Monday, May 11, 2009

Plastic Man Under The Nefarious Influence of Marijuana

I highly recommend the DC Archives Plastic Man series. Almost from Plas' beginnings in 1941, Jack Cole displayed a real cleverness in the artwork and stories, mixing humor, cartoonish violence, and downright wackiness to create something that was unlike anything that had come before in comic books. Plastic Man was a sort of cross between Batman and Bugs Bunny.

So I'm (re)reading the first Plastic Man Archives when I get to page 45. In the story, Plastic Man is taking on a "gang of Amazonian racketeers...women of abnormal physical development bent on a city-wide protection shakedown," led by the rotten Madam Brawn. They get the best of Plas and knock him out, then rearrange his malleable features so that he resembles a wanted criminal named Eel O'Brian (ironically, Eel O'Brian is Plas' secret identity), and then feed him some reefers. The result is a giggling, dope-crazed mess who fires his gun at random as he races through the city streets:

At the time, the prevailing attitude toward marijuana was that a few puffs would send you into a crazed killing frenzy. There was a lot of propaganda released around the time that told you so. Movies and books like Devil's Harvest, Marihuana, Marijuana Girl, and of course Reefer Madness (following the RM link will take you to a video of the movie) dramatically showed the unvarnished prevailing "truth" about what happens when you take only a few puffs.

Now, of course, the prevailing attitude in popular culture is that smoking pot makes you laid back and mellow. You might get the munchies, but that's about as bad as the effects might be. It's true that the government still tries to scare people about marijuana, but the propaganda is so ineffective that now mainstream politicians are openly talking about its legalization. (But not the president- when asked about it recently he laughed like a schoolgirl and made infantile jokes. Meanwhile, Charlie Lynch, who ran a medical marijuana dispensary that was legal under California law is sitting in prison awaiting sentencing on his conviction under federal drug laws.)

My point is that for the most part, attitudes about marijuana are different now than they were sixty years ago. Being of a live-and-let-live attitude I think this is a good thing. But it got me wondering about prevailing attitudes now, and what citizens of the future might think of them. For instance, everyone knows about "roid rage," and how if you use steroids you'll be driven to commit insane acts of random violence.

Except, well, maybe not:

Experts like Dr. Gary Wadler at the World Anti-Doping Agency have testified before Congress, saying steroids pose a serious problem because the "threat is dying, the threat is suicide." And at a congressional hearing in March 2005 Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., called steroid use "a serious public health problem."

That's what we're often told by the media, too, in stories warning about "'roid rage" and supposed deaths by steroids. CNN's Nancy Grace once said steroids cause an "almost superhuman rage." But University of Wisconsin bioethicist Norman Fost says "the horror stories about the medical claims, some of them are just frankly made up."

So how long will it be before we look back at the roid rage stories and laugh at how stupid and naive everyone was to just blindly accept the "facts" about a substance that's relatively harmless, even helpful?

By the way, here's how Plas acts after the effects of the demon reefer weed have worn off:

As if in a fit of roid rage, Plas punches the gangster frail in the face, and she's sent reeling backward, where she lands on a rather conveniently-placed spike, and dies for crying out loud. That's just brutal.

Marihuana pic source.
Devil's Harvest pic source.
Marijuana Girl book cover pic source.
Reefer Madness pic source.


Anonymous said...

I STILL can't get past "Whee! I'm a criminal!"

The rest of the article is unfortunately narmed by that one panel.

Ricky Sprague said...

Gamegeneral, thanks for introducing me to the term "narm." I had never heard of it before, and took the time to look it up:

You have a point.

Also, nice blog. (