Monday, November 28, 2011

Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man: Personality Profile

Here's my perception of Ralph's personality:

Self - Confident79%
Self - Sacrificing22%

And here's why...

Like most of the characters in serial fiction, the Elongated Man's personality has suffered changes throughout time. As faithful as some can be, every writer has a different vision of the character. Even his fans have different perceptions of the ductile detective.

In his first six adventures, John Broome portrayed him as a superhero with an odd behavior. There wasn't much to his personality, only that he was a little more easy going that Flash (who was an easy going superhero himself). Neither of them gave the overly dramatic/heroic speeches that Batman or Superman use to give. Additionally, Ralph was eclectic and creative in his decisions. He didn't have a base operations, used his super powers to make a fortune, got married (which wasn't common for superheroes at the time) and gave up his secret identity.

Even though his dialogue is plain in these early appearances, his actions speak plenty for him. His temperament is established as primordially sanguine and secondarily phlegmatic. He's laid back and a great entertainer; he's rarely angered and always open minded and optimistic. His actions are bold and he is a success magnet: first, he arrives to Central City and, as a rookie, he overshadows the fastest man alive in his own game; he still becomes Flash's best friend; then, he becomes a showman and makes a fortune in a sec, retires, marries Sue Dearbon, a beautiful heiress, and starts to travel the World with her on a perpetual honeymoon. This extreme path of success follows them the rest of their adventures, throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, they become intimate friends of the most powerful people in the DCU, he is awarded membership of it's most powerful superteam team (12th member and one of the longest staying) and he did all of that almost effortlessly and while having fun. Not to mention that she becomes a talented hacker, Bureau Chief of the Justice League Europe and a best selling mystery writer. It's a canon fact that Ralph Dibny takes the best in life and is very serious about enjoying every bit of it. However, he's very methodical and diligent.

During this period a mild enthusiasm for mysteries start.

Ralph begins to be portrayed as a detective in Flash #138, his 7th appearance.
After his 7th appearance, writer Gardner Fox took over and made him more eclectic, his enthusiasm for mysteries became love for them. He also became a bit of a laid back joker (nothing extraordinary), a media hound and a spoiling husband. He had a relaxed, "everything will work out" attitude since his first appearance, and it was only reinforced when his solo adventures started. He and his wife were modeled after Nick and Nora Charles, from The Thin Man film series. They would tease each other about their habits, but they respected and indulged each other's mild hedonism and had a drama-free marriage. This portrayal was kept during the 70s, in his Detective Comics and Justice League of America appearances.

Nora and Nick Charles, the main influence on the Dibnys.

The begining or Ralph's clowning.

During the 80s there was some exploration. When Batman retired from the JLA, writer Gerry Conway made Ralph the idea guy of the team; casually stating his deductions and suggesting plans of action. Meanwhile, Mike W. Barr proposed that his sense of humor was a defense mechanism to avoid thinking about the tragedy of the cases he often took. He also defined Ralph as a detective fiction expert, to the point that he was a World authority on Sherlock Holmes literature.

The Elongated Man meets his idol, the Great Detective.

In the late 80s, Gerard Jones, Mark Waid, J. M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen accentuated him as a guy who loves attention, even if it takes slapstick humor and self deprecating jokes to get it. This is the way he remained during the 90s. In the early Justice League Europe stories, Giffen and DeMatteis had him as a witty guy who joked with his wife but also encouraged and appreciated her talent, they also explored his relationship with Wally West, the current Flash and the former sidekick of his best friend; when DeMatteis was replaced with Jones, the character development stopped and when Giffen left, he became an inept clown, by far, the worst and most destruct destructive portrayal of the character. My theory is that it ruined the character for other writers during the rest of the 90s.

Ralph portrayed as a really goofy character.

In 2003, Giffen and DeMatteis took away the slapstick and went back to witty humor with his wife, echoing their Thin Man influences.

His appearances in Justice League Unlimited was very similar to it.

Brad Meltzer made a serious and thoughtful sketch of Ralph as a person and husband in Identity Crisis and then, in 52, after the death of Sue, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison turned him into a more serious and detective. Both stories portrayed him as a really sharp detective, very similar to Sherlock Holmes in his method.

