Gail Simone Takes Plastic Man Out for a Stretch and Explains Why He’s the Favorite of So Many Writers
Out this Wednesday, Plastic Man returns to his own comic in a new six-issue miniseries written by Gail Simone and featuring the art from Adriana Melo and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick. The first issue features a cover by Aaron Lopresti and Amanda Conner has have a variant.
Simone is the fan-favorite, award nominated writer whose run on DC Comics‘ Birds of Prey, Secret Six, and Batgirl, are all considered classics. She’s also written Clean Room for Vertigo.
The series mixes so many different tones and genres stretching things out and mixing them back together, something that’s rather appropriate for the character of Plastic Man.
I got a chance to ask Gail questions about the upcoming series and find out if having a hero that can do so much is a challenge.
Graphic Policy: How’d you come on board Plastic Man?
Gail Simone: Most of my projects at DC come from Dan DiDio himself. He knows me, he knows what kinds of books I enjoy writing, probably better than anyone else aside from myself. So we go have lunch at a con, and he will casually drop a few different projects, and he always knows how to choose the things that really interest me.
In this case, Plas is a favorite of mine, he knows I love that guy, and people have been asking me to write him for a long time, readers have wanted to see it. So when he asked, I was very happy. It felt right.
But it’s intimidating, a lot of brilliant people have written and drawn this character, I didn’t want to just repeat their take.
GP: To you, who is the character? What makes him stand out from other superheroes?
GS: Well, there’s the humor, but I also love that he’s this guy with this unbelievable power, it almost makes him immortal, and he still has doubts beneath the jokes. I think a lot of us underestimate ourselves, and Plas is that guy to the bone.
GP: Having read the first issue, it blends comedy, traditional superhero, and a bit of noir together. As a writer, how do you approach crafting a story that can dip its toes into so many genres and get that right balance?
GS: Oh, man, I don’t think of them as distinct, in that way. To me, the superhero thing, that’s your canvas. That’s what you’re painting on, and we’ve all made a contract that both the reader and the creative team understands that foundation. I don’t have to explain that he stretches, and he’s in the same universe as Batman.
What you put on top of that, that’s your take, that’s what makes the book different. And to me, the first set-up for Plas is still the greatest, he’s a criminal who almost died, he had to be thrown out of a moving car to reconsider his life. And it’s so grim in that origin, that’s a harsh life he’s led, that humor comes out a bit as a safety valve, so he doesn’t look at his past and just surrender. It’s like the cop who tells jokes at a crime scene, you have to be able to maintain your own balance, even in a dark place.
That said, I don’t think Plas is a TRAGIC character. I think he became something of a trickster god.
GP: The character has a much higher profile due to the events of Dark Nights: Metal and was seen in Justice League #1 and also The Terrifics. Did that change what you might have done with the series as opposed to if this was published a year or two earlier?
GS: No, we started with a blank slate, but editorial matched everything up in those other books.
GP: Plastic Man is known for his crazy shapes. Do you as the writer come up with that? The artist? A combo?
GS: I come up with them, I write full script always, BUT Adriana Melo has a full talent for comedy that I didn’t know about, so she is always, always able to change something to make it better. She’s amazing. She and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick make this book look happy and rich and seedy and sexy in a way like no other book out there right now.
GP: Has there been a moment where you’ve wanted Plastic Man to take a certain shape but couldn’t work it in the story? Does the story drive the shape or can the shape drive the story?
GS: I’ve joked about this a lot, but I have never had a book have to go to standards and practices over so many things. Even Secret Six, we didn’t have to get approval as often. They’ve been great, but we take some shots. We were able to get everything we’ve asked for, so I am delighted.
GP: I noticed in the first issue you do a solid job of telling the story but also working in an origin and a lot of background to the character. There’s a focus to introduce him to new audience. Was that something you focused on for the first issue and knew there might be a need for this?
GS: Oh, sure, I am a big believer in that thing about every comic being someone’s first, and Plas hasn’t had a spotlight in a while. But also, it’s a fun origin. It’s very close to the Joker’s origin in some ways, I always felt they sort of pilfered it from Plas. But it’s a good one to write, and I get to have him utter a classic line, that was a blast.
GP: The character has been a favorite of so many creators. What is it about him that gets creators to like him so much?
GS: I think he’s a bit saucy and cheeky, you have to bring your wit to the table, and that’s challenging. He’s just one of those joyful characters we all fight to use!
It’s a fun book. It has some grit in it, it’s not all zany, but I really am kind of burned out on superheroes that are purely dark. For me, it’s fun to write some fun and colorful characters again, I think it’s a great time for a book that makes you smile or laugh.
GP: Thanks so much for chatting!