Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Actually Essential Storylines: The Elongated Man

This week’s 52 featured the second of the now-weekly back-up origin stories, each one ending with a head shot of the hero, a breakdown of their powers and a section marked “Essential Storylines,” giving new readers suggestions of where they can seek out more on the hero featured.

Last week it was Wonder Woman, and, as bitched about in “Weekly Haul,” most of the storylines recommended were out of continuity, and thus not canon.

This week the star is Ralph “Elongated Man” Dibny, and while the two-page, nine-panel story was tightly written by Mark Waid and gorgeously illustrated by Kevin Nowlan, the “Essential Storylines” section again seemed inadequate.

So I spent some quality time with my longboxes (But then, isn’t all time spent with one’s longboxes quality time?) for some more suggestions. I suspect this will be a regular EDILW feature.

Here's what DC reccomended:

Showcase Presents: The Elongated Man: No arguments there. While I’ve yet to read this particular volume (see black-and-white version of the cover above), I’ve also yet to regret buying a single one of the Showcase Presents books. Offering over 500 pages of the Ductile Detective action for less than a single $20 bill, it’s certainly the most essential value.

Identity Crisis: Again, no arguments. This is a murder mystery centering on Ralph and Sue Dibny, and it's awfully brutal to them both, in at least one scene going to a place that struck me as rather inappropriate territory at the time. And I'm still a little uncomfortable seeing what happened happen on the Justice League's meeting table. It is a beautifully drawn book though, and writer Brad Meltzer's story is six-sevenths of a great one (he cheats on a few points at the end, and it completely falls apart). For better or worse, it's not only the most pivotal Dibny story, but the most important one DC’s published in a while, as pretty much the last two years’ worth of their stories (including 52) spin out of the events of IC.

Here’s what they missed…

Starman: James Robinson’s entire run on Starman is essential reading, of course, but for our purposes here the two graphic novels’ worth of comics featuring the Dibnys are Stars My Destination and Grand Guignol. The Dibnys come to Opal City to help protect it while Jack is off in outer space, and they end up playing a pivotal role in cracking a mystery and saving the city. They decide to relocate from Midway to Opal, and Ralph serves as one of the city’s protectors (along with Black Condor, The Phantom Lady and The Shade) once Jack hangs up his cosmic rod and goes into retirement.

Justice League Europe/Justice League International: Ralph was a founding member of Justice League Europe, the book that spun out of the success of Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis’ Justice League America/International book. In fact, he was on the team from it’s early days (When Giffen, DeMatteis and Bart Sears were at the helm) until it was renamed International and writer Gerard Jones took over. Criminally, none of these issues have been collected into trades, but a good quarter bin is likely to have ‘em. Keep your eye’s peeled for Justice League Quarterly #6, as it’s lead feature is a story by then still up-and-coming writer Mark Waid, and it details one of Sue’s infamous birthday presents for her husband: An elaborately staged mystery.

The “Superbuddies” books: Giffen, DeMatteis and select members of their old cast got together for two reunion special-style stories, in miniseries Formerly Known as the Justice League and a JLA: Classifed arc entitled “I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League.” Both have been collected into trades.

JLA: Incarnations: This fantastic series by John Ostrander and Val Semeiks focused on a different incarnation of the League in each of it’s seven issues. While the Elongated Man didn’t get a very big role in any of the issues, #4 dealt with the end of the “Satellite Era,” during his initial tour of duty with the League, and #5 focused on the so-called Detroit League, on which Ralph was one of the four elder Leaguers training four newcomers. I have no idea why DC has yet to collect this mini into trades, when even the most abysmal, unreadable arcs from the monthly, “Pain of the Gods” and “The Tenth Circle,” have gotten the trade paperback treatment.

Other universes: In Frank Miller’s DKU (Dark Knight Universe), a cigarette-smoking Ralph was hawking Viagra-like Gingold Plus with the slogan “Elongate your love life,” until Batman recruits him to his team. He basically needs him for one task—to hold down a completely insane Plastic Man until they can talk sense into him. Miller has some really great images of Ralph scaling the walls of Arkham and wrestling with Plas. In the Rossiverse (Alex Ross’ version of the DCU, where all of his favorite heroes are on the JLA), Elongated Man has a bit part in the over-sized graphic novel JLA: Liberty and Justice , and he and Sue both make cameos in the ongoing Justice.

Other media: Elongated Man is probably the least successful stretchy superhero when it comes to breaking into other media, but he is a member of the Justice League on Justice League Unlimited. His conversation with Booster Gold in “The Greatest Story Never Told” is probably the highlight of the episode, one of the funniest in the series.


Charlie Anders said...

You missed my favorite Elongated Man story of all time, and one of the most important: Elongated Man Europe 1992 by Gerard Jones and the late, great Mike Parobeck. I loved this comic with a fierce passion when it came out, and gave copies to my friends. One of them wound up in an orphange in Mongolia (the comic book, not the friend.) You can read scans of the first issue here:

Caleb said...

Wow, good call. I missed it preceisely because I missed it--I didn't read it the first time around, and have yet to see it in any quarter bins, but will keep an eye out, so I couldn't personally vouch for it.

Any others you'd add?