Deja Vu
Rides Again,

A Comic Book Hero
I was an avid reader of comic books in my childhood, but most of them, to be frank, were a pain in the ass. In the case of Superman and Captain Marvel, the odds were so stacked in favor of the absurdly powerful and invulnerable heroes as to make the comics tiresome. Even Batman, although supposedly an ordinary human, had gigantically unfair advantages: he had the resources of the Wayne millions (or billions, as we say today), the Batmobile, the Bat-plane, the Bat-Cave, all those Bat-gadgets on his Bat-belt, and such skill in martial arts that the fights were even more obviously rigged than professional wrestling. And worst of all, the superheroes were all squeaky-clean, like that insufferable goody-two-shoes Captain America. Who could identify with a native of the planet Krypton, or a hereditary billionaire?

But there was one comic book protagonist who was engaging because he was rather seedy, his special powers were ambiguous and in fact vaguely comical, and he kept getting into farcical, slapstick situations: I refer, of course, to my own childhood comic book hero, Plastic Man.

Plasty, as he was known to the fans, began not as a visitor from a distant planet or a scion of great wealth, but rather as a petty crook named Eel O'Brian. During a robbery gone bad, O'Brian suffered a bullet wound and an encounter with a mysterious acid. He barely escaped to a local monastery, where the monks took pity on the poor scamp. The rest is History or, as we say now, Wikipedia: "During his short convalescence at the monastery, he discovered that the acid had entered his bloodstream and caused a radical physical change. His body now had all of the properties of rubber, allowing him to stretch, bounce, and mold himself into any shape."

    He immediately determined to use his new abilities on the side of law and order, donning a red, black and yellow (later red and yellow) rubber costume and capturing criminals as Plastic Man. He concealed his true identity with a pair of white goggles and by re-molding his face

Rather to my surprise, Plasty reappeared in the 1960s. As the chronicle recounts: "The star of the 1966-1968 Silver Age run of Plastic Man, written by Arnold Drake, was the son of the original Plastic Man, who as a toddler had accidentally drunk a souvenir bottle of the same acid that had given Eel O'Brian his powers."

    Other Silver and Bronze-age versions appear to carry the same identity and origin as the Golden Age original. The silver-age Plastic Man who took up the mantle from his father was later identified as residing on Earth-Twelve, home of the Inferior Five.

Well, I don't know about souvenir bottles of rubberizing acid, but a few weeks ago, I personally started on a different route to the Plastic Man persona. I took my retarded son Aaron to a 3D movie, and we were of course issued those funny disposable glasses with polarizing lenses. I took one look at the glasses --- square, yellow, and plastic --- and recognized them as the very goggles worn by my comic book hero of long ago. When we left the cinema, I kept the goggles on. I explained to Aaron that I just wanted to see everything in the outside world in 3D too, for a change. But what I really planned was to see if by wearing them, I could gain some of Plastic Man's elastic super-powers.

At present, my body has all the properties of blubber, but I am hoping, with the help of the Plastic Man goggles, to rubberize. I am starting small. For example, a moment ago I attempted to touch my toes, something I haven't done in years. I didn't quite make it, but I think I got a little closer than I did the last time I tried (which was, if I recall correctly, in the winter of 1998). So, I am evidently getting just a little more rubbery. Progress toward rubberiness, not perfection, that's our watchword. A little at a time.

In addition, these plastic 3D goggles work nicely as shades, and effectively screen out most of the blinding glare of oncoming headlights at night. So, one of the Plastic Man super-powers, unaccountably omitted from the comic books even in the Silver Age, was that his goggles make night-driving easier for the senior citizen. Perhaps Plastic Man was older than he looked --- but of course, rubbery as he was, he presumably re-molded his face, just as Wikipedia tells us. I've been trying to re-mold my own face too, but the only result so far has been a cramp in the jaw. I guess I have quite a way to go before I am equipped to join the Inferior Five on Earth-Twelve, or whatever Earth we are on now. I sometimes have a little trouble remembering which Earth I am on, but perhaps the Plastic Man goggles will also do something for my memory.

--- Dr. Phage
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