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Case Number 17704: Small Claims Court

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Plastic Man: The Complete Collection

Warner Bros. // 1979 // 564 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // November 15th, 2009

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker believes all superheroes should be recyclable.

The Charge

From out of the pages of DC Comics!

The Case

Plastic Man was introduced to the superhero world in 1941. He started (comic book) life as criminal Patrick "Eel" O'Brian. During an ill-advised robbery of a chemical plant, was doused with some kind of acid that turned him all rubbery. Finding refuge in a monastery, he decided to abandon his evil ways and become a good guy. Much of the story, evidently, dealt with Eel-as-Plastic-Man's path to redemption. With an appropriately goofy sidekick, Woozy Winks, Plastic Man became a crime fighter.

The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show debuted in 1979 and ran on Saturday mornings for more than a year. Apparently, the cartoon version of Plastic Man's adventures was much changed from the comic. In this series, PM has two sidekicks: Penny, a blonde woman who pines for him (and later, evidently, marries him), and Hula Hula, a goofy, Lou Costello-ish "bad luck jinx" whose main function seems to be to provide strained comic relief. That Hula Hula is Asian seems almost beside the point; like Penny, he's just a stock cartoon character who doesn't do anything particularly memorable.

The origins of Plastic Man are never explored here. The first episode, and every episode that follows, just plunks our guy down in the middle of an adventure. Over the course of these programs, PM faces such nemeses as The Weed, Mr. Meteor, Dr. Duplicator, and the Disco Mummy. I don't know if any of the comic book villains turned up here, and these baddies are all pretty much the same: Each has a signature ability, and they all want to rule the world. They are also fairly easily vanquished.

Since PM's super-trait is the ability to convert into virtually anything—a ball, a trampoline, an appliance, a glider—and he can stretch his body to fit any situation, the battles are pretty much over before they start. Plastic Man has a quip at the ready, and beyond his elastic powers, seems a bit dim. The humor is broad and, after a few episodes, a bit repetitive. Unlike the comparatively rich comic book universe, this series lacks any kind of nuance or urgency and just plays the whole Plastic Man thing for laughs.

There are 35 adventures on this four-disc set. Apparently, the program included cartoons other than the Plastic Man starrers, but those are not here, as this is Plastic Man: The Complete Collection. As such, the segments are sometimes paired together, sometimes not, and they run odd lengths—two of them paired under the same credit sequence might go half an hour or so, while individual adventures might run 10-15 minutes. The last three segments, apparently, are from a revamped version of the show that details life after Plastic Man married Penny and she gave birth to his son, Baby Plas. At least, that's what the intro tells us, but the adventures under the Baby Plas title are no different than the earlier ones. We never see Baby Plas in an episode, and there's no talk of PM and Penny being married.

The transfer here is decent but far from great. It doesn't look like much work was put into it. For extras, we get a fun retrospective featurette, "Plas-tastic: A Brief History of Plastic Man," which gives a lot of background on the comic character, if not the cartoon, and a 15-minute cartoon from 2006, "Puddle Trouble," which served as a pilot for a new Plastic Man show on the Cartoon Network that wasn't picked up.

The Verdict

Probably more suited to fans of '70s/'80s action hero cartoons than to those interested in the comic book character, Plastic Man: The Complete Collection is not guilty, but it's not a "must buy" either.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 564 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• All Ages
• Animation
• Superheroes
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette
• Bonus Short

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