After decades of stamping out crime, Plastic Man has been honored with a stamp of his own.
Plastic Man and nine other DC Comics characters - including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman - are included in a set of 20 commemorative stamps issued July 21 by the U.S. Postal Service at Comic-Con International 2006, an annual comic book and pop culture show in San Diego.
The set includes an individual image of each character, as well as a reproduction of a comic book cover featuring the character. For Plastic Man, it's the cover of Plastic Man No. 4 from 1946.
The selection of Plastic Man may be a bit surprising, since better-known DC characters such as Robin and Batgirl were not included. Plastic Man was created in 1941 by artist Jack Cole, and won a following for the wild creativity of Cole's vision. He wrote and drew most Plastic Man stories through the late 1940s, bending and twisting the character through a wild landscape of thugs and villains.
DC, a unit of Time Warner Inc., acquired the rights to Plastic Man in 1956. The character has been published sporadically since then. A recent series - written and drawn by Kyle Baker - won numerous comics industry awards but was canceled earlier this year because of low sales.
Plastic Man's only real foray into the public eye came in 1979, when he starred in his own animated cartoon, which ran for two seasons on ABC-TV.
So what allowed the pliable powerhouse to make the final cut on the DC stamp set?
Well, he can stretch. And he's got a colorful costume.
``It was a combination of what would look good artistically and the uniqueness the character would add to the pane [of stamps],'' David Failor, USPS executive director of stamp services, said in a July 24 telephone interview.
``We knew we wanted Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but the rest of it was really difficult,'' Failor added. ``There were so many hundreds of characters to choose from.''
USPS officials, including art director Carl Herrman, met with DC Comics President Paul Levitz and other DC personnel over a three-year period to design the set. Failor said Levitz was ``very instrumental'' in the selection process.
Originally, the USPS wanted to include 20 different DC characters, but settled on 10 characters on two stamps each, as a way of showing the artistic value of each character, officials said.
The single stamp of Plastic Man is from art by veteran artist Dick Giordano, while the cover of Plastic Man No. 4 was drawn by creator Cole.
The USPS receives 50,000 cards and letters each year suggesting ideas for stamp sets, officials said. The only other time a superhero was featured on a U.S. stamp came in 2000, when Superman appeared on a stamp commemorating the 20th century.
A total of 250 million stamps have been printed as part of the DC Comics set. The set will be available for about three months at any post office or online at www.usps.com.