Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Number 1695: Crazy for Plastic Man

Plastic Man #2 (1944) is a treasure of the Golden Age. The Grand Comics Database credits Jack Cole as authoring, pencilling and inking the 56 pages. I don’t know if he did it strictly solo, but he signed the stories.

I am also willing to guess this was a best seller in its day. I have picked the tale of the hypnotist and a whole town under his mad spell. For me it is Jack Cole at his wacky best.


Daniel [] said...

Cole did a few stories with scenes in which crowds turned into homicidal mobs. I was wondering why, in this story, there were no such scene, but then I realized that in a town without ostensible sanity, there is no possibility of commentary or of humor in having sanity suddenly torn away, and a spontaneous, collective viciousness made manifest.

Woozy's line in 15:3 is quite clever, even if the internal logic requires that it be so accidentally.

One of the things about Cole's work that I've noticed is that he likes to depict beautiful women, as here, with wide-set eyes. In any case, Dada Ditt is a great character, except for her choice in men. I'm sorry that Cole didn't make her the permanent girlfriend of Plastic Man.

Daniel [] said...

BTW, if “dah dah dit” were used to represent the sound of a telegraph receiver, I'd take that to represent “– – ⋅” or ‘G’. Perhaps from the interjection “gee!”

Unknown said...

It's too bad that no one but Jack Cole has ever known how to handle Plastic Man. In the DC Universe, he's still a third-stringer.

Pappy said...

Ryan, I'll have to take your word for it. I haven't looked at a DC Plastic Man since the mini-series Hilary Barta drew years ago. I thought that was quite good.

Will Shetterly said...

Ryan Anthony, much of the problem with Plastic Man—and Captain Marvel—is they don't fit in a unified DC Universe. They inhabit wackier worlds. Plastic Man fits in the Bob Hope/Jerry Lewis/Inferior Five/Ambush Bug universe. Captain Marvel inhabits a world that's gentler than that universe, yet more whimsical than the DC universe. The fannish love of shared worlds hurts characters who aren't designed for pulp-realism.

Pappy said...

Well, dah dah dit, Daniel, I hadn't thought about Cole's style of drawing beautiful women; maybe it's because I was looking elsewhere ("Hey, buddy, my eyes are UP HERE!")

Unknown said...

fuck yeah that was a really engaging story

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Thanks Mr. Pappy, for a superhero with not one bit of "nazi" attitude!
Cole's Plastic Man can be hilarious and tragic at the same time, just like The Spirit.
Also, in this story looks a little "Wolvertonesque" to me, maybe because it's all about "craziness".
I may be over the top, but to me Cole deserves one small room at MoMA.
Looks like "gummy" characters are particularly fit for funny and satyrical stories. We had this crazy guy called Tiramolla in Italy :

and though it was aimed at little kids, the stories were very satyrical and often broke the "fourth wall". The only gloomy, sulky one was the humorless Reed Richards. I sympathize with Sue.

Pappy said...

J D, thanks for the link. I liked what I saw. I think I'll go back and look some more!

In my opinion, Plastic Man was one of the most enjoyable and delightful strips around...although Cole could occasionally descend into some dark places. Cole had some internal darkness, himself.

I agree with the comment above by Will Shetterly, who has a good explanation as to why Plastic Man does not fit in with today's DC comic book universe. Is it so bad? I believe that virtually all of the Plastic Man stories from Quality Comics are available online through Digital Comics Museum or Comic Books Plus, and why not enjoy the originals and not worry about making such a unique character fit into modern continuity?

Brian Barnes said...

My 2 cents on Plastic Man not fitting in is how he works best with the hectic, kinetic art. Sure, Plastic Man is the only one stretching, but everybody else is more rubbery, too. For instance, the way the woman slinks when they first met her, or the old lady killer.

This would be hard to do in the regular DC universe. Even to the most skilled writers and artists.

Everybody just moves like they have no bones. It's integrated in such a way that it makes the world more bright and fun, even with a story such as this which, in reality, is an entire town of innocent people turned into killers!

Alicia American said...

OMG Woozy calls her L8Y GAGA yo OMG Woozy is a thyme travellerer yo OMG

Alicia American said...

Will Shetterly-- Yah comix now R insulking 2 our intelegance yo. CC Beck is spinnering in his grave, altho he was spinnering in his grave while he was still alive 2 Yay! <3

Even Archie Comix uses Marvel/DC stunts 2 boost sails. MARRY Archie? KILL Archie? Archie's fans R knot Spider-Man's fans. Sum of us want 2C stuff KNOT aimeded @ 9 yr old boys yo srsly omg ucchh. I wanna read Tawky Tawny tha Talking TIger & I DONT want a psudo-sciance xplanation of Y he's talking

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Thanks Mr. Pappy. Ryan and Will raise one very interesting point.
We had, for example, many great Uncle Scrooge stories done in Italy from, let's say, 1950 to 1979. Very creative comics, funny and intelligent at the same time. It has been said that the "italian school" was perhaps the best for Disney comics in Europe. Then came Don Rosa, who (starting from Barks material) did a great job in tying some knots and establishing a believable genealogy of sorts for the Duck Family.
Well, now in Italy we have some Don Rosa's fans who literally can't stand those wonderful stories as they don't fit in "the Mc Duck's continuity", and don't want them to be reprinted (we had regular reprints of those jewels since the 60's). They even reject some Barks material if it's against Don's "dogma" (I've seen this word written in a post, no kidding!)
So my question is: Can a too strict continuity hurt or even kill creativity in comics? I don't wanna see "Crisis on infinite Duckburgs"!

Pappy said...

J D, I would think that any fan of Uncle Scrooge and the Golden Age of the Ducks would find Carl Barks loose continuity more appealing that Rosa's. I wonder how American readers feel about it. I only know my own opinion. I like Rosa just fine (I re-read his Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck just last year), but I always think of the Duck artists and writers this way: Carl Barks at the very top, the pinnacle, the top of Mt Everest, and somewhere down below, far below, are the other artists and writers.

Pappy said...

Brian, well said. I like your point about everyone in the story being rubbery. Cole was a master of comic exaggeration, and there are no stiff figures in a Cole strip. Even his serious strips have those rubbery types. Everyone is in continual motion in the notorious "Murder, Morphine and Me", for example.

Pappy said...

Wow, Alicia! Good catch on that Ga-Ga panel! (Page 5 for those who missed it.)

Pappy said...

Alicia, you don't want to have a pseudo-scientific explanation for why Tawky Tawny speaks, so I'll tell you what my son told his two daughters when they wanted to know how Santa got down the chimney. "He's magic," he said.

I guess that is as good an explanation as any for anything that doesn't really need an explanation.

Will Shetterly said...

"Can a too strict continuity hurt or even kill creativity in comics?"

My take on continuity is each writer's version of a character inhabits a different world: Barks' Ducks and Rosa's Ducks and those Italian Ducks essentially inhabit Earth B, Earth R, and Earth I, and worrying about how they fit together misses what Barks knew was most important: coming up with a fun story.

It's like complaining about anachronisms in Shakespeare: if you do, you're obsessing over the wrong things.

Michael Hoskin said...

Oh, this was amazing! Thank you, Pappy! I've only read as far as the first DC Archive of Cole's Plastic Man - I really need to read the rest!

My favourite sequence is page 11 with the hypnosis attempt on Woozy. "You oughta know your business-- but to be frank, brother, I never felt less like knocking anybody off!"

(you can add Cole's Midnight to that list of properties purchased by DC which DC doesn't know how to utilize)