A Tribute to the of

In the “killing two birds with one stone” department, I am doing a repeat performance of sorts. If you remember or at least take a peek at the last installment of the Silver Age Sage, you’ll note that I reviewed a 100-page copy of Detective Comics. Well, I’m doing it again, for two reasons. First off, I don’t know how I missed it, but it turns out I do have a copy of an Elongated Man story, although it’s not a Silver Age tale that I can use to review to honor Ralph Dibney’s 55 year anniversary. Also, BACK ISSUE #81 is now out and while I am about as biased as I can be, what with my status as a proud member of the BACK ISSUE writer’s pool AND having a piece in #81, you gotta get your hands on this one. As you can see, it’s formatted like the old 100-page classics and it is, in addition, 100 pages of excellent material. My comp copies came the weekend before it was shipped to the general public and I’m telling you it’s bursting at the seams with great material and a handy index guide to all those old reprint wonders. Check it out and if you’re so inclined, let me know what you think of my effort as well as the issue at large. I’m confident you won’t be disappointed. Now, on to business as we look between the covers of Detective Comics #444 with a publication date of December/January 1974/1975. Cover art, though not Germaine to the Elongated Man tale is by the great Jim Aparo. Editing was accomplished by the legendary Julie Schwartz and the final story in this square-bound wonder is “The Magical Mystery Mirror!” (somebody listening to too many Beatle’s albums?) scripted by Mike W. Barr with Ernie (Chan) Chua on art detail. By the way, this is one of those stories when EM was sporting the red and black uniform (acquired at the conclusion of the Gardner Fox/Carmine Infantino tale "Green Lantern's Blackout!", published in Detective Comics #350 April, 1966) with the waist treatment that comes sort of close to the classic Plastic Man motif. Interesting that Plas’ costume has never once changed over his seven decades of existence, but Ralph’s has had at least 3 iterations.

Things start in a rather unlikely place: The Mirror Mart, which is, of course, a store specializing in mirrors. Ralph and Sue Dibney have decided to see what they have to offer (mirrors, perhaps?) and Sue is intrigued with the “Magic Mirror.” She asks the inevitable “Mirror, mirror” question when a young blonde appears and answers, “I am!” Thus the mystery is afoot. Ralph promptly ditches his civvies, purchases the mirror, which is more like a cabinet and heads off to investigate the home of Amos Fell, father of Janice Fell, who the proprietor believes was the woman in the mirror.

Soon, our hero is off to 1851 Punchbowl Drive where he meets up with Amos’ son Dennis, but after brief introductions, a gunshot is heard.

Swiftly they make their way upstairs only to find Amos Fell locked in his study. Ralph uses his special abilities to slide under the door and to unbolt it. He then beholds the scene in front of him with Amos slumped over his desk and an automatic lying on the floor.

When Dennis Fell and his wife enter the room they speculate that it’s a suicide, but Dibney sets them straight by pointing out that a suicide wouldn’t drop a pistol and then replace their hands on the desk. Furthermore, a quick pulse check reveals that Amos is still alive.

After Lieutenant Jacobs of the local P.D. arrives, it’s learned that Janice had been disowned by Amos because he didn’t approve of her recent marriage. As Dennis discusses matters with the Lt., Ralph notices a few things, such as the fact that his new watch has stopped and there’s a smell of gunpowder in the fireplace. Jacobs wonders how Amos could have been shot in a windowless locked room and Ralph’s thoughts reveal that he’s already cracked the case, but he offers to wait in Fell’s room for him to revive.

While cooling his heels, the Elongated Man takes the back from the mirror and discovers his hunch was correct. It’s been rigged up with an image of Janice on rollers along with a tape recorder (reel-to-reel, no less. Remember those?) all activated via remote control.

Just then, Sue and the Mirror Mart proprietor arrive to explain to Dibney that there is more information to share. Once the owner learned of what happened to Amos Fell, he was compelled to tell the Elongated Man that Fell wanted the Ductile Detective to find his daughter and so he had the “Magic Mirror” rigged up with the Mirror Mart owner operating it.

As this part of the story unfolds, there is more movement downstairs when a pair of thugs arrive to deal in some dirty work, guns drawn. Never one to shy away from a fight, the Elongated Man stretches a boot forward to knock one pistol loose and then releases a coiled haymaker that initially seems to miss, but caroms off the wall and strikes the criminal in the back. An extended heel takes out the other crook when Dennis Fell walks in, inquiring about the racket. Ralph tells him he’s just cleaned up the thugs…that Dennis had hired! “The magnet—the explosives—I’m wise to the whole thing!

Dennis pulls a pistol of his own and admits he was robbing his father and he was about to discover it, but no one will stop him as he finishes the job. Just then the mirror, activated by Dibney, does a repeat performance with, “I am!” It distracts Dennis long enough for Ralph to truss him up.

Soon Amos Fell has revived and is thanking Ralph for saving the day, but of course wants the details. Dibney explains that when he noticed his watch had stopped it led him to the conclusion that Dennis was concealing a powerful magnet that he’d used to lock the study from the outside. The report that sounded like a gunshot was actually an explosive Dennis had set in the fireplace as a diversion, while he’d actually used a silencer when shooting his father.

The final panels show Janice and her husband arriving to see her father and she is embraced and reconciliation begins, which also ends this little 8-page mystery.

As I mentioned in my Plastic Man article for BACK ISSUE #77, the fundamental differences between Plas and EM is the fact that Plastic Man is also a shape shifter and the Elongated Man, for all his stretchability, is also a skilled detective. This tale is ample evidence of that and it adds a charm and a good story hook to his adventures.

So happy 55th, Ralph Dibney! We’re glad you’re a part of the DC Universe!

It will be the first of July when the next edition of the Silver Age Sage hits the World Wide Web. Don’t miss it, and I again welcome your comments. Just drop an e-mail to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you again and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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