May 12, 2018


(ABC, September 27, 1979-December 6, 1980)

Ruby-Spears Productions

Michael BellPlastic Man/Eel O’Brian, Dr. Astro, Marak, Junior Macintosh, Half-Ape (2nd appearance), Gearshift Swift, Krime Klown, Nefario, Baby Plas (season 2)
Melendy Britt – Penny, Chief
Joe Baker – “Bad Luck” Hula-Hula, Professor Friday
Peter Cullen – Mighty Man/Brandon Brewster
Frank Welker – Yukk, Fangface/Sherman Fangsworth, Fangpuss/Baby Fangs, various
Al Fann – Rickety Rocket
Bobby Ellerbee – Cosmo
Dee Timberlake – Venus
Johnny Brown – Splashdown
John Anthony Bailey – Sunstroke
Susan Blu – Kim, Sally Jones
Jerry Dexter – Biff
Bart Braverman – Puggsy
John Stephenson – The Weed, Royal Rajah, Computerhead (2nd appearance), Anthead, Big Mouse, Magnet Man, Catman, Dr. Rufus T. Gadgets, Marble Man, Mr. Van Pire, Dr. Decay, Dr. Lash, Iron Mask, Fangface narrator, mayor, various
Michael Rye – Main title narrator, Dr. Lazarus Web, Skullman
Mark Taylor (as Taylor Marks) – Plastic Man (live)

            Superheroes had steadily been making a comeback on Saturday mornings in the 1970s, thanks in large part to Hanna-Barbera’s Super Friends franchise. Ruby-Spears Productions decided to take their first crack at a licensed superhero show in 1979. However, since violence was still largely frowned upon in a children’s production, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears looked towards a more comedic superhero that would allow them to depict humorous adventures without any of the verboten real danger. They ended up finding that in DC Comics’ Plastic Man.

Plastic Man's debut.

            Plastic Man was created in 1941 by writer/artist Jack Cole. He made his debut in Police Comics #1 by Quality Comics. Originally a criminal known as Patrick “Eel” O’Brian, he was shot by a security guard during a caper at Crawford Chemical Works and had a vat of an experimental chemical fall on him. It got into his wound and gave him the ability to make his body super malleable. Eel was then found and healed by monks that also aided him in desiring to reform. He became Plastic Man (“Plas” for short) and dedicated his life to fighting for law and order.

Woozy was always a hit with the ladies.

            Although Plastic Man is much closer to rubber than plastic, his name was chosen because Timely Comics (precursor to Marvel) had already been publishing a character called Flexo the Rubber Man in the pages of Mystic Comics. Plastic Man was the first superhero to incorporate humor into mainstream action stories, serving as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to other heroes at the time. For example: although he could assume any shape, changing his coloring was extremely hard and therefore he rarely did it—and foes often failed to notice in a timely fashion. Police Comics #13 (1942) saw the debut of Plas’ sidekick: the inept, overweight, bumbling slob, Wolfgang “Woozy” Winks. Serving primarily as comic relief, he initially had a spell put on him by a wizard he saved that would allow the forces of nature to protect him from serious harm. This ability would eventually be ignored over time in later stories. His personality was based on Lou Costello and his appearance on Hugh Herbert.

Plastic Man vol. 1 #1.

            Plas finally got his own series in 1943, running 64 issues until Quality folded in 1956. After that, many of its characters and trademarks were sold to National Periodical Publications (now DC), including Plas. However, Plas wouldn’t hit the pages of DC’s comics until 1966’s House of Mystery #160, followed by his own short-lived second series. While never a critical and commercial success, Plas became a favorite character of many comics creators and often found his way into their work.

Superman calls in Plas for help.

Plastic Man vol. 2 #2 (1966) had announced that a pilot episode for a Plastic Man show had been written and was going to be produced by Hal Seeger Productions, but nothing ever came of it. Similarly, Filmation Associates was looking to expand upon the success of their The New Superman Adventures and Aquaman shows with Plas as one of the contenders for adaptation, but CBS’ quick acquisition of the Batman animated rights led Filmation to drop all other plans and focus on bringing The Adventures of Batman to air.   Plas finally made it to television in 1973 as a cameo appearance in the Super Friends episode “Professor Goodfellow’s G.E.E.C.” voiced by Norman Alden

Plas uses his head to keep Penny and Hula dry.

