Dibny Dirt Facts & FAQs!
When was the Elongated Man introduced?
In 1960, in Flash #112 (which would actually be Flash #8, since the counting started at #105 due to a Canadian shipping rule which we won't go into here). Elongated Man was created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino. In this issue, the new hero Elongated Man shows up the Flash several times. The Flash suspects it is actually E.M. who is behind a vase robbery, since he could stretch into the inaccessible museum to steal it. However, E.M. and the Flash team up to solve the mystery and a new super hero is born!
Who is Ralph Dibny?
Ralph Dibny was a wiry kid growing up in small, residential Waymore, Nebraska. Though Ralph loved being the center of attention, the limelight is hard to find in a small town. His muscular brother Ken, five years his senior, was extremely popular in a mainstream sort of way: Eagle Scout, star football player, etc. It was probably feelings that he could never match Ken in these activities that led Ralph to more outlandish behavior. Even before his awkward teens, he was dressing in loud purple clothes, playing practical jokes, grandstanding, etc but he couldn't find anything he was good at.
Then one day, Ralph's family attended a carnival and Ralph saw the sideshow contortionist and decided that was the life for him. To us, that may seem like a stupid dream, but the troubled young lad saw a skinny, gangly man who used those traits to his advantage, entertaining audiences and traveling the world. Thus, Ralph went home, tied himself in knots and promptly called his mom to rescue him. Embarrassed, he went back to the carnival and asked the contortionist for help, but the man refused to give away trade secrets. Over the next several years, as carnivals, circuses and fairs visited Waymore, he would ask the contortionists for advice. Some gave him the brushoff; others said there were no secrets, he just had to practice; but he noticed one little fact:
EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM DRANK GINGOLD SODA POP!
Ralph suspected that Gingold Soda was the reason for the contortionists' flexibility. Reading over the ingredients, he found them to be similar to most other soft drinks except for the juice of the gingo, a fruit from the Yucatan peninsula. He began processing the fruit juice in his home lab until he'd distilled the essence of the fruit; then (and I think this settles the matter of his qualifications as a scientist) he drank it! There weren't any immediate effects, although he noted that it might taste good with a peach schnapps. However, his arms stretched one day when he reacted to a falling flowerpot, and from there on he was able to stretch as long as he took repeated doses of gingo elixir (more often referred to as Gingold, although this is really the brand name of the soda pop).
What else can you tell me about Gingo elixir/Gingold?
Well, first off, most people are allergic to it. This is the original comic book explanation as to why everyone doesn't start drinking it, although it has several flaws:
Ralph's metagene raises another question: why does he need to recharge with doses of gingo elixir? To my knowledge, if this still is so (and a recent Justice League Task Force maintained that it is), he is the only metagene superhuman whose powers aren't permanent. My bet is, he's never been off the stuff long enough to find out that he doesn't need it although I have vague memories of stories where his powers ran out at inopportune moments, so my explanation might not work.
I would like to see DC Comics establish the permanence of his powers for another reason: we live in a day and age which has grown very conscientious of noble superheros who require substances to recharge. While gingold, Hourman's miraclo pills and Underdog's Super Secret Energy Pill were certainly never meant to condone drug use, many comic companies are trying to send as strong a message as possible by avoiding even a subconscious endorsement of drug use.
Ralph used to carry his elixir in vials in his suitcase, but the Justice League Task Force was able to reduce it to more-portable capsules.
What happened after that? He had powers, but how did he become a superhero?
He just wanted to. Being a glutton for attention, he began dressing in a purple costume and stretching everywhere he went. After a few people rescued and a couple of mysteries solved, Ralph was world-famous. Self-promotion ensued; Ralph began introducing himself to everyone as "Ralph Dibny, the World-Famous Elongated Man."
Why does his costume stretch?
It's specially-made of a nylon-type fiber that can stretch for hundreds of yards. I don't know of any story explaining where he got this material; if you do, please tell me.
Most of his costumes are a rich purple, although the one he wore in the seventies and early '80s was red with a black strip down the middle. He switched to a purple-and-white one in 1986, beginning with Justice League of America #252.
Curiously, in Justice League of America #249, Sue claims to have made the latest costume herself and notes that purple is her favorite color. This is in direct contrast to her portrayal in Gerard Jones' Justice League Europe issues and his Elongated Man mini, in which she orders Ralph to change his costume because it's awful and complains loudly of his love of purple. Although the case could be made that Gerard didn't do his research, I'll vouch for his characterization. He obviously has a great deal of love for Ralph and Sue. Besides, JLA #249 also shows Sue wearing a god-awful pair of coveralls that I just can't see a debutante wearing!
Although no mention has been made of it, it would appear that Ralph has had some suits made from the same nylon material. (ref: JLE #30) As dress clothing is hardly skintight, I've no idea how it stretches and contracts.
The most recent costume (two purples in the shape of a body-sized E, with a mask) was made by Paul Gambi, the Central City tailor who makes costumes for Flash's Rogue's Gallery.
Why does he now wear a mask if everyone knows his identity?
Because it looks cool.
Who is Sue?
Ralph's wife, Sue Dibny, was originally Sue Dearbon, a bored socialite. Born to wealthy New York Upper Class parents, educated in Europe and needing a life of her own, Sue was drawn to Ralph's honesty, wildness and humor. He crashed her boring Debutante Ball, claiming that he was stopping thieves. (Actually, he was looking for a good time and some cheap publicity). Sue probably got a kick out of shocking her parents by marrying a lower-middle class goofball from the sticks. They were quickly married and spent the next several years travelling the USA, solving mysteries and having fun.
How can they afford to go without jobs? Are they blowing Sue's inheritance?
Ah. The original explanation, if you can believe this, is that Ralph made SO MUCH money with his early-career apearances on talk shows that he never worries about money. This, of course, is pure poppycock! You and I both know that television appearances pay very little; stars only go on Leno and Letterman because it's worth it to plug a movie or a new album. According to an early Flash story, he was once a circus rubberman, although circus work probably pays even worse than television, so I can't believe this either. In my opinion, these should be erased by retroactive continuity.
It's possible that they're living off Sue's wealth, although it's hard to believe that Ralph could be that big a bum! I'm hoping it's not true.
My own theory, and this is just my own back-story which I'm using for the Elongated Man story I'm writing, so don't take it as gospel, is that Ralph did a short-but-profitable stint as a movie stuntman or similarly dangerous occupation which he could easily do and pays well for short-term work. Invested wisely, Ralph and Sue could be living off the interest of that, plus some of Sue's own money.
What are Elongated Man's powers, exactly?
Simply put, he can stretch any part of his body.
He has found many ways to employ this power, including, among other things:
Additionally, Ralph's physiology has been altered enough that he's survived blasts by energy weapons on several occasions. In the same way that he can survive energy weapons fire that would kill an ordinary human, he can recover quickly from a stun weapon (for example, JLI #56). In both cases, he will be weakened, but certainly more healthy than you or I would be.
One more superhuman capability is his superior strength. He can support people on his back when he forms an arch and he's been seen carrying a heavy metal cage that contained his wife. There can be any number of factors to explain this increased strength. While he may not be in the strength class of the standard superteam "big ugly strong guy" (Tasmanian Devil, Hulk, The Thing, Strata, Garv, Broot, Pig Iron, etc ), he must be able to carry close to a thousand pounds.
How is he different from Plastic Man?
Well To be honest, I don't see them in the same category. Try thinking of it as the difference between a piece of stretchable rubber and a wad of gum. Among their differences:
What ELSE can't he do?
Aside from getting his own comic series, Ralph has a few other limits:
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