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Justice League of America
The Strips

Martian Manhunter & J. Hex New!

Superman and The Flash New!

Justice League of America

Jonah Hex

Green Lantern


Green Arrow and The Flash


The Flash


Gotham City Police Dept.

Johnny Thunder and Shazam!

Batman, Green Lantern,
and The Flash


Metal Men

Pete Ross and Lana Lang

Superman & J'onn J'onzz

Charles M. Jones

Batman and Robin

The Flash and Zatanna

Jor-El and Lara

DC Prez Jenette Kahn


Clark Kent and Lois Lane

The Haunted Tank

Superman and Lois Lane

The Unknown Soldier

The Vigilante

The Private Life of Clark Kent

Green Arrow and Black Canary

Sgt. Rock and Easy Company

Witching Hour

Green Arrow, The Human Target,
and Superman

Super Friends

Lois & Clark

Green Arrow & Black Canary

Superman & Jimmy Olsen


Batman & Shazam!

Justice Society of America

Phantom Stranger and
Phantom Girl

Batman and Robin

Black Lightning

Private Life of Clark Kent

Green Arrow and The Warlord

Eclipso / Mr. Mxyzptlk

The Flash & Adam Strange


Lightning Lad & Chameleon Boy

Justice League of America

Wonder Woman

Zatanna and Professor Zoom

Firestorm, the Nuclear Man

Swamp Thing

Gotham City Police Dept.

Bizarro World

The Atom

The Flash and The Mirror Master


The Batman and the Joker

Lex Luthor and Brainiac

The Flash

Enemy Ace

Green Arrow & Black Canary

Hawkman & the Flash

The Phantom Stranger

Legion of Super-Heroes

Green Lantern


Batman and Red Tornado

Green Lantern and the Flash

The Creeper

Robin, the Boy Wonder

Justice League of America

Legion of Super-Heroes

Elongated Man and Plastic Man

Superman Family

The Flash and the Spectre

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen


Hawkman & Hawkgirl


Wildcat & Dr. Fate

Batman & Robin


Plastic Man

Bob 'Answer Man' Rozakis

Batman & the Flash

Green Arrow & Green Lantern

The Atom

Batman & Robin

Coming soon

Jimmy Olsen & Lois Lane

Steve Trevor


Steve Savage

The Flash

Johnny Thunder

Sgt. Rock & Easy Company


Johnny Cloud

Green Lantern

Lois, Clark & Jimmy

Plastic Man

Perry White & Jimmy Olsen

Martian Manhunter

Madame Xanadu

Bruce Wayne


Swamp Thing

Fred Hembeck

Justice League of America
Uploaded December 31, 2002

Explaining a gag is like dissecting a frog; you can do it, but the frog tends to die in the process.

Right, then.

The man on the left whom you might not recognize (depending on your level of intimacy with the heroes of the DC Universe) is Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man. As his name suggests, his power allows him to stretch all of his body parts to a fantastic (pun intended) extent, subject to a fairly nominal distance limit that's never been explored all that much.

If that sounds familiar, it's because the character borrows a riff or two from other stretchable types from comics past, most notably Plastic Man, Elastic Lad, and Mr. Fantastic. As you've probably surmised by now, Ralph got stuck with the Elongated moniker because the other good names were taken.

So how did Ralph get his powers? It wasn't anything quite as dramatic as being given an alien space weapon, or being rocketed to Earth as a baby, or being chosen to be the planet's plastic elemental.

Tangent: since the DC multiverse boasts an earth elemental (Swamp Thing), a fire elemental (Firestorm), an air elemental (Red Tornado), and a water elemental (someone whose name I'm forgetting), why not a plastic elemental? Anyhow.

No, Ralph gets his abilities by drinking the extract of a fruit called gingold. As his origin story put it, as a teen he had noticed that all of the contortionists that he hero-worshipped drank soda that contained gingold juice. One junior chemistry set later, Ralph guzzled down a concentrated extract of the stuff, setting him on the path towards being a latter-day Stretch Armstrong.

He scored decent numbers overall, teaming up with the Flash fairly regularly and showing some acumen as a detective in a string of back-up adventures. He also managed to finagle himself into the Justice League, along with a mini-series or two. That's not too shabby for a guy who has to rely on an occasional nip from a hip flask to keep his powers going.

This necessarily leads to speculation about quality control, of course. The gingold that Ralph drinks isn't exactly available at the local supermarket, so Ralph pretty much has to run his own distillery apparatus. Now, I have a degree in chemistry, so I can guarantee that despite the best precautions and diligence you throw into your lab work, sometimes you make mistakes. Maybe you forget to calibrate that scale. Maybe you inadvertently contaminate your reactants. Maybe you sneeze into your Erlenmeyer flask. Sometimes you manage to set your asbestos mat on fire. (That's a true story, by the way. The friend of mine who pulled that one off also managed to crack a metal retort stand once. He's remarkably talented in the finer arts of lab destruction.) Anyways, whatever the source of error, sometimes the results just aren't what you expect.

Now, sub-par gingold wouldn't have much of an effect. Instead of being able to stretch an arm from the living room couch down to the convenience store on the corner, he might only be able to reach (just barely) into the kitchen for a beer.

Super-concentrated gingold, well, that's something different altogether. Complete lack of control, perhaps? Impossibly stretched-out limbs without any possibility of motor control? Big puddle of goo, maybe? Forget the notion of a plastic elemental and think more in terms of a taffy elemental.

What about the effects of mixing gingold with other medications, for that matter? Every time that I see a television ad for a new prescription medication, it's accompanied by a speed talker listing a litany of side effects, potential complications, and other disclaimers.

What about operating heavy machinery while under the influence of gingold? The JLA satellite would certainly qualify as heavy machinery, wouldn't it?

Speaking of being under the influence (figuratively and literally, if you'll follow along), there's a fairly new comic store that's stretching the limits of just how good a comic store can be. It's called 'Isotope the Comic Book Lounge', and it's one more solidly good reason to visit San Francisco sooner rather than later. It's pretty rare that I plug specific stores in these pages (The Outer Limits in Waltham, Mass., and the Comic Book Shoppe in Ottawa, Ontario, are the only other two so far), but James Sime and his co-conspirators at the Isotope are pulling out all the stops to engage people in the medium.

For the most recent Free Comic Book Day, James went the extra step of mailing, at his expense, free comics (yes, plural) to anyone who sent him an email asking him to do so. No contest, no conditions, no begging or pleading required. Forget about no rain or no sleet or no snow, James didn't even let a trivial thing like borders get in the way of my receiving copies of Pop Gun War and Scurvy Dogs (both of which I recommend highly, by the way).

That effort pales, though, compared with the range of events held at the Isotope, events that collectively sound (and look, judging from the pictures) to be more fun than your average blender party. Show me another comics store where you can participate in watermelon racing, attend a wine, cheese and comics tasting experience, join in a tiki party, and taste scotch with Warren Ellis. Heck, show me any kind of store where you can do stuff like this.

The bottom line is that if you're in the Ottawa area, hit the Comic Book Shoppe; if you're in Boston, visit the Outer Limits; and if you're visiting the town that Emperor Norton used to call home, check out the Isotope.

Getting back to Elongated Man, here's a final thought to ponder. What do you suppose would happen if Plastic Man were to drink the gingold? Now that's a plot for Ty Templeton if I've ever seen one...

- NP

The copyrights, trademarks and publication rights to Fred's cartoons belong to DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Fred Hembeck where appropriate. Proud Robot Productions graphics, site design, cartoon re-coloring and commentary copyrights belong to Neil Polowin and Proud Robot Productions.

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