DC is releasing (finally!) an Archive Editions hardcover next month featuring Jack Cole's 'Plastic Man', the granddaddy of all stretchable sleuths, so it seems right for the strip above to make its way to the front of the queue. Would have been number five, but Bob Rozakis sent me a very nice letter about this site. Unlike the Tazmanian Devil, flattery works wonders on me.
Ok, short history lesson: Jack Cole created Plastic Man in 1941, which makes him older than virtually every other superhero currently being published. (I guess Greenpeace was right about plastics after all...) He carried his own title from 1943 through 1956, along with a subsequent series published by DC in the 1960s. Get this - Mickey Spillane wrote some of the stories published in the forties. I suppose I can see Stacy Keach playing Woozy Winks, but that's about the only connection between Plas and Mike Hammer that I can envision.
A number of writers have taken a whack at Plastic Man since DC acquired all of the Quality Comics characters. Marty Pasko and Joe Staton had a nice run in Adventure Comics for a while, Phil Foglio scripted a mini-series a few years back, and he's apparently turned up lately in Justice League. Well, yes, he also had a cameo appearance as a restaurant table in Waid's and Ross' 'Kingdom Come' opus, but it wasn't a speaking part.
Plastic Man was one of those rare superhero strips that was played for laughs. Unlike a lot of other comic writers and artists, Cole refused to allow the strip to take itself seriously, and found a blend of action and humor that really set it apart.
Y'know, as I've been writing this, I've been trying to think of some witty or sarcastic jokes to make about Plastic Man, but the jokes really only work when the characters and concepts take themselves too seriously. C'mon, it's a character with the power to stretch and shape himself into any object, from tables to televisions, from steamrollers to steamer trunks. Think about it - when written properly, Plastic Man makes better fun of himself than I ever could.
After all, not every superhero gets a Saturday morning cartoon, y'know.