First Published: July 2006
Contents: The Flash #112 (April-May 1960), #115 (September 1960), #119 (March 1961), #124 (November 1961), #130 (August 1962), #134 (February 1963), and #138 (August 1963); Elongated Man stories from Detective Comics #327 (May 1964) to #371 (January 1968)
Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Joe Giella, Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, Sid Greene
Key First Appearances: Ralph Dibny/Elongated Man, Sue Dibny
Overview: Ralph Dibny is an amateur detective and chemist. Curious as to how the India Rubber Men of the circus gain their abilities to stretch their bodies, Ralph finds a common element in their fondness for the Gingold soft drink. The basis of the drink comes from a little known tropical fruit, gingo. Swallowing a highly-concentrated gingo extract, Ralph finds that he can now stretch his body. Quickly developing a special stretch nylon costume, Ralph names himself the Elongated Man and begins his career as a super-hero.
Initially created as a supporting character for the Flash, his popularity quickly led to his own re-occuring stories in Detective Comics. Alongside his new bride Sue, Ralph travelled the country in his convertible looking for another mystery to solve. He quickly ditched his mask, becoming one of the first super-heroes to go public like that. His adventures often crossed paths with other heroes of the era, such as Batman, Green Lantern, and Zatanna.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: The Elongated Man could be considered as a character ahead of his time. Ralph took no measures to protect his identity, and rather embraced his celebrity status. He craved the spotlights and attention they received everywhere they travelled. I wonder if a fresh take on the character in today’s modern-age, with cell phones and paparazzi, might succeed?
But looking at these stories from the 1960s collected in this volume, I think Elongated Man is a great character to have around to support other characters, such as Batman or the Flash, or later when he would join the Justice League of America. When he is headlining his own feature, the stories fall into a predictable formula – Ralph and Sue travel to a new town; Ralph sees a newspaper headline that causes his nose to twitch; he goes undercover to solve the mystery; and he stops the antagonists, often by stretching his body to his limits. Overall, I think this volume is nice-to-have, but it is not necessarily a must-own volume.
Footnotes: According to lore, Julie Schwartz wanted John Broome and Carmine Infantino to create a Plastic Man-type character to interact with the Flash in his comic. Reportedly, Schwartz was unaware the DC owned the rights to Plastic Man, as DC has purchased the rights to the Quality Comics characters when that publisher folded in 1956. DC could have used the character or even just the name “Plastic Man”, as was the trend at DC in the early days of Silver Age to reuse Golden Age character names, in the Flash title. This oversight helped lead to the creation of the Elongated Man.
As of this writing, there has not been a second volume issued for Elongated Man. The back-up stories featuring Ralph and Sue continued for many years, albeit sporadically at times, in the pages of Detective Comics and The Flash. There may not be enough material for a full-size Showcase Presents volume (500-600 pages), but surely a smaller volume, like what was done for Showcase Presents Eclipso or Showcase Presents Dial H for Hero, could be considered to help collect the remaining Elongated Man stories that would not be collected elsewhere.
If you like this volume, try: tracking down the 1992 Elongated Man mini-series. It has not been collected, so you may have to dive into some quarter bins to find this. The story is written by Gerard Jones. The story is fine, but the real reason to pick it up is for the art. The late Mike Parobeck introduced an art style best associated with the DC animated universe of the early 1990s. It looks simple and smooth and full of energy. The look of his characters appears to be a homage to Infantino, but without the square-set jawlines. Whether it is this title, the 1990s Justice Society of America title, or The Batman Adventures title that complimented the animated show, everyone should check out Parobeck’s work.