            Ruby-Spears acquired the rights to Plas and built up a whole show with him as the central focus. The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show followed Plas (Michael Bell) as he worked for a covert agency dealing with crimes and threats around the globe by traveling in his Plastijet. Assisting him was blonde southern belle, Penny (Melendy Britt), and the Polynesian Hula-Hula (Joe Baker, impersonating Lou Costello). Hula-Hula had the nickname “Bad Luck”, as chaos and trouble tended to follow him around. He was a virtual replacement for Woozy. Penny openly lusted after Plas, but Plas was distracted by his own lust for his boss, the Chief (also Britt). 

The Chief checks in.

            Following Plas from the comics were his foes Carrotman, a loser in a carrot costume who turned to crime after being bonked on the head with a blender, and Doctor Honctoff (Hal Smith), as well as his arch-foe, mad scientist Doctor Dome (Howard Morris). All of his other foes were created specifically for the show, including sentient plant The Weed (John Stephenson); a pirate clam called The Clam (Don Messick); Half-Ape (Alan Oppenheimer & Bell), a scientist whose experiment causes half his body to transform; evil robot Computerhead (Messick & Stephenson); clone-master Dr. Duplicator (Johnny Haymer); and the diminutive gangsters, the Miniscule 7. All the characters, and the stories themselves, maintained the tongue-in-cheek aspect of Plas’ comic adventures and emphasized the comedy over the action.

            Using Plas as a launching point, Ruby-Spears decided to turn the show into a package show comprised of several other original independent creations. Mighty Man & Yukk followed the adventures of tiny superhero, Mighty Man (Peter Cullen), and his talking dog sidekick, Yukk (Frank Welker). A running gag in that segment was that Yukk was so ugly, he had to wear a doghouse on his head to hide it. However, his ugliness was often instrumental in saving the day. Rickety Rocket was a combination of Space Kidettes and Speed Buggy. Set in the future, the segment focused on the Far-Out Detective Agency; four African-American kid geniuses who enjoyed solving puzzles. They included shades-wearing Cosmo (Bobby Ellerbee), sole female Venus (Dee Timberlake), heavyweight Splashdown (Johnny Brown) and brightly-garbed Sunstroke (John Anthony Bailey). Together, they assembled a sentient rocket ship, named Rickety Rocket (Al Fann), out of a pile of space junk. Rounding out the package was the second season of Fangface. In between all these segments, Plas would appear to offer the audience consumer safety tips.

            The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show debuted on ABC on September 27, 1979 and was a whopping two-hours long. ABC was banking on it being their next big hit show, dubbing their preview special for the coming season The Plastic Man Preview Special. They placed it right between World’s Greatest Super Friends and Spider-Woman, later Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, in what they hoped would be a powerful block of comedy/adventure shows. Among the show’s writers were Larry Alexander, Creighton Barnes, Jack Cole, Tom Dagenais, Buzz Dixon, Mark Evanier, Steve Gerber, Gary Greenfield, Paul Haggis, Mark Jones, Gordon Kent, Jon Kubichan, Elana Lesser, Michael Maurer, Norman Maurer, Sidney Morse, Larry Parr, Ted Pedersen, Cliff Ruby, Jeffrey Scott, Sheldon Stark, Roy Thomas and Christopher Vane, with Jones, Lesser and Ruby serving as the story editors. Jerry Eisenberg was the show’s character designer, and the series’ music was composed by Dean Elliott. Plastic Man vol. 2 #11 (1976) served as the comic shown at the beginning of the show’s intro.

Plas gets a literally bouncing baby boy.

