Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Discuss: Stretchy Guys

Doug: Is this a viable super power? Would you like to have it? And along the way, give some favorite moments for these characters (and others not pictured), or pan them if you must.


Graham said...

Being vertically challenged as I am, sometimes I would have loved to have had the stretchy power, if just to grab things out of reach. I've always been fine with it as a power though.

As far as the characters go, some of the first super-hero comics I read where Detective Comics that my mom bought me when she went to the store. Elongated Man was the back-up feature and as a five - six year old, I thought he was pretty neat and was actually excited when he joined the JLA. Reed Richards always sort of got on my nerves at the beginning, but I came to like him.

When I was eight years old, I can remember buying the DC Special that featured Plastic Man and I absolutely loved it.....I still have it somewhere in storage. While I was never really a fan of the later version of Plas, the Jack Cole version was wonderful to me.

Anonymous said...

Reed's stretchiness would be a really handy power to have (and Sue's invisibility) but it would be really freaky to see and a bit gross.

William said...

I've always been a huge fan of the stretchy guys-- especially Plasticman. In fact Plas has always been on my Top 10 list of favorite superheroes, and he is my second favorite DC character after Batman.

I for one always wanted stretchy powers when I was kid. I thought it would be quite a formidable power. Heck you'd practically be indestructible. (A concept that Frank Miller explored in "The Dark Knight Strikes Again").

I remember once when I was in school, I was sitting in class taking a test, and I needed to sharpen my pencil. We weren't allowed to get up, and I remember thinking "Too bad I'm not Plasticman, I could just stretch my arms over to the pencil sharpener without leaving my seat."

I think the first PM story I ever read was his origin in the old "Origins of DC Comics" TPB. (The one with the black cover and Superman and other heroes coming right at you). I loved that book when I was a kid. I actually still own it, but the cover is badly torn to the point where it's almost not attached anymore. Anyway, PM's origin was always my favorite one in the whole book. I just love the art and the writing and the whole concept. He's remained a favorite ever since.

I still remember the 30-second cameo he had at the end of an episode of the original Super Friends cartoon. I wished he'd become a regular, but he never showed up again. However, much to my delight, he did get his very show a few years later. And in an example of how adult TV producers think kids are stupid, they changed everything from the comics except Plas himself. For example, his sidekick went from being a fat white guy named Woozy Winks, to a fat Hawaiian guy name (uhg) Hula-Hula (gee at least they didn't promote stereotypes). Even as a very young child I remember thinking "Hey! What happened to Woozy?" Did they think we wouldn't notice the difference. I always wondered why they did that. Also, the show was pretty stupid (especially when Baby Plas showed up in a later season). But despite all that, I was still happy to get a weekly dose of PM.

Kid said...

Don't forget The Rubber Man, who appeared in Smash! in Britain back in the mid-'60s. How'd he get his powers? Cursed by an Indian fakir, no less.

Anonymous said...

I could never stand the Elongated Man. Utterly annoying, the Steve Doocy of superheroes.
Grant Morrison, on his classic JLA run, wisely disregarded the character and went with Plastic Man, who was the real deal.

William said...

Some quick thoughts on other stretchy guys besides Plasticman.

I always thought it was amusing that Reed Richards, the most serious member of the FF, had the most comical power. I always imagined he felt undignified every time he had to contort his pliable body into some strange shape. (However, his wife probably didn't mind).

And after Matter-Eater-Lad, the Elongated Man has to have the strangest superhero name in comics. It sounds like the title of a porno or something.

david_b said...

As a kid, it was the power I with I had. Loved Reed Richards in the FF, and Ralph's detective stories done by Infantino were pretty standard for Silver Age fare, but by no means is that meant as a knock; quite the contrary, they were always very readible and succinct as backup stories.

I always wondered about the body areas that were stretched..: The arms and legs I could see, perhaps the neck and lower (gut) torso. Any place else with vital organs and I always felt it was a bit too weird.

Humanbelly said...

If anyone here has ever read Steranko's HISTORY OF COMICS (1970), I imagine they can concur that it's pretty obvious that HIS favorite character (let alone stretchy-character) was Plas. Head & shoulders above the late-Golden Age (early Silver?) competition. He never comes right out and says so-- but his affection is both endearing and infectious.

And yep, I'll go w/ Plas as well-- although I don't think anyone can quite, quite, quite ever capture the exact magic that Jack Cole had with the character. IIRC, Mad Magazine in its early comic-book form did a parody of Plastic Man that was written and drawn by. . . Jack Cole himself (I think. . . I'm pretty sure), and it was flippin' HILARIOUS, with Cole able to lovingly poke utter fun at the absurdities & conventions of the book and the character w/out it ever being mean-spirited.

