Elongated Man. Artist: Carmine Infantino.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1960
Creators: John Broome (writer) and Carmine Infantino (artist)
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When superheroes get together for the first time, the usual procedure is to try to beat each other up, each thinking the other is a bad guy. When The Elongated Man first …

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… met The Flash, even readers thought that — in his first appearance (The Flash #112, May, 1960), he was made to look like another in a series of colorful villains the hero had been pitted against since the beginning, four years earlier.

But he wasn't — in fact, once the misunderstanding was cleared up, the two became friends. The introductory story was written by John Broome and drawn by Carmine Infantino, the team that, nine years earlier, had created Captain Comet. Afterward, Elongated Man became one of the first superheroes to appear only as an occasional supporting character in another superhero's ongoing series (cf. Black Panther, The Silver Surfer) — but not the first, which would probably be The Raven (no relation), a supporting character to The Spider Widow. The Elongated Man continued that way for four years before getting a series of his own.

Elongated Man was Ralph Dibny, who as a child had been fascinated by the "India rubber men" who used to work as circus freaks. In real life, they're simply contortionists whose bones are as hard as anyone else's, but in DC Comics they're flexible folks who, Ralph discovered, got that way by excessive use of a soft drink called Gingold. Isolating the active ingredient, he succeeded in concocting a substance which, when ingested on a regular basis, made him as bendable and as stretchable as Plastic Man.

In fact, editor Julius Schwartz later said that if he'd known DC owned the name "Plastic Man" (which it had acquired when Quality Comics, Plas's publisher, sold its properties to DC in 1956), he'd never have chosen such an unwieldy name for his own character. ("Elastic" had already been taken — Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen had been turning himself into Elastic Lad for a couple of years. In 1961, when Marvel Comics launched a similar character, they side-stepped the issue by calling him Mr. Fantastic.)

Elongated Man was a dilettante of a superhero, hence the lack of a regular series. He liked to play at the role, but resisted getting serious about it. He didn't even keep his identity a secret; and in fact, went so far as to marry, which was virtually unheard-of at the time. He'd previously used his powers to make a fortune in show business, besides which his wife, Sue Dearborn, was a wealthy heiress; so he never really had to get serious about anything.

This went on until DC played editorial roulette, and Schwartz wound up in charge of Detective Comics, where Batman was the star. He promptly ousted Detective's long-running back-up series, J'onn J'onzz, Manhunter from Mars. Elongated Man took up that slot with the 327th issue (May, 1964), in which Ralph and Sue embarked on an open-ended tour of America. The story formula called for them to run into an interesting mystery at each of their stops, and they'd play Nick and Nora Charles (with "Nick" in a superhero suit) until Ralph solved it. The signature indicator of his curiosity was that his nose would twitch, as only a thoroughly pliable man's can. The series continued until the January, 1969 issue, after which Batman's regular partner, Robin, and his sometimes-partner, Batgirl, alternated as the stars of Detective's back pages. He resumed the position in #426 (August, 1972), only to be re-replaced 11 issues later, by Manhunter.

Elongated Man went back to being an occasional guest star until 1973 when, apparently having decided to become serious about superheroing after all, he joined The Justice League of America. He appeared regularly in that title for years, but it bit the dust in 1987.

Since then, he's been part of one or two Justice League revivals, and he had a four-issue mini-series in 1992. He's also turned up occasionally in TV animation, but never as the star. Mostly, he's back where he started — an occasional supporting character, without much prospect of an ongoing series.


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