As 2021 winds down, allow me to wish a happy 80th birthday to Plastic Man, the pliable DC Comics superhero.
Plas actually hit the big 8-0 back in May. That's when the first issue of Police Comics went on sale in 1941. He originally was a backup feature, but showed the power of plastics by taking over as the book's star by issue No. 5. And Plastic Man showed the durability of plastics by being one of the longest-lasting of the first wave of superheroes, not vanishing from view until 1956.
A quick refresher: Plastic Man was created by legendary comics creator Jack Cole in 1941 and has been in and out of the pop culture spotlight ever since. His biggest exposure likely was in a late 1970s Saturday morning cartoon.
Plastic Man began life as criminal Eel O'Brian, then gained stretching and shape-shifting powers after falling into a vat of chemicals during a robbery attempt. He turned away from his previous life and used these powers to fight crime.
The character got some publicity late last year when entertainment industry newspaper Variety reported that Warner Bros. and DC Films had hired writer Cat Vasko to write a Plastic Man movie as "a female-led action adventure." Vasko's comics-adjacent credits include working with Margot Robbie — who's played DC character Harley Quinn in two films — and an adaptation of the popular comic Lumberjanes.
Rumors of a Plastic Man movie go back to the early 2010s, when the Wachowskis — who wrote The Matrix — were said to be working on a script. In October, Vanity Fair posted an article about the possibility of Keanu Reeves being cast as Plastic Man if that movie had been made.
The article contended that Reeves as Plastic Man could have had the same impact that Robert Downey Jr. had as Iron Man in the Marvel movies.
"It's interesting to think about the butterfly effect a Plastic Man film could have had on the industry," the article said. "Had the first film been successful, Reeves could have still been making those movies to this very day. …Downey Jr. starred in the first Iron Man in 2008 and only just laid his suit to rest in Avengers: Endgame in 2019. To think that could have been Reeves!"
(Nerd Note : As a lifelong fan of comics and superheroes, I have long held that Marvel casting Downey Jr. as Iron Man was the single biggest casting move in the entire ongoing wave of superhero films. He's fantastic in that role.)
Where else could Plastic Man find a home? Hello to any plastics firm — or industry association — looking for a marketing idea!
My colleague Steve Toloken recently covered a conference where Kristin Kelley, global head of communications with Amcor Rigid Packaging, pointed out that aluminum packager Ball Corp. was using actor Jason Momoa in ads and social media to talk up its new aluminum beverage cup.
Momoa, as comics and movie fans alike know, plays underwater superhero Aquaman in the DC movies.
"If you look at what Ball's doing right now, their current ad campaign is using Aquaman, Jason Momoa, in an incredibly clever way," Kelley said. "Aquaman doesn't have any intellectual expertise on sustainability, but what he does have is a lot of influence."
"They have certainly put a lot of dollars and a lot of resources behind education, awareness and marketing, and that is something we can lift and shift, and we should, if we expect to have that same sort of impact," she added.
Kelley urged her colleagues at the conference to look at what aluminum and other industries are doing on messaging.
Sometimes, the marketing ideas write themselves. The aluminum industry didn't need to find a character named Aluminum Man to take the initiative.
And when a Plastic Man movie does get made, my title remains available — "Plastic Man: Polywood Nights." I might even find some Plastics News gear to wear to the premiere.
Follow Plastics News senior reporter Frank Esposito on Twitter @fesposito22.