Plastic Man as a Batman villain

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Plastic Man originally appeared in the title Police Comics, published by Quality Comics, so it's not possible that he could have started off as a Batman villain. Looking at his origin though, there's every reason he could have been a Batman villain, once he was aquired by DC Comics. Plastic Man's origin has never changed. Originally the gangster, Patrick "Eel" O'Brien, he was shot by a security guard during a robbery. The bullet went through O'Brien and into a convenient chemical drum, which doused O'Brien and his wound with whatever was inside. Managing to escape, "Eel" found his way to a mysterious order of monks, whose kindness in caring for him caused him to reform his ways, and use his newfound abilities to reform his shape as a superhero... right after he takes revenge on his criminal cohorts, who had taken off without him.

That "revenge" was relatively mild. Pretending to go on another job with them, he hung his arm out the car window, and stretched it around to the other side of the car, punching out one of his cronies. He took the rest of the gang out in similar fashion, and they were never the wiser that it was "Eel" that had betrayed them. With his revenge complete, O'brien became the hero Plastic Man, and has been a hero ever since.

However, looking at that origin story, it's ridiculously easy to tie him to Gotham, and make "Eel" a thorn in the Batman's side. In fact, I'd go even one step further, and usurp the Red Hood origin to tweak Plastic Man's. I'd feel comfortable with this for three reasons: 1) The Killing Joke has made the Red Hood origin pretty much canon, but when Plastic Man was aquired, it was still possible to tweak the Red Hood story. When the Joker told his origin with the Red Hood story, he ended the tale saying that he remembers it different every time, so it was then (and still is) possible to say that the Joker was never actually the Red Hood. 2) I've never liked that origin for the Joker. He fell into one vat of chemicals that turned his hair green, his skin white, and his lips red, stretched into a permanent smile? That makes no sense. At the least, his lips should be white, since that's just more skin. 3) It's much more plausible that O'Brien, dressed as the Red Hood, was shot by the security guard, fell into a vat of chemicals and thus completely doused, was transformed into the stretchy form that we know as Plastic Man.

From there, O'brien escapes and takes revenge on his cohorts in crime, but does not turn over a new leaf. Instead, I think the Eel would have made his mark on Gotham, and joined the ranks of Batman's villains. Could that stick? Certainly not. After all, DC aquired Plastic Man, and that's not a character to be just thrown away. So now that he's tied to Gotham's underworld, how do we turn the gangster O'Brien into the hero Plastic Man? One word: Clayface. You see, Clayface III was always obsessed with finding a way to stabilize his sliding features, so he could be reunited with the love his life. That vat of chemicals that O'Brien's Red Hood fell into? That was Clayface's latest attempt, and O'Brien ruined it. With Clayface now after O'Brien's head, the only person that "Eel" can turn to is, you guessed it, Batman. The Bat helps O'Brien to defeat Clayface, and this is what causes O'Brien to turn over a new leaf... once he gets out of prison. Batman's not going to just let a criminal go free, after all. I could see the FBI stepping in at this point (or nowadays, the DEO) and commuting his jail time in exchange for O'Brien working for them.

I think it would have been interesting to see O'Brien as a criminal for awhile, and it would have been the perfect chance to tweak his characterization, making him a bit deeper than the walking, wisecracking Silly Putty that he is today. It also would have irrevocably tied him to the Batman Family, and that's a good thing for any character. Being tied to Gotham would have given DC yet another Bat-related character to sell books with, instead of spending twenty years trying to find a way to ground him in the DCU - trying that culminated in a stint on the JLA and a 2004 series that didn't quite last two years.


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4 Comments Refresh
Posted by Mr. Dead Pool

Could make a slightly interesting Elseworlds
Posted by cbishop
@Mr. Dead Pool: I'm always up for a good Elseworlds, but I think they could still retcon Plas' origin this way.  If they did, not only would Clayface III be a sworn enemy, but Eel would have some undisclosed relationship with the Joker (because the Joker knows Eel's origin, but remembers it as his own), and you know that hardly ever turns out well.  I think it would be perfect.  He'd also be tied to the FBI (or DEO, whichever), and that opens up some doors, story wise.
Posted by batshrine

I always liked the idea that Batman reformed Plastic Man (kinda like the Brave and the Bold animated origin). Though we don't need to give him Joker's origin to make him cool, in fact that would just aggravate fans. (though I like the idea that joker is originless). And I personally don't really care for stories to see him as a villain, I find him struggling with the reform (though still always siding with "good") as way more interesting

Posted by cbishop

@batshrine: I've never really seen him as struggling with being reformed. In the original origin, some nuns took him in and nursed him back to health after he'd been shot by the security guard. He just turned over a new leaf because of their kindness. What bothers me with that is that he then goes back to his old cronies and trounces them, in revenge for leaving him behind to get shot in the first place. So my feeling is: if he goes back for revenge, why would he still turn to good, rather than using his new powers as a criminal? Especially considering that even as Plastic Man, he prides himself on being able to infiltrate places unobserved.

Taking the Red Hood origin for Plas was a matter of it makes more sense that the guy in the hood would take away one effect from the chemical dunking (stretching), not four (rictus grin, green hair, white skin and red lips [which is odd, since that's more skin]). Also, yes, I like the idea of Joker having no origin (although the first time he told it as the Red Hood origin, he ended with, "...I remember it different every time." It's just that it was such a cool story, everyone has stuck with it).

I do agree that it would probably tick off fans to make Plastic Man a villain, but I'd still do it, at least long enough to tweak the origin so that he's connected to the Batman universe. He could always reform later. ;)