Ralph's portrayal in Identity Crisis #1.

Now, from what I perceive, fans of the Elongated Man share a common vision of the way he should be portrayed. We all seem to agree that, as Barr, Meltzer and Waid portrayed him, he's primordially a detective. I think that he should keep what I consider his two biggest influences Nick Charles and Sherlock Holmes. Since his first Detective Comics story, he became the type of sleuth that can make great deductions from observing details in scenes or people. Identity Crisis indicated that he's able to memorize all those details even under great stress. New stories should focus on this. Check it out, it can be really cool:

Despite his sanguine temperament, he's very methodical and diligent. He does stuff like memorizing details about people and scenes and he's rarely late or stressed by work, all trademarks of phlegmatic people. It wouldn't be a bad idea for the next writer to expand on his habits. I bet he dedicates part of every day to activities like practicing his memory skills, training his body, spending time with Sue, reading the news and, as Barr established, some detective fiction classics. Regarding his physical skills, the brightest observation I have ever heard from another fan is that he is likely to spend time every day on them. Training his body to get the most out of his super stretching: controlling mass, balance, shape, strength. Even his senses must be affected by this. Around the satellite era, he started to shapeshift to change his face, by the JLI era, he was able to create a bulldog head out of his hand.

There is also the matter of the extent of his super power. I has never been said, but the way he often made his hands huge and lifted men with each imply that he has super strength. Bigger hands don't have more mass, just the same mass in a bigger volume, which means less strength. An ability that has been mentioned but is not that famous is the speed of his stretching; some stories mention that he can reach dozens of feet within a fraction of a second, other show him using his knuckles or his chin as projectiles that knock out villains, which indicate an enormous speed and strength. Something that rare writers explore are the possibilities implied by stretching, like tuning his senses so that he could see, hear and smell beyond normal human capabilities. If he can stretch his chest and head cavities, he can basically produce any sound. He's also able to resist and absorb great impacts (he once stopped a truck). He has used his body as a rubber band (even serving as a bow for Green Arrow) and he can become thin as a sheet; in theory, this means that he can project himself into the air and then control his shape to navigate the wind (That's when he's not using his arms to move across the buildings like Spider-man).

When it comes to his sense of humor, consensus seems to indicate that it is a trademark that is should be kept. However, there are certain aspects from it that don't work. Here, Plastic Man is often used as a point of reference. He also became a big joker in the late 80s, only he was even bigger on slapstick; so it's commonly said that Ralph is like Jerry Seinfeld while Plas is more like Jerry Lewis (or Jim Carrey). Personally, given his profession, I think Ralph should have the observational humor of Seinfeld but with the quick wit of David Spade and maybe with the cultural references of Dennis Miller (EM strikes me as the kind of guy that pays a lot of attention to the news). Maybe a bit of Conan O'Brian's playfulnes wouldn't be so far from the Nick Charles mold. He's not the type that would make mean jokes about other people, but I can definitely can see him making "that's a shame" kind of comments about the goofiness of some of his friends.

I believe that a thoughtful portrayal that works expanding the trademarks that Gardner Fox, Mike Barr, Gerry Conway, Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, Brad Meltzer and Mark Waid left would make him a more solid DC character. Writers just need to use Ralph and Sue's rich profiles in classic detective fiction formulas (with the superhero twist, of course). They just need to do with him what TV has already done with characters like Nick Charles, Columbo, Jessica Fletcher, Poirot, Monk, Murdoch, Shawn Spencer or Patrick Jane. Cold open, crime scene investigation, a series of interviews revealing clues to the readers, intercalated comic relief shenanigans, reconstruction of events, climactic chase and epilogue or denuement (usually the regular characters solve their mild conflict of the day).

The Case of the Elongated Thing

...I couldn't resist using that title.

Ross from The Brave and the Bold ...The Lost Issues! Created this interesting photoshop cover.

I think they would make an interesting couple. A title with them opening a detective agency in Manhattan would be a total hit. The Grimm & Dibny Detective Agency, Ralph would be the intelectual, Ben would be the tough street guy and Sue their business manager.

To read from its creator go to The Brave and the Bold... The Lost Issues!: The Thing and Elongated Man. There are plenty of other weird team-up covers to enjoy there.

