Jack Cole was born ninety-four years ago today. He was one of the greatest comic book artists to ever walk the earth, and one of the men who helped put the gold in The Golden Age.
His greatest and best-known creation was Quality Comics’ Plastic Man, a feature he worked on for nine years, although the rest of his funny book resume was also fairly impressive. He worked on the Golden Age Daredevil that’s recently been revived by Dynamite and Image Comics, among the many lurid crime comics he created were some of Fredric Wertham’s favorite examples (Cole drew the notorious hypodermic-needle-to-they-eyeball image) and he ghosted for Will Eisner on The Spirit during World War II.
Cole also earned great acclaim drawing sexy cartoon women for Playboy, his one-panel gag images remain one of the magazine’s greatest cartoon features, and shortly before his tragic death he finally realized his life-long dream of breaking into newspaper comic strips, with his short-lived strip Betsy and Me. He died in 1958.
How best to celebrate Cole’s birthday? I’d recommend curling up with any of DC’s Plastic Man Archives, DC’s Will Eisner’s The Spirit Archives Vols. 5-9 (from the period in which Cole and Lou Fine worked on the strip), Fantagraphics’ The Classic Pin-Up Art of Jack Cole and Betsy and Me, or Art Spiegelman and Chip Kidd’s Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits.
Or, better yet, all of ‘em.