Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Plastoid

Christine here posted a rather funny bit from the early days of the scarlet swashbuckler, with our hero turned into macaroni stuffing by a big robot/android. DD looks justifiably horrified, not so much because he's about to get squashed, but rather because he's meeting his demise in a most laughable way.
The art here is by an early Barry Windsor Smith. Without detracting anything from the level of prowess afterwards reached by the English artist, it can be said that, compared to the amazing art provided by Gene Colan before and after his first brief stint with DD, this looks like fanart more than anything else.
Let's see, for one, the very same scene pictured by Colan in the cliffhanger of the preceeding issue:

To tell you the truth, this sort of looks scarier, with the plastic pose of the robot, exposing us its crotch and holding its victim like a sexually aroused gorilla.
The robot, anyway, is called the Plastoid, and was created and programmed by the evil genius scientist Starr Saxon to seek and destroy Daredevil. The explanation of how the android managed to find our hero is given in the following panels:

Yes, the Plastoid is able to track its intended target by scent, or, more specifically, by using a built-in scentolator and following input provided by a photo of the victim treated with a special aromascope.
Yeah, I realize how retarded is that, but keep in mind that all of this was created by a guy who thinks it's necessary to tell an inanimated object to stay still while he installs something onto it.

Another peculiarity of the Plastoid is the indicator on its chest, showing a number that, as we're told via "bad guy conceited monologue", can go from 0 to 10 and is descriptive of the current level of efficiency of the Plastoid itself. This will be important later on.
So, the Plastoid reaches Matt's apartment, knocks him out after a short fight and captures him.

It's about to head for its master's hideout, when it hears the sound of someone approaching. This forces it to abandon the mission, drop Matt's body and return to the base empty-handed.

And what could that be? What was this unexpected danger, this sound not covered in the instructions, this event that forced a giant robot with superhuman strength and invulnerable body to leave its intended victim and flee in order to absolve its first function of protecting itself? The Avengers? The Mighty Thor? An earthquake?
No, just a blind man and his guide dog passing by.

So, thanks to the unaware intervention of his friend (the blind war veteran Willie Lincoln), Daredevil manages to avoid capture. The robot, hovewer, returns for him the day after, surprising him in his gym. Which leads us to the embarassing situation of Daredevil's gym equipment used against him.
It must be noticed that there was a changing of writer between these issues. Stan Lee, in fact, becomes editor. With issue 51, the writing chores fall to Roy Thomas, and along with them the burden of resolving the Saxon/Plastoid storyline. Lee, however, has still to find a way for DD out of that situation. He manages to do so, albeit by cheating a bit:

He can throw it where he wants to... but I won't be inside!

Uh, sure. Only that he wasn't going to kill him by throwing the "DD macarone" anywhere, he was about to kill him by squeezing him inside the rolled mat like a lemon, as was clearly told in the previous page and at the end of the previous issue.
But here comes the better part. Remember how they said that the numbers on the Plastoid's chest indicated his power level? Well, after failing to kill DD by renouncing to squish him to death and just throwing him at a wall, the already uber-powerful android decides he needs more power and automatically increases that number to... 50.

So, in case of extreme situations, the normal range of the indicator can be overrun by 500%? Five times more powerful than the original form, which was already unbeatable? And this was the same robot who ran away from an approaching passer-by and his dog?
Well, anyway. Having reached Hulk's power level, the Plastoid judges himself ready to face Daredevil with acceptable odds. It manages to pin him under its hand:

Again, an embarassing situation with our hero's incredulous face depicted full frontally again. See how the synthetic assailant indulges in a useless description of what's happening and what it's about to do instead of just killing Daredevil and be done with it. Note: By the time I reached this page, I was getting so confused by the art and by the redundant text that I was reading DD's baloons with the "robotic-pattern" as well.
Daredevil takes adavantage of the Plastoid's taste for the dramatic, and manages to free himself from the hold:

He then tricks the robot into punching a fusebox. This temporarily takes it out, and erases its memory bank. After a short time, in fact, the robot gets up again and starts heading to Starr Saxon's hideout to get new instructions. How do we know all this? Because the android has the unexplainable need to say everything that passes through his circuits aloud, that's why.
Daredevil follows the android, both to learn the location of the hideout and to make sure that no civilians get harmed along the way.
And here we have Daredevil trying to convince the police not attempting to stop a menacing mechanical humanoid walking in the middle of the city streets as if nothing was:

I wonder what he means by "I take complete responsibility". That thing is going around thrashing everything in its path, detroying cars and at risk of stepping on abandoned baby carriages, old ladies etc. Is he willing to pay for all that? In any event, the police decides to play it his way.

The story continues then with the Plastoid leading DD to Saxon's sanctum, where some more mess happens, leading to more convoluted mess later, and so on. To make a long story short, the Plastoid self-deactivates after having accomplished his new objective, that is exterminating an imprisoned mob boss.
As for the rest of the plot, it is resolved after some four or five issue, with the defeat of Starr Saxon.
We never hear of the Plastoid again. Too bad, it was a rather intriguing foe and had an interesting concept, even taking into account the numerous absurdities shown in this entry.

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