Jun 30, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 126: Adventure Comics #467, January 1980

As I selected this morning's comic, I had this awful feeling of how vast this collection is, and how long it's going to take me to read it all. I couldn't fathom just how long it'll take me to read the letter A alone, let alone the other 25 letters of the alphabet. Though some are less-prolific than others. I felt sure I must almost be done the letter A, but then I saw that enormous run of Alpha Flight, the more than half a box from Archie Comics. I know the project was a choice, but I feel the weight of it right now. The letter A takes up three full boxes. Time to start concentrating.

Today's comic is interesting, as it's ostensibly a new beginning for the venerable Adventure Comics, which seems over the course of its existence to have gone through a number of permutations. This issue is the first to be a 40-cent comic, where its predecessors, at least for a little while, were dollar comics that featured 4 stories. Only two in this one. And shortly after this issue, the series shrinks down to digest size. That aside, the comic also heralds the return of Plastic Man to comics (though I'm not sure when his last appearance prior to this one was) and the debut of the Levitz/Ditko "Starman." I'm only really a fan of Starman through James Robinson's spectacular series from the nineties, though I did collect Roger Stern's go at the character in the eighties. There's an interesting inflection moment in reading this story and knowing how everything ends up, at least in the Robinson series, for this particular iteration of Starman.

I was less-intrigued by the Plastic Man story, as I'm not certain that he's a character that can really carry his own title without becoming something of a one-trick pony. I enjoyed him immensely when he was a member of the JLA, but his humour and parody were tempered there, and he was given a bit more depth that one might assume from such a clownish character. I know Kyle Baker's run on Plas was quite excellent, but the proof, really, is in the pudding in that the series didn't last. Plastic Man, for all his morphing ability, can at times be pretty static narratively. But does a character have to have all these differing facets in order to be a successful story? I think it all depends on the context within which the character appears. If Plas were completely separate from the DCU, I could imagine reading his stories as simply humourous superhero bits, one-offs that had no greater impact than the laughs they produce. But as he is, intrinsically, a part of the DCU, we have to bear in mind that he should be as well-realized as the other characters in the shared universe in order that it make sense for him to exist in that universe. So playing him solely for laughs is a bad fit for a universe that relies as much on tragedy as comedy. Plastic Man's three-dimensionality shouldn't be solely relegated to his physical forms. There should be, as with any good character, mutli-dimensionality to his psyche as well.

Slight psychoanalytic analysis of Plastic Man? How come no one's done a paper on this yet?

See you tomorrow!

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