THE BOOK CAVE: Plastic Man Volume 4

Plastic Man
Volume 4

Gwandanaland Comics #804-A

​I just finished reading Plastic Man Volume 4, the Readers Collection from Gwandanalamd Comics, a Black & White collection. They collect Plastic Man #28-37. I’ve been a fan of Plas all my life starting from Brave & Bold #76 and later the House of Mystery #160. These two issues got me interested in reading more. In the mid-1970s DC continued the Plastic Man series from the 1960s. I bought and read all the series from the 1970s Plastic Man series and also found and read all the Brave & Bold issues that continued from #76. Later I was able to find all the issues from the 1960s issues. As the years went on, I was able to find some Golden Age appearances of Plastic Man from reprints or from the DC Comics series, The All-Star Squadron from the 1980s. I also found the 4 issue mini series from the 1990s by Phil Foglio, one of my favorite artists. As time went on, I discovered that my chances of buying any Golden Age comics of Plastic Man, were slim and none. About 20 years ago I came close to buying a Plastic Man #1 DC Archives from Ebay, but that fell through, unfortunately. I wasn’t satisfied with what DC had done with him in any modern appearances in the past 10+ years.
​There was an appearance of an villain named Plastic Man in the short run Captain Marvel (Split), super-hero series of the 1960s, in name and abilities, only. In the 1960s, DC tried to create their own versions of a stretching hero with Jimmy Olsen (Elastic Lad) and Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man). Jimmy Olsen only appeared as Elastic Lad for only a handful of times. While Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man), later appeared as a traveling detective with his wife, Sue Dibny for several back-up issues. He later became a member of the Justice League of America. His popularity slowly disappeared to be replaced by the modern age appearance of Plastic Man in the Justice League.
​Like many of us older readers, I didn’t care for how they took the humorous antics of Woozy Winks and gave them to the modern Plastic Man. In the Golden Age, Plastic Man was the reformed criminal, Patrick “Eel” O’Brian who became a member of the F.B.I. with a goofy partner, according to Wikipedia Original version by Jack Cole, Plastic Man was a crook named Patrick “Eel” O’Brian. Orphaned at age 10 and forced to live on the streets, he fell into a life of crime. As an adult, he became part of a burglary ring, specializing as a safe-cracker. During a late-night heist at the Crawford Chemical Works, he and his three fellow gang members were surprised by a night watchman. During the gang’s escape, Eel was shot in the shoulder and doused with a large drum of unidentified chemical liquid. He escaped to the street only to discover that his gang had driven off without him.
​Fleeing on foot and suffering increasing disorientation from the gunshot wound and the exposure to the chemical, Eel eventually passed out on the foothills of a mountain near the city. He awoke to find himself in a bed in a mountain retreat, being tended to by a monk who had discovered him unconscious that morning. This monk, sensing a capacity for great good in O’Brian, turned away police officers who had trailed Eel to the monastery. This act of faith and kindness—combined with the realization that his gang had left him to be captured without a moment’s hesitation—fanned Eel’s longstanding dissatisfaction with his criminal life and his desire to reform.
​During his short convalescence at the monastery, he discovered that the chemical had entered his bloodstream and caused a radical physical change. His body now had all of the properties of rubber, allowing him to stretch, bounce and mold himself into any shape. He immediately determined to use his new abilities on the side of law and order, donning a red, black and yellow (later red and yellow) rubber costume and capturing criminals as Plastic Man. He concealed his true identity with a pair of white goggles and by re-molding his face. As O’Brian, he maintained his career and connections with the underworld as a means of gathering information on criminal activity.
Plastic Man soon acquired comic-relief sidekick Woozy Winks, who was originally enchanted so that nature itself would protect him from harm. This power was eventually removed from the character and Woozy became simply a bumbling yet loyal friend to Plastic Man.
In his original Golden Age/Quality Comics incarnation, Plastic Man eventually became a member of the city police force and then the FBI. By the time he became a federal officer, he had nearly completely abandoned his Eel O’Brian identity.

​I was recently gifted by a friend, a copy of Plastic Man Volume 4, Readers Collection, published by Gwandanaland Comics as a black & white volume of Plastic Man #28-37. They are Plastic Man stories only, with no ads or text. I had no problem with there being no color in the stories and discovered how much I was enjoying the book. The book was full of 8-12 page stories. Every issue I read was a done-in-one issue stories. I noticed that throughout the 10 issues that Plastic Man was never called Eel O’Brian once, plus, his past as a former safe-cracker, was never mentioned. His origin, past and how he and Woozy Winks becomes friends is never brought up. Reading the stories would make a new reader, and an older reader, like myself wonder why Plastic Man, plus the Chief of the F.B.I., put up with someone like Woozy Winks. Even with the origin of Woozy Winks, as told by Wikipedia, makes you realize that the only reason that Plastic Man kept him with him was due to the writers wanting a comic relief.
​As far as I can remember, I never saw Woozy with Plastic Man in the Justice League. I guess, Plastic Man was goofy enough of a character by himself, in the modern age. The only serious appearances of Plastic Man in the Silver, Bronze and Modern Ages are when he appeared in Brave and Bold with Batman and in the All-Star Squadron.
​As noted noted earlier, Plastic Man was created by Jack Cole. I was impressed by the great detail and story-telling of each story. Even though Plastic Man could easily become the fall-guy in the stories with his abilities, he was always played as the straight man. I’m guessing that with Woozy Winks playing a VERY over-the-top sidekick, it made it easier for Plastic Man to play a straight man, while stretching into several unusual shapes. The more I think about it and look through the pages, I can see how important, that Woozy Winks was to the stories. He helped to keep Plastic Man stay as a more serious and popular character as he was the comic relief.
​After reading the book, I’ve become an even more of a Plastic Man fan. Even though, Gwandanaland has color copies of Plastic Man in the Golden Age, I think I will be happy with the Black & White books, as they are more in my price range. I am very impressed with all the different books available from their company. Going for the Black & White readers collections is the more affordable way of collecting Golden Age Comics Trade-paperbacks. As I have some extra (ha ha) money, I will be picking up more. I know and I’ve been told, that I can find several of the Public Domain Comics Online and can read them on my Tablet, I still enjoy reading them on paper. I guess I’m an old fashion guy that likes the ink on paper in my hands.

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