6 Inch Scale
The “Identity Crisis” mini-series in 2004 was brave in taking characters that comic book fans hadn’t cared about in some time and making them relevant again. It positioned Green Arrow as the guy who knows everyone (and everyone’s secrets), and brought a level of darkness to the sheen and quaint simplicity of the Silver Age. But one of the things that can’t be forgotten about the mini was its bravery in depicting a brutal murder…and it didn’t even happen to Batman or his supporting cast.
Ralph Dibny created and consumed a highly concentrated version of the rare Yucatan “gingo” fruit, which granted him the powers of extreme elasticity and malleability. Known as Elongated Man, and a model member of the Justice League of America, he was unprecedentedly open open to the public about both his secret identity and loving marriage. Tragically, his wife Sue was murdered by Jean Loring, ex-wife of the Atom, Ray Palmer. News of the murder rippled throughout the community of masked heroes, shaking the Justice League to its core and irrevocably devastating Dibny.
The tragedy about that bio is that it seems as though the most significant thing to happen to Ralph was the death of his wife. A case could be made that that is true, since they were virtually inseparable, but given the character’s forty-five year existence there was a lot more that could be said about his career. A secondary character that came from backup features in the Flash and Detective Comics to membership in the JLA in 1973, Dibny was the longest serving JLAer, bouncing around until 1995 in the main title and its spin-offs.
He was never truly forgotten even afterwards: he was reunited with his Justice League International teammates in two mini-series from that titles creative team, and later appeared in animated form on Justice League Unlimted and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He was good friends with the Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), a friendly rivalry with Batman, and was a much loved character. Even his wife had a unique distinction: Sue Dibny was the only non-powered civilian to ever be granted official membership in the JLA, something Lois Lane can’t lay claim to.
Elongated Man has had several figures surprisingly: DC Collectibles (formerly known as DC Direct) released two: the first came in the second series of the JLA line (with Atom, Firestorm, and Adam Strange). The second was in the “Identity Crisis” line, based on designs by the late Michael Turner. Mattel followed suit and made a Ralph in the Justice League Unlimited line, and now that is joined by the DC Signature Collection/Club Infinite Earths exclusive 6” figure. Let’s see how he measures up.
This is the first time I’ve ordered an exclusive through Mattycollector and after the horror stories I’ve heard I was a bit skeptical. But Ralph arrived after a week and a half in that familiar white mailer box that sends chills down my back every time I see it; mostly because of the fear of what the figure will look like once you open it up.
The actual package Ralph comes in has the title Signature Collection at the top of the box, with his name on the lower left hand side. The window displays Ralph all too perfectly. One comment I want to make here that Mattel must have listened to complaints in the past with dynamic posing in the packaging warping the figure that this and previous DC Signature Collection offerings, have been in vanilla poses that will not cause a concern when popped out of the box. Along the left hand side is a portrait by Mike Thompson, who has done the artwork for the line since the beginning. Honestly I’ve been saving these boxes because I love Thompson’s artwork. If Mattel was smart they’d issue prints of the portraits he’s done and I bet they’d sell well.
A larger portrait with Ralph’s bio and name are present on the back. Both portraits give a very good idea of Ralph’s powers and abilities, which obviously include stretching. Missing from the bio however was one important quirk of Ralph’s: his nose would twitch uncontrollably whenever there was a mystery in the air, causing him to blurt his signature line “I smell a mystery!” The portrait does cast an odd juxtaposition with the bio, as almost no mention is made of Ralph’s sense of humor, fun loving personality, and love of life, whereas the portrait captures all that made Ralph Dibny special in the first place.
I’ve complained about how Mattel has done away with mentioning the character’s first appearance in the bios like they did for DCUC. This is all right with retail, since DC Comics wants to focus as much as they can on making the new designs of the New 52 a success as possible, but with the online sub DC Signature Collection they should throw at least a mention of the comic book roots of the old days, if only for historical purposes.
Elongated Man (this will be the last time I ever mention his full name—as much as I love the character, it’s too much of a mouthful to keep writing) is given the skinny male body (best seen on previous figures as Deadman and the taller Sinestro), perfect for a man meant to be in the six-foot range and a slim jim. Ralph only ever wore three costumes in his career, with this and his pink/white combination being his most prominent ones, and they were never ever the most ornate. Since DC Universe Classics was leaning towards the Bronze Age and the Satellite era JLA most specifically from the gate, it made a lot of sense that they give him his red/black costume. A darker reason could also be that he wore this costume during “Identity Crisis”, which may be how the casual comic-buying public remembers Ralph.
A commonly attributed story about longtime DC editor Julius Schwartz has it that had he realized DC Comics owned the rights to Plastic Man (acquired when the home office bought out rival Quality Comics in 1956), he never would have given Ralph such a clunky sounding name. There is some weight to the story: much like Plas, Ralph’s costume is a deep red, almost maroon. Where Plas had his shirt open down the front, Ralph’s is black where it would be open. The belt is almost a color swap between the two, as the dominant color on Ralph’s is yellow and Plas’ was black. There are no raised elements on the costume, since this is a reuse; the smoothness is a bit of a downer given that DCSC figures are supposed to be tooled a little better than the mass-market ones because of the price difference.
