A small-time criminal, Patrick "Eel" O'Brian was involved in a heist at the Crawford Chemical Works that went wrong. He was shot by a guard, and exposed to a strange acid. His gang abandoned him, and he wandered the streets while his powers developed, terrifying passers-by, who thought he was some sort of monster. Initially unaware of his predicament, his realization of his situation caused him to become despondent, to the point of attempting suicide. Before he could jump he was interrupted by Woozy Winks, a recently-released mental patient. The pair quickly decided to turn Eel's new powers into an opportunity for profit, and at the toss of a coin decided that he should become a superhero.
Plastic Man was created by Jack Cole. He was updated for the post-Crisis universe by Phil Foglio.
In his original origin story, Eel O'Brian is rescued following the heist by a group of monks, and chooses to renounce his criminal ways in honour of them. He turned to the side of law enforcement upon discovering the extent of his new powers, though maintained a cover identity as Eel O'Brian for some time before eventually joining official law enforcement agencies.
Briefly in the Silver Age Plastic Man was the son of the original Plastic Man, who had accidentally ingested the mysterious acid as a baby.
For the most part, Silver and Bronze Age versions of the character matched the Golden Age version. Eventually the Golden Age version was retconned as a native of Earth-2 who later died on Earth-X.
Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the character's origin was updated to the current version. His reason for pursuing crime-fighting later had some impact on his actions and relationships.
Major Story Arcs
Divided We Fall
Members of the Justice League are divided, such that their heroic and civilian identities become separate beings. For Plastic Man, this means that his heroic identity devolves into an ineffectual comic relief character, while his civilian identity struggles with the criminal nature that he has been suppressing, and the attendant guilt. He is instrumental in orchestrating the re-merging of all of the Leaguer's identities.
The Obsidian Age
Along with other members of the Justice League, Plastic Man investigates the disappearance of Aquaman, and eventually travels back several thousand years to ancient Atlantis. There he and his team come into conflict with the Justice League of Ancients. In one confrontation, Plastic Man is frozen and his body is shattered into thousands of pieces which are then lost in the ocean. He remains on the ocean floor, semi-sentient, for three thousand years, until finally being rescued by his teammates. Having suffered greatly by the extreme isolation and helplessness of spending several millennia in pieces on the ocean floor, he leaves the team for some time, choosing to dedicate himself to raising his son, Offspring. He returns to the team sometime later at the urging of Batman.
Countdown and Aftermath
Plastic Man is seduced and corrupted by Eclipso, who convinces him that his teammates and friends do not respect him, and that she will be able to get him the respect he deserves. His corruption is reversed by Bruce Gordon. He rejoins the Justice League, and is insulted by Dr Light, who does not believe him to be an effective hero.
Cry For Justice
During a fight with Prometheus, Plastic Man is injected with a mysterious chemical. The chemical forced him to have to put a great deal of concentration into maintaining a solid state, while simultaneously making any sort of transformation incredibly painful to him.
Still suffering from the effects of Prometheus' chemical, Plastic Man is attacked by the Black Lantern Vibe, who rips out his heart. Despite this fatal wound, Plastic Man survives the attack, and is later sent to S.T.A.R. Labs for treatment
Plastic Man later returns to the League apparently cured of both the effects of the chemicals and the loss of his heart. He joins the team in attempting to track Maxwell Lord, and later joins the team on its trip to Hell, where he fights Geryon alongside Batman. He becomes possessed by Dante's mask, and when the League manages to remove it from him he is apparently incinerated, though he is later revealed to have merely been transported to another dimension by Zauriel. He made a brief appearance in Justice League #27 forever evil tie-in
Justice League International
Plastic Man applies to become a member of the Justice League international, but is rejected for being unpredictable and eccentric.
Powers and Abilities
Malleable Physiology: Plastic Man's powers are derived from an accident in which his body was bathed in an unknown industrial chemical mixture that also entered into his bloodstream through a gunshot wound. This caused a body-wide mutagenic process that transformed his physiology. Eel exists in a fluid state, neither entirely liquid nor solid. Plastic Man has complete control over his structure.
Density Control: Plastic Man can change his density at will; becoming as dense as a rock or as flexible as a rubber band.
Malleability (Elasticity/Plasticity): He can stretch his limbs and body to superhuman lengths and sizes. There is no known limit to how far he can stretch his body.
Size Alteration: He can shrink himself down to a few inches tall (posed as one of Batman's utility belt pockets) or become a titan (the size of skyscrapers).
