Editors Note: All editorials are solely the opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of DC Comics News or its staff.
Ever since the New 52 started, it’s almost as if there’s been a systematic effort to take any trace of humor out of the DCU. Wally West, the “fun” Flash, was removed from continuity, only to be seen in Dan Didio’s nightmares. The Justice League International, once known for being the sitcom-inspired incarnation of the League, was made into just another team book with perennial-goofball Booster Gold turned into Generic Hero #1. The Justice League of America is a government-appointed team of anti-heroes. The Joker cut off his own face and wore it as a mask. Stephanie Brown, the most sarcastic and entertaining Batgirl, got sidelined into nonexistence. Green Arrow lost his beard.
And then there’s the big question I’ve been asking for a while now: where the hell is Plastic Man?
He got name-dropped in Justice League International #1 way back in 2011 and he’s been MIA ever since. He’s been ignored by the Justice League, the JLI, the JLA, the JLD, and even seems to be sitting Forever Evil out. Was Plastic Man the one character deemed “too zany” to join the New 52? More importantly, is there any place for him in this grim and gritty new DCU?
Before the New 52 relaunch, we were treated to Flashpoint. I’ve been rather vocal about my distaste for an alternate universe storyline getting used as a final sendoff for the old DCU, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t elements of the Flashpoint universe I didn’t appreciate. For example, there were two characters that I actually enjoyed in Flashpoint’s many tie-ins: the Martian Manhunter and Plastic Man.
In Flashpoint, the Martian Manhunter became kind of a bad ass anti-hero, determined to get his revenge on The Outsider. He had kind of an Indiana Jones meets Han Solo thing going on, plus he’d embraced his original alien form a bit more than his Iron Age counterpart. He was only around for an issue (give or take a couple pages), but he certainly left an impression. What’s interesting is that the New 52 Martian Manhunter is also a bit of a bad ass (he did singlehandedly take on the entire Justice League) who has embraced his original alien form. While I think J’onn could stand for a less brooding outlook (and maybe a renewed love for Chocos?), I’m confident that a similar approach to Plastic Man could satisfy the humorless editorial staff at DC as well as myself.
Flashpoint gave us a very different take on Plas. Instead of the goofy semi-hero, we got a suitably terrifying super villain. How terrifying? He turned himself into a liquid, let a guy swallow him, and violently burst out of that guy (killing the man, if I recall correctly) once he’d made it into the prison he was trying to break his fellow villains out of. To be honest, it was kind of awesome.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Dude, isn’t your whole point that you want funny and lighthearted characters like Plastic Man to come back? Why do you want dark, edgy Plas?”
Well, thanks for paying attention. But, while I do absolutely want fun Plas back, I’m also a sucker for good storytelling. Way back when, there was a guy named Patrick “Eel” O’Brian. He was a petty crook and, as his nickname suggested, he was always slipping through the cracks. Until the day he didn’t. One night, O’Brian got shot and fell into a mysterious vat of chemicals. As you may or may not have realized, giant vats of mysterious mutagenic chemicals litter the DCU and the guy in charge of sealing them during the night shift fled to Aruba during the Great Depression. So Eel fell into the vat and the chemicals entered his wounds… turning him into Plastic Man.
What if all of that still happened? Only, instead of Eel turning to a life of minor heroism, he continued on the path of villainy? He could be that dark, edgy, nefarious guy from Flashpoint, but with a better sense of humor. And, over time, he could choose to become a hero. Just like with the old DCU, Batman could be the guy to set him straight and push him to be a better man.
Plastic Man could be the one title on the shelves to manage the irreverence I want to see back in the DCU along with the dark and gritty redemption story that DC editorial clearly wants to tell. I’d certainly read it. Would you?