Friday, July 6, 2012

Protoplasman (Big Bang Comics)

Plastic Man was parodied lovingly by Big Bang Comics, a publisher who specializes in that sort of story. Created by Gary Carlson, Protoplasman was more about channeling the magic of Jack Cole than simply renaming a popular character. These stories are a lot of fun, and while the art doesn't capture Cole's unbridled sense of composition, it's a solid homage. The first issue of Big Bang Presents (2006) also contained editorial comment about the road to Proto. Carlson had many proposals to do a Big Bang version of Plastic Man, but found them all lacking until meeting artist Mort Todd. Todd's drawing style mimicked both Cole's early Plastic Man style, and the later horror style of the pre-Code 1950s. The first issue jumped right into his story, and the origin was told in his second appearance, Big Bang Presents #3…

Covers of Big Bang Presents #1, 3, 4 (2006–07). Art by Mort Todd.
Protoplasman's origin was a tale that also parodied Jack Cole's "the Claw" from Lev Gleason's Silver Streak Comics. At Big Bang, Claw was called Dr. Fang, and he was to blame for Protoplasman's powers. This was also set in the World War II era. Hitler launched a "Buzz-Bomb" at Mammoth City, USA, which instead of explosives housed the vampiric Dr. Fang (Hitler's former head of Secret Service). Banished to the United States, Fang unleashed a reign of terror and one of his first victims was Butch Castle. Days later, Dr. Fang used his Universal Solvent to destroy a dam and proceeded towards the city's water works. There he was confronted by Butch's brother, private eye Jake Castle. Fang produced the remaining poison, which exploded all over Castle, and he tumbled into a tank of water. Later the police drained the tank and discovered that Jake's body was broken down by the Solvent. He could now turn his body into a protoplasmic mass of goo. He donned a rubber suit that helped him hold his shape. Now a "human water balloon," Castle could elongate his body and unleash its mass as a sort of torrent of liquid. Fang then revealed that he had kept Butch Castle as a prisoner—in shrunken form! But Butch was mentally unstable and attacked his brother after Dr. Fang grew him to giant size. As the villain stole away, he doused Butch with the Solvent, killing him.
Homages to Plastic Man, Police Comics, and Silver Streak Comics, from Big Bang Presents #1 & 3. Art by Mort Todd.
The second story picked up not long after this. After his defeat, Fang left a horde of vampires. Rose Daly mowed them down with a tommy gun filled with silver buillets—she was Jake Castle's partner at the Knight & Daly detective agency. It was then she learned of her partner's fate and he dubbed himself Protoplasman.… "at 96% water, I can stretch, bounce... and could even melt!"

In the morgue they unearthed a new threat: two unnaturally conjoined men. The trail led to Yin and Yang, conjoined twins who worked at the circus. Proto set a date with Yang but on his way, he stopped a robbery by a yin/yang dressed crook. The twins had a super-power based on a pair of ancient coins: when given to someone else, the power allowed them to separate and the new possessors of the coins became conjoined. Yin accidentally shot her sister, which caused them both to die. (Big Bang Presents #3) 

It was Proto's first appearance that introduced his supporting cast. Dr. Noah Toll had recreated the Philosopher's Stone in the form of an elixir. It was immediately stolen by a succession of crooks and wound up in the possession of Proto's enemy, Mint Julip. She lost it in the sewers and it found its way to Willy Wampum. Wampum was bound to commit suicide and took the elixir for poison. Instead when he ingested it, he found he could take the properties of anything he touched. He began robbing banks for the cash to woo back his sweetheart—who turned out to be Julip. She spurned him still and Wampum becam suicidal again. He leapt into the water, turning to H20 himself, and disappeared. (#1)

The crew was called to Hollywood by Goldfish Studios to find their missing star, the super-handsome Paul O'Dennis. After suspecting a succession of bitter ex-girlfriends, they discovered that the actor had eaten himself into a behemoth so that women would love his personality, not his face. (#4)

Protosplasman's powers differed slightly from Plastic Man's. He wasn't a true "shape-shifter," but could change form. He could form his body into shapes such as a water balloon, that would essentially expel himself. The bouancy also allowed him to stretch and bounce.

APPEARANCES: Big Bang Presents #1 (July 2006), 3–4


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