Jack Cole was a natural talent in cartooning, and is best known as the creator of the legendary Golden Age hero 'Plastic Man'. Born in Newcastle, Pennsylvania, his only formal training was through a Landon Correspondence Course in Cartooning. He made his professional debut in 1934, when he commenced making illustrations for the American Can Factory and Boy's Life. In 1937, he joined the Harry "A" Chesler Shop, where he made strips such as 'Peewee Throttle', 'Circus', 'King Kole's Court', 'Windy Breeze', 'Officer Clancy' and other humorous back-ups, using the pseudonym Ralph Johns.
The Claw (Silver Streak #1, 1939)
He became editor of the Lev Gleason Publications group in 1939, and there he wrote and drew comics like 'Daredevil' (with Jack Binder), 'Silver Streak', 'Dickie Dean the Boy Inventor' and 'The Claw' in Silver Streak Comics. He was also present at MLJ with 'The Comet' in Pep Comics.
From 1940, he assisted Will Eisner on 'The Spirit'. During this period, he also began a large production for the Quality Comics Group. He created features like 'Wung Cloo' and 'Midnight' (strongly inspired by 'The Spirit') for Smash Comics.
Also for Quality, Cole created the legendary 'Plastic Man' for Police Comics in 1941. This humorous superhero feature, in which Cole did lots of graphical and narrative experimentation, got its own comic book in 1943. Cole went on to drawn his cult comic for many years, until he handed it over to other artists around 1950. The comic ran for another six years, still under Cole's name.
Cole additionally worked as a freelance cartoonist and illustrator for several magazines, until 1954, when Playboy hired him to draw 'Females by Cole', one of the best cartoon features the magazine ever had. In 1958, Jack Cole was lured back to making comic strips again by the Chicago Sun-Times Syndicate, which commissioned him to do the humorous, slightly autobiographic strip 'Betsy and Me'. It lasted only for a few months - on 13 August 1958, Jack Cole took his own life.
Betsy and Me
A great book, 'Jack Cole and Plastic Man', was published by Art Spiegelman about Cole's creations and life, and is highly recommended for anyone who wants to know more about this talented artist, who tragically committed suicide at the height of his career for reasons that have never been fully explained.