Sunday, March 10, 2013

Superheroes and their mythos

I have often wondered what makes a new comic book character (or a returning one that had faded) stick around. So far, my conclusion is that a breakthrough run will make him relevant; however, a rich mythos is key to make him stay past the first writer. Think about it, what do Batman, Superman, Spider-man, the X-men, have in common that characters like Aquaman and specially the Martian Manhunter lack? They all have a great rogues gallery, well known supporting cast, popular technology and locations.

Ok, it's fan-made, but you get the idea. (Art by Jeff Pina).

The problem with B-listers is that writers always try to create new elements for their mythos without embracing and revamping classic ones. They often move forward those characters, which is correct, without taking a look to the basics. When somebody mentions Batman, concepts like the Joker, Robin, Alfred, The Bat-cave, the Penguin, Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, the Bat-signal and Gotham City come up immediately; when somebody mentions the Martian Manhunter... Exactly. This is why it would be good to revisit Professor Hugo, Mr. V or the Idol-Head of Diabolu in addition to creating new guys like Ma'alefa'ak. Aquaman would be an example of somebody in the middle, he has a fairly developed supporting cast and setting, but when it comes to his rogues gallery, most people draw a blank after two of them.

Now, Ralph is an animal of another species. Like Sherlock, all he needs is a sidekick (Watson, Sue) and interesting mysteries to solve. Most detectives share a similar formula. This is why writers were always able to recreate the vibe of his original series way after it ended. However, given that Ralph is a superhero, and I have nothing better to do I decided to merge the case-driven detective formula with the mythos-driven superhero formula to produce a series of fake solicitations. Here is the mythos I conceived for him:

The Dibnys hard traveling years are over, so, they decided to settle in New York City, at the Dearbon Building, property of Sue's parents and located on 5th Ave. in front of Cantral Park and the Guggenheim. However, old habits die had, so half their adventures will take place all over the world. Frequent destinies include Waymore, NE birthplace of Ralph, and Yucatan, birthplace of the Elongated Man.

In this case, the fake stories are set in the fake Earth-J, named after Julie Schwartz, where its still the 60s and most of the DC heroes are just debuting.

Ralph and Sue basically know everybody who is anybody in the DC Universe on a secret identity basis. Ralph is very specially tight with the Flash and Batman; however, only a handful of characters get to appear in almost every adventure of his fake series.

Sue Dearbon - Ralph's wife and sidekick. She's very plucky and talented. She is an authority on fashion, mystery writing and computer hacking.

Frazier - See the villains section.

J. J. Dearbon - Sue's dad and landlord. He came from Ireland with nothing on his pockets and now he's one of the richest men in the world. He has a loud, big bear type of jolly personality. However, he can be quite greedy ans is always exploring new ways to make money all around the world.

Caroline Dearbon (neé Astor) - Sue's clueless mother. Despite being very perceptive, she's quite clueless and she's normally sitting around in a perpetually good mood making unintentionally hurtful but honest comments.

Chief Clancy O'Hara - Cousin of Gotham City's Miles O'Hara, the clueless, stubborn and short tempered police chief of NYC, he calls the Elongated Man when crimes become unsolvable.

I figured common suspects would ruin the mystery, but even Sherlock has a Moriarty, right? Ralph has stated that he avoids supervillains on purpose for his own safety reasons, but how about a crowd of lovable thugs like Batman used to have in the 60s?

There's just one true villain here, and that's the big mystery of the first season, the rest are just con men and petty people.

???? - The "Moriarty" I was talking about. Just like Ralph solves mysteries for the thrill of the challenge, his enemy should manipulate all crime in the Eastern Seaboard just for fun. In the first big arc a number of villains will be introduced and Ralph will have to find out his identity.

Frazier - Ralph and Sue's old pet dog comes back with a twist. He's the Thin Man's Asta gone narcissistically wrong. In this fake continuity he's a Westie, since I don't think a Jack Russell can pull evil or has the required personality. If he was a regular villain, he would be too much for any superhero, but being just a dog, his silly instincts hold him back.

Egghead - Think of characters like Frasier Crane, Hackman's Luthor, Megamind, the Brain (from Pinky and the Brain) and, of course, the real deal, as portrayed by the great Vincent Price. He used to be a supervillain in Gotham, but now he's reformed and lives at the Dearbon Building along with the Dibnys, so his role is mostly that of an obnoxious neighbor and radio talk-show personality.

Miss Bacon - Egghead's infatuated secretary. She types for the posterity almost anything his eggocentric boss says. Their relationship is quite unprofessional, if you know what I mean, and she enjoys hinting people about that.

