Wednesday, June 21, 2006

World-Famous Elongated Irony

I tend too much to assume that everything I know about comics is common knowledge. It isn't; yesterday I almost fired someone for not knowing who Mr. Mxyzptlk is.

I always feel silly when I blog about, say, Egg Fu or the Composite Superman, because, well, everyone's heard of them, for pity's sake. But they haven't, and lots of people seem to be happy to learn about such things.

So, here's another observation along those lines, for those of you reading 52 Week 7:

You DO realize the irony of Ralph Dibny criticizing Booster Gold, right?

In essence, Ralph "Elongated Man" Dibny was the pre-Crisis version of Booster Gold. Not in the sense that being a stretchable sleuth is anything like being a flying future-tech vigilante! No, I mean in their approach to the "job".

Ralph Dibny was the first hero to actively seek out publicity, to eschew a secret identity, to strive for celebrity. You know who named Ralph "the World-Famous Elongated Man"? Ralph did. Ralph didn't get his powers by accident; he sought them out so he could become famous through them. His first story consists mostly of him stealing the limelight from the Flash in Central City.

Ralph showed up at a debutante ball -- uninvited, as I recall -- in costume, so as to be the center of attention. Then he parlays his fame into other benefits by charming, wooing, and marrying a wealthy heiress. She, in turn, used her wealth and position to land a superhero husband giving her the kind of excitement and access that (usually) even money can't buy.

It was a perfecct match, but let's not pretend it was A Love So Pure that they would have noticed each other or fallen in love if their circumstances and advantages had been different. And, no, I don't hate them; I like them fine, always did.

Ralph was, for the most part, a dilettante, whose first agenda item was to make a pile of dough in show biz (which he did, by the way). No, he never had "corporate sponsors", but he never really needed to look for any, did he?

So when Ralph Dibny, the original self-shilling superhero, disses Booster Gold for being a publicity-seeking gloryhound, well...

that's Comic Book Irony, folks.

Particularly, when he says, "All cameras, all microphones, right here, on me!"

P.S. It wasn't Booster's responsibility to think about whether your wife would come to harm because of your fame-seeking, Ralph; it was yours.

34 comments:

The Fortress Keeper said...

Scipio - Harsh but true.

To be honest, I wish the publicity-seeking Ralph Dibney were here with us now. I always found him more interesting than Booster Gold or the new, "more adult" incarnation.

kalinara said...

I see your point, but honestly, all rational thought left my mind during those scenes as holy hell, Ralph got *hot*.

...yes, I'm swooning over the grieving widower...I'll go reserve my special place in hell now.

Scipio said...

Indeed; now that Ralph has a beard and tossled hair he is truly "a buffet of manliness".

tenzil said...

Booster at least had the decency to steal unique objects (Flight Ring, Armor, Time Machine) to become a hero.

ANYONE can drink Gingold and become "Elongated". Hell, Ralph gives away the secret in interviews with the press. By all rights Central City should have been crawling with Elongated Pickpockets and Elongated Elementary School Kids.

Walaka said...

Not to get all literary on this, but isn't it part of this story that Ralph has matured and developed since the days he wore a harlequin mask and opera gloves, and that his blow-up at Booster might be interpreted as criticism of/guilt for his own early behavior?

It's the Elder taking the Young Upstart to task for the very things the Elder did as a youth.

Anonymous said...

I think, at least in pre-Crisis times, it was not true that anyone could drink Gingold. Only a small percent of the population had a physiology that could tolerate it. So Ralph's powers are a luck-o-the-draw thing.

kalinara said...

To be fair to Ralph, while he's always been a media hound, it's not like he paid some actor to *pretend* to be defeated by him.

Ralph's upset because Booster decided, for whatever reasons, that playing mock-hero was more important than helping his friend.

I don't recall Ralph doing anything like that.

Blockade Boy said...

Anonymous, I remember a post-Crisis "Secret Origins" story by Gerard Jones (I think) and Ty Templeton in which Ralph tells Wally West that most people have a severe allergic reaction to Gingold. (I presume the Gigold-flavored soda mentioned in the same story has only a harmless trace amount of the stuff.) And Ralph drinks a highly concentrated form!

joncormier said...

What makes us all think that this is the same Booster Gold that was around before Sue Dibny was murdered? Isn't time broken?

