May 14, 1941 saw the release of a new anthology called Police Comics, from a publisher known as Quality Comics. It starred a guy in a sheer pink blouse named Firebrand, but it was one of the backup features that would become Quality's biggest hit. You already read the headline, so you know I'm talking about Plastic Man. The book also introduced Phantom Lady, who would later be known for the way her costume was drawn, and the Human Bomb, who stuck around for a long time by hanging out with cooler heroes.
But Plastic Man was in a league of his own. From that first story, which tells his origin, the work of writer/artist Jack Cole elevated Plastic Man above almost everything that was happening in comics at the time. Even at Quality, which had uncommonly good art for the era, Cole's work stood out like it was from the future.
This week at Comixology, they're celebrating the 75th anniversary of Plastic Man's debut in Police Comics by offering up a sale on comics from throughout his history. It's an interesting bunch of comics, and unlike a lot of characters who get the spotlight in a sale like this, Plastic Man has had few enough appearances that, while it's certainly not complete, it's definitely pretty comprehensive, covering everything from his Golden Age appearances all the way up to last year's Convergence.
But with so much to choose from, you may find yourself in need of a guide, so as always, I'm here to tell you exactly what to buy --- and you can start by picking up every issue of Kyle Baker's Plastic Man ongoing series from 2003.
Q: Aside from laying groundwork, most Golden Age stuff I've read is not very good. Are there any must-reads from the era? -- @TheKize
A: Listen, if you're having trouble getting into Golden Age books, I do not blame you. I've read my fair share of them over the years, and while I definitely think it's worth tracking down some of those early superhero comics if you're looking to broaden your horizons a little bit, I'll be the first to tell you that they can be hard to get into for a variety of reasons --- and as you said, chief among them is the fact that a lot of those old comics are just not very good.
Of course, you could say that about pretty much any era of comics and you wouldn't be far off from the truth. More than that, though, I think there's a big barrier that keeps the average reader from getting into those comics, and it has a lot to do with when, how, and why those comics were being made.
For a modern reader, the comics of the Golden Age — those superhero comics that came out between the late '30s and early '50s — are not always the most accessible reads. The clunky exposition, crude art, and formulaic plots of many of these comics often fail to impress fans more familiar with comics that appear on the surface to be more sophisticated.
However, the comics of Jack Cole — born on this day in 1914 — do not fit this description. Cole's magnum opus, his nearly decade-long run as writer/artist on his creation, Plastic Man, was easily twenty years ahead of its time and feels just as fresh today as it did in the '40s.
While we at ComicsAlliance tend to focus our world-weary minds on the more imaginative, awe-inspiring and perhaps childish material produced in the comics medium, the art form has of course been the conduit through which far more subversive, humorous and tantalizing statements have been made...
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