Golden Age Showcase: Doll Man

In the entire library of superpowers, the ability to shrink is one of the more esoteric powers.  It doesn’t get used that much, but there are a pretty select core of superheroes who are known for their ability to change their size.

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That’s not to say that it’s a bad superpower.  After all, the Marvel Ant Man movie showed that it wasn’t just useful, it could tell a great story as well.

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Plus, one of my favorite episodes of the Justice League cartoon centered around the Atom destroying an alien hive mind from within using his powers.

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But where did the idea of a shrinking hero come from and who was the first hero to use this power?  Well, the answer can be found in a fairly obscure Golden Age hero from Quality Comics called Doll Man.

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Origin and Career

Doll Man made his first appearance in the Quality Comics’ anthology Feature Comics #27 in December of 1939.

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While the name of creator was given as “William Erwin Maxwell” it was really a pseudonym for Will “I literally wrote the book on comics as an art form” Eisner.

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As for origins, Doll Man goes the scientific route with the heroic scientist Darrel Dane (alliteration for the win) developing a special serum that will allow a human to shrink down to the size of a doll.  Why he wants to do this I have no idea.  Also, his fiancee Martha Roberts is being blackmailed by a man named Falco and she’s keeping this a secret for some reason.

Comic Book Cover For Feature Comics #27

Since this is the early days of comic book science, Darrel must have not gotten the memo on lab safety and self experimentation and decides to test the serum on himself.  This act also makes Darrell one of the first comic book scientists to go crazy after said self experimentation.

Comic Book Cover For Feature Comics #27

I like to think that Eisner wanted to take Doll Man and turn him into a tortured villain driven mad by the result of his experiment, which would have made for a very interesting story.  However, I’m willing to bet that some editor in the Quality Comics offices squashed that idea because in the very next page Darrell is okay and decides to become a superhero.

Comic Book Cover For Feature Comics #27

It’s a good thing that Darrell decided to be a good guy, because he uses his powers to save his fiancee from the blackmailer to end the story.

Comic Book Cover For Feature Comics #27

Doll Man would later become a fixture of Standard Comics and would often appear on the covers as well.

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His stories were all over the place.  In one issue he would be fighting gangsters trying to rob ships on the docks, in the next issue he would be helping rancher friends in a land dispute.  In all of them he would use his size and relative strength to his advantage.

His stories must have made an impact because Doll Man would later become a pretty popular hero.  He appeared in over 200 comic book issues and was even given his own quarterly title.

Comic Book Cover For Doll Man #1

Some fun facts: his fiancee Martha would eventually become a super heroine known as Doll Girl, who had the same powers as her fiancee.

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Also, several of Doll Man’s covers had him tied up and placed in a position of helplessness.

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It’s nothing special, just an interesting idea during a time when male heroes generally didn’t show that kind of weakness.

So what happened?

The Feature Comics title stopped publication in 1950 and Doll Man’s solo issues stopped publication in 1953.  Quality would go out of business three years later and Doll Man wasn’t seen for two decades.

It was probably Will Eisner’s reputation that kept the memory of Doll Man alive because he wasn’t really used that often.  During the middle of the 20th century DC decided to create a “multiverse” for their characters to avoid continuity mix ups.  Doll Man was placed on “Earth X”, a universe where the Nazis won the Second World War, and made an appearance in the comic title Freedom Fighters.

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He’s at the bottom of the page.

He was also a guest character in the All Star Squadron on “Earth-2”, the place where DC put most of its old Golden Age heroes.

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The separation of these two groups would be erased in the DC comic event Crisis on Infinite Earths where the entire DC continuity was streamlined and simplified for new readers.

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The Freedom Fighters would be relaunched in 2006 by writer Jimmy Palmiotti.

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The team got a modern makeover, including Doll Man.  The new hero was named Lester Colt and he was a more hard ass, military minded, “end justifies the means” kind of hero who proves this in the first issue after he disguises himself as an action figure and kills a drug lord in front of his son.

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Darrel Dane still existed, but it was revealed that he was suffering from mental problems due to shrinking so often and was committed to an unnamed mental institution.

