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By Thomas Wheeler

A reasonable argument could be made for saying that the top two stretchable, flexible super-heroes around are Marvel's Reed Richards, also known as Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, and DC Comics' Plastic Man, originally created by Quality Comics but becoming part of DC in the mid-1950's.

Then there's the third guy. His name is ELONGATED MAN, and he's also part of the DC Universe. And he's also a recent entry in MattyCollector.Com's DC Universe Signature Series of action figures, the online extension of the DC Universe Classics line.

Personally, I've always liked Elongated Man, and I feel that his inclusion in this line is -- no pun intended -- long overdue.

Sadly, the character's fate in the comics books wasn't exactly a happy ending, and it didn't even have anything to do with the current "New 52". Let's consider the history of Elongated Man, and then have a look at his action figure.

Elongated Man -- real name Randolph "Ralph" Dibny has been a member of three incarnations of the Justice League. His first appearance was in The Flash vol. 1, #112 (May, 1960).

The character has won and been nominated for several awards over the years, including winning the 1961 Alley Award for Best Supporting Character.

He was partially created by editor Julius Schwartz, who wanted a new supporting character for the Flash. Despite inker Murphy Anderson, and penciller Carmine Infantino stating that Schwartz never acknowledged any relationship to Plastic Man, it's commonly claimed that he said that if he had known that DC owned the name "Plastic Man" (acquired in 1956 along with other Quality Comics properties), he'd never have chosen Elongated Man as the name for his own character. In further appearances with the Flash, he makes a fortune in show business, marries Sue Dearbon and it is revealed that he went public with his secret identity.

Due to the character's popularity, he got a solo backup feature in Detective Comics, where he was redefined as a detective who loves odd mysteries and travels the United States in a convertible with his wife searching for them. Sometimes they would travel the world or meet other DC superheroes like Batman, Green Lantern, the Atom and Zatanna. This feature became sporadic during the late 60s and throughout the 70s. However, in 1973 he became a member of the Justice League of America, and was mostly seen in that title from 1973 to 1995.

As a teenager, Ralph Dibny was fascinated by contortionists, or people who displayed feats of agility and suppleness. He learned that all of the body-benders he spoke with drank a popular soda called "Gingold." Ralph set to work learning chemistry and developed a super-concentrated extract of the rare "gingo" fruit of the Yucatan, which gave him his elasticity.

In his first appearance, the Flash suspects the Elongated Man is behind several crimes, but the Elongated Man helps capture the criminals, who reveal they used a helicopter to frame him.

Ralph Dibny was one of the earliest Silver Age DC heroes to reveal his secret identity to the public, and also one of the first to marry his love interest. After teaming up with several other superheroes like Batman, Green Lantern, the Atom, Zatanna and the Justice League of America, he became a member of the team.

Eventually, his wife became a member as well. The couple was also notable in having a stable, happy, and relatively trouble-free marriage — an anomaly in the annals of comic books. Fans of the characters often referred to Ralph and Sue as the "Nick and Nora Charles of the super-hero set" (a reference to The Thin Man movies).

The very novelty of the Elongated Man stories was that unlike most superheroes, including the Detective Comics Batman, Ralph Dibny solved mysteries, often challenging the reader to do the same. He didn't just use his extraordinary powers or gadgets to chase criminals, but recalled the problem-solving of a genre just a bit older than superheroes: the tale of mystery and detection.

Most recently, and tragically, Ralph Dibny played a central role in the events of Identity Crisis, with the main arc of the series revolving around the DC Universe's response to the murder of Sue Dibny. The healthy, stable relationship between Ralph and Sue, and the events that led to and resulted from her death, were used as primary narrative devices throughout the series.

The effect of Sue's death on Ralph (compounded by the fact that Sue was apparently pregnant at the time of her death) would come to shape his character significantly in the events following Identity Crisis, eventually culminating at the end of the weekly series 52.

