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Jack Cole & Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits


Jack Cole & Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits Cover





Disguised as a red, black, and yellow throw rug, our hero cocks one ear up to listen in on two hoods huddled at the table that rests on him. In the next panel he literally hangs out at an art museum, above a label that reads "Abstract," his body now distorted into a red, black, and yellow bebop-cubist composition in order to eavesdrop on two cheap gunsels out gallery-hopping. And in the panel after that, two molls gossip from tenement windows across an alley while our protean hero continues his stakeout camouflaged as a red, black, and yellow line of laundry flapping between them.

This manic spritz of images appeared in a 1950 issue of Plastic Man, one of the last written and drawn by Jack Cole, a tragically short-lived comic book giant. Plastic Man, like most of Cole's achievements, can be found mainly in those plastic bags collectors use to stash their rare slow-burning forest fires of newsprint. Although I'm slightly embarrassed to confess to being in love with a super-hero comic, Jack Cole's Plastic Man belongs high on any adult's How to Avoid Prozac list, up there with the best of S. J. Perelman, Laurel and Hardy, Damon Runyon, Tex Avery, and the Marx Brothers. Cole's comics have helped me feel reconciled to the misleading word "comic," which often keeps my medium of choice from getting any respect.

Many otherwise literate people, even those who have long since crossed the high-low divide and welcomed comic strips like Krazy Kat and Little Nemo into the canon of twentieth-century cultural achievement — right up there next to Picasso's paintings and Joyce's novels — remain predisposed against comic books. Of course most comic books really are junk, just like our parents said, but so is most painting and fiction. The lowly comic book has a lot of strikes against it, not least a residual public distaste left over from Senator Estes Kefauver's 1950s crime hearings on juvenile delinquency, which scape-goated the whole medium as a species of pornography for tots. The hearings forced a draconian "self-regulating" Comics Code Authority on the publishers; the edict stamped out the reckless excesses of the crime, war, and horror comics (categories that tended to appeal to an older audience of G.I.s and other adults), and left lobotomized super heroes and innocuous funny animals as virtually the only survivors on the newsstands. We've often committed some of our most censorious follies in the guise of protecting our children.

Product Details

Forms Stretched to Their Limits
Designed by:
Chip Kidd
Kidd, Chip
Spiegelman, Art
Illustrations by:
Jack Cole
Chronicle Books
San Francisco, Calif.
Form - Cartoons & Comics
Artists, Architects, Photographers
Cole, Jack
Plastic Man
Comics & Cartoons
Techniques - Cartooning
Publication Date:
October 2001
Grade Level:
from 8 up to 17
1 x 1 x 1 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 13 up to 99

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » Cartooning
Fiction and Poetry » Graphic Novels » History and Criticism
Fiction and Poetry » Graphic Novels » Superheroes
Fiction and Poetry » Graphic Novels » Toon History
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z

Jack Cole & Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 144 pages Chronicle Books - English 9780811831796 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

In 1941, Jack Cole, formerly an illustrator and later a cartoonist for Playboy, introduced the world to Plastic Man, a superhero who, due to an unfortunate accident with a horrible acid, developed the incredible ability to transform himself into any shape. The plots were simple, Good Guy vs. Bad Guy, but along the way Cole managed to plumb the depths of his otherwise conservative brain to produce some of the most bizarre, surreal visions the forties had ever seen. Even today, many of the his concepts and imagery will drop your jaw, begging the question, "What in the hell was this guy thinking?" Jack Cole and Plastic Man is edited by another comic genius, Art Spiegelman, and is lovingly designed by Chip Kidd whose Batman Collected ranks among the most beautiful books ever produced.

"Review A Day" by , "It's difficult to decide which aspect of Jack Cole and Plastic Man is more compelling: Spiegelman?s fine essay, Kidd's lavish design, or the subjects themselves. Much like the Plastic Man stories, the book demands — and richly rewards — revisiting." (read the entire Powells.com review)
"Review" by , "The life of Jack Cole...is as entertaining as his comic-book stories....Spiegelman's essay briskly maps his life and his career....This is an excellent memorial to an innovative American cartoonist."
"Review" by , "[A]n unalloyed joy, a magic act of words and pictures..."
"Review" by , "Spiegelman and Kidd have assembled an attractive and innovative package that uses multiple paper stocks to communicate the gloss of Cole's magazine illustrations....Jack Cole And Plastic Man is designed to be held, smelled, and felt as much as read."
"Review" by , "Spiegelman is an ardent proselytizer for comics-as-art, and is at his best explaining why Cole's manic visuals succeed without going completely over the edge....In the book's last chapter, you can feel Spiegelman's sympathy, but also his frustration, with Cole's mysterious 1958 suicide."
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