            The show wasn’t quite the breakout success everyone was hoping for, with only the Plastic Man segments really finding an audience. For the show’s second season, it was pared down to 30 minutes and renamed The Plastic Man/Baby Plas Super Comedy. In between the seasons, Plas decided to return Penny’s affections and the two were married and produced an offspring: Baby Plas (also Bell), who shared his father’s fashion sense and abilities. Two new segments were introduced. One segment focused on Baby Plas’ adventures around the neighborhood and with other kids. The other, The Plastic Family, depicted the adventures of Plas, Penny, Baby Plas and Hula-Hula together, making them the first nuclear superhero family on Saturday mornings. Only three new Plastic Man segments aired during this season.

            The show was cancelled at the end of the season, although it continued to air through 1981 before being replaced with the new fall schedule. It would return to television in 1983, airing on CBS until 1984. Arlington Television repackaged the show and released it into first-run, off-network daily syndication, which proved more profitable than the original run. The new show was comprised of Plastic Man, Baby Plas, Mighty Man & Yukk, Rickety Rocket, Heathcliff and The Dingbats/Marmaduke, Fangface and Goldie Gold and Action Jack. New live-action segments were filmed to accompany the show, starring stand-up comedian Mark Taylor as Plastic Man (credited as Taylor Marks). These new segments were produced and directed by Steve Whiting, and had Plas introducing the various segments on a mock-up set of the Plastijet; sometimes interacting with other characters on a screen. The show was later rerun on Cartoon Network starting in 1993.

Plastic Man on DVD.

            Worldvision Home Video released several episodes of the Plastic Man segment onto VHS in 1986, with The Video Collection handling the United Kingdom release. In 2009, Warner Home Video released all of the Plastic Man segments to DVD in The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show: The Complete Collection. None of the original or Plastic Family segments were included and have yet to see an official release.

EPISODE GUIDE (for the Fangface segments, visit that show’s entry):
Season 1:
“The Weed / Dr. Irwin and Mr. Meteor / Big Mouse the Bad Mouse / Magnet Man / The Case of the Zombie Monster” (9/22/79) – The Weed steals a plant growth formula to create a plant monster to take the world’s capitals hostage. / A meteor turns puny Dr. Irwin into the powerful Mr. Meteor. / Bad Mouse and his minions steal the city mint. / Magnet Man threatens to pull the city into the river for a ransom. / The detectives have to solve a riddle for a hidden fortune while evading a monster that turns people into zombies.

“Wham-Bam, Beware of the Clam / The Day the Ocean Disappeared / Anthead / Never Retire with Mr. & Mrs. Van Pire / The Mysterious Robot Critic Caper” (9/29/79) – The Clam steals a Chinese water-controlling machine and uses it to flood and rob New York City. / Dr. Honctoff uses a secret formula to bottle all the world’s oceans after turning them to vapor. / Anthead steals computers to help him plan the crime of the century. / Mr. and Mrs. Van Pire hypnotize millionaires into selling them their estates before turning them into bats. / A robot uses the matter transformer in his cane to shrink and steal valuable objects.

“The Horrible Half-Ape / Hugefoot / Goldteeth’s Bad Bite / Baby Man / The Spaceship Caper” (10/6/79) – Professor Darwin’s experiment goes wrong and transforms him into a half-ape man. / Hugefoot steals a device that will allow him to see the future. / Goldteeth sets his sights on a gold-plated satellite. / Baby Man disables city officials by making them act like babies with a secret formula. / The Cosmic Claw hijacks space transports carrying gold.

“The Miniscule 7 / Moonraider / Trouble Brews When Glue Man Glues / Shake Up with Ms. Make-Up / The Golden Crystal Caper” (10/13/79) – A tiny group of gangsters plot to cheat to win basketball tournaments. / Moonraider steals spaceships while they’re in space. / Glue Man decides to level up in order to finally beat Mighty Man and Yukk. / A beautiful criminal plans to steal Cleopatra’s beauty secrets. / The detectives have to get a golden crystal from Mars to Hong Kong, which Lazer-Lips intends to steal.

“Superstein / Dogmaster / Bad News Snooze / Coach Crime’s Big Play / The Rickety Robbery” (10/20/79) – Dr. Superstein plans to steal people’s brains to power his monster army. / Dogmaster wants a power ray formula that’s been hidden in a chimp’s brain. / Madame Sleep goes after King Ledus’ ring in order to open the vault of the Lagovian Embassy. / The detectives are tricked into committing the crime they believe they’re foiling.

