Superman in Crisis

SiC 47 — Tripping the Light Elastic (02:06:1986)

Reviewing DC Comics Presents 93 and Justice League of America 250, and responding to your feedback!

7 replies on “SiC 47 — Tripping the Light Elastic (02:06:1986)”

First off, congratulations to you and Mindi on buying a house. It’s a big step, and I know I join your friends and listeners in wishing you both much love and joy in the new place.
I remember not being a big fan of “Superman and the Elastic Four” when I read it. It was okay, but nothing special, which was my general feeling with a lot of the stories in the “in-between time”, after the Crisis, but before the Byrne reboot (which I didn’t know at the time was coming). DC in general, and Superman in particular, just seemed aimless, somehow, to me. I know, as a big fan of Silver Age stories which were often “one and done” and/or lighthearted or even “silly”, but I think Bronze Age storytelling had led me to expect stories of more consequence. In any case, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Even to me, I suppose, they can’t all be gems, or maybe it’s just that some are cubic zirconia, rather than diamonds.
“Return of the Justice League of America” did feel more consequential, but, again, it was, to me, part of that unsettled “in-between” time. I liked it, and it was part of a larger, ongoing story, but, even though I didn’t know what was coming, after the Crisis, it felt like things were on a path to change, and I wasn’t sure where that would take these characters. I wasn’t crazy about that feeling, then, but I’ve come to realize over the decades, that “where this is leading” isn’t up to me; it’s up to the writers. I just have to see where that is, and whether I’ll go along for the ride. Often, I will. Once Superman got under my skin when I was a boy, I’ve generally gone along for the ride, and I’m too old for a major change now, I imagine.

This story was a surprise to me. I honestly didn’t know that Jimmy Olsen’s transformations into various characters like Elastic Lad was still a thing this far into the 80s. I genuinely thought that they had left that kind of thing back in the Silver Age. I actually enjoy a lot of those old “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen” stories for the silly fun that they are, but they really do feel of their time. It’s a little weird to me to see Jimmy still doing the Elastic Lad bit two months after Crisis had ended. Jimmy, as they should have realized by now, doesn’t need to have superpowers to be an effective character.

It was really nice to see Elongated Man, who is one of my favorite DC characters. I can remember loving him when he would show up occasionally in The Flash or Detective Comics in the early 70s. His light-hearted, bantering dynamic with his wife Sue really appealed to me at the time. I didn’t realize then that the writers were likely channeling Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man movies. I just knew that Ralph and Sue were a fun couple who had fun adventures together, and I found that set-up enormously appealing. Just one of the many reasons that Identity Crisis upset me so much, but that’s a whole nother email!

It was interesting to see Superman’s whole “I don’t like Batman” attitude over in JLA. It almost feels like the new, post-reboot paradigm, where they’re not best friends but rather just grudgingly tolerate each other, is already creeping in, but more likely it was just fall-out from their “breakup” in World’s Finest. I don’t know what readers of the time, who were used to the idea of Superman and Batman as buddies, would have made of that line.

Congratulations on buying the house; that’s a big step. Having done it, I can warn you to prepare yourself to sign your name on more documents than you can count. I join Dave in wishing the two of you many years of happiness there.

Hey Jon. Again, congrats on the house. Here’s hoping all goes smoothly until you and Mindi have finished the closing.

After listening to this episode it got me thinking about various DC reboots and how they are handled in-universe. Crisis is weird in that regard Probably because it was the first big one they did. After all, after Flashpoint we go right into the New 52 and any changes that happened after Zero Hour or Infinite Crisis are shown right away. But we don’t really get that after this Crisis. Sure we see there is only one Earth now but all the heroes that went to the Dawn of time in issue 10 remember how it was before and also, they haven’t really changed. Captain Atom is the same as the one published by Charlton, Superman still has all that history, Supergirl did exist, etc.

One way to look at it is that this Earth continues on and eventually “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow is the end for this Superman and the post-Crisis Earth is another Earth entirely. But that seems to be weird since the whole point of Crisis was to do away with alternative Earths.

The other idea I have comes from Alan Moore’s run on Supreme. In his first issue Supreme is in an alternative dimension and is told that his history has not been filled in yet. He even sees the Earth flickering with other versions of itself as reality is settling down to the new normal. This is what I think is happening in the DCU between Crisis #12 and the various Post Crisis restarts. As time goes on they are starting to forget certain things and remember their new histories. Which I’m wondering is maybe whats going on with Superman thinking in the JLA issue that he does not like Batman. Maybe it’s not a reaction to the end of the World’s Finest series but the new Post-Crisis memories where they didn’t like each other. Just my theory.

I’m not gonna lie, I enjoyed the Elastic four story. That cover was really nice, Too bad they couldn’t get Starlin to do the interiors. I know it’s just a comic book story played for laughs but I have some nit picky stuff to address.

