MINIMIDGETMedium: Comic Books
Published by: Centaur Publications
First Appeared: 1939
Creators: unknown writer and L. Riley, artist
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With both Speed Centaur (a centaur like those in Greek mythology, living in modern-day New York City and functioning as a superhero) and The Eye (a giant, disembodied eyeball that also functioned as a superhero) to its credit, Centaur Publications (whose less outré characters included The Masked Marvel and The Fantom of the Fair) seems to have been an industry leader in the
production of bizarre superheroes. In comparison with those two, their Minimidget, who was about six inches tall, seemed almost normal.
Another thing that made him seem almost normal is that he wasn't the only miniature superhero around. Doll Man, from Quality Comics (711, The Human Bomb — both of whom also represented the oddball end of the superhero spectrum, by the way), was another one like that, as, years later, was DC's The Atom. What kicked even that shred of normality out from under him was the fact that Minimidget couldn't resume his former full size so as to maintain a secret identity, coming and going among regular people. Even Inch High, Private Eye could do that.
Minimidget was formerly adventurer Jack Rhodes, whose first story in Amazing-Man Comics #5 (September, 1939) was written by an unknown scripter and drawn by John F. Kolb, whose other credits are equally unknown. But he wasn't Minimidget yet. In fact, his transformation took place off-stage. By the time his second story started, later in the same issue, he'd already run afoul of the mad scientist, a Professor Barmell, who shrank him and his girlfriend, Ritty, through means known only to comic book mad scientists.
That story's writer also isn't known; and the artist, L. Riley, is another with few if any other known credits. In it, Barmell used Minimidget's ability to come and go unnoticed to commit severl murders with a poisoned needle, just like the mad scientist in the 1936 MGM movie The Devil Doll, which clearly inspired that story. Another thing making Minimidget unusual among superheroes is, the connection with Jack Rhodes wasn't mentioned in that story; whereas culpability for the murders wasn't mentioned in later ones.
Amazing-Man Comics #5 was actually the first issue of the title. Previous ones are believed to have been titled Motion Picture Funnies Weekly. Whether the connection is there or not, the weekly was where The Sub-Mariner's first story was printed even before its appearance in the first Marvel comic book. And with or without that connection, #5 also introduced The Iron Skull (a robot, only a month after Bozo became the first ongoing robot character in comics), Cat Man (no relation) by Tarpé Mills (Miss Fury), and Mighty Man.
Jack's and Ritty's small size made it possible for them to get around in toy vehicles — which seems fairly slow compared to, say, a leisurely stroll with reasonably long legs, but one has to take crime-fighting advantages wherever one can find them. They could also track villains to their lair by hiding in their pockets — but then, so could Fruitman, and nobody ever accused him of having a useful super power.
Minimidget and Ritty were in most subsequent issues of Amazing-Man, but that title ended only a couple of years later. They were transferred to Stars & Stripes Comics (where The Black Panther spent his very brief career), but that title was even more short-lived, and that was the last of the mini-couple. Decades later, Malibu Comics (Men in Black) plucked several of the old Centaur characters from oblivion, but Minimidget wasn't one of them.