Feature Comics #27 (December 1939)
Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Blüdhaven #1 (Early June 2006)
(Maxwell) Phantom Lady and Doll Man #1 (Oct. 2012)
(Colt and Maxwell)
|Alter ego||Darrel Dane|
|Team affiliations||(Dane and Colt)|
Superb athlete and hand-to-hand combatant
Ability to shrink to six inches in height and retain full-size strength
Doll Man is a fictional superhero from the Golden Age of Comics, originally published by Quality Comics and currently part of the DC Comics universe of characters. Doll Man was created by cartoonist Will Eisner and first appeared in a four-page story entitled "Meet the Doll Man" in Feature Comics #27. He was Quality's first super-powered character.
The issue's December 1939 cover date indicates that Doll Man is the first comic book superhero with a shrinking power. He notably predates the more-famous Ray Palmer (DC's the Atom) and Hank Pym (Marvel Comics' Ant-Man) by two decades.
The secret identity of Doll Man, "The World's Mightiest Mite", is research chemist Darrel Dane, who invents a formula that enables him to shrink to the height of six inches while retaining the full strength of his normal size. He was the first example of a shrinking superhero, and also one of the few that was unable to change to a height in between his minimum and maximum sizes (though artists would fail to keep his scale visually consistent). His first adventure in Feature Comics #27 involves the rescue of his fiancée, Martha Roberts, from a blackmailer. He subsequently decides to fight crime and adopts a red and blue costume sewn by Martha. Years later, somehow Martha's wish to be able to join him in his small size comes true, and now possessing the same shrinking powers, she becomes his partner known as Doll Girl in Doll Man #37. He also has the aid of Elmo the Wonder Dog, a Great Dane who serves as his occasional steed and rescuer, and the "Dollplane", which was deceptively presented as a model airplane in his study when not in use. In his adventures published during World War II, Doll Man was also frequently depicted riding a bald eagle.
The covers of Doll Man's comics frequently portrayed him tied in ropes or other bindings, in situations ranging from being tied crucifixion-style to a running sink faucet, to being hogtied to the trigger and barrel of a handgun. The persistence of this male bondage motif in Doll Man comics among others can be contrasted with other comic books which historically portrayed women in positions of vulnerability and submission.
Doll Man was the lead feature of the anthology series Feature Comics through #139 (October, 1949), with Eisner writing the early stories under the pen name William Erwin Maxwell, and art contributed first by Lou Fine, and later by Reed Crandall. Doll Man's own self-titled series ran from 1941 until 1953, for forty-seven issues. After the cancellation of Doll Man, original stories involving the character were not published again for two decades.
After Quality Comics went out of business in 1956, DC acquired their superhero characters. Doll Man and several other former Quality properties were re-launched in Justice League of America #107 (October 1973) as the Freedom Fighters. As was done with many other characters DC had acquired from other publishers or that were holdovers from Golden Age titles, the Freedom Fighters were located on a parallel world, one called Earth-X where Nazi Germany had won World War II. The team were featured in their own series for fifteen issues (1976–1978), in which the team temporarily leaves Earth-X for Earth-1 (where most DC titles were set). Doll Man was an occasional guest star in All-Star Squadron, a superhero team title that was set on Earth-2, the locale for DC's WWII-era superheroes, at a time prior to when he and the other Freedom Fighters are supposed to have left for Earth-X. Doll Man then appeared with the rest of DC's entire cast of superheroes in Crisis on Infinite Earths, a story that was intended to eliminate the similarly confusing histories that DC had attached to its characters by retroactively merging the various parallel worlds into one. This erased Doll Man's Earth-X days, and merged the character's All-Star Squadron and Freedom Fighter histories so that he is primarily a member of the Squadron, of which the Freedom Fighters are merely a splinter group.
