Throwback Thursday: Is Plastic Man bound for the cineplex?

August 01, 2019

With Avengers: Endgame now the highest grossing movie of all time, Hollywood’s best and brightest are looking high and low for the next big spandexed thing. For your consideration: Plastic Man.

Police Comics with Plastic Man

Granted he’s not part of the superhero pantheon, but neither was Ant Man, and that didn’t stop the movies from making beaucoup bucks at the box office. Plus, given today’s rampant anti-plastics mood, Plastic Man could be the ultimate misunderstood hero. You think Spider-Man can’t catch a break with the Daily Bugle? Wait until the local left-leaning newspaper in Plastic Man’s hometown unmasks the hidden corporatist motives of this would-be do-gooder. Plot points aside, these are not idle thoughts: A Plastic Man movie is in development.

In December 2018, the Hollywood Reporter broke the story that Warner Bros. had hired screenwriter Amanda Idoko to pen the script for a “comedic action-adventure” film based on the character. The scuttlebutt is that it will mine similar turf to Deadpool, which makes sense since humor was always in the Plastic Man mix.

From crooked beginnings to polymorphous superhero

Plastic Man was created by Jack Cole and first appeared in Police Comics #1, published by Quality Comics, in 1941. Quality Comics folded in 1956, and DC Comics acquired some of its assets, including Plastic Man. He briefly had his own comic book in the 1960s, and would pop up here and there over the decades. He even had his own Saturday morning cartoon show, but Plastic Man never achieved A-list status.

Even if you’ve never read a Plastic Man comic book—and you’re in good company—you can easily guess what his superpower might be. Slightly more skewed is his origin story.

Orphaned as a child, Patrick “Eel” O’Brian fell into a life of crime at an early age. During a bungled burglary, Eel is shot and doused with a mysterious chemical. His partners flee the scene of the crime while Eel stumbles out of the city and somehow finds himself under the care of a monk, who sees the potential for great good in the criminal. During this time, Eel notices that his body has undergone some molecular changes and has the properties of rubber. As described on the Comic Vine website, his powers include changing body density at will, being able to stretch his limbs and body to seemingly infinite lengths and sizes and even regenerating body parts, although that process is a bit more complicated.

Whether or not Plastic Man will ever emerge from development and bounce onto the silver screen is anyone’s guess, but the project has created some buzz in Hollywood. “I think what Ryan Reynolds and Tim Miller did with Deadpool, you could have a funny superhero in DC,” Ben Schwartz of the TV show Parks and Recreation told at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. “Shazam! just did it and I think it’s gonna be great. That’s it, I just love [Plastic Man] a lot. I think I’d get to be goofy if I ever got the chance to do it.”

And in case a producer or someone else working on the project happens to be reading this, I have an idea for a theme song. It goes like this: Plastic Man, Plastic Man; does whatever a plastic can . . . .

I’m not quite done with the lyrics but the song has a ring to it, right? Call me.

Image: Artwork by Gill Fox, published by Quality Comics.

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