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Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits Paperback – August 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811831795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811831796
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,177,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The life of Jack Cole, creator of the tongue-in-cheek comic-book crime fighter Plastic Man, is as entertaining as his comic-book stories. A resourceful smalltown boy wonder (in 1932, he cycled 7,00o miles across the U.S. and wrote about it for Boys Life), Cole became a professional cartoonist in 1936, in the early days of the comic book industry, after taking a mail-order illustration course. Graphically inventive and prone to wild flights of surreal visual hilarity, Cole anticipated the wit and frenetic comic intensity of Mad magazine in the 1950s and was instrumental in creating the irresistibly lurid crime and horror comic books that provoked the anti-comics hysteria of the same decade. Around the same time, he transformed himself artistically to become the premier gag panel cartoonist at Hugh Hefner's then newly launched Playboy. But Plastic Man, a comic strip about a petty criminal transformed by a chemical accident into a stretchable comic superhero, is his real legacy. Cole's work is characterized by relentless sight gags. Plastic Man is usually doing two or three things at once, his elongated arms and legs snaking after weird criminals like Sadly Sadly, a man with a face so forlorn people weep uncontrollably at the sight of him. Noted book designer Kidd has made the reprinted stories look like old, yellowed, newsprint pages. There is a generous selection of full-color reproductions of Cole's work, and Spiegelman's essay briskly maps his life and his career. In 1958, without warning and at the height of his popularity, Cole shot himself, and no one seems to understand why. This is an excellent memorial to an innovative American cartoonist.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

Jack Cole's manic Plastic Man—a rubbery superhero of the forties and fifties, capable of stretching and bending into virtually anything—was a true comic-book innovation. Cole killed himself in 1958; here Spiegelman's analysis and Kidd's layout set the joy of vintage episodes against the despair of their creator.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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I also found the page design very distracting.
Bell9
For fans of comic history or tragic artists this is the one book that must be on your shelf.
Amazon Customer
I couldn't put it down, read the thing in one sitting!
Jon B. Knutson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By StageStruckLad on September 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've never seen a book quite like this one. The text by Art Spiegelman is one of the best examples of comic book history I've read (it's entertaining and informative) and at the same time it's a fascinating biography of one of the comic book industry's least recognized (and most troubled) geniuses: Jack Cole. There are dozens of examples of Cole's greatest work, including the incomporably weird and funny Plastic Man, along with several examples of his Playboy work, which I instantly recognized but never knew were by Cole. Finally, there's this book's incredible design work by Chip Kidd, who did that great book on Batman toys. This book even comes with a very cool plastic cover. I wasn't all that familiar with Jack Cole's career before I read this book, but now I want to read everything he ever did. This might be my favorite book of the year.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Small Press Fan on April 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
I was surprisingly disappointed by this book, not, mind you, by the art and writing of Jack Cole, but by the book itself.
I found this book to be one of those productions that is to clever by half. Neither fish nor fowl, Mr. Spiegelman's writing is to skimpy to be considered a complete biography and the art design by Mr. Kidd is so "artistically" (re)produced that it distracts from the person who should be the real star of this book, Jack Cole.
This is the type of book that book reviewers who have no knowledge of sequential art call "daring" and "cutting edge".
While Mr. Spiegelman's writing is basic and informative, it almost causes one pain to look at the bountiful list of comic book legends that he had access to and yet still failed to produce a more gripping and insightful look into Cole's life.
And while Mr. Kidd's flair for artistic direction and experimentation is unassailable, a much lighter touch was called for as to not distract from the original artist and his work.
If you are looking for a quick read with an interesting layout, you might enjoy this book.
If you are looking for an in-depth biography of Jack Cole, I would suggest looking elsewhere. And, if you are looking for real Jack Cole storytelling, I would recommend that you check out Plastic Man Archives, Vol. 1 (also sold by Amazon).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By tashcrash on September 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
Art Spiegelman and Chip Kidd have produced a unique tome to the one-of-a-kind comics and illustrations of near-forgotten artist Jack Cole. In the schizo spirit of Cole's greatest creation, PLASTIC MAN, the book is a blend of complete strips, historical text, and magnified collage, an unorthodox method that is at once eye-catching and odd. As one might expect, the reprinted comics portions are diligently reproduced, down to the paper quality, which is juxtaposed against the glossy text pages.
For the longest time, I only knew PLASTIC MAN from that wretched late-1970's Saturday morning cartoon (the one which made Plas a harried, domesticated father figure to a cutesy child, Baby Plas[!]), so my discovery of Cole's comics was a revelation that puts other, far more conservative (and often derivative) comics of the same era to shame.
Of course this book is way too brief, yet it's a fitting tribute, one that, in an ideal world, would open the eyes of a lot of comics fans unfamiliar with this neglected master.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. D Suggs on February 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Jack Cole is better served by this fairly strange book than many other great cartoonists of the golden age of the medium have been in print. Spiegelman's somewhat sparse text is full of useful information and valid critique, but he wisely lets the material speak for itself, and that's the main attraction here, though those words and the book's design seem to have distracted some readers. This is not an anthology of "Plastic Man"- that can be found elsewhere, fortunately- nor is it an in-depth biography of Jack Cole. It's more like a large catalogue for an exhibition, covering all aspects of his varied career. Material seems to be reproduced from original art in a few cases- mainly his Playboy stuff- but the comic book stories are shot from original issues, with four-color separation and page-yellowing quite evident- and speaking as a sometimes-comic artist, that's close to the way I think they should be seen (I HATE modern re-coloring, and especially airbrushes!). And as for the book's unconventional design.....I like it. (Would've preferred a hardcover, though!)
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Babytoxie on May 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
I have no doubt that Art Spiegelman loves Jack Cole and his classic creation, Plastic Man; however, I don't think that this book does a good job of explaining to readers why THEY should love them, too. Granted, Cole was one of the pioneers of comics, and his place in their history is cemented, but Spiegelman's praise of Cole and his visual style/storytelling could easily be used for any number of other comic creators (Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Bob Kane, etc.). The text is very generic in trying to explain Cole's genius, and I, a comics history buff, was quickly bored by it. As for Chip Kidd's book design... thumbs up for the plastic cover, but the intentionally poor reproduction quality (for nostaligic purposes, I assume) only hinders the appeal of the art and makes for a very ugly book. Kidd's design style caught my attention when it first hit the scene, but after numerous retrospective hardcovers for DC Comics and a Peanuts collection, it just gives me a headache. If you want a real lesson on the talent of Jack Cole and wish to revel in the adventures of Plastic Man, pick up any volume of the Plastic Man Archives, available from Amazon at a very reasonable price.
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