Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Flash Facts: The Early Days of The Elongated Man

Flash has had quite the collection of villains over the years....

...but equally important is the number of friends he made as well.

One of the earliest of them was the stretchable sleuth known as Elongated Man, who, in his not so secret identity of Ralph Dibny, traveled the country, using his ability to stretch, in mind and body, to solve various little mysteries that he would sniff out as they came to him.

The Mystery Of The Elongated Man

Ralph Dibny was really just an overgrown child as he first met Flash in Flash #112 (April-May, 1960) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.   Not literally, but Ralph had loved Indian Rubber Men from the circus since he was a child, and learned they all favored the soft drink, Gingold, so he made a more powerful version of this drink to really allow him to stretch, and headed out in his purple stretchable costume to solve crimes.  Problem was, Ralph looked like the best suspect in these crimes to the Flash, so the Elongated Man had to contend with Barry Allen's alter ego first, before the two teamed up to bring in the real criminal gang.

This story has been reprinted many times, including in Flash Annual #1 of 1963 (and its replica edition of 2001), DC Special Series #19 of 1979, in the second Flash Archives and Flash Chronicles, and the first Flash Omnibus and Flash: The Silver Age collections.

The Elongated Man's Secret Weapon

Ralph showed his love of the circus in Flash #115 (September, 1960) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson, as he was working with one as a performer, and has made quite a bit of money, so takes to traveling the world.  The Elongated Man ends up in the Yucatan, following the trail of the Gingo, the plant which helps give Ralph his powers, and finds an odd red light (and a mystery), so he calls on his pal, the Flash for help.  The two heroes end up being reduced in size by  aliens, preparing to invade Earth, but the heroes stop them, returning to normal size after wrecking their shrinking machine.

This story is reprinted in second Flash Archive, third Flash Chronicle and first Flash Omnibus and Flash: The Silver Age collection.

The Elongated Man's Undersea Trap

Ralph's life changes forever in Flash #119 (March, 1961) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, as before this appearance, it is revealed that he married Sue Dearbon, and the two of them encounter trouble on their honeymoon in the Caribbean.  Ralph had been kidnapped by the alien Bredans, who had been capturing divers to sell into slavery for a while.  They capture the Flash as well, who goes along to find Ralph, who has lost his memory.  Flash helps Ralph recover his memory, and the two defeat the slave masters, free the other divers and let Ralph get back to Sue and his honeymoon, with Ralph basking in the glory (as he also does not keep a secret identity, referring to himself as the world famous Elongated Man).

This story was reprinted in Flash #209 of 1971, the third Flash Archive, the fourth Flash Chronicle, the first Flash Omnibus and the second Flash: The Silver Age Collection. 

Space-Boomerang Trap

Time for the Elongated Man to meet a super-villain (and make another cover appearance), and that happened in Flash #124 (November, 1961) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.  Captain Boomerang had been out on parole, but still using a special boomerang to commit crimes.  Flash calls in Elongated Man in for help, but the time-traveling nature of the boomerang attracts aliens, who Captain Boomerang joins with the heroes to chase off the aliens, with Boomerang then trying to use the alien tech to rid himself of the Flash, but Elongated Man stops that, and then the two work together to put Captain Boomerang back in jail.

This tale is reprinted in Flash #160 of 1966, DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #2 of 1980, the Greatest Flash Stories Ever Told, the third Flash Archive, the fourth Flash Chronicle, the first Flash Omnibus and the second Flash: The Silver Age Collection.

Kid Flash Meets Meets The Elongated Man

Kid Flash and the Elongated Man had been alternating back-ups in the Flash for a while, so in Flash #130 (August, 1962) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, it was time for the two heroes to team-up (as Barry was to be busy, working with Green Lantern Hal Jordan).  Elongated Man called Flash for help with a case, but as Barry was going on vacation, Barry went to Kid Flash to recruit him instead.  Oakley County had been snowed in, and isolated from the world, and Kid Flash and Elongated Man figured out that it was Weather Wizard, using his control over the weather to blackmail the town.  The two heroes work together to find and disable the machine the Weather Wizard was using to blanked the town in winter weather.

This story was reprinted in Four Star Spectacular #2 of 1976, DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #2 of 1980, the fourth Flash Archives, the first Flash Omnibus and in the second Flash: The Silver Age Collection. 

The Man Who Mastered Absolute Zero

The next Flash/Elongated Man team-up happened in Flash #134 (February, 1963) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, and pitted the pair against one of the Flash's oldest villains, Captain Cold.  Flash and Elongated Man go to help scientist Dr. Hutson with a malfunctioning computer, but are unable to find any trouble.  Flash then goes to stop Captain Cold from a prison break, but Elongated Man stops Flash.  Flash then tracks Captain Cold down again, but again, Elongated Man works to stop the Flash, so Barry knocks out Ralph, captures Captain Cold, and has to find out what's wrong with his friend.  Turns out the computer had been infected with a radiation which made it work opposite as to how it was suppose to, and somehow that Elongated Man had been infected with that radiation as well.

This story was reprinted in 100-Page Super Spectacular #DC-22 of 1973, and in the fifth Flash Archive.

The Pied Piper's Double Doom

Elongated Man's last appearance in the Flash of the 1960s happened in Flash #138 (August, 1963) by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, facing off against the Pied Piper.  This time, Pied Piper hypnotizes the Elongated Man into stealing for him, then forgetting what he has done.  While investigating Ralph's unintentional crime, Pied Piper uses his hypnosis on the speedster, then having him commit a crime as well, then forget it too.  Elongated Man figures out Flash was behind the second crime, and the two crimefighters figure out that they were both controlled, track down Pied Piper, and Flash, using Ralph's Gingold, surprise Pied Piper, defeating him.

This story was reprinted in DC Special Series #24 of 1981 and in the fifth Flash Archive.  Elongated Man must have felt dejected being used against the Flash, as he and Sue must have needed a change.

Nothing too terrible happened to the Elongated Man and Sue, they just moved over to Detective Comics, starting with issue #327 as a back-up feature to Batman and Robin, where Ralph's nose twitched whenever he smelled a mystery (much to Sue's chagrin).  Elongated Man even was cover featured in full length team-ups with Batman in Detective Comics #331 and #343 of the 1960s.

During his run in Detective Comics, Elongated Man faced Chronos and Riddler, changed costumes twice (once a yellow one, then a more familiar red and blue)... well as teaming up with Zatanna so he could be there for the end of her quest to find her father in Justice League of America #51 in 1967.  Ralph and Sue's back-ups in Detective Comics ended with issue #383 in 1968, then took a few years for him to return in Flash #206, joining the Justice League soon after in Justice League of America #105 in 1973, where he remained almost to the end of this run of the Justice League of America (even changing to a more purple costume, all without a mask, as Ralph had decided early on not to hide his identity, loving the fame)...

....then returning to Justice League Europe after the Invasion!, even having one four issue limited series in the 1990s, as well as a Showcase Presents Elongated Man reprinting all the early Flash Elongated Man tales, as well as most of his Detective Comics tales in black and white, showcasing Ralph's deductive abilities and love of his wife, Sue.

Stretching things a bit, this is a pretty good run for anyone!

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