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Friday, January 16, 2015 

The claim Elongated Man and Sue Dearbon's marriage was wholly happy was exaggerated

I found a topic on Comics Should Be Good about some of the first Elongated Man slapstick adventures from the Silver Age that give pretty good signs the marriage Ralph Dibny and Sue Dearbon had wasn't all hunky-dory as supporters of Identity Crisis may have claimed. In Detective Comics 328 (The Case of the Barn-door Bandit), Ralph's trying to locate a farm robber, and avoids the fancier places Sue would like to visit, which annoys her. Now is that honestly representative of a picture-perfect marriage? If they really did have one, there wouldn't be nary a minor scrap between them.

There was even a story the following decade where Sue was fuming about no longer being a number one debutante since the time they married, and that doesn't exactly imply she was happy at all times either. So that proves they were not a 100 percent happy couple as the Identity Crisis supporters must want to believe, and think because of that, they just had to subject the Dibnys to the grisly darkness nobody asked for.

But this does give me an idea why they thought Sue made the greatest sacrificial lamb: I have no doubt there's some low-intellect troglodytes out there who viewed her the same way they do Mary Jane Watson and Stephanie Brown/Spoiler: that because she was written expressing an emotion of anger, that literally makes her "annoying". No wonder they thought she was perfect for taking a fall. But all those grotto-grovelers did was prove why they have no business reading any adventure fare if they're such ingrates.

The Elongated Man solo backup stories that came after his and Sue's first appearances in the Flash were published between 1964-81, the majority in Detective Comics, with a miniseries coming later in 1992, and they made for pretty good escapist fare. Under Gardner Fox, that's where they really began to hit a stride. Fox characterized Ralph as a guy who was smarter than one might think, and they had a good idea to differentiate him from Plastic Man in the sense that he wasn't as overtly goofy as Eel O'Brian, and could talk as intelligently as he could be humorous. And Sue was also characterized well as a woman who liked adventure. Another reason why these stories worked well was because, just like in the Atom's stories, while the villains could use sci-fi devices, not all of them wore costumes, and were more of the plainclothes variety. That's just the kind of emphasis superhero comics today are sorely lacking, as they rely far too much on the villains in costume for adversaries, and not at all on skillful action and adventure writing.

And if there's any past contributors whom I think are the biggest victims of modern PC, it's Fox, a writer who never got the thanks he deserved for all his hard work turning out these decent escapist tales of the Silver Age.

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Gardner Fox was one of the most underrated writers who ever worked in the comics medium.

Ralph and Sue sometimes had minor arguments and disagreements in their Silver Age series, but I would say that, basically, they were happily married. Of course, all couples inevitably have minor spats, sooner or later.

Today, the house style at both DC and Marvel is grimdark. Characters can't be happily married, or even happily single. The characters and their relationships all have to be dysfunctional. It's as if the writers and editors are all so neurotic themselves that they can't even grasp the concept of people who are rational.

And, in the Silver Age, DC actually portrayed supporting characters, including the heroes' wives or girlfriends, at least reasonably intelligently. Lois Lane, Iris West, Jean Loring, and Carol Ferris were all competent adults who were good at their jobs. Hawkgirl was usually treated as Hawkman's equal partner, not just a stooge. Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, Supergirl, and Rita Farr were usually treated as equal partners in their respective teams (JLA, Teen Titans, Legion of Super Heroes, and Doom Patrol).

Now, though, it seems like the secondary characters exist solely to get murdered, so as to provide the lead character with a revenge motivation. And today's writers seem uninterested in developing secondary characters at all.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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