I like his opinion on Ralph and his spot on the Justice League, the character has been doing terrible after the mid 90s.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mystery of the unidentified Dibny pics (help needed!)

Here are a couple of really great images that I can't track, so any comment with the answer or a tip is appreciated. I've tried everything, but I can't identify their author and origin.

This first one feels like an ID picture. It has his early 80s look, but the coloring looks like something done after 1995. His hairstyle is similar to those of characters drawn by José Luis García López or George Pérez.

This second one is really, really cool. I'm going to be using it a lot. It has the word 'detective' written all over it. It looks modern, I suspect it comes from his appearance in Booster Gold.


Got it! I got the second one. It's Jurgens. Booster Gold #16, page 4, panel 6. I kinda remembered the way the sky looked. The funny thing is that it's a great portrait, one of the greatest, but it's surrounded by so-so art by the same artist. He's also not making such a serious analysis as it would seem. He's only thinking about trusting Booster's sister.

Here's another good one from the next page:

Now I'm only missing the info of the irst pic.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Love and Rockets: New Stories, vol. 1 and 2

Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 cover, by Jaime Hdz., featuring Penny Century in superhero costume.
 I'll start by clarifying that this is my first time reading anything by Los Bros. Hdz., and by confessing that I thought I was buying a trade collecting classic stuff... and that the awesome portrayal of female anatomy was 60% of my reasons to buy it. I had these two trades lost in my "someday" stack of comics, and they were there for almost two years. Three weeks ago I decided it as time to attack the stack, and last week was the turn of Love and Rockets: New Stories, vol. 1 and 2.
My verdict: Pure awesomeness.

"Cover" of Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34.
From left to right: Espectra, Boot Angel, Weeper, Alarma and Golden Girl.
The main and most impressive story is four part story titled "Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34". From what I gather, some of the characters in it have been around for a while, like Maggie and Penny Century; however the story is perfectly self-contained, so no worries there. Background is not needed to enjoy this story, but then, if you still want it, Vanja's Splinter's Reviews provides a good reference. According to him, to his disappointment, this is the first Love and Rockets story focusing on superheroes. I, however, as a new fan of Hdz. Bros., still enjoyed it a lot. Since 90% o what I read is superheroes, it might actually work as a good transition to their indie world.

As anyone who ever heard of Love and Rockets  or the Hdz. Bros.  might expect, it might be a superhero story, but its not mainstream at all. Firstly, it's all female, often Chicano women, and secondly, it feels like a combination of retro silver age stuff (like DC: The New Frontier, The Spirit (2006), Batman: The Animated Series, The Golden Age, or The Silver Age) with really grounded, down to earth indie stuff (Clerks, Ghost World). It's almost a treaty of what the female role could have been in the male dominated world of the silver age comics. Love and Rockets is written and drawn by Jaime Hernandez, a male author, and it features hot females with incredible bodies, but it has a strong female sensitivity. I suspect that Love and Rockets is, in general, very appealing to female market.

Boot Angel

"Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34" is the surreal story of three or four generations of all-female superteams trying to fix the mess left by the capricious Penny Century, a woman who finally gets the superpowers he had wanted her entire life. The lead character is Boot Angel, a short, stocky latina trying to establish herself as a superhero, and she's a sort of introduction device for the audience, like Henry Hill in Goodfellas. Her idol is Alarma, a prestigious superheroine that goes through what seems a parody of the angry 90s revamps; she contrasts with the more experienced, grounded and mature Espectra, a Ti-Girl watching over Boot Angel and her as they try to save/defeat Penny Century and her daughters. Alarma belongs to a very notorious team know as the Fenomenons and Espectra to the generations-old Ti-Girls. The stories of both all-female superhero teams, along with a third one composed of really young girls are tied through a common back-story. There are a lot of themes and at least 3 overlapping storylines.

