Elongated Man: Europe '92 1-4 Review

Yeah, I'm going to write some more about Ralph and Sue's marital disharmony funnies from 16 years ago.

So, this mini has a pretty good rep. It's like a lot of comics I make a point to dig up on E-Bay. It's considered a lost classic, a gem in burried in the manure of DC's (or Marvel's, since the internet is like Fox News and expects complete fairness in all things, even if it doesn't actually practice that) publishing line up.

Sometimes these things are not. This pretty much was.

It's got all of the elements bloggers want to see in their comics. Or say they want. Or want buy don't support enough with their dollar. Or do, but we just aren't a big enough part of the audience to make this stuff a bigger part of Marvel and DC's publishing schedules. Or we do to support this stuff just enough to keep your Blue Beetle and Incredible Herc and other fun books around, but there is also an audience for the morose event comic, and it's not a binary thing, that we have to have either or, as much as it shouldn't be a binary thing that you either publish Superfriends or Identity Crisis.

Referencing O.G. Greg aside for my contractually obligated tangent aside, let me actually write about this Elongated Man comic. Although I can not guarantee that there will be no more tangents. The rest will just be for me, not Cronin.

It's a light, fun comic. The villains are suitably ridiculous in a '60s Batman theme villain of the week sort of way. They're mostly European cuisine based representations of evil, so if that fits in to your sense of humor, you'll enjoy this. Personally, I found most of them at least mildly amusing, until the German Sausage Bandits showed up in the last issue. And then I was rolling on the floor.

Speaking of sausage, there are a lot of references to an Italian former porn star turned diplomat really loving it in issue 3. So, there are quite a few sexual and political allusions in what is an otherwise light, fun superhero comic. That did strike me as odd.

Am I supposed to be mad about that? Should I be howling about how DC wasn't thinking about the kids in 1992? I am genuinely wondering. I keep missing these meetings where comics bloggers get together and decide what to be mad about (which we totally have, non bloggers, all four of you who read us; I assure you), so I really am out of the loop.

Seriously, I did find some of the references to felatio and foreign policy slightly off kilter, but they didn't detract from my enjoyment of this comic from 16 years ago. So, I guess I can stop fixating on them. Especially since, if any kids were reading these comics in 1992, then all the sex references either went over their heads. Since no kids know a thing about sex until they're teenagers.

The late Mike Parobeck provides the art. It is great. Really love his style, and it's a shame he never got a chance to develop in to the kind of superstar who can pick his projects and do whatever he wants like Darwyn Cooke, a guy who draws in a similar style (although Cooke has more Kirby in him than Parobeck ever showed), does today. He has a lot of fun with Ralph's pliable nature and the general absurdity writer Gerard Jones throws at him, while still working well with the talking heads (since there are a lot of scenes featuring diplomats at dinner parties) and relationship genre material he's given.

The Sue and Ralph marriage acrimony really stuck out to me, and is a major part of the plot, so I might as well type some more about that. I liked how in the first issue that Sue was bemused with Ralph without being a shrew. Well, she never becomes a shrill harpie or anything, but she does treat Ralph like crap before realizing how much she loves him. While serving as the guest of a single European monarch who is obviously interested in her. So, that was pretty petty.

Ralph's has his share of blame in the marital strife. He's too interested in solving mysteries to pay attention to Sue properly, and he embarsses her a lot with his "ear in the fireplace" style of detective work. Well, that and Jones (and special guest star the Flash) do flag up how much of this whole "mystery solving" thing is tied to Ralph trying to feed his ego.

The fact that Ralph is basically a goofy man child makes me more sympathetic to him, since we're pretty similar like that, but at least Sue comes across like a human being most of the time and not an evil female stereotype.

I feel conflicted about harping on this, since really, why do I expect emotional realism in a comic where a man who can stretch and is fighting sausage bandits and sonic weapons weilding European techno monarchs? Does this play off the Silver Age EM stories I really ought to read? One thing this comic does do is make me want to finally buy that Showcase volume of his stories that Bill made me interested in. And I bet Sims, too, although can't see if he did or not. Or make my customary link to him.

Okay, that's a lie. Because, again, anyone who isn't already reading the ISB for some unfathomable reason needs to see that.

So, this mini: as good as advertised, worth picking on e-bay or in a back issue bin (whatever your favored method) if the Elongated Man's premise has ever sounded interesting to you. Also a good piece of unintended corporate synergy from 16 years ago, since you will probably want to go by the Showcase volume and compare notes between the mini and it like I did.

Added Bonus Musing!- From the "Comics Sure Have Changed!" file:

Apparently, there were multiple comics conventions every month back in '92. There sure were ads for a lot of them then (Moebius even attended one!). This was around the time Image was taking off, so that makes some sense.

It's also odd that not even 20 years ago, comics still had some quaint features to them. Mainly all of those mail order ads for everything from back issues to the X-Ray specs/sea monkeys kind of ephemera my parents' generation is still bitter over being screwed by. They seem less like the corporate products they very obviously are today with that kind of folksy stuff in there.

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