The Plastic Man Archives, Vol. 1
by Jack Cole
(DC Comics, 2003)

It doesn't stretch the truth that there was and is no more talented cartoonist than Jack Cole. Nor does it bend reason that Plastic Man was his greatest creation and one of the most original characters ever created in comics. Then why isn't Plastic Man wildly popular today? Because Cole doesn't write and draw "Plas" today.

This volume collects Plastic Man's adventures from the first 20 issues of Police Comics, originally published from 1941 to 1943 by Quality Comics. Every reprinted story is a romp into a world of wild, visual whimsy as Plastic Man disguises himself as a table or woman or snake to plant himself among thieves. His is a world that never pretends to be ours as he elongates into a slingshot or lasso or kite to get his man.

If a Cole picture of Plas is worth a thousand words, the most frequent word is "ha." That's right. While Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, the X-Men and countless other superheroes are fighting with clenched fists and enough angst to float an anchor, Plastic Man is fighting with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

In a word, Plastic Man is fun.

He is fun because Cole was a visual storyteller who mastered every technical nuance of cartooning. He is fun because Cole also knew how to write funny through characterization, exaggeration and situation instead of through pun and the piebald joke. (An aside: the reason that those who handled Plas after Cole weren't successful is they thought PM punny, not funny.)

Despite having been forgotten on occasion except through homages like the Elongated Man, Mr. Fantastic, Rubberroy and this reviewer's own Plastic Mam, pure Plastic Man has again bounced back. So, buy now. No rubber checks, please. Jack Cole's work on Plastic Man earns the highest recommendation.

- Rambles
written by Michael Vance
published 4 October 2003

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