Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Number 2281: Plastic Man and the art of Artifice

It is now 2019. Instead of looking forward, at Pappy’s Golden Age we always look back. Today it is to 1948, and a Plastic Man story with a va-va-voom beauty, the voluptuous crook, Artifice.

Artifice dresses to distract any man. Her clothing allows us to get a few peeks at a woman who means to seduce, and does. The only males not put into a sexual stupor by Artifice are the crook whose plan to kill her backfires, and of course, that stretchy paragon of a hero, Plastic Man, who is not fooled by her; not like his pal, Woozy Winks, who is under her spell.

Jack Cole could draw pretty girls. Like another artist at Quality Comics, Bill Ward, who went on to a career of drawing sexy women, Cole’s reputation after quitting comic books was in drawing the pulchritudinous “Females by Cole” for Playboy magazine.

This untitled tale is credited by the Grand Comics Database with script and pencils by Jack Cole, and inking attributed to Bart Tumey with a ?, meaning they aren’t sure. It is from Plastic Man #13 (1948).*

*Before you ask me, I don’t know what happened to the coloring in the last panel. A mistake by the colorist or the engraver? Unlikely...probably just a try at an effect that didn’t go well.


Kirk said...

"The illustrious racketeer"

He must have been good at his job!

Daniel [] said...

So, Artifice didn't recognize Plastic Man? In-so-far as it was too early for Elastic Lad, the Elongated Man, or Mr Fantastic, just whom had she thought him to be?

Across many instances, when Cole determined to depict a woman as especially attractive, he would give her notably wide-set eyes. This story appears to be an exception. But Artifice isn't represented as preternaturally powerful, as are other comic-book seductresses. The members of the 77th Street Gang other than Witherup aren't prepared to keep him from killing her, and they set-out to finish the job when he fails. She relies upon a gun and then a lie to control Woozy.

As to Plastic Man, I have to wonder how his hormonal system would be. He's capable of love of some sort, but sexual desire can be another matter altogether.

I note that Plastic Man (disguised as Goopshaw) said that he were “jealous” of Woozy's safety. Most people use the words “envious” and “jealous” as if synonymous, and that's not terrible; but they really carry different senses. The word “envy” and coördinates carry with them a notion of desire for that which one does not have; “jealousy” and coördinates can carry with them a notion of felt ownership and of associated vigilance. When Plastic Man said that he were “jealous” of Woozy's safety, Plastic Man was not saying that he wished that he too were safe, but that he were vigilant about keeping Woozy safe.

Plastic Man should also have been jealous of the safety of that policeman. Instead, in the course of a joke, Plastic Man allowed the officer to receive a concussion!

The ending reminds me of a plan reported to be under consideration by NASA, to have an all-female crew for a long space flight, in order to avoid sex amongst the crew. Given what was revealed about the sexual orientation of our most famous female astronaut, that plan seems questionable. Likewise, for having Artifice delivered in a van driven by a policewoman. Of course, Cole might well having been laughing about the presumption.

Brian Barnes said...

"My toes are stiff, to match the rest of me!" Sneaked that one right through!

Cole spent a lot of time on Artifice's curves. Nobody else got that heavy inking! A fun little Plastic Man story, but with a bit of a misogynistic twist -- I know it wasn't meant that way but the only character that wasn't trustworthy (even the mobs had loyalty) was Artifice. Still, a archetype character so I'll give it a pass.

Gene Phillips said...

I have the general impression that Plastic Man's villains tend to get killed by story's end, and if so, the survival of Artifice is noteworthy. But whereas other features kept their villains alive so that they could appear again, I'm not sure Cole ever brought back any villains. Early in the series there are two back-to-back stories featuring a butch lady named Madame Brawn, but that just seemed like a two-parter rather than a follow-up (and yes, she dies at the end).