Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Dibnys were terrible people and your memories of them are false

"Oh, the poor sainted Dibnys! How fun and innocent they were and how much we all loved them!"

How often have I heard someone say this about the Elongated Man and his wife, Sue?

Look; no one likes what Brad Meltzer did in Identity Crisis, and, yes it was a tawdry, pointless tarnishing of the Silver and Bronze Ages in a tasteless, muddled attempt to make the comics of our childhood seem more adult and less embarrassing, with an incoherent, unsolvable "mystery".  

On the other hand. it did give us this:

Ah, Jean; always so radiant.  Like plutonium.

Never look back, Jean; never look back.

But, somehow, the backlash against Identity Crisis has retroactively bleached the Dibny's into the symbols of comic book fun and niceness.  And people who don't know any better just keep parroting that as some sort of Given Fact of Continuity.

Well... I call bullshit.  

Most of the people who talk like that about the Dibny's haven't actually ever read one of their stories. Those who have, haven't done so since they were kids.  

Okay, sure, Ralph fought crime and Sue, well, she put up with Ralph.  But weren't anybody you'd want to know. Ralph was a fame-hungry gold-digger and Sue was a self-centered debutante.  Here's a prime example of the fun-filled Dibnys....

The Dibnys take vacation somewhere no one knows them and then are disappointed that no one knows them.

"Why read the paper if I'm not in it?"
Thank god these two died before Facebook and Twitter.

Then Sue has a paper-shredding conniption because she's not one of THE TEN MOST ADMIRED WOMEN IN AMERICA.  Why would anyone admire you, Sue? You married the Elongated Man.

"Never been so humiliated in your life"?!
Don't be ridiculous, Sue: You married the Elongated Man!

Ralph's only thought it, "Well, it's a pity you can't be more like ME, dear!" He can't even be bothered to cough up a "Oh, honey, I think you're MUCH prettier than Bella Abzug!"  

Although nobody rocked a high hat like Abzug.

Then Sue hulks out, because Sue is a crazy person.

Let's see Bella Abzug do THAT.

Why isn't there a Convergence issue where Sue Dibny and Jean Loring have taken over a domed city by simply killing everyone in it, one by one?  I'd read that. Repeatedly.

Ralph, being the jerk that he is, abandons his bridezilla to her envy-rage with a condescending PEK, because apparently Sue does this all the time, and he'll just buy her something later.

"I'll pick up a dozen American beauty roses and---charge them to Sue, because she's the one with all the money."

The Dibnys were terrible people and your memories of them are false.


CobraMisfit said...


'Nuff said.

John said...

Finally, someone else noticed. I never liked either of them in any incarnation. I still don't understand how he got into the JLA ("he was invited") and couldn't stand the later JLE years when they kept trying to cram the couple down our throats.

And even after he died, his ghost was wandering around books for far too long.

There's potential for a "hero who's in it for the money," of course, but that potential isn't in pretending he's the nicest guy the DCU has to offer and everybody's buddy. Poor Barry, having to be their best friend.

Also, just for the sake of having said it, the story in question implies that Sue used to be one of the most admired women in the nation, but...those women actually did stuff, whereas reasonably affluent and went to parties? I assume that Mr. Dearborn had fake newspapers printed for his little Suzy naming her the most admired, because there's no way that a Paris Hilton wannabe from Westchester is in the same league as social activists and prime ministers. Although it does seem weird that an Israeli is on the list, in Sue's defense.

Anonymous said...

Post-Crisis, pre-Identity-Crisis, the Dibnys weren't so bad.

There, I said it.

SallyP said...

But... but...I love the Dibny's!

Yes, Sue had her bratty side, and Ralph could be a twit sometimes... but hey ALL those Silver Age girlfriends were mean.

Seriously, I think some of those writers had some real problems.

cybrid said...

Most readers probably don't even KNOW that the Elongated Man ever had his own feature and only remember them from the Justice League Europe era, when they were a basically fun, happy couple who, ironically, often served as the voices of sanity and maturity in the group. A point was made of how, out of all of the American super-heroes who had relocated to Europe for the Justice League, the Elongated Man was the only one "worldly" enough to already know French.

