I’ve read almost all of the core storyline stuff from the DiDio days on, and from Identity Crisis forward you never stop hearing about how Ralph and Sue Dibny were, like, the most beloved and pivotal members of the Justice League…
When did that happen? I’ve never been aware of a time when Elongated Man and his wife were a really big deal, except for Identity Crisis and 52.
Oh, you’ve got my nose twitching!
Certainly it was well before Identity Crisis as after that, well, lets just say Sue… wasn’t a very useful detective. In fact, as he got a bunch of solo appearances, to look at them as a couple it’s easier to look at her history and appearances. To paraphrase the Wikipedia entry for Sue first:
Sue … has at times worked for the Justice League as an administrator. Ralph and Sue share a very loving relationship, [and after getting married] what followed was a life of adventures and superheroics, as Sue stuck by Ralph’s side as he traveled around the globe as part of the Justice League. This leads to the various dangers associated with the lifestyle, including her near death at the tentacles of an alien parasite and being kidnapped by a supervillain, Sonar I, to become his consort … Many readers considered their loving relationship a breath of fresh air in an era when comics were becoming darker. Sue and Ralph were involved in a battle for Opal City [and] after the affair, Sue and Ralph move into the city, content to spend their lives together as superhero detective and wife.
[Later] Sue is a member of the Super Buddies team made up of former members of the Justice League. As she has no superpowers herself, she spends most of the time at the Super Buddies headquarters, arguing with team founder Maxwell Lord.
Now, to get some time frames for all of that. She first appeared in Flash #119 in 1961, appearing in a newspaper announcing her marriage to Ralph. That said the stuff where she’s travelling with Ralph and is hanging out with the Justice League come a bit later.
For example, the confrontation with Sonar appears in four issue limited Elongated Man series from 1992, but if only some obsessive fan had a blog with the chronology of this husband and wife crime fighting duo…
The only problem is it doesn’t have dates of the issues so I’ve pulled out some key ones and looked up when they were published here:
- Detective Comics #344 (Oct 1965) – Ralph takes Sue to Paris for the first time. He’s already popular there as ‘L’Homme Etendu”.
- Justice League of America Annual #2 (Oct 1984) – Aquaman disassembles the Justice League of America, only full timers stay with him: Ralph, Zatanna and a returning Martian Manhunter. Sue starts living with them in the new Detroit headquarters.
- Justice League Europe #1 (Apr 1989) – Ralph and Sue move to the Justice League International embassy at Paris [Note: she’s a main character of this book]
- Justice League Europe #37 (Apr 1992) – Sue is named bureau chief of the Justice League Europe. She changes the uniform designs of Ralph (this is his fourth uniform), Power Girl and Dr. Light.
- Formerly Known as the Justice League #1 (Sep 2003) – Maxwell Lord recruits the Dibnys again. This time to form part of the Super Buddies, an accessible super hero service.
So yeah, they were around as a couple a bunch since she was first introduced in the sixties but it was probably the 80s to early 2000s where she popped up as a regular character which lead to the affection you’re referring to.
Does that help? :)