You get the distinct impression Doll Man could not wait for World War 2. Throughout 1940 and 41 there are numerous stories that pit Darrel Dane against foreign spies and troops, and once the US enters the war the series shifts into high gear. Pretty aggressive for a character whose only power is to shrink to six inches in height.
I should mention that, likely because Doll Man was the first shrinking hero, he is really the only one who cannot alter his height to any other size. Six feet, or six inches, those were the only two options. That being said, the writers and artists cheat a fair bit on this. There is no way a six inch tall man could get inside a model airplane, for example.
Darrell starts wearing a costume in his second appearance, in Feature 28, a blue top with matching shorts and a cape, although at first he sometimes just wears the shorts and cape, which frankly looks a little odd.
There are really three distinct periods for Doll Man in this era: the pre-war stories, 1942, and 43 and after. In the pre-war stories Martha Roberts barely appears, but her father is constantly around, occasionally kidnapped, but as close as Doll Man gets to having a sidekick. Many of Professor Roberts friends come to him for help when threats, thefts, or murders occur, although apparently they do not know about his connexion with Doll Man, and just feel like telling the Prof their troubles. The police seem to know about Darrel though. He gets sworn in as a special detective by the Chief of Police in issue 38, though that is never mentioned again.
Doll Man also uses some creative methods of transportation in this first period, riding in a model plane in issue 31, a rat in some story I forgot to note down, and riding a bald eagle to French Guyana in issue 48.
Feature Comics 41, which still pre-dates WW2, sees Darrel enter the army, and though he is still clearly in the forces at the end of that tale, he is never again shown as a soldier.
The US enters the war just as Darrel spins off into his own quarterly comic, and the 1942 stories are in some ways the best of the run. That being said, in almost every story Professor Roberts and/or Martha get kidnapped. The art, often by Lou Fine or Reed Crandall, excels at capturing the pulp comics feel, though a bit toned down for children. Fine’s art is so delicate, and so precise on anatomy, that it lends huge credibility to the visuals, while Crandall’s extravagant detail and gorgeously caricatured villains making reading his stories a delight. That being said, the racism is truly over the top. Anyone who is not white barely looks human (and is likely a foreign agent anyway)
The most awkward thing about these stories is that Martha somehow loses her knowledge of Darrel’s identity. There is never any hint of explanation of how that happened.
As the war dragged on into 1943, the stories change again. On the whole, they are better written, more whodunnits and clever (if not recurring) villains, but the art is no longer as spectacular. Professor Roberts is now the one who barely appears, but at least Martha is only getting kidnapped in about every third issue. Still, “The Tiny Terrors” in Doll Man 6 has great visuals of him fighting giant insects.
In Feature 77 Martha gains the ability to shrink as well, in a very peculiar way. Darrel is wishing he had help as Doll Man, as Martha wishes she could help him. The two minds having the same thought somehow causes Martha to shrink in size. Now, Darrel wears no mask as Doll Man, so it’s always been a little far-fetched that anyone close to him would not recognize him, but in this story not only are we supposed to believe that, when shrunk and facing Doll Man, Martha still does not recognize him, but also Darrel does not realize who she is! She is not even wearing anything unusual, just calling herself Midge.
Doll Man continues in the Late Golden Age
Doll Man: Feature Comics 28 – 80 (Jan 40 – July 44)
Doll Man Quarterly 1 – 7 (Fall 41 – Fall 42)