Anonymous said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. Most people who remember Sue and Ralph remember them like this:

Hoosier X said...

Be fair. This is not really a representative version of Sue. This from the mid-1970s, and they had been around FOREVER at this point.

I doubt you would find anything like this from the Elongated Man back-up in Detective Comics in the 1960s. Lost of looney Silver Age stuff, sure. And the Dibnys are certainly a couple of FREAKS. No argument there.

And you should show the conclusion of this story to show Sue stepping up and rescuing Ralph when he gets in trouble.

Slaughter said...

Love that "Watch me!" look in Ray's eyes.
Following that, he punched her in the jaw with the big knockout punch, then took her to the cops to lock her away, where they threw her in some cell and finished by tossing away the key.

Anonymous said...

"Although nobody rocked a high hat like Abzug."

Well, Billy Jack, maybe.

Scipio said...


Oh, it's ON now, LOL!

Sue was introduced in 1961; this comic is only 15 years later.

For most of that time she was portrayed as a brainless debutante:

Mark said...

Wasn't everyone in the Bronze Age written as either bland or a tool? I remember when they reprinted the 1970s revival of All-Star Comics. I loved the Earth 2 stuff as a kid and even though I had not read those issues in decades, I could still remember certain images or panels from those stories. But when I read the trades, I couldn't get over how all the characters were acting like jerks.

Hoosier X said...

I see four or five panels where Sue likes clothes and shopping, and very little evidence that she's a brainless debutante.

As someone who has read numerous 1960s Detective Comics with Ralph and Sue, I find this small sample unconvincing.

(And I love that panel where Sue is so blasé about meeting Batman and Robin. "Have fun with boys, Ralph. I'm off to the Charity Ball.")

Hoosier X said...

That should be "Have fun with the boys, Ralph."

The way it came out ... could be ... misconstrued.

cybrid said...

Regarding Jean Loring, as has been pointed out elsewhere, locking a woman who knows all of the JLA's secrets in with some of the most dangerous super-villains in the world seems like a real Mr. Don't Be moment. Oh well.

>>>I love that panel where Sue is so blasé about meeting Batman and Robin

IMHO blasé supporting characters should be a vital part of comic books. People who hang around with super-heroes (especially the ones who tend to deal with cosmic stuff, like the JLA) should eventually not be surprised by anything any more.

"A guy can get used to anything, I guess."
"Yeah, I once ate a woodchuck!" -- MST3K

Slaughter said...

Maybe they...



Anonymous said...

Speaking of: in the recent "Convergence" where Ralph and Sue showed up, I was trying to figure out where exactly it fit into their character timelines, and one of my first questions was: "before or after Doctor Light raped her?"

Thanks, Identity Crisis. You're the gift that keeps on giving.

Scipio said...

Hoosier, do you see WHY she has to save Ralph?

Because she spilled over all his gingold when she knocked the table over with her envy-rage conniption fit.

Dan P said...

Sue Dibny's obsession with celebrity came out of an era where cities had frickin' PARADES for superheroes...where Batman was an actual "deputy."

Celebrity was everything in the late '50s and 60s. (Later, people will still be interested in celebrities, but those people won't necessarily feel a need to be a celebrity. Sue was a character obsessed with being a celebrity.)

I think kids were supposed to see the juxtaposition of Sue and Ralph. Sue wanted celebrity for the sake of it. Ralph wanted celebrity (evidenced by going public) but he worked to EARN it.

Scipio said...

" I loved the Earth 2 stuff as a kid and even though I had not read those issues in decades, I could still remember certain images or panels from those stories. But when I read the trades, I couldn't get over how all the characters were acting like jerks."

Mark, that's because those were written by Roy Thomas, who was Marvel's editor-in-chief for years and therefore writes EVERYONE as if they are a total jerk. He is literally incapable of writing characters any other way.