The art is a character on its own. It celebrates pop culture and female beauty just like Roy Lichtenstein's stuff, the closest instance of which I can think.  For a comic book geek Jaime Hernandez sure knows a lot of female anatomy; each character has her own body and face type and they are all gorgeous- in their way, even the chubby or old ones. The Fenomenons, and Alarma specially, look like Barbie dolls; Penny Century looks like a pin up girl, and Boot Angel looks like a chubby, yet well proportioned, common girl. I've always thought that, unlike male supervillains, comic book superheroes often lack this type of body diversity (Bruce Timm does a great job fixing it, though). I also enjoyed the prodigious character design. The whole thing looks like silver age material, only the silver age never looked this good. The composition of every panel is great, specially considering Jaime only uses black and white without shades; however, there page composition might be slightly lacking. I still like the way he used around 7 panels every page, though.
To me, those were $30 USD well spent. Those two books are among the first things I'd give to someone wanting an introduction to comics and superheroes. And I were Dan DiDio, I'd beg Jaime to do something for DC. Maybe Wonder Woman. I'd love to see what he could do with Sue Dibny's wardrobe or Ralph's stretching body.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Art for Absolute Identity Crisis: BOO-YAH!!

Front center, a great place for the World-famous Elongated Man.
This page was created for the cover art of Absolute Identity Crisis released October 12th, 2011. This has to be the greated thing DC has done for the Elongated Man this year.
Artists often forget how tall is Ralph supposed to be, but that's clearly not the case here.

And now, for something really special...

The same whining, but in Spanish.

Like any decent geek with self respect, I love to waste time googling useless trivia. If that's not glamouros enough, you can picture me laying in my sloppy bed wearing boxers and a sweat shirt and balancing a bottle of mayo and breadsticks in my belly before my lap. You can add some 20 kg to my belly to make it more dramatic. (Just kidding).
Anyway, in my case, the useless trivia I love to google is the possibility of Ralph and Sue's return. Which is sort of becoming a thing in some circles. The DC Message Boards has at least a couple of threads (that I didn't start), CBR has The Elongated Man: Where is he in the new DC?  , and among the bloggers, The Fellowship of the Geeks has For What It's Worth: Dear DC, Please Bring Back Elongated Man , DC Comics Fan Blog had The Elongated Man, Pendragon's Post made and erased a couple of post that generated an official facebook reply from Mattel's people.  Among the toy collectors upset that the Ralphster doesn't seem to be getting a figure for the DC Universe Classics collection, The Fwoosh has Elongated Man Support Thread, and Bleeding Cool made an article about the controversy. To my surprise, the whole "where's Ralph" thing has crossed the language barrier, now being noticed by Spanish speaking fans. "El Hijo de Chuck Norris", from Multiverseros, asks "Dónde está Ralph Dibny?":
"En 2004, una miniserie escrita por Brad Meltzer quiso demostrar que los héroes de DC también son humanos (al menos los que lo son), pero destruyó la hermosa pareja formada por Ralph y Sue Dibny. Con tantos relanzamientos, ¿no sería hora de arreglarlo?"
"In 2004, a miniseries written by Brad Meltzer wanted to demonstrate that the heroes of DC are also humans (at least those who are), but it destroyed the beautiful couple formed by Ralph and Sue Dibny. With so many relaunches, wouldn't it be good to fix that?"
To read more on the topic, well, you can read the stack of articles I've done on the matter; but if you also want to see if some Spanish sticks with you for a change, read Chucky Jr.'s full article, "Donde está Ralph Dibny?".

I wonder if there are articles in French. Maybe DC will listen when the complains start being written in German. Every thing sounds tougher in German.


Wo ist die Längliche Mann?!!
Nein, Nein, Nein!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ralph Dibny, the World yadda, yadda blog on The Fire and Water Podcast

The Ralph Dibny, the World-Famous Elongated Man Blog (that's right, I talk about it in third person - how professional is that!?) was mentioned in the episode 7 of the FIRESTORM FAN and AQUAMAN SHRINE Podcast! , the talk show of Rob Kelly, from Aquaman Shrine, and The Irredeemabie Shag, from Once Upon a Geek and Firestorm Fan.