Shape-Shifting: He can contort his body into various positions and sizes impossible for ordinary humans, such as being entirely flat so that he can slip under a door or using his fingers to pick conventional locks. He can also use it for disguise by changing the shape of his face and body. Thanks to his fluid state, Plastic Man can open holes in his body and turn himself into objects with mobile parts. In addition, he can alter his bodily mass and physical constitution at will; there is virtually no limit to the sizes and shapes he can contort himself into.
Superhuman Agility: These stretching powers grant Plastic Man heightened agility enabling him flexibility and coordination that is extraordinarily beyond the natural limits of the human body.
Color Change: The only limitation he has relates to color, which he cannot change without intense concentration. He generally does not use this ability and sticks to his red and yellow colored uniform.
Invulnerability: Plastic Man's powers extraordinarily augment his durability. Some stories, perhaps of anecdotal quality, have showed him susceptible to surprise attack by bullets, in one case oozing a substance similar to liquid plastic. In most stories, though, he is able to withstand corrosives, punctures and concussions without sustaining any injury (although he can be momentarily stunned). He is resistant to high velocity impacts that would kill an ordinary person, resistant to blasts from energy weapons (Batman once mentioned that he could presumably even withstand a nuclear detonation), and is bulletproof. His bodily mass can be dispersed, but for all intents and purposes it is invulnerable.
Regeneration: He is able to regenerate and/or assimilate lost or damaged tissue, although he needs to be reasonably intact for this process to begin; he was reduced to separate molecules and scattered across the ocean for centuries, only returning to his usual form after the rest of the League were able to gather enough of his molecules and restore approximately 80% of his body mass, after which he began to regenerate what they hadn't salvaged.
Telepathic Immunity: As stated by Batman (in JLA #88), "Plastic Man's mind is no longer organic. It's untouchable by telepathy."
Immortality: Plastic Man does not appear to age; if he does, it is at a rate far slower than that of normal human beings. In the aftermath of the Justice League story Arc "Obsidian Age", Plastic Man was discovered to have survived for 3000 years scattered into separate molecules on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. He is now over 3000 years old and is still active as a superhero.
Ultrasonic Detection: His body will start to "ripple" when an ultrasonic frequency is triggered.
Plastic Man is a member of the Secret Six, a group of heroes.
Dark Knight Universe
During The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Plastic Man is imprisoned for several years in Arkham Asylum, where he is forced to maintain an egg-like shape. He is driven insane by his captivity, and when released goes on a violent rampage. In the All-Star Batman and Robin series he is a member of an early version of the Justice League, and is depicted as a talkative joker who irritates his teammates
A member of the JLA, Plastic Man travels to Wakanda alongside Martian Manhunter.
This alternate retelling of Plastic Man's early years heavily reflects the Golden Age version's origins. Later in the series he becomes romantically involved with an FBI agent, and adopts a daughter.
In the Flashpoint alternate reality, Plastic Man is a villain still going by the name Eel O'Brian. He attempts to break Heat Wave out of prison, but is apparently killed by Heat Wave after attempting to prevent him from destroying Detroit. He is later shown to be alive, and apparently planning to seek his revenge.
Plastic Man appears as a minor character in the episode "Professor Goodfellow's GEEC". He is voiced by Norman Alden.
The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show
Plastic Man is the main character in this television series. He is voiced by Michael Bell.
A television series based on Plastic Man was commissioned, with a pilot episode entitled "Puddle Trouble" being produced before the decision was made to not produce the series. In the pilot, Plastic Man is voiced by Tom Kenny.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Plastic Man appears as a recurring character in this series, making his first appearance in the episode "Terror on Dinosaur Island!". This series reworked his origin somewhat. He is voiced by Tom Kenny.
Plastic Man makes non-speaking cameo appearances in several episodes in the series, beginning with "Revelation". He is portrayed as an independent hero, and later as a member of the League.
Plastic Man appears in the episode "Al Pacino and the Chipmunks/That's What Super Friends Are For". He is voiced by Dana Snyder.
DC Nation Shorts
Plastic Man features in several short animated pieces, many of which are based on "Puddle Trouble". He is voiced by Tom Kenny.
Justice League: The New Frontier
Plastic Man makes a cameo appearance listening to John F Kennedy's speech.
Plastic Man appears as a character in this tabletop game.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold-- The Videogame
Plastic Man appears as a playable character. He is voiced by Tom Kenny.