Ralph Dibny a.k.a. Elongated Man was created in The '60s to be a Captain Ersatz of Plastic Man because the people at DC Comics didn't realize that they technically already owned Plastic Man. In a way, this makes him the first Silver Age Legacy Character not to share a name with the character he was inspired by. He first appeared in "The Flash" #112 (April, 1960). His wife and partner Susan "Sue" Dearborn was introduced in #119 (March, 1961). Notably, he was the first Super Hero to drop his Secret Identity and marry his Love Interest (in her first appearance, too!).
A close friend of the (second) Flash in whose series he appeared often. He got his own series in the backpages of Detective Comics, lasting from issue #327 to #383 (May, 1964-January, 1969) with several new stories appearing in the same magazine during the 1970s, though at irregular intervals. The series formula was to have Ralph and Sue traveling the globe, investigating crimes along the way. Don Markstein, a comic book historian, described them as a superhero version of Nick and Nora Charles.
Ralph also joined the Justice League in 1970s. Along with Sue he was an important part of the League's more comedic period. Sadly, he's remembered today more for the fact that his wife was both raped AND murdered in Identity Crisis. He died shortly afterwards in 52 while trying to find a way to resurrect her (at least he brought down an evil sorcerer and a major demon in the process). Sadly, the demon escaped later, despite the trap seemingly being absolutely inescapable. They have both reappeared as ghosts since, with the ability to possess people for short periods of time, à la Deadman.
After many years they finally reappeared in two separate comics from DC. They've been in Convergence: Justice League of America, a two-part book that focused on the Detroit League and had the Dibnys alive, married, and very much in love. In the main DCU, Ralph has appeared under another name: Big Shot in Secret Six. Sue has reappeared in the same book as well.
The character appears in the fourth season of The CW's The Flash, portrayed there by Hartley Sawyer. This iteration of Dibny is a fast-talking private investigator who, upon gaining his stretching ability, joins Team Flash in their crimefighting and investigation against Clifford DeVoe.
This character provides examples of:
- Addiction-Powered: He drinks a lot of Gingold soda and gets super-stretch powers. The drink can apparently increase flexibility in most people who drink it, but you have to go to serious overdose levels to get actual stretching abilities, which can then be maintained by regular drinking of the normal product. A significant section of the human population is allergic to gingold extract, and thus unable to take advantage of the herb's special properties.
- Awesome by Analysis: An excellent detective, Ralph once figured out that an item presented to him as Doctor Fate's helmet was a clear forgery by Felix Faust, based off nothing more than a lack of visible fingerprints on the mask.
- Badass Boast: "Plastic Man's the clown. I'm the detective."
- Beware the Silly Ones: After his wife's death, Felix Faust and Neron try to manipulate Ralph into giving them access to Doctor Fate's helmet. Both villains have proven more than capable of taking on the entire assembled Justice League, but Ralph plays both for fools for months.
- Birthday Episode: A number of Elongated Man stories were set on his birthday. As her regular birthday gift for Ralph, Sue would customarily craft an elaborate mystery for him to solve. An issue of Justice League Quarterly continued this tradition.
- The Bus Came Back: In Secret Six For both of them.
- Contortionist: Elongated Man is not, but he was inspired by the Indian Rubber Men, who are famous practitioners of the contortion arts.
- Crusading Widower: To the point that The Spectre, the literal Wrath of God, offered Ralph the chance to avenge his wife's death on her killer. Ralph refused.
- Darker and Edgier: In 52, Ralph falls back on his detective roots, begins drinking, and becomes obsessed with resurrecting Sue. All but the first was part of a ruse to out-gambit Felix Faust and Neron.
- Deadpan Snarker: Naturally, he and Beetle get along well during crossovers between the JL International and Europe team.
- Disposable Superhero Maker: It had been established that anyone can get his powers by drinking Gingold to excess but it was later retconned to say that the Gingold activated Ralph's metagene.
- Drowning My Sorrows: After the death of Sue, in 52, he spends most of the series drinking and growing a Beard of Sorrow. Turns out he was faking it, and was setting up Felix Faust and Neron in a trap. What was he drinking from a flask? Gingold.
- Expy Coexistence: He was created as an Expy of Plastic Man by a writer who didn't realize that DC had recently bought the character. They've crossed over plenty of times.
- Fun Personified: At first he was just another hero, but as time passed he became a jokester (Plastic Man went through the same process at the same time), specially during the late 80s. But then Sue got killed - and worse, while she was pregnant.
- Green Lantern Ring: Ralph's shapeshifting can be surprisingly versatile, especially considering that unlike Plastic Man Ralph cannot truly shapeshift, only elongate himself in various ways.
- Happily Married: To Sue. They have shared a log relationship that many readers considered a breath of fresh air in an era when comics were becoming darker.
- Locked Room Mystery: His specialty, according to 52.
- Nice Guy
- Non-Idle Rich: Both he and his wife are rich, yet they go around solving crimes. Both are based on the main characters from The Thin Man detective movies.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: He's actually a very efficient JLAer and its second best detective after Batman.
- Batman has stated that Ralph is the superior detective; Batman himself is "merely" the world's foremost criminologist, while Ralph favors deductive reasoning.
- Official Couple: In 70 years as a married couple in comics, Ralph and Sue have never once strayed.
- Personality Powers
- Power Perversion Potential: Not in the obvious way. Ralph once gave a brute Gingold, then tied him in knots - and then threatened him by reminding him what would happen when the Gingold wore off. Yikes!
- Plucky Comic Relief
- Rubber Man
- Sad Clown: Ralph is fully aware that stretching doesn't put him on the same level as most of the other members of the Justice League, and throughout the 70s and early 80s especially worried that he would let others down as their weakest member. This trait has largely vanished following Crisis on Infinite Earths.
- Selective Obliviousness: His trademark thing is to move the nose when he notices a mystery. He says that his wife find it adorable. Everybody tells him that it is so grossly disgusting... including his wife.
- Shape-Shifter Showdown: With Plastic Man.
- Shapeshifter Weapon
- Something Person
- Spider-Sense. His nose twitches when he "smells" a mystery.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Has not reappeared in the New 52 until the later period of experimentation before DC Rebirth. If he's back on the bus there remains to be seen
- Super Serum: Ralph got his powers by drinking a substance called "Gingold". He had to drink it regularly.
- Retconned into the Gingold (which, by the way, he discovered in soda) activating his metagene (somehow). Pure gingold extract turned out to be quite harmful to anyone but him.
- Thanatos Gambit: In 52, he tricks Neron and Felix Faust into trapping themselves in the Tower of Fate when they kill him before he can break the binding spells keeping them there.
- They Fight Crime!
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: According to Sue, he's a 7. Note that she was a Deadpan Snarker. However, according to Ralph in Identity Crisis, Sue was only ever attracted to him and not the more conventionally attractive and powerful superheroes like Barry Allen at a party.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With the third Flash, Wally West. While the two were definitely friends, Ralph loved to poke fun at Wally by comparing him to Barry Allen (the second Flash).