BHOC: PLASTIC MAN #15

I can remember buying this issue of Plastic Man at my regular 7-11, but I have no idea what possessed me to select this comic that week. Certainly, it’s a more typical and genuine jeopardy-laden cover image than one would usually expect to see on a PLASTIC MAN comic. It could simply be that I was expanding my horizons and trying something new. And while it’s a very fun comic book that holds a lot of appeal for me in the present, at the time I was underwhelmed by its silliness and overt cartoonyness. Like almost all nine-year-olds, I took my super heroes seriously and I expected the same from those who were writing and drawing the stories.

A pretty good indicator of what was to come is called out directly on the splash page, which touts the return of Carrot Man, the Vegetable King of Crime. I obviously hadn’t read his previous appearance, but I could tell right away that this pre-era Flaming Carrot wasn’t really to be taken seriously. Strangely, I didn’t have the same reaction to Plastic Man posing as a fire hydrant. Go figure.

Writer Steve Skeates and artist Ramona Fradon are clearly having a lot of fun with the material in this series, which is why it’s fondly recalled today. It stands among the best revivals of Plastic Man since the demise of the character’s originator, Jack Cole. The story opens with a roomful of Italian gangster stereotypes right out of the Godfather lamenting the fact that Plastic Man is working with the police and kiboshing their criminal activities. Things are so bad that Boss Annova (yes, really!) puts in a call to the greatest hit-man in mob history: Rice O’Rooney (again, yes, really!) Annova wants Plastic Man whacked, and O’Rooney has just the weapon for the job…

The weapon is the Snuffer, a cyborg killing machine that Rice O’Rooney keeps in suspended animation like the later-era Winter Soldier for those times when a murder really has to be special. And now, the Snuffer has been unleashed on Plastic Man. Unaware of what’s coming at him, the pliable policeman visits NBI headquarters and tries to get the Chief to take him off loan to the cops. But the NBI’s profile is pretty bad at this point, so the Chief needs the good P.R. that Plastic Man cleaning up crime provides. Elsewhere, Carrot Man smuggles himself out of prison amidst the refuse. Without his elongating agent, the Chief is forced to put Woozy Winks on the job of recapturing Carrot Man.

Out catching purse-snatchers and other lowlifes, Plastic Man is stalked by the Snuffer, who sprays our hero with a coating of lacquer, preventing him from stretching or changing shape. Powerless, Plas has no recourse but to flee the cyborg assassin. News reports clue Carrot Man in to the chase, and he’ll be damned if any other villain is going to wipe out his enemy Plastic Man, so he joins the parade–followed closely by the pursuing Woozy.

Eventually, Plas tires and is cornered by the Snuffer, who comes prepared with plastic-piercing pellets in order to rub out the ductile do-gooder. But before he can fire, on the rooftop above, Woozy tackles the observing Carrot Man, and the pair falls atop the Snuffer, he and Carrot Man head-butting each other into insensibility.

Not only does the impact knock out the Snuffer, but it also reverses the effects of a previous impact on Carrot man, one that turned him into a criminal in the first place. What’s more, the observing reporters have mistaken him for a super hero, so he gets the credit for saving Plastic Man, all memory of his former misdeeds forgotten. The Snuffer flips on Rice O’Rooney, resulting in his capture, and so Boss Annova is now sweating. But his day is apparently about to get even worse as a mysterious Kolonel Kool arrives to see him–one wearing goggles similar to Plastic Man’s, and a large, false beard. (This isn’t actually Plas, but fellow agent Foyle in disguise, and attempting to bring down the big boss as a way to restore his standing in the NBI. But I didn’t know that at the time.) The whole story is pretty absurd, but it’s infused with enough fun to make it all lively. Not really my cup of tea when I was nine years old, however.

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