Ralph and Sue appeared as members of the Justice League offshoot the Super Buddies in the miniseries Formerly Known as the Justice League and its sequel story arc "I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League" published in JLA: Classified #4-9. The latter arc was produced before Identity Crisis but published afterwards. A running joke in "I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League" involves the possibility of Sue's pregnancy.

In the 2006 weekly series 52, a grief-stricken Ralph Dibny is contemplating suicide when he is informed that Sue's gravestone has been vandalized with an inverted version of Superman's 'S' symbol — the Kryptonian symbol for resurrection. He confronts Wonder Girl, and she tells Dibny that she is in a cult that believes that Superboy, who was killed during the Infinite Crisis, can be resurrected. She steals Ralph's wedding ring after the cult members try to drown Ralph.

During Week 11, after scaring some cult members and chasing them off, he gets a report that someone broke into a storage container in Opal City and stole Sue's clothes. In Week 12, Ralph finds Wonder Girl and she tells him they stole the clothes and ring to make a Sue Dummy. She invites him to the ceremony.

During Week 13, Ralph goes to the ceremony. Metamorpho, Green Arrow, Zauriel, and Hal Jordan come with him. Despite his initial agreement, Dibny and his friends disrupt the ceremony, but the effigy of Sue crawls to Dibny and calls out to him as it burns; Dibny suffers a nervous breakdown as a result.

During Week 18, other members of the Croatoan Society: Detective Chimp, Terri Thirteen, and Edogawa Sangaku find Tim Trench dead with the helmet of Doctor Fate, Nabu. Ralph comes to investigate and asks for help from Shadowpact, Detective Chimp's other group. A voice from within the helm of Doctor Fate, unheard by the other members of the group, speaks to Dibny and promises to fulfill his desires if he makes certain sacrifices. Dibny journeys with the helm through the afterlives of several cultures, where he is cautioned about the use of magic.

During Week 27, the Spectre promises to resurrect Sue in exchange for Dibny's taking vengeance on Jean Loring, who was responsible for her death, but Dibny is unable to do so.

During Week 32, Ralph ventures to Nanda Parbat, and gets into a fight with the Yeti. The Perfect Accomplished Physician comes to the rescue. Both he and the Yeti are members of the Great Ten, the super-hero defenders of China. At Nanda Parbat, Rama Kushna tells Dibny, "The end is already written".

During week 42, Dibny is in Dr. Fate's tower. He begins the spell to resurrect Sue, puts on the helmet of Fate, and shoots it, revealing Felix Faust, who was posing as Nabu. Faust planned to trade Dibny's soul to Neron in exchange for his own freedom. Ralph reveals that he was aware of Faust's identity for some time, and that the binding spell surrounding the tower is designed to imprison Faust, not to counter any negative effects of the spell. Neron appears and kills Dibny, only to realize too late that the binding spell responds only to Dibny's commands: Through his death Ralph has trapped Faust and Neron in the tower, seemingly for eternity, though his methods of doing so are unknown.

His spirit is later seen reunited with his wife. At the end of Week 52 it is revealed that Dibny's magical, wish-granting gun (a souvenir from "The Anselmo Case", a reference to The Life Story of the Flash), worked — Ralph's last wish was to be reunited with his wife, even in death — and that Ralph and Sue are now reunited as ghost detectives investigating a school where a paranormal phenomenon has just occurred.

As to his powers and abilities, Elongated Man gets his abilities from a combination of drinking a refined version of a soft drink named Gingold that contains the extract of a fictional fruit called gingo and his natural latent metahuman physiology. The extract interacts with a latent gene that Ralph has, thus activating his super powers. It was revealed in Invasion #3 that it was a metagene reaction to the Gingold elixir that had always provided him with his stretching powers, meaning that he is, in fact, a metahuman and that an ordinary human would not develop such powers through ingesting the extract. Also, most people are extremely allergic to highly concentrated Gingold.