You can skip the bull and go straight to min 85:54, to hear the good bit about the coolest superhero blog. OK, I'm just kidding, the rest is even better. The first half is a review of Justice League of America #207 - 209, Crisis on Earth Prime, which is quite the event, featuring the JLA, the JSA, the All-Star Squadron, Per Degaton, the Crime Syndicate and even He-Man and the Masters of the Universe --Only He-man in a backup feature (got your eyes crossed, didn't I?). The second half is about blogs about DC Comics characters. They start with the blogs of, friend of this blog, Diabolu Frank, who is so productive, he's practically a human-franchise. Then, they go on with the rest of us, mortals. They made a crack about the lenght of my url, which kinda goes with the blog's topic, but yeah, I'm sure that a number of Ralph enthusiasts often think "sure, I'll see what's new with the Elongated Man Blog. Let's see, it was www.theworldfamous... no, www.theelongatedmanworld-famo-- no, www.ralphd-- meh,!" The great thing is that fans of odd characters now have odd blogs to follow, where loons like myself are going to make sure they get the basics and any update. A cool thing about many of them is that they sometimes do crossovers, which makes them like a "league of bloggers about Justice Leaguers"; and the really cool thing is that this is the second time this blog is considered for one of those crossovers! Which practically mirrors the way the way the Elongated Man himself was invited to become part of the JLA:

*Green Lantern: Dude, you know who would be cool to have in the league?
*Superman (playing with a rubik's): Huh?
*GL: That stretchy dude who is always hanging out with the Flash.
*Superman: Oh, yeah, that Plastic Man guy.
*GL:  No, the other guy.
*Superman: ...
*GL: The ginger guy that just stretches... ?
*Superman (scratches his head looking at the Rubik): Jimmy?
*Batman (popping up out of nowhere): He means Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man.
*Superman (freaked out): Dude!--... Jes's...
*Batman: I'm Batman.
-Batman gives the Rubik's a couple of twists and solves it. Superman looks at him with a confussed expression on his face.
*Batman: I'm Batman.
*Superman (makes back off sign with his hand): ... wait, you mean that we should invite a guy that just stretches and has no secret identity? What, are we getting our members from a circus, now?
*GL: Well he was with a circus.
*Superman: Oh, brother.
*GL: No, but hear me out, he's actually an uncanny detective.
*Batman: Teamed up with him a couple of times. Prodigious detective, great improviser... And unlike most of us, he's easy going and no drama queen -- Yes, that's f**n' right, I'm looking at you, Carter.
-Hawkman storms out offended.
*GL (looks Hawkman storming out of the room and then turn to Superman): Yep, Lord knows we need normal people.
*Superman: It might be so, but without Diana--
*Batman (with daydreaming expression): Diana... <sight>
*GL: What a broad.
*Superman: Yeah... Anyway, without Diana, this is becoming a total sausage fest. So I'm going with Black Canary.
*GL: Booyah!
*Batman: Agreed, sausage fest sucks.
*GL: Maybe she'll convince Hawkman to put a shirt on. I'm sick of man nipples.
*Batman: Forget it, not even his wife can do that.
*GL: Is it me, or is Hawkman's costume kind of. What's the word?
*Superman: Drag?
*GL: Thank you. --Not that there's anything wrong with that (...) but we need some chicks around.
And that's how the Elongated Man's membership was delayed for another 30 issues.
Anyway, it's good to know that talented and hardcore bloggers consider this blog to be fun and relevant enough to participate in their crossovers. And when I say, talented I mean it; I admire the hell out of people who can produce and host radio or podcast shows. These guys can casually talk about some of my favorite topics for over an our and a half and make it really entertaining. Maybe that's a cultural thing, Anglo-Americans and English people tend to be really comfortable in front of broadcasting media. Latin Americans are shy even in front of recording machines. If I made a podcast, I'd sound like a Donald Duck with a Spanish accent.

Btw, another awesome thing about the Fire and Water Podcast is their soundtrack, a Remix of the classic Super Friends theme. Few remixes feel like a true homage to the original material (like the Knightrider one). I was almost a bit sad when it faded so that the show starts; however a very quick googling lead me to the author, Michael Kohler. The title of the remix is That Time Is Now, and  you can watch the video here:

For more of Bob and Shag's show, go to . Additionally Firestorm Fan features a number of audio interviews with Firestorm's key creatives, including Gerry Conway, Al Milgrom and John Ostrander among others. I have to say they are a very creative and resourceful couple of bloggers. So, go follow them. Now!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Darwyn Cooke's Spirit