Artist Carmine Infantino based Ralph’s appearance on Dick Van Dyke, and likewise used Mary Tyler Moore as the model for his wife Sue. Later, during “Identity Crisis”, Rags Morales used actor Danny Kaye for an older Ralph. I’m not sure which one the Four Horsemen used as a model for their headsculpt, as it’s not quite an Infantino inspired head but I can see bit of Dick Van Dyke in there, but definitely not Danny Kaye. The surprised look is a bit off putting. I’m reminded of when I got Golden Age Green Lantern how that headsculpt and expression used bugged me ‘til I got used to it…but that was a long time of getting used to. I suspect the same will be said of Ralph.
One final note on the facial sculpt and the question of whether or not it captures Ralph’s nose. Infantino usually drew him with a big honker but it was never ridiculously huge like Jimmy Durante or Bob Hope. Other artists just depict him with a regular size schnozz and leave it at that. The JLA figure replicated Infantino’s art followed suit with a large nose, but Mattel chose to give him a normal-looking one for this figure. It’s still much more pointed than most other figures in the line, but don’t expect him to get excited about mysteries any time soon.
Some slight uneven painting around the abdomen on mine, but it’s so miniscule that it’s barely noticeable. On the extra included arm there are some paint bubbles. Normally I’d say this wouldn’t bother me, but this isn’t retail we’re talking about; DCSC is meant to be the higher end arm of what DCUC used to be, so for being a $30 figure, you’d expect such flaws to be non-existent. Since they are there, it does stick in my craw a bit.
Ralph’s hair is always meant to be red in the comics but depending on the artist can come across as blonde or brown; the figure is given the brownish end of the spectrum, although it is so light that it could go either way (I’d probably compare it to how he’s been drawn and colored since the 1970s, as opposed to the bright brights Carmine Infantino often used for his colors). A little bit of slop on the back of the figure as well. I got off lucky with the blind box though…others have had many paint issues, so in this section I would highly recommend buying loose or at least getting a handle on pictures before buying directly from Matty so you’ll get an idea of what you’re buying into.
Standard Mattel joints all around, with points in the wrists, neck, elbows, shoulders, waist, knees, thighs, hips, and ankles with a hinge in his abdomen. One common complaint to take note of is that since this is the skinny male buck they’ve used, why not give him the double-knees and elbows that other skinny figures have had? It would certainly help sell the elasticity of the character and allow for far better movement than he has now.
At the moment Ralph just moves like any other DCUC figure: very well, but it could be a whole lot better considering the resources as Mattel’s disposal. Had DCUC continued on, Ralph may have been a build-a-figure, and DC would have probably reused the parts from Plastic Man to give to Ralph. But that in itself raises the question of why didn’t they just re-purpose those same parts here, which may have only been a cost of repainting appropriately rather than a whole new sculpt.
Ralph isn’t without some toys to play with. Mattel remembered those Detective Comics and Flash issues and in a tribute gave Ralph his trust magnifying glass. Surprisingly the darn thing actually magnifies a little, thanks to having a convex lens. Sadly, Ralph’s current articulation doesn’t allow for a natural pose with the glass, so you have to play with it a little before things look a little close to being right.
Mattel wasn’t too cruel, they did throw Ralph one bone to help convey his powers: his right hand is removable, take it off and plop on the included extra hand which is in full-on stretch mode. It appears to be made of some nice plastic so don’t be afraid of breaking it any point. The hand is a nice touch, and again helps sell Ralph’s powers but I would rather have had Mattel throw Ralph the giraffe neck from Plastic Man—in almost every tale featuring Ralph he’s always stretching his neck, and, along with his nose, is a notable physical trait.
I do feel that another missed opportunity regarding Ralph was that his wife Sue has not yet seen plastic. I often hoped a two-pack would be forthcoming from DC Collectibles, since they had made the Silver Age Superman/Lois two-pack years ago; I knew it was always going to be a pipe dream if Mattel ever made one, since we never did get a Lois (yet). I would probably trade any stretchy accessory if only to have the “Nick and Nora Charles” of the DCU together on my shelf.
Had Ralph been released in DCUC he’d have $15.99 plus tax; so roughly around seventeen bucks. But he’s the March sub for Club Infinite Earths and thus you will have to play $20 plus $8 in shipping to get him. It’s a question you have to ask yourself going forward, of whether or not you think you need him. For the price it’s a bit hard to swallow, but is it worth it?
Chew on this for a second: he does complete another era in Justice League history—the famous Satellite era—so if you’re into team building there’s that point of interest. He also hung around the Flash and Batman, so you can easily have Ralph integrating into either universe. Keep in mind that while he is not in his pink/white costume, Mattel has released several of his JLI teammates (Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Power Girl, Captain Atom, Guy Gardner, and Rocket Red— Fire and Ice are coming towards the end of the year, along with the Wally West Flash) which should move another team towards completion.
Basically, this is a character we probably won’t be seeing another version of for a long time, if not ever again. He’s already sold out at Mattycollector and with the secondary market prices being what they are, the possibility of getting him for the original pricetag is slim to nil.
I’ve probably let my passions run rampant at this point. I love the Silver Age. Barry Allen is my favorite version of the Flash, and Ralph Dibny is one of my favorite heroes. Granted he never really headlined a solo title and was often comedic relief a lot of times but there is no doubting that in going back to those old Detective Comics stories that he wasn’t a solid gumshoe. Within the DCU he was considered the second best detective—after Batman of course. I always liked him a little more than Plastic Man, probably because of that detective aspect. It’s interesting that he got a slot in DC Signature Collection, especially given that he’s not yet introduced in the New 52 DCU and his character has been deceased for some time. His appearance at this point is primed at filling in one of several long-standing gaps in fans collections, and it is a welcome one.