As his name suggests, Elongated Man can stretch his limbs and body to super-human lengths and sizes. These stretching powers grant Elongated Man heightened agility enabling him flexibility and coordination that is beyond the natural limits of the human body. He can contort his body into various positions and sizes impossible for ordinary humans, such as being entirely flat so that he can slip under a door, or using his fingers to pick conventional locks. He can also use it for disguise by changing the shape of his face, although this is painful and difficult for him. Ralph's physiology has greater physical limitations than Plastic Man; there is a limit to how far he can stretch his finite bodily mass, and he cannot open holes in his body as Plastic Man can.

Elongated Man's powers also greatly augment his durability. He is largely able to withstand corrosives, punctures and concussions without sustaining injury. It has been demonstrated that he is resistant to high velocities that would kill an ordinary person and that he is also more resistant to blasts from energy weapons that would kill ordinary humans. His physiology is more like that of an ordinary human than Plastic Man and as a result he does not share Plastic Man's nigh invulnerability.

In addition to his stretching abilities, Elongated Man is professionally trained as a detective and is highly skilled in deductive reasoning. Often considered one of the most brilliant detectives in the DC Universe. He is a talented amateur chemist as well. A meta-side-effect of his powers coupled with his detective skills is enhanced olfactory sense, allowing him to "smell" when something is "not right", or if a clue or mystery is at hand. This results in a rubbery "nose twitch".

Firehawk once told Ralph that Green Arrow said the nose twitch was not a real thing but rather something he made up to get more press. Elongated Man responded by telling her that Green Arrow's hat covers a bald spot.

In addition to being a native English speaker, Dibny also speaks French. He can also understand Interlac well enough to translate.

Elongated Man appears in several episodes of the Justice League Unlimited animated TV series, voiced by Jeremy Piven. This is the first television series in which he has made an appearance. Although he appears in numerous episodes as a background character, Elongated Man has only three speaking roles.

In "The Greatest Story Never Told", he is one of the members to help in the battle against Mordru, although to his disappointment he is put on crowd control (along with Booster Gold) as Green Lantern told him that Plastic Man was already fighting Mordru and that they did not "need two stretchy guys". As they were on crowd control, he complains to Booster about his position. This soon annoys Booster Gold, with Elongated Man saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Wonder Woman then appears and says that the team needs Elongated Man's help. He willingly follows her to the fight, much to Booster's disappointment as he thought the team needed his help. The episode goes on to follow Booster's attempt to stop a black hole. At the end of the episode, it is shown that Elongated Man had devised a plan to defeat Mordru and the team is shown praising him. As he is helping clean up the mess in the city, Booster walks past him with Dr. Tracy Simmons beside him (as he won a date with her by stopping the black hole) and says "Squeaky wheel, buddy. Squeaky wheel."

In "The Ties That Bind", Elongated Man and Flash express concern about the fact that some other members of the League don't show them enough respect. Flash asks Elongated Man if he seems immature to him. Elongated Man replies "Not in the least". It is then shown they are playing "Brawlin' Bots" (based on the toy "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots").

In "Clash," his powers are stolen by Parasite, who uses them to nearly defeat Metamorpho and Batman before the timely intervention of Captain Marvel. After Parasite is defeated, Elongated Man notices Captain Marvel blushing and tells him not to be modest as he thinks Superman couldn't have done a better job. Superman appears as he says this, with Elongated Man quickly saying, "We were just talking about you."

The Elongated Man appears in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Journey to the Center of the Bat" voiced by Sean Donnellan. In the teaser, he works with Plastic Man and Batman to stop a villain named Baby Face. The two ductile metahumans constantly bicker on who is the better partner to Batman. Batman later gives the truth: between them, he prefers to work alone.

So, how's the figure? Very impressive, and surprisingly distinctive! I would also like to compliment whomever did the painted artwork for the package. These illustrations have been consistently impressive, but it must have been a greater-than-usual challenge to do the one for Elongated Man, and have him stretching all over the place with very little resemblance to standard human physiognomy.