I have taken a well deserved break from the DCnU and decided to read some awesome comic books instead. Some old, some new, some are old but I never read them. I have to strongly recommend , Gaiman's "Sandman: Worlds' End", Ennis' "Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits", and specially, Bryan Talbot's "The Tale of One Bad Rat". That last one is an utterly profound masterpiece. However, I want to talk about one that is more closely tied to this blog: Darwyn Cooke's run on The Spirit.
Although I have read some trades and books by Will Eisner, I never actually read any of the original Spirit stuff, just the bits that appear in those other books. I'm still not even sure where to start (any tips?). However, I got a great almost first impression of the character from the 2007 Cooke run. Aside from the bits that appear in Comics & Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling & Visual Narrative, the first proper Spirit comic I read was Batman / The Spirit, which was drawn by Cooke, but written by Jeph Loeb. It was somewhat campy and serious at the same time. The premise, a crime convention featuring the rogues gallery of both heroes, which happens at the same time and place of a Law Enforcement convention to which Commissioners Gordon and Dolan are assisting; is the type of stuff that you would expect from a Bewitched / I Dream of Jeannie, a Flintstones / Jetsons or a The Munsters / Adams Family crossover. However, it works in the sense that it celebrates the colorful worlds of Batman and the Spirit instead of trying to make them look grim. Remember that during most of their existance, they were not dark and bitter franchises.
 Cooke's run goes on a slightly different direction. There's certain humor, folklore and lightheartedness, but this Spirit is more contemporary and relevant and less nostalgic, as I'm sure Eisner intended. While a XIX Century Cossack might look cartoonish in the XXI Century, a Russian mob boss that resembles one looks really cool. Like Batman: The Animated Series, the setting has a timeless aspect (mostly due to his drawing style), however, Darwin made sure we identify aspects of our world in it: brutal Middle Eastern dictators, terrorism, news media polarization (I loved the Colbert parody), American eating disorder and Mexican immigration problems.

The new Cossack and Mr. Carrion.
The art alone is enough reason to buy this run. The composition and color are masterpieces that would make papa Eisner proud.

All the characters take a prominent position in this run. We get to see the Central City world not only from the Spirit's point of view, but from those of Ebony, Ellen, Commissioner Dolan, P'Gell and Silk. I enjoyed how Denny (the Spirit), is already in a committed relationship with Ellen. I'm not a fan of romantic Ross-and-Rachel type of dramas; I prefer the cases to be the center of the crises.
Ebony White
Ebony White was tastefully retooled for new audiences in a way that he can keep stealing scenes. The untastefulness of the way he was physically portrayed made him quite notorious, Cooke made him notorious because he's now a street-wise kid with the mind of a clever adult.
Madame P'Gell
P'Gell reminded me way too much of Catwoman. There are a lot of differences, but ultimately, they are hedonistic femme fatales who look alike. P'Gell seems a bit more cold-blooded; however, Cooke did a great job humanising her in the second issue.
Ginger Coffee.
There were also additions to the supporting cast. Ginger Coffee is the Summer Gleeson of Central City, only he likes to get involved. Hussein Hussein was a lovable scumbag and trouble magnet (too bad they didn't keep him). There isn't much about Crime Boss Amos Weinstock yet, but he's quite a creep. El Morte was cleverly attached to the Spirit's origin. The way I see it, he is survivor's guilt incarnated. 
 The format is brilliant. There is a story arc, but every issue you get your money's worth with full, meaningful, stand alone stories. It is impressive how much you can get out of 22 pages when the writer actually cares. You buy the next issue because the quality is awesome, not because you got an incomplete pretext of a story and you need to know how it ends. Although Cooke only did the cover, the 7th issue takes this to an extreme: Three great stories of 8 pages each (Jordi Bernet would also be a great penciller for this title!). After Cooke left, they repeated that formula with issue #13 (Ty Templeton would also be a great penciller for this title!).
The bullet point in every cover does a great job describing the genre: "Action, mystery, adventure". Along with humor and noir, there's a bit of all of them without sticking to any. It's an eclectic mix, but more importantly, it's entertaining.

(No, this doesn't have much to do with the Elongated Man, but it's the type of approach that is needed to bring back classics like him).