Elongated Man & Sue Dibny

Created by John Broome & Carmine Infantino 

NAME + ALIASES:
Ralph Dibny

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Sue (wife, deceased), Ken (brother), Jake (uncle), Jim (uncle-in-law)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice League of America, Justice League Europe, Doom Patrol, The "Superbuddies"

FIRST APPEARANCE:
The Flash v.1 #112 (April-May, 1960). Sue: Flash v.1 #119

+ History

It's not quite accurate to say that Ralph Dibny is better known as the world-famous Elongated Man. After all, the only people who don't realize that they are one and the same are the ones whom Ralph hasn't had a chance to tell personally by introducing himself (as he always does) as "Ralph Dibny — the world-famous Elongated Man!"

Ralph Dibny grew up in the small prairie town of Waymore, Nebraska. While other kids his age prepared for a life of farming, Ralph dreamed of nothing but big-city fame and fortune. An inveterate prankster and showoff who worried far more about being ignored than about being a spectacle, there wasn't anything Ralph wouldn't do to get attention.

As a teenager, Ralph finally found something to take halfway seriously when he went to a carnival side show. There, Ralph became captivated by the show's contortionist, a man easily as skinny as Ralph but able to turn that skinniness into a grand, attention-getting performance. Going from carnival to carnival, he talked to "India-rubber men" at every opportunity, but the most he could get out of any of them was that their abilities were a "trade secret."

Through his travels, however, Ralph did deduce one thing about the contortionists — they all drank a brand of soda pop called Gingold, which contained the juice of the rare fruit from the Yucatan called the gingo. In desperation, Ralph distilled the raw essence of the gingo and drank it — and discovered that it gave him the ability to stretch his body.

Ralph crafted an elastic costume for himself and, calling himself the Elongated Man, headed out for fame and fortune in Central City. Together with the second Flash, the Elongated Man broke up a series of odd robberies, and the two heroes became lifetime friends.

By the time Ralph hit Manhattan, he had made his fortune from TV and stage appearances, but his first publicity stunt in New York was to crash the debutante ball of young, beautiful, and stupefied Sue Dearbon. Ralph, however, picked up more than publicity that night; for himself and Sue, it was love at first sight, and the two were married almost immediately. (Flash v.1 #119) According to Ralph, Sue was special; she could have gushed over the Flash, who was in his heyday, but instead she was enamored of the Elongated Man. He soon decided to do away with a secret identity and revealed his real name to the world. Sue's calm practicality provided the perfect balance to Ralph's childlike flamboyance. Though the two of them were different in many respects, they both craved excitement and adventure. For the better part of a decade, they traveled around the world, and everywhere they went, Ralph sniffed out a bizarre mystery or strange small-town crime that cried out to be solved by the Elongated Man's special brand of amateur sleuthing.

Elongated Man was nominated for membership by the Flash early on (JLofA #42) but served only as an ally for a time. (#51, #100-102) After giving up paid personal appearances when he accumulated enough to live comfortably the rest of his life, Elongated Man accepted the invitation to join the JLA. (JLofA #105) (He also received a new uniform along the way [Detective #351].)

Ralph knew that his public identity put her at risk, even in proximity to the world's greatest protectors. And so their home was outfitted with the best in Thanagarian, Martian and Kryptonian security technology. But occasionally Sue liked to visit the satellite, which she did one evening while the team was away. That night she was caught unaware and raped by Dr. Light. The League returned to the satellite during this crime and quickly restrained the villain. Ralph took Sue immediately to a hospital and the remaining members decided to wipe not only Light's memory of their identity, but to alter his personality as well. These Leaguers were interrupted in turn by the Batman, and they also decided to wipe his memories of the event. Ralph, too, was protected of what the JLA had done to Light. (Identity Crisis #2)

Their globetrotting resumed when the original JLA disbanded (#261), but Ralph missed the camaraderie (and added fame) that the JLA offered; when he was approached to join Justice League Europe, the Elongated Man didn't hesitate for a moment to accept. At this time, Sue herself was awarded Honorary Membership in the League and served the JLE on permanent monitor duty. (Justice League International, v.1 #24) When Catherine Cobert was assigned to the UN, Sue's performance won her the promotion to official JLE Coordinator (Justice League Europe #37) and they stayed with that team until shortly before it disbanded. (#68)

Ralph remained a JLA reservist and participated in one Justice League Task Force mission. (JLTF #10-12) Though he was considered for membership in the new JLA, he was reluctantly passed over in favor of Plastic Man. (JLA Secret Files #2) Recently, he and Sue relocted to Opal City at the request of Jack Knight (Starman VII). (Starman v.2 #??) They also agreed to rejoining (at Maxwell Lord's request) with his former JLI comrades in the Superbuddies. (Formerly ... #1)

For all their happiness, Ralph and Sue's story has one of the most tragic ends in the heroes' community. Sue fell prey to an unlikely killer, her former friend Jean Loring (ex-wife of Ray Palmer, the Atom). It seems Loring had become unhinged and obsessed with reuniting with Ray. In her psychosis, she devised a plan to use the Atom's shrinking technology and transferred herself via the phone lines into the Dibnys' home. Jean was privy to the fact that every year, knew that Ralph would be absent, solving a custom-tailored mystery devised by Sue. Sue died when Loring shrunk down and obstructed the bloodflow to her brain. To cover this evidence, Loring scorched Sue's body. Sadder still, Ralph discovered afterwards that Sue had planned to surprise him with news of her pregnancy with their first child. (Identity Crisis #1)

Jean knew that this event would send all the heroes scrambling to protect their loved ones, driving Ray back into her arms. Loring employed two other schemes to cover her tracks. First, she faked her own murder (#3) then she hired Captain Boomerang to kill Tim (Robin) Drake's father Jack. She supplied Jack Drake with a gun to defend himself, hoping that Boomerang would be killed and that everyone would believe he was Sue's killer as well. Eventually, Dr. Mid-Nite's autopsy revealed the truth, and the Atom himself elicited a confession from Jean. She was admitted to Arkham Asylum (#6).

Despite his lack of formal training, Ralph's detective skills are astounding. Detection is the only thing in the world Ralph is ever serious about, and nothing surprises his teammates more than hearing the ever-goofy Elongated Man suddenly spout off a series of brilliant analytical deductions.

Notes

Ralph also participated in a mission with the new Doom Patrol (DP v.3 #4). This version of the Doom Patrol has since been retroactively eliminated from continuity.

+ Powers

The Elongated Man can stretch any part of his body to fantastic lengths. He must drink his secret gingold extract every few days to maintain this power. While others can gain stretching powers from gingold, it generally creates a severe allergic reaction in most people. The Elongated Man wears a special stretch-nylon costume that is as ductile as he is.

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

  

 Detective #327-383, 426, 430 436, 444, 449, 453, 456-457, 462, 465, 500
 Flash
v.1 #206, 208, 210, 212
 Identity Crisis
#1-6
 JLA Classified #4-9
  Secret Origins #30
 Starman
v.2 #??

» SERIES:

  Justice League of America, #105-261 (1973-87)

  Elongated Man, 4-issue limited series (1992)

  Justice League Europe/International, 68 issues (1989-94)

  Formerly Known as the Justice League, 6-issue limited series (2003)

» SEE ALSO:

 Pre-Crisis History

 Dibny Dirt