Mistress Sinestra - A local TV personality with secret witch powers. Basically a cross between Magica De Spell, Elvira and Fran Fine. She's obsessed with fortunes, spells and curses, so she's a constant pain for the Dearbons.

The Elongated Evildoer - Martin Beene. One of the few notable original enemies of Ralph. Obsessed with the Elongated Man for no good reason, he discovered a way to elongate things that he has touched. However, since that's a silly power, this time he comes back with regular stretching superpowers. He knows more than Ralph about stretching, but he's quite incompetent as a criminal, which frustrated him even more.

The Clinton Boys - 3 of them used to be "the Untouchables", who battled Ralph, Superman, Robin and Hawk and Dove, but they reintegrated with their family in Hell's Kitchen to become the largest gang of thieves / carpet cleaners (don't ask) in the NY metropolitan area.

M. M. Pennypacker - More of a frienemy of J. J. Dearbon, Sue's dad. He's his evil counterpart from Australia; the Flintheart Glomgold to his Scrooge McDuck. The main source of his wealth is news media, which is how he manages to stay clean depite being a crook.

Average Joe - Joseph Jones, and average looking man. He commits clean, practical crimes leaving no traces,   the perfect challenge for Ralph.

Rajah - A magician / hypnotist from the old Elongated Man stories. Magicians make great challenges for detectives, so this one is a natural.

L'Escargot - France loves the Elongated Man, and believe it or not, this guy is one of Frances biggest super criminals (true story, look it up).

Kukulk'caan - An ancient alien who once enslaved the Mayans. He created the gingo fruit that gave Ralph his super powers and his ship keeps attracting aliens to Yucatan.

Maximo Molina - Yet another megalomaniac trying to conquer the world, this one acts like an eccentric hacendado from Yucatan. Basically the local Prince John.

Edgar Moriarty - This creepy guy is the head of Scotland Yard. However, his family name makes him an obvious prime suspect.

The Grünewappen family - They are secretly the wealthiest family on Earth, but their status is threatened by the rise of a new criminal mastermind of Europe.


The Super-Hero League of New York - Also known as the Super Buddies, an association of New York-based superheroes who offer free services to the community. Ralph and Sue work here in order to use its resources. The list of members is really long, but the common suspects include Power Girl, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red (exchange member) and Guy Gardner. It is managed by the sleazy Maxwell Lord, along with L-Ron and Oberon.

Billy Warner - Ralph's #1 fan from the old stories. He lives in Astoria, Queens and wants to become a master detective like his idol. His body also reacts to gingo extract with elasticity, only he promised Ralph not to use his powers until he becomes a pro.

The Flash - Ralph's bro. He often calls when a mystery gets too complicated at Central City or visits just to hang around.

Batman - The other Worlds greatest detective. They often have to team-up when mysteries get too complicated.

The Croatoan Society - A league of Detectives who gather annually to solve paranormal mysteries. The original members were Ralph, Detective Chimp, Edogawa Sangaku, Dr. 13 and Tim Tranch. Sherlock Holmes, the Question, Filo Molina and the Dog joined eventually.

P. I. Butch "Dog" Douglas - NYC's former top detective. He's not that talented as a detective, but he makes up for it with dog-based super powers.

Speedy Gonzalez - Yucatan's champion, and the first speedster and superhero Ralph met. His powers also comes from a fruit, in this case Yucatecan chilli pepper.

Don Eduardo - Ralph's host in Yucatan. He's old and very knowledgeable on everything about Yucatan, so he serves as the resident guide. He's a great host, but is set in his conventional ways, so he finds Ralph's shenanigans obnoxious.

Filo Molina - A friend of don Eduardo and Yucatan's top detective. He's a retired trauma doctor who solves crimes on his free time.

Amos Hurd, the Millionaire Cowboy - A friend of Ralph from his old adventures. Pretty much the J. J. Dearbon of Texas.

The Justice League of America - The elite super-hero team of America, so, obviously, Ralph belongs to it. Its roster includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Robin, Green Lantern, Flash, the Martian, the Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman and Black Canary. Zatanna joins along with Ralph, and eventually it will also include Hawkwoman, John Stewart, Firestrorm, Cyborg, Samurai, Apache Chief, Black Lightning, Supergirl, Enchantress and Platinum.


  1. Definitely should have hit this article up before doing this piece of fanart:

    1. I can't remember Toad-in-the-hole and Gyro. That's an amazing knowledge of the Elongated Man's rogues gallery, although I think Edgar Moriarty and Martin Beene are worth noticing as well, and so is Billy Warner and Amos Hurd.
      I think somebody like Egghead would be the perfect adversary for Ralph. Many of the characters I mentioned don't exist.