“The Diabolical Dr. Dome / Honey Bee / Public Rooster #1 / Rob Around the Clock / The Alien Egg Caper” (10/27/79) – Dr. Dome steals Plas’ powers and uses them for evil. / Honey Bee plans to increase global warming so that she and her insects will rule. / The Rooster steals an anti-gravity machine to aid in his crimes. / The Time Keeper freezes time in order to commit his crimes. / The hatchling from an alien egg kidnaps members of an explorer’s club.

“The Dangerous Dr. Dinosaur / The Spider Takes a Bride / The Perils of Paulette / The Dangerous Dr. Gadgets / The Super-Duper Race Cage” (11/3/79) – Dr. Dinosaur uses his dinosaurs to commit robberies. / The Spider turns Queen Katherine’s subjects into flies unless she marries him. / Handheld sabotages a movie production so the studio will replace its female lead with his girlfriend. / Rufus T. Gadgets sets up his own crimes to stop in order to outclass Mighty Man and Yukk. / Helmet Head steals the formula for a super fuel.

“Empire of Evil / The Corruptible Carrot Man / Bye Bye Biplane / Beach Bum’s Crime Wave / The Creepy Creature Caper” (11/10/79) – Plas’ has to rescue some important children from an island run by the Empire of Evil. / Carrot Man steals a map that will lead him to the cosmic scepter. / Baron Brute plans to use an amnesia machine to sabotage his opponent for a contract. / Beach Bum uses his surfing skills to steal King Neptune’s trident. / A swamp monster keeps the detectives away from a downed spaceship full of counterfeit money.

“The Maniacal Computerhead / The Hippotist / The Fiendish Fishface / Catman / The Mysterious, Serious Circus Caper” (11/17/79) – Computerhead uses his device to bring to life an army of sentient machines to conquer the world. / The Hippotist hypnotizes bank managers to rob their own banks. / Fishface kidnaps millionaires with his trained dolphins and has his henchmen replace them. / Catman’s trained lion and panther steal the world’s largest diamond. / A ghost haunts a traveling intergalactic circus.

“Badladdin / Toyman / Kragg the Conqueror / The Menacing Mindreader / The Mad Mummy Mystery” (11/24/79) – An evil genie uses his powers to abduct teenagers. / Toyman turns the people he abducts into toys. / Dr. Lash plots to use the Viking warrior he thawed out to kidnap the mayor, the chief and Mighty Man. / Miro uses his machine to steal valuable secrets from people’s minds. / The detectives end up kidnapped while transporting a mummy to a school.

“Ghostfinger / Highbrow / Dog Gone Days / The Evil Evo-Ray / The Count Draculon Caper” (12/1/79) – Ghostfinger uses a time machine to recruit ghosts from the past in order to get revenge on the people who sent him to jail. / Highbrow steals the world’s trains so people will have to pay him to ride them. / When guard dogs keep foiling his crimes, a criminal vows to eliminate all dogs from Earth. / Future Man plans to de-evolve humanity into cavemen. / A space vampire hijacks space liners using a hypno-beam.

“The Kitty Katt Caper / The Colossal Crime of Commodore Peril / The Video Villain / Krime Klone’s Circus of Evil / The Horrible Headless Horseman Caper” (12/8/79) – Kitty Katt discovers an ancient Egyptian serum that changes people into cats. / Commodore Peril holds the prized possessions of three billionaires ransom. / Camera Man transports himself through TVs in order to commit his crimes. / Krime Klown’ Krime Kazoo turns ordinary people into his circus henchmen. / The detectives are sent to retrieve evidence that will convict an executive from a haunted ghost town.

“The Terrible 5+1 / Joggernaut / Copycat / The Sinister Super Suit / The Case of the Fearsome Phantom” (12/15/79) – Solex recruits a team of villains, but when he interferes in their capers they go to Plas for help. / Joggernaut steals an energy machine that will let him find the Amazon city of gold. / Copycat plans to steal the money belt of oil tycoon Bucks Galore. / A former TV villain becomes a real one when he develops a super suit. / A phantom threatens a rock group he claims stole his music.