Ralph? He's always seemed a little too forced to me-- with writers trying a little too hard to make him amusing and quirky and "likable". For some reason, I've always associated him w/ Hank Pym in the sense that he seems like a superhero who might be on the edge of not-making-it.

And Reed? Pfah-- the power's always been wasted on him, always. He uses it intelligently and capably in battle situations, but geeze, 98% of his worth in the MU involves his vast scientific and intellectual prowess. For the last 20 years or so most stories involving him could have happened sans stretching powers completely. This is INCREDIBLY ironic for those of us who remember the big run-up to the 200th issue of FF when Reed had lost his stretching powers (and tried to hide it for awhile), and was distraught, etc, about whether or not he still had anything to offer if he couldn't be Stretcho. Hmm-- even moreso when you consider that his primary same-type nemeses (Doom, the Wizard, the Mad Thinker, and so on) have no innate physical powers whatsoever. Doesn't seem to hold them back too much. . .

HB (oops, my crewmate just walked in-- better get productive-!)

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Olsen made on-again, off-again appearances as Elastic Lad in the early Silver Age. And the Doom Patrol had Elasti-Girl, and their mainstay arch enemies, the Brotherhood of Evil, had a stretching villainess named Madame Rouge.

The power itself is not that impressive, and I think the original Plastic Man is highly regarded only because of Jack Cole's writing and artwork. Just as the Spirit (who had no super-powers and no colorful costume) is a classic because of Will Eisner. Both were weak concepts that became classics because they were brilliantly executed.

I liked the Elongated Man strip in Detective Comics, and I still think that was the best place for the character: a short back-up strip. Ralph Dibny was a B-list hero, and too lightweight for a full-length strip or as a member of the Justice League.

DC published a self-titled Plastic Man comic in 1966-67, and tried again in 1975-77. Each run lasted ten issues. In the mid-1960's, with the fads for campy comedy and pop art sweeping the country, the time probably seemed right for superhero comedy comics like PM and the Inferior Five. But the kids who read comic books wanted their action heroes played straight. And adults would watch tongue-in-cheek action-adventure in other media (Batman and Wild Wild West on TV, James Bond and Matt Helm in movies), but they did not read comics. And, by 1967, the camp fad was passing anyway.

Oddly, DC's 1970's run of PM was even campier than the 1960's version.

Dr. Oyola said...

Of course, the above should read "likeD the cartoon" and "Morrison's JLA is the only other place I ever saw him IN COMICS."

Murray said...

I don't remember the issue, but once upon a time, the FF were having a moment of speculation as to whether their subconscious might have influenced the manifestation of their powers. Johnny thought it likely, since he was a huge fan of the Golden Age Human Torch. Reed gave a rueful smile and said the theory didn't say much for his childhood reading habits.

Apparently Reed thought stretchy guys (probably Plastic Man) were strictly juvenile.

I think my first stretcher was Elastic Lad in the Legion, but only indirectly. That this character existed came to my attention via the Composite Superman doing a constrictor attack on Superman.

Elasti-Girl of the Incredibles was, to my mind, the definitive demonstration of just what stretchy powers could accomplish

Edo Bosnar said...

Yep, I'm with Murray, Elastigirl of the Incredibles is arguably the best of the stretchy super-heroes.

Otherwise, I like Mr. Fantastic and Plastic Man. Personally, I like the Plas stories from that brief run in Adventure Comics at around 1979/80 that were mainly written by Pasko and drawn by Staton.
Also, in this context I think it's worth mentioning E-man. He wasn't a stretchy hero per se, but he was definitely modeled after and something of an homage to the original Plastic Man.

And I also liked the Plastic Man cartoon, but like Osvaldo, before that stupid Plastic Baby stuff. Basically, when they had him marry that woman who pined for him all the time (what was her name? Penny?) it ruined what I thought was the funniest aspect of that cartoon: the fact he thought his sexy boss was secretly in love with him.

Ewan said...

Elongated Man, the Ductile Detective!! Who says comics weren't good for our vocabulary back in the day? I remember him showing up with the JLA in a reprint digest when I was a kid, I always liked him.

Loved the Batman Brave and Bold cartoon episode when he and Plastic Man are arguing over who is helping Batman more (similar funny appearance in JLU too).

Teresa said...

The Thin Man allegedly predates Plastic Man by a couple months. I never heard of him until Marvel made the B-squad list Liberty Legion.
I liked Ralph and Reed because they were fully developed people that had the power to stretch.

The power seemed to hit an *ick* factor when seeing Reed's stretching in the movies.

Teresa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Preston said...

Rope Man, of the late-'60s TV show The Mighty Heroes, was another infinitely pliable guy. He tended to get tangled up in himself.

dbutler16 said...