Until the relaunch of the Freedom Fighters characters in 2006, Doll Man was little used by DC except for the retelling of his origin from Feature Comics #27 in Secret Origins #8 (November 1986). According to Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #5 (January 2007), Darrel Dane is currently alive and confined to an unnamed mental institution.
In Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters v2 #3 (November 2007) Dane (whose given name is given as "Darryl" or "Darrel") appears as the leader of a subersive group of doll-sized soldiers. He reveals that the years spent at compressed size have damaged his mind, leaving him mentally unstable.
By willing himself to do so, Doll Man can shrink to a height of six inches and a proportionate weight, or return to his normal size and weight. At his six-inch height Doll Man retains the strength of a normal-size man, and he is a superb athlete and hand-to-hand combatant. In recent years Doll Man has developed psionic powers enabling him to levitate objects or destroy them with a mental blast. Doll Man has apparently aged little or not at all over the decades, perhaps due to the mystic presence of Uncle Sam in the Freedom Fighters. Doll Man wears a special costume that changes size as he does.
A new Doll Man, alias Lester Colt, was introduced in Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Blüdhaven, a mini-series published by DC in 2006.
Lester Colt is a famous U.S. special operator, holding a B.A. in international politics and advanced degrees in the sciences. He is an "Operational Management and Strategic Advisor" to S.H.A.D.E. Colt seems to be highly trained in the martial arts, as well as being a very capable battlefield leader. Lester has a series of action figures named in his honor. However, he follows an "ends justifies the means" policy in his mission, and in Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #1 is shown cold-bloodedly killing a drug dealer in front of the man's young son at the boy's birthday party (he had infiltrated the drug dealer's home disguised as one of his own action figures). This action earns him a severe rebuke from the revived Uncle Sam in later issues when he defects from S.H.A.D.E. and joins the new Freedom Fighters.
Colt is a highly decorated "old soldier", and his personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, six Silver Stars for gallantry, fourteen Bronze Stars for Valor, and seventeen Purple Hearts.
Colt is romantically involved with scientist and former S.H.A.D.E. employee, Emma Glenn. Eager to contribute to his country in something other than war, Lester agreed to an experiment created by Emma's father, which reduced him to his present height. A S.H.A.D.E. squad, masquerading as a terrorist group, killed Emma's father and destroyed the lab. Now stuck at a permanent height of six inches tall, Colt attempted to distance himself from Glenn, hoping to spare her the pain of a miniaturized boyfriend. Despite this, there are still strong feelings between the two and they are learning to cope with their new situation. This is aided by trips to The Heartland, the current Freedom Fighters' extradimensional home base, where Colt is mystically restored to full height for brief periods.
In the new Freedom Fighters series (2007–08), Lester undergoes a procedure with several other shrunken people, including Darrel Dane, to be returned to normal size. The experiment goes horribly wrong, and the group are fused together in a human-sized monstrosity. Lester is eventually freed and returned to his normal size.
In 2012, DC Comics published comic book miniseries, Phantom Lady and Doll Man, featuring completely new versions of the characters, with no relation to their Freedom Fighter predecessors other than the character names. These were part of the "Second Wave" of its continuity reboot and entire-line relaunch, "The New 52", begun in September 2011 following on from the Flashpoint limited series.
The new Doll Man is Dane Maxwell, a gifted inventor who operates out of an ad hoc laboratory in a junkyard. He is a friend and frequent romantic partner of the new Phantom Lady, Jennifer Knight, whose crime-fighting equipment he invents and repairs. When his lab is invaded by criminals, Maxwell is locked in an experimental chamber he invented and permanently shrunk to the size of an action figure. He creates a jetpack to aid his mobility and becomes Phantom Lady's crime-fighting partner Doll Man. The existence of the previous Doll Men in current DC Comics continuity has not been confirmed.
An Earth-X version of Doll Man appears in the Arrowverse-adjacent CW Seed animated series Freedom Fighters: The Ray, voiced by Matthew Mercer.
Doll Man appears in Justice League Unlimited tie-in comic #17.