There's nothing all that extreme about Elongated Man's headsculpt. Since he had long since gone public with his identity, he's not even wearing a mask. Elongated Man is a fairly average-looking individual with dark blonde, almost reddish-blonde hair, slightly wavy, relatively short cut, and parted on one side. He has blue eyes and fairly average features, except when his nose twitches. The headsculpt has given Elongated Man a fairly sharp nose, but it's not exaggerated. Elongated Man has a slightly open mouth, but it's not like he's yelling or anything, and his upper teeth are visible and painted white. He also has brown eyebrows. The facial details are very neatly painted.

Elongated Man has had several costumes over the course of his career. He started out with a lavender costume with dark blue gloves and boots, that were extremely wrinkled in appearance and were obviously such to give the impression of extra material to allow for his stretching. Somewhere along the way, Dibny must have stopped over in the Marvel Universe and borrowed a cup of Reed Richards' ever-popular unstable molecules, because the rest of his uniforms were more form fitting.

Perhaps his best-known costume, and the one on which this figure is based, is mostly red, with a black "V" shape running down the front and back from the neck to the waist, a yellow belt, and black boots and gloves with yellow borders. Interesting, the chosen colors for this costume are the same as Plastic Man's, although the details do differ.

Dibny had a third costume design, which he mostly used during his time with the Justice League in the 1990's. This one was mostly lavender, a nod to his original costume, I'm sure, with a fair amount of white on it, and some black trim, as well as a circular emblem that had the stylized letters "E-M" in it.

Both this costume and the red and black one were subjects of Justice League animated-style figures. While I rather liked the lavender-and-white one, since the color scheme was certainly distinctive, I tend to lean towards the red-and-black one as a personal favorite, since that was the one Dibny wore when I was reading the Justice League comics in the 1970's. Admittedly, the color scheme isn't as innovative, but it still looks good, and I'm pleased it was chosen for this figure. Additionally, this is the uniform he tended to wear during the latter days of his career.

Elongated Man is not what you'd call a physical powerhouse. I always assumed he was of more or less average super-heroic musculature. Mattel decided to slim him down just a little bit more than that in some respects, which made me wonder about one thing -- where did they get the parts?

The DC Universe line has a very consistent look about it. Most of the male heroes tend to use the same set of body molds, presented in the proper color scheme. While some fans have decried this, I've always appreciated the consistently and continuity that this presents.

Elongated Man probably could have gotten away with using the standard male body parts. But these were not what were used for the figure. I had initially thought that at least the upper torso was from the usual parts, but even this wasn't the case. I knew there was a set of "slimmer" molds out there, but some portions of this set of molds tended to have a rather "emaciated" look to it, since it had initially been created for the figure of the character known as Deadman, and those were not the molds used here.

Nor was I prepared to believe that Elongated Man used entirely new body parts. For one thing, he wasn't really extreme enough in his appearance to require them. For another thing, Mattel had made it quite clear when the Signature Series was renewed for 2013, that although they had received enough subscriptions to continue the line, they had not received enough to warrant creating any entirely new figures. Some new body parts were one thing, but an entirely new figure crafted from the ground up would not be happening.

And yet -- I have a reasonably complete collection of DC Universe action figures. And I haven't been able to figure out where Elongated Man's parts have seen previous use. I've checked Deadman, the second Sinestro, Kamandi, some of the Legion, and even Plastic Man. Some of Elongated Man's parts bear some resemblance to some parts of some of these figures. But not enough to have been used here without a fair bit of modification.

If Ralph Dibny wants to solve a mystery, he could start by helping me figure out who he was made from. The only clue I have to the fact that this isn't an entirely new figure is the fact that the year stamped on his backside is "10", indicating 2010, which is actually a little later than some of the most commonly used parts. But, as such, neither is it a "12" or "13".

None of this is a criticism. The end result is a great-looking figure, and the somewhat slimmer look suits the character. And obviously, I am fervently hopeful that when subscription times comes around for 2014 for the DC Signature Series, as well as the Masters of the Universe Classics on MattyCollector, both lines pass with plenty of room to spare. I wouldn't object if both passed well enough to warrant the creation of entirely new figures. But I was still left with a mystery. And I hate mysteries.

