Plastic Man: Needless Character Analysis
This week, we feature Plastic Man. This is the character from the Pre-Flashpoint era. Since he, of all of DC’s characters is more satirical, his reliance on continuity is almost optional.
“Eel” O’Brien was a safecracker and burglar who found himself one night in a chemical plant pursued by a night watchman. Eel was shot and doused in chemicals, but escaped only to find that his gang had abandoned him. Eel stumbled through the city before passing out outside of a monastery.
When he awoke, he found himself in the monastery, and a monk, sensing great good in Eel O’Brien, turned the police searching for him away. During his recovery he discovered that the chemicals that had entered his body through the gunshot wound had given him the ability to stretch and transform his body into any shape. donning a red and yellow costume, he resolved to fight crime as Plastic Man.
During the Golden Age, Plastic Man fought crime as an agent of the FBI and as a member of the wartime All-Star Squadron. He was often aided by a sidekick named Woozy Winks, who at one point was enchanted by a witch so that he could never be harmed. His popularity carried into the modern age, where is Golden Age origin was revamped, but his adventures retained a humorous and satirical nature.
Plastic Man was recruited into the JLA by Batman, where he served until a mishap in time travel resulted in his mind being fractured, forcing him to leave the group. He supposedly had a son he knew nothing about. This son inherited some of his abilities and briefly took the heroic identity of Offspring. Later, the character was poisoned by the villain Prometheus so that holding a semi-solid shape became all he could concentrate on, forcing him into retirement.
Plastic Man remains one of DC’s most iconic characters despite originally being a Quality Comics character. Created by Jack Cole, his design remains essentially unchanged. When DC purchased the trademarks, his was included, although he did not see publication in DC Comics until 1966. His public prominence came in 1979 with a Saturday Morning animated series that introduced a romantic interest named Penny. In the second season, the two married and had a child named Plastic Baby.
Since then he has had a few notable runs, such as Joe Staton on Adventure Comics, and Kyle Baker’s short series, which won five Eisner Awards and a Harvey Award for Best New Series. He’s had a few action figures produced, notably in the lines for DC Direct, Justice League Unlimited, and the classic Super Powers line.
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