Plastic Man Archives Volume 4, written and illustrated by Jack Cole (1945-46; collected 2005): Jack Cole sure was dandy, writing and drawing (with the help of assistants) the adventures of stretchable hero Plastic Man for more than a decade before he moved onwards and upwards to the world of syndicated cartoons and Playboy and, alas, suicide at a relatively young age before the 1950’s were through.
In later years, Cole would all but disown his comic-book work. But it’s his work on Plastic Man he’ll live on through, one of the two or three best and most beloved comic books of the 1940’s.
Cole’s comic-book world is gloriously cartoony and aesthetically fluid and unhinged. Plastic Man can pretty much stretch into any shape or size, allowing Cole to play tricks with internal panel composition and with the boundaries between representational cartooning and the purely surreal.
Cole may have hated this work even as he did it, but none of that shows in this volume, which is as jolly and inventive both visually and narratively as one could want. Cole astounds in a way that few comic writer-artists ever have. His work is a joy to behold as he helps invent the visual language of comic books. Highly recommended.