Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Elongated Man's Secret Weapon!

Title: "The Elongated Man's Secret Weapon!"
Issue: The Flash No. 115
Date: September 1960
Format: 12-page second feature.
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Writer: John Broome
Penciller:Carmine Infantino
Inker: Murphy Anderson
Main characters: The Flash (31st appearance, last seen in The Flash #114), the Elongated Man (2nd appearance last seen in The Flash #112).
Supporting Characters: Iris West.
Villains: Barik, Kunar and he other alien invaders.
Setting: Central City, the Yucatan jungle.
McGuffin: A shrinking ray.
Mystery: All the sentient beings of Yucatan were shrunk.
Method: Mere spying and searching. 
This is the first time:
  • The Elongated Man activities as an entertainer are mentioned.
  • Ralph is establishes as rich and famous.
  • The Elongated man travels to Yucatan.
  • The Elongated man fights alien invaders, and the first he does so with Flash.
3 issues after his debut, the Elongated Man returns. Again, some of the most interesting stuff happened off panel, and is presented as nothing. By the end of Flash #112,  it is established that his fame as a superhero is matches that of Flash; however, there was no mention of his line of work. As far as we know he might be a chemist (taking in consideration that he did create a Gingo serum and a suit that stretches and shrinks as much as he does). Now, by the beginning of Flash #115, he's famous as an entertainer and made enough money to retire and travel around the world.

We don't know if the performing began even before the events in Flash #112, we only know that he wasn't famous (even as a hero) to be acknowledged by Barry or Iris before it and that, as a hero, he became the obsession of newspapers during that issue. We also know that, once he became a TV and on stage performer, he must have put one hell of a show, since he made all that money in about a year (or less) and we have to consider that his retirement includes living in hotels and as we'll see in future issues, maintaining an expensive wife and even a kid (which he wanted to have).

In the past adventure he revealed that he got his power by using chemical means to isolate the essence of the tropical fruit in the "Gingold" soft drink, which he noticed was the preferred of India rubber men (he was fascinated by them and "their secret" since childhood). What is great for me about this issue is that it elaborates on that mysterious fruit and it turns out it's called Gingo and it's from Yucatan, my own state.

The odd part about that, is that this is the first time Ralph actually visits Yucatan; he did the serum without need to see the plant or even the fruit. Both issues establish that he got the elixir directly from the drink. We can guess he didn't have the money to do that kind of traveling back then. By the way, he's making he trip as the Elongated Man, not Ralph.
Ralph goes to Yucatan and sees the gingo tree and fruit for the first time.

Infanino's art is flawless as always, but I can't help find his interpretations of Yucatan and Yucatecans a bit funny. Nothing drastically wrong, but it still amuses me. Firstly, we have a very dry kind of jungle with mostly short trees and we don't use wood in any construction; secondly, the great Mr. Infantino seems to have thought that we look like Spaniards in ponchos and charro hats (a.k.a. "sombreros"). There are white Yucatecans, but we're a minority.
Ralph and the charro Spaniards.

Once the Elongated Man finds his Gingo tree, he bumps into his mystery, which turns out to be aliens trying to shrink all animal forms of the world in order to rule it. His secret weapon against them is, of course, the Flash. Well, it's his title after all. And knocking out four giant aliens probably does take 2 superheroes anyway.

I kinda liked the aliens, instead of being interesting-ugly (you know, like Killer Croc or Two-face) they are just fugly.

Barik and Kunar, ugly-ass aliens.
This is the first out of what seems to be "the alien fighting phase" of Elongated Man. He'll also fight aliens with Flash in his next two appearances. I think that it was odd that they didn't chose the same alien race for the other two adventures. I could totally see Barik and Kunar trying to run a submarine slave colony.

This issue establishes a couple of things about the Elongated Man's capabilities: that he's strong enough to lift a person several yards and strangle a giant ten times his size; and that his stretching is fast enough to catch a person that is shoot through a cannon. It has never been stated, but the things that he does in his stories require enhanced speed and enhanced strength.
Ralph's capabilities.

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