Last week here at the Comics Supplement we enjoyed the second appearance of strange villain The Minstrel, and this time we're going to back up and check out his first battle with Doll Man from two months earlier in DM's own magazine, from July 1949, as written once again by Bill Woolfolk and most likely drawn by Alex Kotzky.
Get set for some hot and nefarious banjo-pickin' licks from this crazy-looking fella (particularly in this episode) and learn about the possible reason that his design was completely revised between this adventure and his next outing barely two months later.
More exciting musical criminal action right after the jump!
Okay - there's the clue to this weeks mystery, between the cover image, and the story opening above, you should see why this villain had to be re-cast and his costume changed for his next go-round with lil' ol' Doll Man.
Let's get right into the story and later we'll talk about the 'mystery'.
Alright - here's the thing, the Doll Man was published by Quality Comics Group, and over at National Comics, otherwise known as 'DC', they had a very popular and well-known villain by the name of The Joker, who also happened to consider himself the "Clown Prince of Crime". Amazing that the folks at Quality even let that phrase slip by, considering the strong resemblance between Minstrel-pal here and fan favorite The Joker, over at the competition.
Now, obviously, the sales figures and mail that they got at Quality studios about The Minstrel character must have been positive, since he returns to battle Doll Man right away, only two months after they had just met. But why change his character design completely? He has a pretty nice look in this story. And his nice look is awfully similar to that other pointy-chinned villain across town at DC (right down to his costume design and color scheme), as we see when we put them side-by-side below:
My hunch is that someone at DC, probably a higher-up editor, the publisher himself, or a staff lawyer, gave a friendly call to 'Busy' Arnold over at the Quality office pointing out the fact that this guy was just way too similar to one of their top-ranking villains, and to please not use him again! I doubt that the legal staff would have even gotten involved, as the major companies all knew each others staff and were mostly cooperative in such matters.
To complicate things further, check out who was on the cover of one of DC's leading mags on the same month that this Minstrel issue hit:
with the Joker committing "The Sound Effects Crimes" (sounds like a fun story) no less! I think that having these two on the stands at the same time was just too much for the folks at National Comics and they put their foot down, resulting in the Minstrel coming back with a Woody Guthrie look on his next outing in September 1949.
This could have been spotted before and written about elsewhere - I'm not sure, it's just a theory that I put together from this available evidence.
Again, my thanks to the Digital Comics Museum and all of its users for their help in getting cool old comics out there for us to enjoy and study!