Hi, comic book steemsters! Today I want to talk about the new character from The Flash TV series, Ralph Dibny, better known as the World-famous Elongated Man. He is set to debut this Tuesday (October 31), and many fans of the show might want to know a little more about him. Googling him is easy enough, but with so many misconceptions spread online it's very easy to get the facts wrong.
For instance, Geek History Lesson podcast #184 got every possible fact wrong. Which goes to show us the limitations of the Internet as a source. So, here are some of the most common misconceptions about Ralph.
10. "Identity Crisis and 52 are the best Elongated Man stories"
Those are some of the best stories with him, but not the best about him. Neither has a protagonist. In the first —which some fans even consider damaging for him as a DC property—, he and Sue are plot devices and the mystery is solved by chance. In the second he gets a great case to solve, that's one of six main plots of the series.
Showcase Presents the Elongated Man shows the character in his original spirit —imagine a 60s sitcom with Dick Van Dyke as a detective with super stretching. It compiles all of his early appearances in The Flash and his first 45 in Detective Comics, although it has no second volume and it leaves out anything published after January 1968.
A complete list of recommentations would have to include Detective Comics #500, 557 and Justice League Quarlerly #6, because....
9. "Ralph has no big accomplishments"
During the silver age of comics, he focused on weird mysteries instead of supervillains. Then again, when they are involved in mysteries, Ralph has no trouble defeating the most challenging Batman or Flash rogues like the Riddler, Professor Milo, or the Mirror Master. Add Sonar II, Felix Faust, Neron and several alien invaders to that.
The high points of his career would be solving the mystery of the death of Edgar Allan Poe en Detective Comics #500, and teaming up with Batman, Robin, Slam Bradley, and Sherlock Holmes to prevent Edgar Moriarty from killing the Queen of England in issue #572.
In the Justice League Unlimited continuity, out of the entire 50 plus roster, he is the one to defeat Mordru, one of the most powerful menaces of the universe.
In Justice League Quarterly #6, the entire Justice League International (J'Onn included), tried to set a mystery for him, but he defeated them from the start.
One of his most impressive accomplishments is implicit in his first appearance, in The Flash #112. He is so fast solving crimes he constantly beats the Flash to it. By the end of the issue the Flash has to share the "Man of the year award" with him.
8. "Identity Crisis created a modern identity for Ralph and Sue"
Nope, but there is a nice sketch of both in the first issue. Identity Crisis only added some details to it. Which takes us to...
7. "Sue hangs out with the League since the Satellite era"
Although it's a good one, the sad truth is that Sue is rarely, if ever, seen at the Satellite. She starts hanging out with the Justice League at the bunker during the Detroit years, and later again with the Justice League Europe at the Paris JLI Embasy (which they eventually move to London). This takes us to...
6. "Sue is an unskilled, spoiled wife"
This is only kind of true during the silver age. Back in those early issues, she is mostly a rich hipster into shopping, fashion, traveling, social events with Ralph, and setting elaborated surprises for his birthday. However, modeled after Nora Charles, she is a smart woman from the start. This eventually showed. After Ralph joins the Justice League Europe, he reveals she is talented with computers, which allows her to become the team's permanent monitor. Eventually, she becomes the team's bureau chief (the equivalent of Maxwell Lord), and her skills got crazy enough to hack satellites from her laptop. Gotham Knights #41 revealed she is also a best selling mystery writer and detective as talented as Ralph and Batman.
This is the reason some fans like her even more than Ralph.
5. "Ralph's main ability is his super stretching"
When fans compare Mr. Fantastic with Ralph, they often say that the first's main super power is his scientific mind and not his stretching. Well, the second's main power is his detective mind and not his stretching. As a crimefighter Ralph is a detective first, and he is intelligent enough to be number one or two as such in his universe.
He uses his super stretching as a handy ability to spy on the suspects, and to fight.
4. "Ralph became a detective, dated Sue, made a fortune, and revealed his secret identity in early issues"
This is partially true. All of that happened between stories in the early issues and are told to the readers directly by editor Julie Schwartz through his comments in the caption boxes. Ralph makes his fortune as an entertainer between his first and second appearance, and he marries Sue between this second and third.
The third is also Sue's first appearance, so we don't get to read about their dates. Also, the newspapers publish that "Elongated Man marries debutante Sue Dearbon", "Flash is the best man". From that image we also learn he doesn't have a secret identity anymore. Julie specifies so in a later issue.
The detective thing is more complicated. Detective Comics # 327 (May 1964) is the first issue to state that Ralph is a detective. Some people claim that is a retcon; however, he previously shows a thing for mysteries in The Flash # 130 and 138. In his first appearance, The Flash #112 (May 1960), he beats the Flash to every crime scene. Without super speed, it just means he is a better tracker. Up to Detective Comics # 327, there are a lot of things we don't get to see about Ralph, so, showing him as a detective is not a retcon, just a development that fits.
3. "The Elongated Man is a second-tier"
Only as a fictional character in the real World. As a real person in the DC Universe, he clowns around and jokes about chasing fame, but he actually is a self-made, World-famous superhero, detective, and entertainer (huge in fictional France). His act is so popular he makes a huge fortune out of it (this is why he doesn't have a job) and he is once called to perform in England in front of Queen Elizabeth. His tec skills are rival those of Batman. His work as a superhero is so respected, he is actually the 13th member of the Justice League (Len Wein actuall meant to make him the 12th) and he stayed during three incarnations.
Along with Sue, he is also one of the most sociable superheroes in the DC Universe. They both know about everybody on a first name basis: Barry, Iris, Clark, Lois, Alfred, Bruce, Dick, Hal, Carol, Ray, Jean, Carter, Shiera, Ronnie, Buddy, Rex, and so on.
Ralph is one of the most succesful superheroes of any Universe. He started an average man, and without much effort, he achieved incredible economical, romantic, social, and vocational success. How many superheroes can say they created their own custom superpowers, anyway?
2. "Ralph is the poor man's Plas"
That's rather a Plastic Man misconception. He is a shapeshifter, not a stretcher. Plas is closer to Clayface and the Martian Manhunter. Ralph stretches body parts, just like Monkey D. Luffy, Elastigirl (Pixar), Mr. Fantastic, Elastic Lad, and Thin Man.
Thin Man, a golden age Marvel character, might be the first stretcher. Oddly enough he shares the name with the Nick Charles movies, and Ralph is explicitly based on him as a married detective.
Mr. Fantastic debuted right after Ralph, is also a super smart scientist, has no secret identity and is married to a woman named Sue. So, there is that.
1. "Julie created the Elongated Man because he didn't know DC owned Plastic Man"
This is the most common misconception. It's all over the Internet and it's false. While it is true that the legendary editor Julius Schwartz didn't know DC owned Plastic Man when he commisioned John Broome and Carmine Infantino, both Infantino and inker Murphy Anderson went on record stating that Julie never mentioned Plastic Man as a reference.
The rumor can be tracked to Don Markstein at his otherwise excellent Toonopedia site.
Keep in mind that, in any case, by 1960 DC didn't use to revive old characters, they created new ones based on them (like the silver age Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Atom).