Back in the Golden Age, the formula was still being figured out. Superman had created a baseline for superheroics, pulp heroes had created the model for tough guy crimefighters, and guys like Doctor Occult and Zatara had covered the magician market, and so on. There was still plenty of room for experimentation, however, and that's where Jack Cole's inventiveness - with writer Joe Millard - comes in handy. This is how we get Carnie Callahan, a.k.a. The Barker -- he fights circus crime!
Starting in National Comics vol.1 No.42 (May 1948) and spinning off into a few issues of his own title, the Barker was -- as the name implied -- a professional carnival barker who makes his living shilling for the acts at Colonel Lane's Mammoth Circus, a ragtag travelling outfit which frequently found itself in trouble with cads and crooks of all varieties.
As for baddies, they primarily ran across pickpockets, confidence rackets, gangsters, rival circus owners and a general dearth of super-villain types (with occasional outliers, like the bird-suited Hawk). The appeal of the strip, however, was the snappy writing and lively cartooning, partly the work of Cole and later the work of the underrated Klaus Nordling, whose Pen Miller strip is owed a spot on this blog before long. (The occasional primer into circus slang was also probably pretty appealing to its youthful audience at the time)
The Barker is part of the Quality comics group and is, presumably, part of the DC Comics catalog. So far, they've exercised their franchise on the character precisely once, as a backup in a quartet of Batman comics back in 2000 or so. It obviously didn't set the world on fire, possibly because it only ever haunted the back pages without someone to loudly evangelize for its virtues and entertainment value. Gee, who could've helped them out with that ... ?
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