive African witch doctors working for her, who can hypnotize and control animals. She offers to place Plastic Man under her control, for Dome, although Lynx, Dr. Dome's daughter, suspects Madame Merciless will fall in love with Plastic Man, and keep the hero for herself. Madame Merciless places Plastic Man under her hypnotic control at a costume party that Mike DeLute's mother is throwing. Mike is furious when he goes off with the woman, and follows him. Plastic Man had only been pretending to be under Madame Merciless' control, in order to get evidence against her and Dr. Dome, but Mike and Gordy Trueblood mess this plan up. Lynx is on thee scene as well, as her suspicions proved correct, and Madame Merciless had fallen for Plastic Man. Madame Merciless captures Plastic Man, and this time her witch doctors succeed in putting him under a spell. Plas goes along with Dr. Dome, committing crimes for him. Gordy and Mike follow, certain that Plas must once again be pretending. But he isn't. He only gets freed from the spell when the witch doctors get angry that Madame Merciless does not give them green stamps (for redeemable stuff, a big thing in the 60s) along with their pay.

Plastic Man continues in the next period, 1967 – 1969: It’s a Happening!

Plastic Man: Plastic Man 1 – 5 (Nov/Dec 66 – July/Aug 67)

Next up – Green Arrow!

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Last Updated: November 23, 2019 - 09:55

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