I think that the stretchy power is potentially useful, but my first exposure to a stretchy guy was Mr Fantastic in the 70's and I don't think the creators at that time did much with his stretchy powers - Lee & Kirby were much better at that. So, it's a good power, if the creators use it wisely.

When I first started collecting comics, I use to think Mr Fantastic was boring, but now I think he's a good character. I liked Elongated Man, probably just because he was on the JLA during the Satellite Era. Aside from that, I do like the relationship between him and Sue Dibny. My first exposure to Plastic Man (as far as I can remember) was the Saturday morning cartoon, which I enjoyed, so I wound up liking the character.

Anonymous said...

Being the Marvel Zombie that I am, Reed as Mister Fantastic was THE template for this power. As a kid reading the FF, it was just what he did, he stretched. As I got older, HS college, I couldn't, from a practical standpoint, see how he worked. Johnny would become living flame, so he could fly and shoot flames and things. He could absorb heat and radiate heat. Sue could bend light around an object, thereby making it or her invisible. The force fields I couldn't quite understand, but there came that point where she could make solid disks under her feet and "skate" across air. Ben was strong. And that was it for him.

But with Reed, if he was stretching across a room or down a hall, what the heck happened to his lower body? How did he not fall over or down or something? If his upper body was going on way, wouldn't his lower body go the other? IIRC, isn't that how physics works?

And again, as I got older, the power to make any part of you stretch took on an entirely different appeal. Nuff Said!

I did love Elastigirl. She was AWESOME!!! There seemed to be some limits to her stretching ability, but man, such a cool character. And her pilot scene when she's flying to the island, no use of her "powers" whatsoever until the plane gets hit.

Uh-oh, aside time. If Reed could stretch, could he also compress? How tightly could he compact his body?

The Prowler (once went pentatonic in c# minor).

Murray said...

Prowler - there was an early FF (#13) where a cranky Thing stuffed Reed into a glass flask. The flask extended out of sight below the panel, but what was visible couldn't have been more than two litres.

As to what his lower half is doing while his upper part is stretching, I love the scene in Amazing Spider-Man #669. Reed stretches over and interrupts J.J.J. Jonah is startled and blusters "Dag blast it Richards! Why can't you walk over here like a regular person?"

Jonah's aide is looking off panel with an uncertain expression. She mutters "I...think he's doing that as well, sir."

Fred W. Hill said...

Mr. Fantastic is the stretchy hero most represented in my collection -- seems almost odd to refer to him by that name as even from the beginning it was very rarely used. To his friends, enemies and the general public he was Reed Richards, or Stretcho to his best buddy. And yeah, even without his cosmic-ray induced powers he'd still be a formidable superhero based on his capacity to stretch his mind inventively.
I eventually became familiar with Plastic Man -- I have the book about him and Jack Cole by Art Spiegelman. As with the Binder/Beck Captain Marvel, Plas worked best, IMO, in his separate reality, but given that DC absorbed both their worlds, well, the characters mostly look the same but aren't really the same heroes created about 75 years ago. And despite having similar powers, Plas and Reed are worlds apart in personality and the types of stories they work best in.

William said...

Edo, I love those issues of Adventure Comics with the Pasko & Staton Plasticman stories in them. I still have the entire run in my collection. I still think it's the best interpretation of the character since Cole.

And Prowler, if you think too much on how most super powers could possibly work, your head will explode.

Anonymous said...

I recall reading an issue of the Lee/Kirby FF many years ago where Reed compacts his while body into a tiny ball and has someone fire him into a giant robot to neutralize it.

I can't recall the exact issue number or any other story details but what struck me about this issue was the fact that Reed finally demonstrated how versatile and effective his stretching (or should it be molecular control) ability could be in a crisis situation. Usually he's depicted just stretching an arm or his torso or else wrapping his limbs around someone to restrain them, and that's about all we normally see.

Personally, I believe Reed's stretching powers have been one of the most underused in the Marvel universe.

- Mike 'really need to stretch myself' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Goldenrulecomics said...

Jack Cole's Plastic Man was probably the best use of a stretchy character, while Mr. Fantastic's power almost seems beside the point. The old Elongated Man's early detective stories were all right, but always seemed a second-tier character to me.

Unknown said...

viable? yes. interesting? only the way cole used it with plas. plas doesn't just stretch, he can transform his body into any shape he can imagine. that made for hilariously surreal adventures.

reed is one of my fave heroes but his powers are like the last reason why. i like that he has a super flexible mind with a body to match but his smarts and his spock like inability to comprehend what others around him are feeling are what make him one of my fave characters of all time.

elongated man is ok. the least interesting of the three to me. but i do feel he's abetter fit for the dcu than plas and i always enjoyed him in the league. just not on his own so much.

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