By far, the most common question I have been hit with upon others learning that I’m a comic fan is, “who is your favorite character?” Well, I’ve got a few. It’s like having a favorite food (or tea, because tea): you love each variety for its differences, for the way it makes you feel, for the smile it gives you whenever they save the day, outsmart or punch (or both) the bad guy, even for the way the look on the page.
Or in the cup.
Anyway, I’m a long-time Batman guy, but many people are. I was in elementary school when Batman: the Animated Series was a thing so the Wayne family will always have my love. However, it’s who I learned about additionally that makes me love them, too. In addition to Batman, I love the Atom and Daredevil, too, but I will always have something very special for Plastic Man.
You’re damn right. I’m a Plastic Man fan and proudly so. Most people know Plastic Man from Batman: the Brave and the Bold or from his various appearances in the DC Universe. I, however, was introduced to Plas in JLA by Joe Kelly (Big Hero 6, Deadpool, I Kill Giants, many more) 61 and drawn by the unbelievable Doug Mahnke (Batman, the Mask, Superman/Wonder Woman). It was the first issue of the “new run” and I was introduced to the new lineup, one member of which was Plas. The stretchy guy, comedy relief, right?
Until issue 65 came out.
In short, Plastic Man approaches Batman because a child needs to be “scared straight.” We learn that the child is Plastic Man’s son and that he has been absent for most of his life. The issue features, obviously, a ton of Batman and Plastic Man action and focus. The issue is very human, too. Batman is disappointed in Plastic Man for being an absent father, but more disappointed that he didn’t know that Plas had a child. Why should Batman need to know that he has a kid? Because the boy has his father’s powers and greater mastery over them than his dad! How do you scare the indestructible teenage son of Plastic Man?
In short, they do, because comics. And the most painful part? The son is well aware of who his father is – WELL aware – and he’s not mad, he just wants to know his dad. And this cuts worse than anything else that could’ve happened.
I was completely and utterly sold by Plastic Man at this point. I learned he’d actually been around since the 1940’s. I learned that he was so popular that he actually had TWO titles he starred in. I learned that, even by modern standards, his creator, Jack Cole, had some damn good art and well done stories. I learned that he had a TV show.
And I learned that, after the 1960’s, nobody really gave half a crap about him.
Now, it’s not all Kelly. Grant Morrison actually put him on the team in the (very) early 2000’s, Mark Waid kept him there, and Joe Kelly really fleshed him out. And it somehow gets better. Plastic Man goes back in time. He fights and dies with his team. He quits the League and gets mindwiped. He finds out that he’s the only person that can defeat a Martian.
And he finds out that maybe he can be a good father, too.
To keep the epilogue short, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Kyle Baker series. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun and beautifully drawn, but Baker took this comedy approach and kind of crapped on the serious groundwork that Kelly had set up. On a positive note, he did have Plastic Man’s sidekick, Woozy Winks, in there.
So what happened to Plas? Well, James Robinson used him in his Justice League of America run, he had a feature in Countdown to Mystery, and we briefly saw Plas in the New 52’s Justice League International 1. And that’s it.
I really love the guy. Really. I want him to succeed and I want others to love him too. I’ll keep waiting and hoping.
Because until he breaks my heart, I’ll be here. In love.
If you’d like to read any of this gold, check out the new volumes of JLA (specifically books 6 and 7) and any of the rest of the series, actually! Baker’s Plastic Man is fun, but not Plastic Man – it has two trades that collect much of the series.
Lastly, the featured image is by Patrick Nork. Beautiful work, Pat!