A Tribute to the of

So I noticed that Comixology is offering a sale on certain Plastic Man digital comics in honor of his 75th year. Ironically I’d recently been reading up a little on Jack Cole in Alter Ego #25. Despite the fact that I did a feature about Plas in BACK ISSUE #77, I’m still learning things about the character and his creator. One of the real tragedies, aside from the obvious suicide of Jack Cole, is that he was never interviewed. I’d have loved a crack at that gig.

I also learned that Cole created both the Comet and Hangman for MLJ, which would later morph into Archie comics and that those characters, along with the Shield and others would go on to form the Mighty Crusaders. Jack was only 43 years old when he left this world in 1958, but his creations live on and the most famous of those is Patrick “Eel” O’Brian, aka Plastic Man.

Thanks once again to my trusty copy of The Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told I have access to a genuine Jack Cole illustrated Plastic Man adventure from his own self-titled book, issue #21 with a publication date of January 1950. Cover art is by Jack Cole while Bill Woolfolk, edited by Harry Stein, scripted “Where is Amorpho?

As things begin, a rocket ship crashes to earth and a shapeless blob emerges. The handy caption explains that this is Amorpho, which is obviously a play on the word “amorphous.” It doesn’t take long until this other worldly creature is observing the world around and exhibiting its ability to mimic anything it sees, beginning with a squirrel, then working its way up the food chain, from a dog to taking on the form of a passerby, who just happens to be Woozy Winks, dim-witted sidekick of Plastic Man.

No sooner does Amorpho obtain this rotund form when he goes in search of his greatest desire: salt. He sniffs out a stockpile in a warehouse and begins to consume it at a furious rate, while he subdues a nearby worker. Word gets back to the FBI the next day (due to the fact that the 100 pounds of stolen salt was to be shipped as interstate commerce…okay…) and Plastic Man is summoned to help deal with the heinous crime.

Plas immediately heads for the warehouse with Woozy in literal tow when the warehouseman identifies Winks as the culprit. With no other choice as an agent of the FBI, the pliable pretzel puts his pal into the hoosegow. Directly afterward, however, our hero begins his own detective work to find the genuine malefactor. Plas makes straight for an underground hideout and promptly begins shaking down potential informers, despite their attempts to stop him with bullets which will not penetrate his stretchable hide. Finding that one of the crooks is holding stolen gems, our hero trusses him up as only Plastic Man can and heads out.

Elsewhere Amorpho has located another bonanza of sacked salt at a loading dock, but is perplexed as to how he can indulge with so many workers present. The solution is soon obvious as he transforms into a salt sack. Soon, however, the workers are baffled that a 50 pound sack has consumed a couple of hundred pounds of the mineral. The sack then happily strolls away to the bug-eyed wonderment of those present.

Plastic Man is at the local police precinct with his perpetrator when the phone rings and the desk sergeant mutters that its some practical joker reporting a walking sack of salt. Our hero wastes no time in investigating and follows a trail of salt from the loading dock until he finds himself in a basement. When he tries to pick up the empty sack for evidence, however, it scoots away and transforms into a shovel while Plas is distracted.

After our hero departs, Amorpho realizes what he must do: Transform himself into a duplicate Plastic Man in order to take advantage of his abilities. Soon the imposter is helping himself to a crate of imported salt from an upper story warehouse window when a local police officer spots him. Flicking the officer away with an enlarged hand, the bogus Plastic Man leaves with his salt while the policeman blows furiously on his whistle, and this ends up summoning the real Plastic Man.

Once Plas establishes the direction of his doppelganger, he quickly locates Amorpho and the battle of equals is on. Flexible fisticuffs fly as the two red-clad figures snake around a steel building framework. Plas has figured out what’s been happening and why there have been so many mysterious happenings. “If you can stretch like I can, then you can probably disguise yourself in the same way! That means you were Woozy Winks—and also that animated salt sack! You can change into anything you see!

Plastic Man ties the imposter into a massive bow on a girder when Amorpho cries uncle. He promises to go back in his rocket ship into space and to make no more trouble on Earth. Plas agrees and Woozy is vindicated and the 11-page story comes to a close. [The book's cover story can be read here.]

In a way, reviewing a classic Plastic Man tale is a fool’s errand. Jack Cole’s stories need to be seen to be truly appreciated. The exaggerated characters, the implausible plots and the madcap, slapstick adventures defy description. With sight gags galore, the only way to experience a Plastic Man story is with your visual sense, so do yourself a favor and take in a couple of his stories for the full effect. You won’t be disappointed.

Plastic Man, of course, became the property of DC Comics in 1956, which, ironically, is when the Silver Age began. While he’s not been a headiner for quite some time, and then only briefly, his stretchy shadow looms large in comics’ history. Thanks, Jack Cole and happy 75th Mr. O’Brian!

As per usual, the webmaster and I thank you for spending a little time with us. We find it a privilege and pleasure to offer the best to the mediocre as we continue to explore the mighty Silver Age of DC Comics. We’re always happy to hear from our readers, too, so if you feel so inclined, fire off an e-mail to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you the 1st of June with the latest installment and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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