Sunday, August 26, 2007

Number 181

The Big Little Hero

Doll Man was a superhero who hung around for a long time, considering how fast some superheroes disappeared after the end of World War II. But then, Doll Man Quarterly, and before that, Feature Comics, where Doll Man appeared, were published by Quality Comics, which had an all-star lineup, good artwork and great distribution. When they went out of business in the 1950s most of their heroes were sold to DC Comics, who went on to great, long-running success with their version of Quality's Blackhawk. Later on they re-introduced characters like Doll Man and even Plastic Man.

This particular story, "The Tiny Terrors," is from Doll Man #6, dated Summer, 1943.

It's drawn by Al Bryant, who does a competent job. Not spectacular like Doll Man creator Lou Fine, but good enough in its own right.

The story itself is kind of a horror story, if you have insect fear. A mad scientist (and there are no other kinds of scientists in comic books), Dr. Dlee, discovers how to make insects big. His plot is to kill all the other humans on the planet. The war, going at the time this story was written, drawn and published, isn't mentioned in the story, but its effects are felt "off-camera." I see Dr. Dlee as having snapped under a form of war psychosis. The mad doc joins a long list of would-be conquerors and destroyers. And, of course it's up to Doll Man to stop him! The side effect to making the insects big is to make them intelligent, and murderous.

This story has one of those illogical comic book run-that-one-by-me-again-wouldja? moments on page 6, where an impossible transition is made. I'll let you spot it for yourself, but when I read it I had to go back and see if I'd missed something in the timeline established by this story. Nope, I didn't.

Doll Man has what I think is the worst name in the history of superhero comics. What boy of the era would be caught dead reading something with the word "doll" in the title? Apparently a lot of them, but maybe they kept their copies hidden so their buddies wouldn't razz them. Doll Man also had a costume that was right out of the Will Eisner/ Lou Fine costume shop. The bare legs and arms, along with the elf-shoes, would probably be OK during the summer, but in winter weather he'd be one cold, shivery little fella. I look at these costumes that Fine designed as somewhat fetishistic. It showed on a cover like Doll Man Quarterly #5, which featured Doll Man in male bondage.

All of that aside, "The Tiny Terrors" story is fast-moving and entertaining. You know, what it's supposed to be.

My copy of Doll Man #6 I got for free from a comics shop owner. It had been seriously mouse-chewed in the upper right corner. Only the last three stories are salvageable, but of course I took it from him, mouse-chewed contents and all. The cover shown above is one I took off the Internet. As longtime Pappy's readers know by now, Pappy's comics collection includes a lot of coverless comics, tear sheets of stories, damaged and unsellable comic books. That's OK, because you are a beneficiary, as I make digital copies to preserve them.

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