Ralph Dibny, better known to comic book fans as The Elongated Man, makes his live-action TV debut tonight on The Flash, in an episode appropriately titled "Elongated Journey Into Night."
Dibny was first referenced in the season one episode "Power Outage," along with a number of other DC heroes and villains who seemingly disappeared when the particle accelerator exploded.
One of the Flash's most iconic allies, Dibny is a fast-talking private investigator with investigative skills that rival those of Batman. Upon discovering he has the power to stretch his body to any shape or form, Dibny uses his new abilities to help Team Flash solve one of Central City's greatest mysteries.
In tonight's episode, he told Barry and Joe, "I smell a mystery," which is a reference to one of his most common characteristics in the comics: he has a kind of sixth sense that, when there is a mystery afoot, makes his nose twitch.
He was also a snarky, sarcastic, funny guy -- not unlike most takes on his comic book version.
So what's Ralph's deal?
The Early Days
First appearing in The Flash #112 in 1960, Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, was a brilliant detective who got his powers by creating a wonder drug that allowed him to reshape his body in remarkable ways. He used those powers and his natural intellect to become a beloved superhero, appearing primarily in backup stories in The Flash for years.
Like many Silver Age superheroes, he quickly paired up with the girl of his dreams and avoided the classic will-they-or-won't-they of Lois Lane and Clark Kent by marrying Sue Dearborn. The pair were more true partners than most couples in comics at that point, and inseparable until death did they part (way later).
Ralph would eventually become a member of the Justice League during the Satellite Era, and while his sense of humor, unusual use of his powers, and other Silver Age affectations kept him as a fairly light-hearted character, his role remained serious and he was good at his job. This would carry through and keep him relevant and beloved for years.prevnext
Justice League International
After the Justice League fell apart around the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC turned to Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire to rebuild the franchise.
Originally conceived as a traditional, straightforward Justice League, the Justice League International became a workplace action-comedy after most of the top-tier DC characters were made unavailable to Giffen and DeMatteis. They went with a collection of second- and third-tier heroes like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and others like them. Elongated Man would eventually join up and while he was not one of the original team members, he would appear in Formerly Known as The Justice League and I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League, a pair of miniseries that featured the characters of the JLI after the team broke up to be replaced by the more "classic" League.
After the JLI broke up, Ralph and Sue moved to Opal City to open up a detective agency, and worked frequently with Starman during the acclaimed James Robinson Starman series.prevnext
In Identity Crisis, Dibny's pregnant wife was murdered and he essentially snapped. The story centered on a number of revelations about a secret history of the Justice League, which was being plumbed for answers as to who might have murdered Sue.
By the end of the story, the answer to the mystery was not particularly satisfying for Ralph, and the Justice League's relationships were forever changed.
Later, Ralph would join up with a Kryptonian resurrection cult while trying to find a way to bring Sue back to him. He failed, and ultimately sacrificed himself to stop the demon Neron, who had been a major part of his storyline in the weekly miniseries 52.0comments
At the end of that story, Ralph and Sue were seen as specters, hovering over a body with Ralph's nose twitching, with the implication that they would be together forever as ghost detectives.
You can hear more details on Ralph Dibny and his backstory on The Flash Podcast, with special "expert" guest...well, ComicBook.com Senior Staff Writer Russ Burlingame [yes, that's this writer] at this link.prev