Beginners Guide: Plastic Man

For Episode 14 we were joined by a very special guest. A man without whom the show would not be what it is. We were honoured to be joined by the man behind our theme tune, Professor Elemental.
We asked him which character he would like to talk about, and for him, there was only one possible choice: Plastic Man.

He Can Turn Into A Plant Pot!

Plastic Man’s origins are fairly simple and have remained mostly unchanged over the years. In the words of the Professor; ‘He can turn into a plant pot, what more do you need!’.
The constant throughout the years is that Patrick ‘Eel’ O’Brian begins as a criminal, specialising as a safecracker. He and his crew were on a late-night job, breaking into Crawford Chemical Works, when a night guard finds them. Fleeing for their lives, Patrick is not only shot by the guard but gets covered in an unknown acid. Somehow managing to escape, he finds the rest of the crew have abandoned him.

The next part has changed over the years, but not by much. Originally in Police Comics #1 (1941), he stumbles through some marsh and falls unconscious at the base of a mountain. He wakes sometime later to find himself in a mountain retreat being looked after by a monk. Patrick learns the monk had turned away the police claiming not to have seen him. The monk explains he had sensed there was good within Patrick, and he was still redeemable. This kindness gave Patrick a new faith in humanity and he vowed to change his ways.
Just after this conversation, Patrick made a startling discovery; his skin was ‘stretchy like a rubber band’. Realising the acid must have caused the change (as it does) he decides to use his new strength to fight crime.
After finding himself a suit made of rubber, he decided on his first target: the crew that left him behind.

Unique Methods

Patrick returns to the crew, who understandably are surprised he’s alive and are worried that he wants revenge. He convinces them he just wants his cut and agrees to do one more job with them as a getaway driver. Dropping them off at the job, he waits for them to get out of view and makes his change. Not just his costume, he also changes the appearance of his face so the gang won’t recognise him, he is rubber after all. He then sets after them to catch them in the act.

The methods he uses are classic Plastic Man; he stretches his arms out to grab them and when they manage to get free he turns himself into a rug to trip them up. When two escape to the getaway car he changes back and dutifully drives them off. As they drive past the police station he uses his stretchy arms to pluck them from the car and deliver them through the window.

Fun And Games

This is an apt beginning, he always gets the job done, he just has a lot of fun along the way. One day he’ll be pretending to be Wonder Woman’s towel (much to her anger), the next he’ll be catching criminals alongside DC’s finest.
It’s not all fun and games, however; in the DCeased event, for example, Plastic Man turns into a giant undead blob, slaughtering people in its path.
Another distressing story for our stretchy friend was Tower of Babel, in which he comes against his main weakness: Ice. Frozen and smashed into pieces, he is still not dead, but able to see time slowly pass around him, unable to act. Batman is eventually able to bring all the pieces back together, but it takes Plastic Man a long time to mentally recover.

Batman has a great deal of respect for Plastic Man, as do many of the DC big hitters. Although he may not appear as often as many would like, you can be sure that anytime he does, you’re in for a great story. He is a quirky, bizarre character who’s loved by many of comic books greatest writers. Any time someone gets a chance to write for him, they do him justice. With a movie possibly on its way, perhaps now is the time for him to have his well earned time in the spotlight.

‘Read Them All!’

As always, if you want to learn more, do listen to the episode. We cover the good, bad, the tragic and the undead. With somebody like Professor Elemental on his side, you’re definitely going to want to learn more.

Steve‘s reading list:
Plastic Man by Gail Simone and Adriana Melo
Plastic Man by Kyle Baker
Justice League: Tower Of Babel
Justice League: The Obsidian Age
Dark Nights: Metal
The Terrifics – Vols. 1-4

Professor Elemental’s reading list:
Anything with Plastic Man in.

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