Spinner Rack: "The Crooks Who Captured Themselves!" - Part 2

Posted by Joanna Sandsmark on 4/8/2014

Last month, we looked in the back of Detective Comics #365 and found “The Crooks Who Captured Themselves!” — a story by Gardner Fox with art by Syd Greene. When we last left Ralph Dibny, he was having a lot of difficulty controlling his alter ego, the Elongated Man. His powers would no longer obey the commands of his own mind ...

Because of his disobedient powers, Ralph allowed two crooks to get away with the loot from The Coin Box — a local high-end coin dealership. After capturing the police instead of the crooks, Ralph tests his powers at a small lake. When he is just himself he can easily drink from the lake. But when he was elongated, drinking becomes an impossible task.

With the problem figured out — that his mind no longer has control of his elongated powers, yet he is in full command when his powers are dormant — he is determined to find a way to nab the crooks and straighten things out with the law.

He stops to buy something, though his thoughts don't let us in on what, and heads to a residential neighborhood. He knocks on the door of the home of a coin collector named Mark Modred. He is one of the country's biggest coin dealers, so it is an excellent place to start his inquiries. Mark answers the door wearing a smoking jacket and ascot (shorthand for being wealthy). He invites Ralph in, explaining he was just going over some of his rare coins. We see one of the coins underneath a magnifying glass and others scattered around the table in a haphazard and ungraded condition. Ralph asks him if he knows anyone who would steal coins, and Mark is adamant that he would have no idea about people like that.

As Ralph leaves, the detective in him surfaces. He noticed two cigarettes smoldering in an ashtray — yet Mark smoked a pipe. There was also an 1822 golden half-eagle on his table. "There are only three such coins in existence! Worth $5 when minted, each one is now worth $50,000!" (I will pause for a moment so that any coin collectors out there can frantically begin building a time machine so that they can buy this coin at that price.) "The United States Mint has one — a millionaire collector has another — and The Coin Box had the third one when I was there today!" It's amazing that the coin store in town just happened to have one of the rarest coins ever minted. And how very fortunate that Ralph recognized the coin and knew both its history and current value. To take a wild guess, the perpetrators are either the thieves and Mr. Modred or one of you readers who managed to build a time machine and travel to a fictional comic book coin store. It's a tossup as to which is more logical.

While Ralph sneaks around the house, two men come out of the back room while Mr. Modred crows about throwing the Elongated Man off their trail. But he spoke too soon. Ralph is no slouch and he comes into the room swinging. His punches land, and as long as he doesn't elongate he has full control over his body. When he in turn gets punched, he lands in a chair with his legs crossed. It's a dandy pose and one that Ralph purposefully affected. Perhaps he wants to look relaxed as he gets his face smashed in. Instead, as the thug comes at him Ralph raises his leg and manages to catch the punch just under his knee. Because he wasn't trying to direct his leg as it swings up in an involuntary reflex, the elongating leg smashes the thug into the wall. (Well, that explains the splash page. Weird, yet safisfying.)

He fights again as his normal self while digging some pepper out of his pocket. (This was the mysterious purchase he made before coming to the house.) “Sneezing,” he lets us know in his thought balloon, "is another example of reflex action over which we have no control!" Modred's attempt to crown him with a trophy is interrupted by Ralph's sneeze-reflex; his hair elongates and whips Modred in the face. (Let me get this straight. Sneezing makes your hair grow. The involuntary reaction of a sneeze somehow stimulates the follicles and makes hair grow. Granted, we wouldn't instantly have butt-length hair because he is the Elongated Man and we are not, but we should have a small reflex of growth, just as a doctor hitting us with that tiny rubber hammer gives us a non-elongating little kick. Unless … you also need to add pee-filled lake water and Prell. Something to consider, bald readers.) This was the craziest elongation reaction in the book, I thought. At least it was until I turned the page.

Ralph continues to sneeze and even more preposterous things happen. After the obligatory neck stretch comes my favorite, and the most outrageous, elongation in the story. Keep in mind, this is supposed to be in reaction to a sneeze. His forehead elongates and “whumps” Modred right in his forehead. If you have never clicked on one of the thumbnails before, please click this one. A man is knocking out another man with an elongated forehead. It is quite possibly one of the single greatest panels in comic book history and you are here to witness it. There is nothing as amazing as a Silver Age DC comic book. An elongated and lethal forehead — you will never see that again.

It's a bit of an anticlimax from here. After all, there simply is no way to top that last panel. The police come and escort the crooks out of the house. (Mr. Modred sports a large forehead lump. Heh.) "That was mighty clever of you, Elongated Man,” says one of the cops, “Letting these crooks get away earlier tonight — so you could capture the boss of the gang!" Nice one, Ralph. Let the cops make up their own storyline to let you off easy.

And when he is back in his hotel room (He’s in a hotel room? Why? There was no mention of hotels earlier. More aborted storylines perhaps?), he tries to figure out exactly what went wrong with his powers. He looks at his Gingold juice and realizes it was made from tainted fruit! That's why he was unable to control his powers. “When Sue returns home” — Wait a sec, I thought he was in a hotel ... now it’s their home? Perhaps they live in a hotel. I really don’t know all that much about the basics of Elongated Man’s home life. Anyway, when he tells Sue about his adventures he explains that the effects of the Gingold would wear off in time. He decides to test it to see if it is under control at last. Sue stands across the room while he neck stretches to give her a kiss. He's happy that he's back to normal when all goes well. Sue, on the other hand, says, "Honey, you're back to super-normal! That was some kiss!" Maybe he slipped in a little forehead …

Don’t forget to come back next month to explore yet another gem from the Silver Age of DC Comics!

If you'd like to learn more, including a detailed bio and more information about Joanna's books, please visit her website.

This is a guest article. The thoughts and opinions in this piece are those of their author and are not necessarily the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.

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