When Jimmys stretchy formula is changed by a long stretching finger, How does that work? The finger didn’t have an eye on it or a camera telling it where everything was in the room. Again it happens to Ralph in his hotel room. Maybe if a stretchy eye was drawn into the panel it would make more sense. ( I know, shame on me for trying to explain a comic book with impossible powers and scenarios.) But a stretchy eye IS drawn in a later panel when he is trying to avoid a security guard.

When Plastic man appears in the story, he totally steals the thunder from Elongated man. It’s like having the Real thing supplant the pale imitation.
Plaz can turn into planes and other interesting shapes that makes Ralph into an also ran.

The Plot device of having Superman “ lose “ the stretchy villain in the sewers, despite having X-ray vision doesn’t hold water.

You brought up in your podcast that he has other accomplices that have stretching abilities , I guess we are supposed to fill in the blanks that Skizzle Shanks bought the factory and has the duplicate formula and can share it with those accomplices.

Malleable man has to be the worst name ever. Even Paste Pot Pete is saying , what were you thinking ?

Again, I understand it was a light silly story and I enjoyed it. Maybe diving in too deep in a story like this is not kosher , but it’s what comic geeks do.

Last but not least, Blessings on your house purchase and here’s hoping you have your very own dedicated podcasting room filled with comics.

Hi Jon! Can I also congratulate you and Mindi on buying a house? What, you’ve already met your quota on congratulations? Aw, fiddle sticks. I guess I’ll write about the podcast instead. Sigh.

Ok, I like the gimmick of the Elastic Four a lot. It compelled me to buy this issue off the rack back in the day. I like bringing all the stretchy characters together, I like it’s wordplay on “Fantastic Four”, another team which has a stretchy member, I like the wackiness that it promises. Now did I love it? Ehhh, not really, because the story had some holes like you mentioned. But it still tickles me and sometimes, that’s good enough.

I agree that it should have been explained that Jimmy was helping Malleable Man in those earlier scenes, but I did piece it together myself on the initial readings, so it didn’t bother me that much. Also, Jimmy complained about never getting use to the taste of his stretchy formula in the story, which lined up with Plas’s reaction to the gunk being thrown in his face. So I think there’s enough internal consistency there. What DOES bother me is, this random crook has a potion that can mentally enslave people? Like you can just pick it up at Walgreen’s or something? That bugs me a lot. I understand why it was glossed over for the sake of the story, but still.

Interesting about Superman losing MM in the sewers. In Byrne’s Superman, he specifically loses track of a bad guy the same way, complaining that there’s too many lead pipes interfering with his x-ray vision. A weird bit of retroactive continuity which works for me, albeit not spelled out in the issue.

I just re-read JLA #250 last year, and I still enjoy this era of the JLA. As for Batman agreeing to lead the League, this is now a sticking point for me, because Batman and the Outsiders #32 came out in January 1986, and is the issue where Batman quits that team. Now, one publication month later, he appears in JLA AND agrees to rejoin this team. So basically, JLA is Batman’s rebound group. What’s worse, it’s a group he quit before! I’m not sure Batman is making healthy decisions.

As always, thanks for reading.

Oh fiddlesticks, I forgot something. Did anyone else get thrown by that panel where Ralph and Jimmy are both doing the neck stretch thing, so we only see their heads, and they have the same hair color?! Something about that stuck in my head as odd. (Compared to what, Tim?) I know, I know!

Hey, Jon! It’s mid-winter break for me – hoping you get a couple days here in February too.

When I started reading DCCP #93, I was very surprised to see a credit for Laney Loftin. Why is that? When I got back into comics in 1994 after a couple years away, I ended up joining the Legends APA (Amateur Press Association), of which Laney Loftin was also a member. I don’t know how much you know about APAs, but each of us would produce a zine and then send them to the Central Mailer, who would assemble them into each issue (there were often multiple sections). Legends focused on DC and it was a ton of fun. Had no idea that Laney suggested the story for this DCCP issue, though.

As for the issue itself, it was fun enough especially if you ignored all the plot holes that you talked about. The stretchy heroes definite skew to light-hearted stories and I don’t mind the fun side of DC. I also didn’t realize Jimmy was still using the Elastic Lad formula that late, but the post-Crisis reboot would soon wipe it away.

As for the JLA issue, I was a huge fan of the Detroit League at the time, as well as Luke McDonnell’s art (who would soon help launch Suicide Squad). In fact, I was a big enough fan that I made the letter column a couple times during this era. Like you, I wondered why Ollie would just leave Dinah behind, but I guess keeping the group of classic Leaguers to a small one made sense. I had forgotten that Gypsy begged Batman to stay and lead them; also, I found it odd that Clark referred to him as “the Batman” rather than just Batman. That immediate post-Crisis period sure was an odd one in retrospect, but I loved tracking the changes in real time.

Okay, I think I’ve rambled enough. Talk to you next time!

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