“Dr. Duplicator Strikes Again / Thunderman / The Malevolent Marble Man / Evil Notions with Evila’s Potions / The Mysterious Warnings of Doom” (12/22/79) – Dr. Duplicator replaces politicians with clones to steal government secrets. / Thunderman steals and plans to sell of New York City. / Marble Man uses his ability to bring statues to life to clear out the city for himself. / Evila uses a potion to have the city’s gems follow her back home. / An alien invasion interrupts the detectives’ vacation on a former gold-mining asteroid.

“Count Graffiti Meets Plastic Man / Sale of the Century / The Diabolical Dr. Locust / Where There’s a Will, There’s a Creep / The Case of the Vicious Voodoo Villain” (12/29/79) – In revenge for his exile, Count Graffiti plans to steal the royal crown to become king of Ocentania. / Aliens remove Earth from its orbit after a desperate salesman sells it to them. / Dr. Locust wants three ancient Chinese junks that can become a robot warrior. / Stan has to stay in a haunted house for his inheritance, but the Creep plans to inherit it himself. / An alien turns a tropical resort’s guests into monsters.

“Plastic Mummy Meets Disco Mummy / City of Ice / Doctor Icicle / The Glutunous Glop / The Deep Sea Demon Caper” (1/5/80) – An ancient Aztec Queen returns to life and steals the treasure of Cortez from Mexico. / After discovering the power of eternal youth, Dr. Frost decides to reverse it and make everyone else old. / Dr. Icicle and Frosty kidnap scientists to have them freeze the sun. / An evil professor sends his matter-eating Glop to beak into a safe for valuable blueprints. / The detectives have to help a salvage company retrieve a gold cargo being blocked by a sea monster.

Season 2:
“Plastic Man Meets Plastic Ape / Introducing Baby Plas / Baseball Bully” (9/13/80) – Dr. Astro uses a giant plastic ape to rob New York. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / Baby Plas challenges a bully that won’t let him play to a baseball game.

“The Crime Costume Caper / Baby Plas’ Finny Friend / Haircut Headache” (9/20/80) – Greta Grim gets Plas to star in a commercial selling her ultimate hi-tech villain suit. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.  / Hula-Hula takes Baby Plas for his first haircut.

“The Royal Gargoyle Foil / The Abominable Snow Sport / Bad Luck Stroll” (9/27/80) – Gargoyle plans to steal Dr. Ventor’s invisibility ray. / NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.  / Hula-Hula and Baby Plas take an eventful walk.

“The Big, Big Crush / Clubhouse Calamity” (10/4/80) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / Baby Plas takes an initiation to join a neighborhood club.

“The Mighty Museum Mess / Witchin’ Worries” (10/11/80) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / Baby Plas is an important ingredient for a witch’s brew.

“Ali Baba Baby / Tiger Trouble” (10/18/80) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / Baby Plas brings a tiger home as a pet.

“Who Undo the Zoo / Babysitter Blues” (10/25/80) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / Baby Plas has to try and evade his babysitter in order to watch television.

“Rustin’ Rascals / Sleepwalking Snafu” (11/1/80) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / Baby Plas has to watch over his sleep-walking father.

“Ozark Family Feud / Birthday Blowout” (11/8/80) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / Baby Plas and the bully compete to see who will get to sit next to birthday girl Jenny.

“Rodeo Ruckus / Movie Mischief” (11/15/80) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / A hungry dog wants Baby Plas’ food at the drive-in.

“Dr. Strangeleaf / Tropical Trouble” (11/22/80) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / A mother gorilla wants to make Baby Plas her own.

“Kewpie Doll Capers / Frognapped” (11/29/80) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE. / Baby Plas has to rescue his pet frog from the dogcatcher.

“Calamity Cruise / Mummy Madness” (12/6/80) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.  / A mummy returns to life during Baby Plas’ visit to the museum.

Originally posted in 2018. Updated in 2020.

No comments: