Police Comics 10
Copyright © 1942 Quality Comics
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But was Cole done yet? Not a chance! He somehow stretched himself even further (pun intended) by creating his ultimate character, which started out as a backup feature for Quality's Police Comics #1 (Aug. 1941) - he called it Plastic Man!
Like Daredevil, once again a freakish circus sideshow attraction was tapped - this time a version of the generic "Indian rubber man." Timely Comics had even come up with something called Flexo The Rubber Man a bit before Plastic Man, but it was very weak and became quickly discontinued and forgotten.
In the '60s, both DC and Marvel would also offer similar tries at this type of character (DC with The Elogated Man, and Marvel with Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four). But Plastic Man made the earliest hit with the concept. It became Police Comics' lead feature with issue 5.
Cole's offbeat humor combined with Plastic Man's odd-looking ability to take virtually any shape gave the cartoonist enormous opportunities to experiment with text and graphics in many groundbreaking ways. Within two years of his introduction, Plastic Man was given his own comic book title.
As the '40s flew by, Cole got more and more help grinding out the many adventures of "Plas" and his taxi-driving pal Woozy Winks, until finally the feature was being created entirely by anonymous ghost writers and artists, including Alex Kotzky and John Spranger, although Cole's name was properly being listed as creator.( Such printed credits were a rare thing at the time, and would not become common until Marvel pioneered artist and writer credits in the '60s.)
His story "Murder, Morphine and Me," which he illustrated (and probably also wrote) for publisher Magazine Village 's True Crime Comics Vol. 1, #2 (May in 1947), became a centerpiece of psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham 's "anti-violence in the media" crusade during the '50s.
Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent, a hysterical smear campaign against comics, singled out Cole's art for its raw power - pointing in particular to an image of the story's dope-dealing narrator about to be stabbed in the eye with a hypodermic needle.
And Cole's career expanded even more - in 1954, after having drawn some spicy "gag strips" (single-panel cartoons, often containing "good girl" art) under the pen name "Jake," he became the premiere cartoon illustrator for Playboy. Cole's art first appeared in the mag's fifth issue. He ended up having at least one piece published in Playboy each month for the rest of his life.
His work became so popular that the second item of merchandise ever licensed by Playboy (after cuff links with the famous rabbit-head logo) was a cocktail-napkin set called "Females by Cole, featuring his cartoons. (These were later published in their own book.)
By the late '50s, one of the few things in the cartoon world that Cole hadn't done (excluding working for an animation studio, which usually frowned on overly sexy depictions of women), was to create his own daily syndicated newspaper comic strip.
But in 1958 he also accomplished that goal, with the popular Betsy And Me, which chronicled the domestic adventures of nerdy Chester Tibbet, his wife Betsy, and their 5-year-old genius son Farley. By the end of the summer, it was already appearing in 50 newspapers.
But then soon-after there came the very strange part of Cole's career (as if sketching toons for decades wasn't strange enough). Shortly after getting Betsy And Me launched on its way to success, for some reason Cole suddenly grew depressed and decided to end his life. However, we will not fill this page further by dwelling on that separate subject, and those interested can easily find such details elsewhere on the internet.
Cole was posthumously inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1991, and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1999.
The Classic Pin Up Art Of Jack Cole
Edited By Alex Chum
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Jack Cole And Plastic Man:
Forms Stretched To Their Limits
By Art Spiegelman And Chip Kidd
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Cool Cole Comics Blog
Jack Cole On Google
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