A Tribute to the of

Writer Steve Skeates took the opportunity on the splash page of Plastic Man #13 (June/July 1976) to poke a little fun at himself and the rest of the creative team (Ramona Fradon on pencils with Bob Smith on inks and Gerry Conway editing) for using “…one of the oldest, most hackneyed plots in all superhero comics!” So what did they have “…the audacity to resurrect such a silly concept as this!” about, you may ask? As that Ernie (Chan) Chua cover indicates, it’s Plastic Man vs. Plastic Man in “If I Kill Me, Will I Die?” The splash page also gives us a notion as to what to expect when we spot none other than Robby Reed, complete with dial.

Shifting scenes, we find ourselves at a hog calling contest in a small town near Amarillo, Texas. Amelia Roost is the hands down winner and advances to the nationals while back at N.B.I. headquarters, Agents Foyle, Sundae, Winks and Plastic Man are being directed by the chief to go on a mandatory vacation in the Catskills, undercover, of course, to a hog calling contest at Bellow Holler Lodge. Can you see where this is leading?

Woozy Winks, posing as a trombone player with the band, the Mail-Order Canadians, and his instrument is a distinctive red color and doesn’t seem to produce much of a tone… Elsewhere at the lodge we notice a particular bespectacled bus boy otherwise known as Robby Reed. Robby, however, has a faraway look in his eyes which is quickly explained as he had been smitten with brain-paralyzing love, causing him to completely forget about his dial and becoming any of the myriad of heroes it facilitates.

Later, Miss Roost is practicing her hog calling and the piercing cry brings Robby out of his stupor. He retrieves his fabled dial, a little rusty from the elements and immediately dials H-E-R-O, which promptly transforms him into the Mighty Moppet, but with a mean streak. He begins to lay into the patrons at the lodge, causing the red trombone to slip away and get back to normal in order to take on the tyke. The pliable hero and the diminutive character have a brief interaction, but when Plas takes chase, he only finds a somewhat befuddled busboy.

A little later, Robby muses that the rusting has altered the dial, making him change into supervillains, intent on mischief, which suits him just fine. As he continues to ponder the latest developments he runs into, quite literally, Amelia Roost. Abruptly smitten with the hog calling champion, Robby proposes running away together, but must first raise some capital so they can open that roadside diner Amelia’s always dreamt of.

Back at his room, Robby engages the dial again only to become King Kandy. Promptly nixing the persona, he re-dials and the Mole makes a return appearance. Using the boring skills with this identity, Robby is ransacking the safe when Plastic Man and Woozy arrive to stop him.

Thinking a more formidable villain is in order, the dial is once again brought into play and the Human Starfish engages Plas and prevails long enough to do another change courtesy of the dial and of course, in the spirit of the theme of repeat appearances, Robby is now Plastic Man, just like when he first became the hero, which of course was Plastic Man’s first Silver Age appearance in House of Mystery #160 [Sage #67]. Now it’s a spirited battle between identical stretchy guys.

Elsewhere in the lodge, the hog calling contest is going forward and after Lazarus Swilhorn fails to wow the judges, it’s Amelia Roost, who blows the roof off the place. Once again, her sonorous tones affect Robby, who has ended up in literal knots after trying to take on the master shape shifter. Robby now cannot recall recent events and Plastic Man suggests that he’s now harmless, but just as a little added insurance, he’s keeping custody of Robby’s dial.

As a final wrap up, the N.B.I. agents are summoned back to headquarters a week early to get ready for their next assignment.

You don’t pick up a Plastic Man story expecting sophisticated storylines, but this one seemed a little disjointed to me. I think there was some potential here that just wasn’t completely realized. Bringing Robby Reed and his dial in as a guest “villain” wasn’t a bad idea, but somehow the execution left me a little cold, despite the pleasant walk down memory lane from the series in the House of Mystery when Robby was at his best. I’ll give this one a 4 on the 10-point scale.

Keep those e-mails rolling in, readers, and if you have a particular story you’d like showcased, just let me know at professor_the@hotmail.com. The webmaster and I are always interested in your thoughts.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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