Mike Loughlin said...

Thank you, Scipio, for pointing out the irony of the scene. Not being familiar with the history of the Elongated Man before JLE, I had no idea Ralph's actions had that touch of irony. My interpretation of the confrontation between Ralph & Booster is slightly different.

I don't have the comic in front of me, but I do know that Ralph had his wife well-protected in Identity Crisis (various home defense systems), and Sue was killed by a friend's wife. If Ralph had a secret identity, never courted fame, and always used his powers for selfless reasons, Sue would still be dead.

I interpreted Ralph's rage & outbursts as springing from the fact that Booster knew Sue would die, but did nothing. If I was in Ralph's position, I would have lashed out at Booster too, justified or not.

I'm sure this plot point will be used later, hopefully not in the stupidest manner possible ("...but Ralph, Sue had to die to inspire a new, greater Justice League!").

Scipio said...

You're welcome, Mike; as for her "coming to harm", I didn't mean her death (which you rightly point out was "an inside job"), I meant her rape.

As for my pointing out the irony here, my concern/question isn't so much whether the readers are aware of it as whether the WRITERS are aware of it.

It's nice touch and very human to have Ralph criticize his own flaws when he sees them magnified in Booster; but other than BG calling him "world-famous" there's not a strong in these scenes that the writers ARE using Ralph's past to generate irony.

Which they really do deserve to do!

Moose N Squirrel said...

"If Ralph had a secret identity, never courted fame, and always used his powers for selfless reasons, Sue would still be dead."

How would Sue still be dead? She was killed by Jean Loring, who targeted her explicitly because of her connection to her superhero husband (on the basis of Jean's rather eccentric "my ex will love me if I kill his friends' families" theory). If Ralph had kept his secret ID secret, how would Jean have found Sue in the first place?

And they pretty much already addressed the "why didn't Booster do anything" question in Countdown and The OMAC Project, in which it was explicitly stated that Booster didn't know about his friends' impending deaths because he never learned about them in the future. This was, in fact, the reason why he went back to the future, stole historical records, and took them back to the present to adopt his "prevent it before it happens" approach.

Emperor Nerd said...

Scipio, I thought the same thing about the rape, but that was while the JLA was still on the sattelite, before Booster first came to the past.

Anonymous said...

Off topic: more of Hal and his unique talent.

http://64.235.244.110/Justice_League_of_America_V1_No200_Mar_1982_DC_George_Perez_cover_%5BM%5D.jpg

Bill Meisel said...

"a buffet of manliness"

Scipio -- are you listening to what your Milky Way bar says to you?

Mike Loughlin said...

When I wrote that Sue would have been killed even if Ralph had a secret identity, I meant secret from the general population, not from his teammates. Even Superman' & Batman's secret IDs are known to other Leaguers.

I think either Johns or Waid wrote the Booster & Ralph scene. Considering their encyclopedic knowledge of the DCU, their failure to underscore the irony is surprising.

Jamie Ott said...

So did anyone else wonder about "Don't ask the question, it lies.", when Booster said to Ralph, "Ask Skeets!".

Why the heck would Skeets, who seems almost human-like recite the sordid details in front of Ralph and Booster? That struck me as odd.

Ariel said...

Also, anyone notice that Booster wasn't able to return the call from Manthrax, even though he was just speaking to him...and Skeets was floating directly overhead?

The Evil Skeets theory is becoming more and more credible...

Steven said...

I agree with Mike, that Johns and Waid, Waid in particular, are probably both aware of Ralph's history and the irony.

But I don't think it's a failure to underscore the irony. It's subtext. It's there to be picked up, or not, based on the readers outside knowledge and or experience. Different people are going to read that scene differently, and that's good.

Underscoring the irony, telling us that Ralph is being hypocritical, THAT would be bad writing.

Scipio said...

"The Evil Skeets theory is becoming more and more credible... "

Darn it, you're right, I hadn't put those two together.

I REALLY like Skeets, always have; I'll be sad if Skeets is evil, or even has a hidden agenda....

Anonymous said...

As long as we're talking about Jean and secret identities, I'm still dying to know if there's ever been any explanation of how Jean knew that Tim Drake was the current Robin--after all, Jason Todd was still new and shiny when Jean & Ray split up, and I can imagine that the JLA would be sending official secret identity updates to the ex-wives of former members. Especially since Jean had already written a tell-all book exposing Ray's identity while he was off playing toad-riding barbarian.