Then I noticed something. Elongated Man was slightly taller than average. Not by much. But standing him back-to-back to a more typical figure, such as the Riddler, have the esteemed Mr. Dibny a slight height advantage. And he certainly had one over Plastic Man, who is an entirely unique figure, due to some special features, and who is very slightly shorter than usual.

It was then that I recalled the last time I encountered a slightly taller figure. The Creeper. This was a character whose figure had, in my opinion, been ruined by the implementation of the completely unnecessary double-jointed elbows and knees. I had the figure, but I didn't tend to display him with the others, partly because the joint system also made him somewhat taller than the other figures, which made him stand out that much more. Was it possible?

To a certain degree, yes, it was. Although I can't be 100% certain, because Creeper is wearing this huge, furry cape that obscures the details on his back and shoulders, the torso seems to have the identical details to Elongated Man. But Creeper is even taller than Elongated Man, and Elongated Man, thank goodness, does not have double-jointed arms and legs. Additionally, Creeper has an "11" stamped on his backside, not a "10". So where did the rest of Elongated Man come from?

Here's what I've been able to put together. Elongated Man is a serious action figure jigsaw puzzle. The upper and mid torso sections, and shoulder joints, were previously used for The Creeper. There's a faint outline on Elongated Man's back, a circle, where a peg hole for a cape could once have been. This also means that Creeper is a more distinctive figure than I had realized. No wonder he looks so odd. It's not just the double joints.

Elongated Man's arms, from the upper arm swivel to the wrist, are Plastic Man's. I really have no idea whose lower torso this is. Elongated Man's upper legs to the knee joint are also The Creeper's. Here's where it gets interesting. From the knee down, where Creeper's double-knee-joint was, is the single-knee-joint lower legs of Plastic Man! And yet they're a perfect fit on Elongated Man!

The end result is impressive. Using Plastic Man's body parts is both appropriate and amusingly ironic. Using the Creeper's body parts gets some use out of some parts that hadn't been used since, without saddling Elongated Man with those awful double-jointed arms and legs. In a way, it makes The Creeper that much more frustrating in one sense. Here was a character that could have just as easily been made using the standard male body molds. Admittedly, had he been, I'm not sure what that would've meant for Elongated Man, but he could have been made from standard parts, as well. That aside, the resulting Elongated Man figure is extremely cool, and properly articulated, the result of some very interesting parts combinations from two quite different figures.

Of course, the figure is superbly articulated. Elongated Man is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. Paint detailing is superb and very neatly carried out on the entire figure. Please take special note of the facial features and the yellow borders around the gloves and boots, as well as the black lines on the belt.

Elongated Man does have two accessories, and one of them is a distinctly produced body part. He comes with an interchangeable right hand, which switches at the wrist, and makes his right arm look a good bit longer, and also gives him a right hand with the fingers stretched wide. It's a nice piece, with individual, separate fingers outstretched.

The other is a small magnifying glass. Elongated Man frequently carried one, in the tradition of that great detective Sherlock Holmes, and always had an affinity for classic detective gear such as this. The circular magnifying glass has a silver frame, and a ridged black handle that Elongated Man can hold in his left hand.

Most amazing of all is that the magnifying glass actually works! It doesn't have much of a range, but it will actually magnify things that it is held close enough to, for a short distance. Now, THAT is some serious attention to detail!

So, what's my final word? I'm truly pleased that Elongated Man has joined the ranks of the DC Universe Classics figures, by way of the extended Signature Series through MattyCollector.Com. The character has certainly been popular enough, and was a member in good standing of the Justice League of America for many years. He may no longer be "with us" as far as the DC Universe is concerned (and frankly I haven't the slightest idea what his status in the "New 52" is, nor do I care), but Elongated Man certainly had an extensive career and many adventures on his own and with the Justice League, and his presence in this superb line of action figures is definitely warranted.

Mattel has done a really great job with his figure, and anyone collecting the DC Signature Series, to continue their collection of DC Universe Classics, will certainly want to add Elongated Man to their line-up.

The DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES figure of ELONGATED MAN definitely has my highest recommendation!