Monday, April 18, 2005

That's "the WORLD FAMOUS Elongated Man"

Perhaps there's a reason the Elongated Man never made it into the top tier. Too hard to spell. Difficult to pronounce. Doesn't clearly say what his power is. Difficult to work the word into a dynamic logo.

Well, perhaps there are several reasons.

It is difficult to come up with a name that hasn't been used. The Elongated Man dates from 1960, but editor Julius Schwartz has said that if he'd known that DC owned the rights to Plastic Man at the time, he would have used that name instead. He could have gone with Elastic Man, but Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen was having intermittent adventures as "Elastic Lad". Worse, Jimmy and EM both wore relatively featureless purple tights--although Jimmy had the worse taste to actually have "Elastic Lad" on his chest.

Even the Incredibles' "ElastiGirl" was already taken. (Uncharacteristically, she was the "muscle" of the Doom Patrol. She didn't stretch, she grew to gigantic size.*) (I remember reading at IMDB that DC allowed Pixar to use the name in the film so long as it wasn't used in merchandising. There are precious few toys of Pixar's ElastiGirl, and the only one I can find, the cloissone pin, is labelled "Mrs Incredible".)

So, actually, the Elongated Man is the only major stretching superhero whose name doesn't rhyme with "plastic".

Most of them are played for laughs, anyway, with the conspicuous exception of Reed Richards, the Fantastic Four's "Mr. Fantastic". (Usually. Remind me to tell you about the time Dr Doom was bragging about having his own European country and Reed shot back, "I have a hundred pairs of stretch socks!"** But it still rhymes with "plastic".) I suppose when you think about the kind of distortion these characters are theoretically capable of, you could go either grotesque, or goofy.

I'm taking this too seriously, I guess.

* By the way, that green kid on the "Doom Patrol" cover? That's Beast Boy. Yeah, the same one who's currently appearing in "Teen Titans."

Okay, I cheated. The "stretch socks" scene wasn't in any "real" adventure of the Fantastic Four. It was a parody in the pages of Marvel's short-lived but fondly-remembered "Not Brand Ecch." The funniest part of this uneven humor title was just how short the distance was from Stan Lee's melodrama to out-and-out comedy.

More information: Great Comic Book Database (from whence the covers come): Dibny Dirt, the Elongated Man Website.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Reset button for the Silver Age

Last week I bought these three comics:

Since DC's promotional preview images don't always have the logos--and sometimes even having them doesn't help--I'll identify these three books: Seven Soldiers of Victory #0, Zatanna #1 (a Seven Soldiers tie-in), and the unnumbered DC Countdown to Infinite Crisis.

For those who think that these two universe-spanning Events are intended to reset the DC Universe to its pre-"Crisis on Infinite Earths" Sweetness and Light atmosphere, I'll commit a thesis-disproving spoiler: In the course of these three books (which I was unfortunate enough to read all at once), twelve heroes die, and a thirteenth is severely injured.

For those keeping score, that would be: Vigilante, Gimmick Girl (aka Merry, Girl of a Thousand Gimmicks), Blue Boy, Dyno-Mite Dan, I, Spyder, The Whip II (Seven Soldiers); Timothy Ravenwind, Ibis, his wife Taia, Dr 13 (Zatanna); Blue Beetle, Skeets, Booster Gold (critically injured) (DC Countdown).

Later: You can't tell the crises without a scorecard (spoilers ahoy).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

What are you looking at?

Classically, one of the first signs that you may be outgrowing comic books is when you realize that if you really had x-ray vision, you'd be peeking under people's clothes all the time. This is a thought that mainstream comic book writers and artists used to try not to draw attention to... normally.

So, my question is, now that we've established that Superboy does, in fact, look under people's clothes just for the hell of it... Gosh, there's no easy way to ask this... Why is Lana Lang on this cover? And why is Clark more curious about what new-kid-in-town Gary Crane has under his shirt than...

Well, I guess by this time Lana, how shall I say this, holds no mysteries for him.