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Real Name: Donald Short

Identity/Class: Normal human (1950s Era)

Occupation: Unrevealed (see comments)

Group Membership: None

Affiliations: His soldiers

Enemies: None

Known Relatives: "Alice" (wife)

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: His home, somewhere in the suburbs of North America

First Appearance: Mystery Tales#42/1 (June, 1956)

Powers/Abilities: Donald Short was a normal human whose hobby was photography; he had a fully equipped darkroom in his home. For a brief time, he possessed a lightning-charged tray of photographic developing fluid that could temporarily bring his pictures to life for an indeterminate amount of time.


(Mystery Tales#42/1 (fb) - BTS) - The past of Donald Short is unknown, but he eventually got married, and for some reason he felt downtrodden by the world. At some point, while indulging in his hobby of photography, he snapped a photo of some uniformed soldiers marching in a parade.

(Mystery Tales#42/1) - While in his darkroom, Short was bemoaning how he felt neglected by his wife "Alice"--she was always gadding about, she never took any interest in his hobby, and (worst of all!) she probably wouldn't even remember his upcoming birthday. As a thunderstorm was brewing outside, the tail-end of a bolt of lightning flashed out of the sky, came through an open window in the darkroom and struck the tray of developing fluid. His wife heard the crack of the thunderbolt and knocked on the darkroom door, but Short told his wife he was alright ("As if she cared!").  Then Short began to develop his picture from the parade. He put the photographic paper in the developing fluid, and he was flabbergasted when tiny simulacra of the soldiers in the picture came marching out of the fluid tray. The small soldiers continued to march to the edge of the table, so Short ordered them to reverse direction.  He issued a few more orders, and the soldiers obeyed all his commands with military precision.  Short began to formulate a scheme--he realized the soldiers were too small as they were, so he used a photographic enlarger to make a bigger copy of the picture, then used the developing fluid to produce a life-sized corps of men.  To test their strength, Short commanded his army to go outside and push his car. Afterward, the soldiers all eventually withered and faded away. Short guessed that his photographic creations had a limited life-span, but he wasn't concerned because he had enough of the developing fluid left to make dozens of armies. Short was determined to get back at the world, and he was going to create more soldiers, then he would send his troops after every last person who ever called him a "nobody"! But because of his weariness and the lateness of the hour, he decided to go to bed and continue his "recruiting" scheme in the morning. As he lay in bed next to his wife and dozed off, Short began to mumble in his sleep, saying that "Alice" would never forget his birthday again after tomorrow, and soon she would beg him to let her share his hobby.

    When Short woke up the next morning, he went to his darkroom and noticed the place looked different--clean!  He rushed over to the tray of developing fluid and found the container empty. Then "Alice" walked in and explained that she had overheard Donald talking in his sleep, and that reminded her that it was his birthday; she felt badly for neglecting her husband, so she thought she would surprise him by tidying up his darkroom (and presumably throwing out the used developing fluid as well). With his plans for revenge unwittingly foiled by his irrepressible wife, Donald could only let out an exasperated sigh.

Comments: Created by an uncredited writer and John Forte (art).

Donald's wife was never identified in the story, so I took the liberty of naming her: "Alice" (after the character of "Alice Kramden" from TV's "The Honeymooners" (who also had a grouchy husband with delusions of grandeur)).

Donald's occupation was never specified, but he did say that photography was only his hobby.  He lived in a nice two-story house in the suburbs, so I'll guess maybe he was an insurance salesman.

The power of the developer fluid was yet another example of the remarkable aftereffects of getting struck by lightning. Lightning has also been shown to increase one's intelligence (see Dr. Strange), as well as bring giant statues and wax figures to life (...not to mention what it did for Barry Allen and Wally West over in the DC Universe). But remember, kids: This kinda stuff ONLY happens in comics, so DON'T try it at home!

Donald only used the developing fluid on the  picture of the soldiers, but presumably it would work on other photos as well (If I were Donald, I think I'd have tried it on a few pix on 1950s pin-up queen Bettie Page ;).

Too bad the developer fluid got thrown out, because Donald had all the makings of an early Marvel super-villain: Doctor Darkroom and his Kodak Kommandos! Okay, a goofy idea, but certainly no more outlandish than the average Human Torch or Ant-Man foe. Maybe Donald could've joined forces with the Camera Fiend (@ Captain America Comics #6) and Photoman, and they could've called themselves The Camera Club.

And a BIG Thank You to Pappy's Golden Age for the scans!

Profile by John Kaminski.

Donald Short has no known connections to:

Mrs. Short

"Alice" Short

The wife of Donald Short, her aloofness left her husband feeling neglected. When she heard Donald mumbling in his sleep, she was reminded of his birthday and decided to surprise him by tidying up his darkroom, and unintentionally threw a monkey-wrench into his plans for revenge when she threw out his miraculous developing fluid.



--Mystery Tales#42/1

Developing Fluid

An ordinary tray of photographic developing fluid in Donald Short's darkroom, it was struck by a bolt of lightning and somehow gained the power to bring temporary life to any photographs that were immersed in it. The fluid was eventually thrown out by Short's wife while she was tidying up his darkroom.



--Mystery Tales#42/1

Short's private army risesShort fantasizes of his army men

Short's Soldiers

The soldiers were created when Donald Short was developing a photograph of some soldiers marching in a parade. Short processed the photo in a tray of lightning-charged developing fluid and the image came to life. They first emerged at a height of about six inches, and they were totally obedient to their creator. Later, Short used a photographic enlarger to make them human-sized. After a certain amount of time, the soldiers all withered and faded away. The developing fluid was eventually thrown out by Short's wife before he could "recruit" any more soldiers.


--Mystery Tales#42/1

images: (without ads)
Mystery Tales#42/1, p3, pan5 (main image)

p4, pan5 (head shot)
p4, pan6 (wife)
p2, pan1 (developing fluid)
p2, pan4 (soldiers rising)
p3, pan7 (Short fantasizing of commanding soldiers)

Other Appearances: None

Last updated: 06/03/10

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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