-Mindbender

Jamie Ott said...

I'm not convinced entirely that Skeets is evil per se but where did Booster get THIS Skeets? That may be the clue we need. The Skeets we need ended up as part of Ted's costume, i.e., destroyed.

Maybe Booster never returned to HIS future, the one he is from. But from a different future. And bringing this Skeets back affected the timeline.

Skeets could still 'lie' based on the truths 'it' knows...

Jamie

Ralph Dibny said...

You guys all suck. I'm not a publicity-seeking fame-whore like my 'good buddy' Booster - who STILL owes me $230 - and if you all come and read my blog every week I'll prove it to you.

New update tomorrow.

Scipio said...

"I'm not a publicity-seeking fame-whore"

Oh? Is that why you're here pimping your blog, then?

Shawn L. said...

Actually, Jean didn't write the tell all book about her husband. Someone else did it. If memory serves it was done with the permission of the Ray and Jean.

Tom Galloway said...

The explanation given by Brad Meltzer in a website interview was that someone mentioned Robin's Tim id at Sue's funeral's reception for close superhero friends and significant others.

No, given how paranoid Tim had been about his id's secrecy from members of the Bat-family and initially Young Justice, this makes no sense at all. Nor can one imagine that coming up in casual conversation at such.

Ariel said...

Ah! Morrow keeps talking about the Machine War, of which he'll be a hero of.

Evil Skeets wishes to accelerate the conflict as his agenda perhaps?

Grart said...

Of course Booster never did anything to stop Sue's death. He didnt even bother to lift a finger to save Ted, who he claimed was his best friend. Why should he be bothered to make any effort on someone he doesnt even know? He could easily come back from the future before the deaths or Sue or Ted. He obvously didnt feel they were worth the effort. Some friend he turned out to be.

Booster's a shallow sellout *and* a hypocrite.

Ralph Dibny said...

Hey, you can't talk to me like that! I'm the World-Famous Elongated Man, buddy!

Or, y'know, I was. Once. But I do have a really amazing beard now!

Jamie Ott said...

So just because he's from the future he's supposed to know how everyone's died? I don't quite follow that line of reasoning. Michael's smart but he's not book smart, and if you remember the long standing fact was that the Superhero era was clouded in mystery in the future. Many records were destroyed because of war. (WWIII, I think.)

And maybe, just maybe, he did know. But acting on his knowledge that certain people died could possibly make things worse for the future.

That or he knows that sooner or later, they come back.

Jamie

Anonymous said...

Actually, I was bugged at how Ralph's beard kept turning into stubble and back into a beard again throughout that whole segment.

But there is a difference between Ralph's publicity-seeking and Booster's: Ralph never staged or faked anything. Nor was he conatantly chasing endorsement contracts, etcetera. The analogy to Nick and Nora Charles has been made a lot about Ralph and Sue, and that's about right: public figures who take a kind of devil-may-care attitude towards their celebrity, and whose celebrity is the means by which they find (mis)adventures.

Booster's recent (and initial) adventures are a lot more crass. This isn't just Ralph telling Booster off for being like he used to be, but also for crossing lines that Ralph never crossed.

k26dp said...

Did anyone else think Ralph now looks a lot like John "Lionel Luthor" Glover from Smallville?

Anonymous said...

Once Booster "fixes" one event he irrevocably changes teh future.
Not to mention the latest Crisis has screwed up whatever was teh timeline from before.
So Booster's futre knowledge of the present-day past is useless. As he's learning.
Ignorance != Evil. Plus. Skeets is my buddy. He wouldn't go evil.

Jon Hex said...

I think it was very crass of Ralph to say Booster did nothing for Ted, when it was Booster who was nearly killed in Countdown and it was Booster who even tried to help Blue Beetle solve his mystery. Booster should have smacked the s#it out of Ralph for that alone. And Booster couldn't come back earlier to save anyone, because all it would have done was create an alternate timeline where Sue and Ted are still alive. He realized he could only use his future knowledge from the time after he went back to the future (Great Scott!).

Anyway, I think this is the real Booster Gold, probably with post traumatic shock. And Skeets 'seems' to be malfunctioning because Booster keeps changing everything.