Thursday, 5 May 2016

The House Of Dollman

I always felt a bit uneasy about The House Of Dollman, a deeply weird strip that ran in Valiant and was then briefly reprinted in Vulcan.
Dollman was a master puppeteer, who'd built himself a little army of robots to fight crime and 'enemy agents', and that was all well and good, except for the fact that puppets are intrinsically creepy. And Dollman's puppets were the creepiest ones of all. I mean, look at them there, don't they just give you the heebie-jeebies?
And reading this strip as an adult lays bare it's weirdness even plainer. Firstly, Dollman regularly refers to his mechanical marvels as his 'children'. Ok, a bit odd, but we can go with that, just. But then it's explained that the robots don't actually talk at all.
Instead, Dollman throws his voice into each puppet, each one having a separate and distinct personality of it's own. Also, in later stories, the puppets argue amongst themselves and challenge their master's decisions. Bear that in mind as you read the tales that follow: All the dialogue coming from the puppets' mouths is actually Dollman talking to himself.
Do we need to make a referral to social services? How is this guy allowed out in the community?
Still, it was all drawn, I think,  by the wonderful Eric Bradbury, so it looked great, even though it probably terrified a generation. And there's fun bits, like in the first story where somebody more or less says: Gee, I hope nobody kidnaps the Professor, that'd be terrible!
And the fact that the second tale takes place in 'a tough area of London' Whereabouts is that, I wonder?


  1. Something I am repeatedly made to wonder: Did comics writers really think that was how ventriloquism worked--that the voice was literally projected to another place (rather than, you know, the ventriloquist merely minimizing his lip movement)--or were they taking advantage of the presumed ignorance of their readers?

    This was not limited to comics, of course--the radio character Captain Midnight did it, and apparently it was once a common enough occurrence in detective stories that Dashiell Hammett felt compelled to complain about it in an essay. However, it certainly seems as if this was especially frequent in comics. Indeed, I cannot recall off hand a single instance of ventriloquism being depicted accurately in comics.

  2. I loved “House of Dolmann” as a kid but I didn’t know/ recall that it was “Mr Dolmann” himself threw the voices I thought they were sentient beings / robots – so yeah very creepy indeed. Perhaps that ploy was used in an attempt to try to appeal to the way kids play with toys “throwing” their voices into the characters. I think I will need to stick with my perception that they spoke all on their own otherwise Dolmann becomes a total nutcase.

    I loved the character design of the “robots” all the same they had a magic to them at the time although some of the characters were a bit evil looking especially “Giggler” and “Mole” (My favourite) looked “afe their heids” (as we so in Scotland in “mad”)