Doll Man would have his most recent reworking in 2012.  This time it was part of another company wide reboot event known as “The New 52”.  The hero was a scientist named Dane Maxwell who was the romantic partner and scientist friend of the heroine Phantom Lady.  He was shrunk to the size of an action figure during a lab accident and became her partner in crime fighting as well.

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In many ways Doll Man’s impact on the superhero world was a lot like his power set.  Sure, it was relatively small and often unseen by many fans and readers, but he was the first hero to use the ability to change his size as a superpower which made him a trailblazer for some of the most popular and well known heroes today.

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Golden Age Showcase: The Red Bee

You know what?  Over the past couple of months this blog series has forgotten its roots.  Lately I’ve been doing more and more special posts about special holidays and even departing from the beloved Golden Age of Comics.  I think it’s time to return to form and talk about some of the sillier moments that made up the early days of comic books in the 1940’s but who can I talk about?  What early superhero from an early publishing company would fit the bill and be just ridiculous enough to get this blog back on track?


Oh, well this looks promising.

Origin and Career:

The Red Bee made his first appearance in Hit Comics #1 in July of 1940.


I’m not going to lie, that cover image is pretty darn cool.  Also, he was created by writer Audrey Blum,


one of the few ladies writing comic books at the time.

The Red Bee started out as mild mannered Rick Raleigh, an Assistant District Attorney living in Superior City Oregon.  Rick grew tired of watching criminals go free thanks to loopholes in the system and decided to take matters into his own hands and become a costumed vigilante.

Now most of the pictures I found involved The Red Bee using his hands and feet to beat the bad guys and he was pretty adept at hand to hand combat.  But he had another power, something far greater, and much more terrifying, than mere physical strength.

Bees, the man could train and control bees to do his bidding.


and he used them.


The Red Bee usually winds up on a lot of “worst heroes ever” lists.  I really don’t understand why because HE CAN CONTROL BEES!!

All yelling aside the Red Bee was pretty silly.  In all my research I never saw him use his power to it’s terrifying potential and control a swarm of bees.  Instead he used the power to control a few bees at a time in order to augment his physical combat skills.

Fun fact: apparently he had a favorite bee named Michael.

beating out Ant-Man’s “Anthony” by several decades.


So what happened?

Sadly the Red Bee didn’t catch on and become that popular of a superhero.  He would battle a collection of gangsters and Nazis until his final Golden Age appearance in 1942.


He would remain largely forgotten until 1983 when he made a comeback with DC’s alternate universe team “All Star Squadron”


Without going into too much detail the All Star Squadron was a group of established DC superheroes BUT they were from an alternate dimension that was still stuck in the 1940’s and fighting in World War 2 against the Nazis.  I won’t go into too much detail explaining it but basically it gave DC writers a way to write stories about WW2 superheroes without having to worry about screwing up their main comic book universes.


That man in the yellow uniform with the pink cross on his chest and the swastikas on his neck?  That’s Baron Blitzkrieg and he did this to the Red Bee

The Red Bee died a hero’s death saving the lives of his friends and fellow heroes.

The Red Bee’s legacy does live on in the modern day.  Richard Raleigh’s daughter, Jenna, took up the mantle of the Red Bee in a 2006 miniseries entitled Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.


The new Red Bee had some serious upgrades to her gear and weaponry.


She now had a special battle suit that allowed her to fly, granted her super strength, and two robotic bee assistants capable of firing lasers.  However, a year later she would undergo another major change and became more insect like.


While still in possession of the battle suit she now had actual wings with antennae on her head and the ability to spray pheromones onto targets in order to track them.

Sadly Jenna suffered the same fate of her father in that she just didn’t become all that popular.  She briefly went bad, tried to colonize the Earth, and was stopped at the last minute.  After regaining her mind she quit being a superhero and pursued a career of academic research.

So that’s the history of the Red Bee and to be honest, while I think that the story of the Red Bee and his daughter is kind of ridiculous I do think the idea was pretty good.  They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and the Red Bee was the first superhero with insect related powers and who was named after a bug.





Seems like a pretty good legacy to me.