It’s my birthday! I am 31 years old and spending the day sitting at work and writing about Superman and the Elongated Man. I like life.
DC Comics Presents was kind of like Superman’s version of The Brave and the Bold, featuring the Man of Steel teaming up with a wide array of other superheroes (including Santa Claus and He-Man!). In DC Comics Presents #21, published in February of 1980, Supes slums it with Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man. Identity Crisis and 52 made Ralph one of my favorite characters in the DCU, but much like I said about Animal Man in yesterday’s entry, I haven’t read many of his earlier adventures.
Before the story even begins, I’ve already learned something new about the Elongated Man. According to the little character profile on the first page of the book, Ralph is the only DCU superhero whose identity is public:
That, along with his power and marital status, might lead one to assume that Ralph is pretty much just a shameless rip-off of Reed Richards, but a glance at Wikipedia reveals that the Elongated Man made his debut over a year prior to the Fantastic Four! So, once again, fuck you Marvel!
Our adventure begins with Clark Kent finding Elongated Man hiding inside his typewriter. I wish I were joking. Ralph is sick or something… his face is covered with weird pink splotches (which I assumed were just printing errors until Superman told me otherwise), and he’s maniacally ranting and raving in sentence fragments, the way only comic book characters and people imitating William Shatner ever do…
Superman takes his ailing colleague to the Fortress of Solitude to recover, but upon arriving there, Ralph starts seriously losing his shit.
Okay, so what’s going on here is that Ralph’s freakout is disrupting giant statues of Superman’s Kryptonian parents, but the layout of these panels is so shitty that it took me quite a while before I figured that out. At first I was like, “Who are these other people hanging out in the Fortress with them?” You fail at perspective, probably-long-dead comic artist!
Anyway, Superman pumps Ralph full of “Kandorian-developed antibiotics” and then the narrator launches into a long-winded and extremely out-of-place-seeming monologue about waiting:
Jeez, I guess somebody’s story needed a little bit of extra padding, huh? Although I do like how Superman is repeatedly referred to as “the Waiting Man.” That’s his new name from now on, okay everybody?
So after all that, the Elongated Man is just fine, and ready to explain to what the fuck is going on. We enter flashback mode and learn that, like most earth-shattering events, this all began in western Connecticut.
It turns out that the population of Stevenson, CT is rapidly becoming infected with some mysterious disease, and it’s up to detective Ralph to get to the bottom of it. You’ll never guess what he finds out:
If you guessed that a bunch of evil Grimaces were planning to take over the Earth via gentrification, congratulations! Ralph confronts these monsters (perhaps to recruit one of them to join the DC version of the Fantastic Four?) and promptly gets the shit beaten out of him and the virus injected into him. He escapes and rushes back to the hotel room to warn Sue, but…
It makes sense that the monsters would deploy someone to Ralph’s hotel room, but it’s adorable that he decided to snuggle up under the covers while waiting. Anyway, Ralph escapes again and makes his way to Metropolis, which is where we came in.
Waiting Man and Ralph seek out and begin fighting the monsters, whose greatest weapon turns out to be exposition:
Wait a minute… is this supposed to be an analogue for the Nazis or something like that? Jesus Christ. Comic books are so fucking stupid. Whatever. The superheroes defeat the villains (spoiler alert!) and Waiting Man explains that Ralph was largely immune to their virus because the magical soda he drinks to become stretchy acts as an antidote. With everything neatly wrapped up, the two heroes fly off into the sunset. But, wait a fucking minute… what happened to Sue Dibny? What about all the people who are still infected with the virus? Who the hell are the Masters? THIS COMIC BOOK STORY DOES NOT CONCLUDE IN A SATISFACTORY MANNER, AND IT MAKES ME ANGRY!!!
Thirty-one years old.