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Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: A Hidden Cole Mine

This time around, I’m highlighting Jack Cole Plastic Man reprints from the 60s and 70s.

Jack Cole is a comic book genius. In this day and age, it’s easy to track down examples of his work. Until recently, however, it was a bit more difficult. Aside from purchasing the original books from the 40s and 50s, there weren’t many ways to get your hands on Jack Cole Plastic Man. Plastic Man reprints did, however, pop up from time to time, and here’s a list of where they appeared. If you’re like me, and still get a thrill from hunting down certain books, you may get a kick out of this list. As far as I know, this is a complete list of reprints from the 60s and 70s, but I’d be happy if someone could correct me.

In the early 1960s, Israel Waldman released three issues of his unauthorized Plastic Man series. Plastic Man #11 features a cover by Jack Abel, and 3 stories reprinted from Plastic Man #16. The next issue, Plastic Man #16, has a rather nice John Rosenberger cover and 3 stories from Plastic Man #21. The final IW/Super issue has a cool Andru/Esposito cover and 2 stories from Police Comics #95. The balance of the issues is filled out with a 1976 Spirit section and a Manhunter (the Quality Comics version) story.

I’ve spoken about DC Special #15 (November-December, 1971) before, but I cannot stress that this is a book that should be in everyone’s collection. It includes 5 classic Plastic Man stories, and is a great starting point for anyone looking to get a taste of Jack Cole.

If you thought that was the only place to get some Cole Plastic Man at DC, you are in for a treat. There are four other places to find Golden Age Plastic Man. I’ll begin with Batman #238, a wonderful 100-Pager. This issue features a very early Plastic Man story from Police Comics #14.

A few months later, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #149 featured a story from Police Comics #75.

The very next issue of Jimmy Olsen featured a terrific story from Plastic Man #20.

The final DC Plastic Man reprint was published a couple of years later in Detective Comics #441, with a story from Plastic Man #3. This is a particularly great issue, as you get some real Golden Age rarities along with a Manhunter chapter.

Finally, Alan Light included a couple of Plastic Man installments in his series of unauthorized black and white reprints from the mid 70s with reprints of Plastic Man #1 and Plastic Man #2.

So that’s it, if you’re the type who enjoys a challenge – try tracking down a collection of these books. It’s still pretty affordable but may take some effort.

For more comic book chatter, stop by my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent

11 Comments

There are the DC Archives as well. I have volumes 1 and 2. Unbelievably great stuff.

Yup – agreed, they are great, but I was focusing on those from the 60s and 70s – the pre-Archives era.

I remember DC Special #15 well. When I looked at the cover I was sure I was going to hate the book, because it was obviously some kind of super-hero parody that didn’t take itself too seriously, and back then I was all about comics that took themselves really seriously. (Like most nine year olds, I could be extremely stiff-necked.) For some reason I ended up getting it anyway…and by the time I finished reading it, I was a convert. Not only a convert to Plastic Man and the brilliance of Jack Cole, but to the idea that you shouldn’t take things so damn seriously all the time. Because I was wrong; Plastic Man wasn’t a parody, but a comic with a real hero and a real message behind it. By being so relaxed and flexible, Plas becomes the one sane man in a world that’s completely nuts — and that’s a lesson we all need to learn.

INTERESTING post.

Cole’s Plastic Man is one of my two-or-three favorite superhero comics of all time, but I never really thought about tracking down ’70s reprints.

Cool stuff. There are also a couple of Plastic Man stories in the Smithsonian Book of Comic Book Comics from about 1980?, but I think they’re really just the first appearance of Plas and the first appearance of Woozy.

Under the IW listing, do you mean a 1946 Spirit section? It says 1976, and that can’t be right.

And this came to mind — when looking through, I believe the Comics Values Annual book, I came across listings in the underground section for x-rated versions of Plastic Man, and some other big time characters. I believe they were done by Rand Holmes. I don’t know if that’s in your purview, but maybe someone else knows something about them? (For … historical purposes, you understand. Yeah.)

I recently picked up a couple of old Action issues and Little Lulu for 2 bucks a pop. They’re not collector copies but they’re perfectly readable (the Actions, at least, haven’t read the Lulu yet). One of the Actions is, I think, the first appearance of Bizarro World, so that’s way cool.

Anyone know where I can find a reliable checklist for Plas on the web??? Even his Wiki entry is very limited, and there are very few fan pages…

Some other sources for Cole reprints: The Plasticman anthology edited by Speigelman (with plastic cover!) and the recent Four Color Fear, the Fatagraphics precode horror anthology. For my money, I prefer Cole’s crime comics, especially “Murder Morphine and Me!”

Paying attention to comics history lately, I’ve found it interesting to see how many unauthorized reprints of comics came out post-Golden Age. Could you imagine big companies like Marvel and DC ever putting with such a thing now?

I still have a few of the Light books; the Captain Marvel #1 reprint and maybe the Plastic Man #1. Can only guess that the venture wasn’t big enough for DC or Marvel to worry about them losing sales. At first I suspected that the fact that Light was able to sell these reprint books was one of the reasons DC started its “Famous First Edition” tabloid reprints. Though they were already into their “Shazam!” revival, which was aimed at the older folks that might buy the Light books.

I remember visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Texas in 1972, and talking comics with my brother-in-law, who was about 20 years older than me. He volunteered to take me to the store to pick up a few comic books, and along the way, he talked about his childhood favorite, Plastic Man. “Expert” that I was, I had to break it to him that Plastic Man was no longer around, that he hadn’t been published for decades. Then we get to the store, and there on the spinner racks, fully half a year (or, more likely, 9 months) after its release, was sitting that DC Special, starring Plastic Man. I was embarrassed by my surprisingly debunked expert proclamation, but I was happy to pick up that issue, having had enjoyed the heck out of the one Plastic Man reprint from that Batman Super-Spec!

I loved the DC reprints of Plas! Those 100-Page Super-Spectaculars bring back sooooo many fond memories! Damn, I need to get caught up on the Archives…

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