Plastic Man’s Expanding Possibilities

by Blaise Tassone

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Will Jack Cole’s most famous creation be stretching his way into theaters soon? That’s the news announced today (see here). Plastic Man or Patrick “Eel” O’Brian, a fairly well-known persona in the DC stable of heroes has been a member of the Justice League and had his own animated series. Originally, however, Plastic Man was a Golden Age classic whose stories date all the way back to 1941.

Logically, given the DCEU is about to launch an ‘Aquaman’ feature film and has ‘Shazam’ lined up for release, the green-lighting of another classic property makes sense.

It will make even more sense if, judging by the lighthearted tone of the ‘Shazam’ trailer, that fun looking film is followed by ‘Plastic Man’.

I can’t think of a better way for the DCEU to pull away from its dark and dour Snyder-led angst-fest than by introducing Plastic Man.

DC’s is a colorful and fun universe and the ‘MCU only much darker and brooding’ agenda just wasn’t working. Luckily, Warner Bros., it would appear, is finally waking up to this fact.

The announcement that Plastic Man is in consideration for a feature film also sends a clear signal that a genuine reinvention of the DCEU is taking place.

Frankly, if DC is looking for a character that signals fun; Plastic Man is the way to go.

As mentioned Plastic Man (or ‘Plas’ as he became known) was a Golden Age creation. First appearing in Police Comics #1, the character was an instant hit, so much so that by issue #5 he was featuring on the covers and, before long, his stories not only took up the majority of the Police Comics title but he was given his own self-titled book.

 

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Police Comics #1 (August 1941) – Origin of Plastic Man; First appearance of Plastic Man by Jack Cole

Quality Comics is the company that we have to thank for this DC hero. The crowning achievement of cartoonist Jack Cole, the Plastic Man strip was revolutionary and genre bending (pun intended) in more ways than one. At a time when most super-heroes were rigid stereotypes and either Superman clones or surrogate police men with an unbending sense of right and wrong, Plastic Man, an ex-criminal that fought crime in the name of what is right, was fluid in more than just his powers. At the time, Quality was looking to find talent just in case something happened to their most famous artist: Will Eisner (it was, don’t forget, war time). So they enlisted Jack Cole and he gave them a series that was like nothing else out there at the time. In Police Comics #1, we see the origins of ‘Plastic Man’, career criminal and gangster turned hero. Plas is born after Eel O’Brien is left behind for the Police to catch by his cohorts in a robbery attempt gone south. This is just before O’Brien is covered in chemicals. After being found on a trail by a Monk and given sanctuary, he vows to change his life and realizes he has obtained stretching powers to make good on his word. This comic is not easy to find. There are only 50 copies on the CGC census and the most recent sale, a 5.5, sold for $9, 000.00 dollars on Heritage about one month ago. I expect those prices to rise.

 

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Police Comics #5 (December 1941) – Plastic Man covers begin; Plastic Man forced to smoke marijuana

In many ways, Police Comics #5 is the better deal. This is the first Plastic Man cover and its most recent sale in 6.0 at Heritage was for $1,020.00. Here the moral ambiguity and sense of potential redemption for all that characterize Cole’s art have hit their stride. This comic is doubly novel. First cover appearance and a drug episode. Remember, these stories were published before the comic code authority. Currently returns on Police Comics #5 are up in every single grade. The movie announcement will likely keep them up.

 

 

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House of Mystery #160 (July 1966) – First Appearance of Plastic Man in the Silver Age

The Quality comics were the original vehicle for Plastic Man’s adventures but in the 1960s DC acquired the rights to the character. He didn’t get his own comic right away, instead he was used in a test-story in this 1966 comic where Robby Reed ‘hero for hire’ transforms into the Golden Age hero after dialing ‘H’. This comic is much easier to find than the early Plastic Man stories by Quality and can be found in low to mid-grade for under 50 dollars. Best returns are currently on 7.5 certified copies with positive returns of 151.6% in the last ten years. The last sale of a 7.5 was for $125.00 in March of 2018.

 

 

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Plastic Man #1 (November 1966) – First DC Solo-Title

In 1943, Quality released a full length self-titled Plastic Man comic. That makes this relaunch of his solo title by DC, the second volume to go by that name. But the difference is that DC’s relaunch of Plastic Man was premised on the gimmick that the hero portrayed here by Arnold Drake and Gil Kane is supposed to be the son of the original Plastic Man. That means that O’Brien’s accident was either replicated or his powers were passed on genetically. What did those crazy chemicals do to him? Keep your eyes on this comic, currently it a $500.00 price tag in certified 9.6 grade. There are 176 graded copies listed on the CGC census and only 1 9.8. Hypothetically, a 9.8 would be worth $950.00 if it came up for sale today, but all those prices may soon rise if a movie is green-lighted. The present mixed returns will subsequently become positive across the board. It will be interesting to revisit this book in a week to see just what movie hype can do to prices.

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