Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Funnies: Jack Kirby's Dingbats of Danger Street

Most folks have never heard of the Dingbats of Danger Street, Jack Kirby's attempt to resurrect the "kid gang" concept he and former partner Joe Simon had pioneered and perfected during the Golden Age. Those who have heard of the Dingbats, whose first (and only) Groovy Age appearance was in First Issue Special #6 (June 1975) fall into one of two camps: they either love 'em or passionately despise 'em. There is no gray area. Why is that you ask? Many reasons. As I already noted, this was Kirby's attempt at bringing back the kid gang comics he'd done so well with back in the Golden Age (Boy Commandos, Newsboy Legion, Boys Ranch, etc.). He updated the idea with a group of kids who vaguely resembled Welcome Back, Kotter's Sweat Hogs but filled it with Golden Age style stereotypes. It's Kirby-humor unleashed, something we'd only really experienced during the Groovy Age in Not Brand Echh (unless you count a certain pair of Jimmy Olsen issues...). It's the twilight of Kirby's tenure at DC. And then there's, uhmmmmm... Let Ol' Groove lay it on ya straight, Groove-ophiles: there really is no way to explain the polarizing affect of the Dingbats. The Dingbats have to be experienced, sooo...

So, which camp do you belong to? Love 'em or hate 'em? Let Ol' Groove know!


  1. Got to say I'm in the haters camp.

  2. Dingbats are fun! Reprint this along with the unpublished issues DC!

  3. There are definitely times that Kirby should have stuck to the drawing pen and left the typewriter to someone else.

    Still...even a bad Kirby comic trumps a lot of people's best work if ya ask me!

  4. Hey Groove! Even though a lot of the King's attempts at humour left me cold, I LOVED the Dingbats. A totally mad story with ridiculous characters and krazy, kinetic Kirby kombat! I'd have liked to see more of Danger Street ( is that near Yancy Street? ) but I guess it wasn't to be.

  5. hey, alot of good free comics here.

    enjoy and share.

  6. I LOVE the Dingbats!! All of Kirby's 70's DC work is simply aces to me! And though many people dislike Kirby's writing, I really enjoy the zany cadence of it. It's a reminder of how comic books used to be, you know... fun!

    I've always tried to tell people about the Dingbats and I just get blank looks!

  7. This was fast-paced and entertaining. Good characters, too--funny villains. The old days of kids hanging out outside--pre- computers, video games, cell phones, know, ancient history. :)

  8. I love the idea of the Dingbats and the cover, but the execution... not so much. I would have liked to see where it went however!

  9. The Dingbats are GREAT! But they're MUCH more akin to Fat Albert's Cosby Kids than they are to Mr. Kotter's Sweat Hogs.

  10. This is terrific! Don't know why I didn't think of the FAT ALBERT show, I used to watch that for years (one of the few decent things on Saturday mornings in the 70's when the anti-violence censor groups got done with it). I'm also struck by how good the Kirby-Royer art looks here (especially compared to some of the rough, "savage" art I've been seeing in OUR FIGHTING FORCES). Jack's visual storytelling is also top-notch-- his varying camera-angles (including high-angle and low-angle) can almost make you dizzy, without ever losing where you are (as far too many comics artists might).

    I LIKED this, a lot. I suspect one of the things that turns people off is simply the name "DINGBATS OF DANGER STREET". This reminds me of my favorite film of 1984-- "THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI". My best friend took me to see that, and until I was in the theatre and the film started, I had no idea what the heck it was about, and the name so completely turned me off I had no interest in finding out. The studio had NO idea how to promote it, and the excerpt run on "Sneak Previews" was the worst-possible choice, as it gave no hint as the frenetic sense of fun & imagination of the film, but it did blow an important plot surprise (how stupid can you be?). If that film had ANY other title (like, say, simply "ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION"), it might have been the success it deserved to be.

    I'm slighty annoyed that I only found the story here AFTER I'd finished doing a write-up on the issue for my own blog. For some reason, it only came up when I searched for "Dingbats", not "1st Issue Special". Go figure.

    Incidentally, it seems even more evident in the dialogue that Non-Fat was supposed to be black, while if you see the original concept sketch and cover pencils, "Good Looks" looks like he was suppsoed to be either black, Spanish or Middle-Eastern. Makes me wonder who at DC decided they should all be white kids?

    You can find my write up here...
    ...and at the bottom of the page is a couple of links to your blog! Thanks for posting.

  11. I just read the final line of the blog entry without reading the whole article. So I'm voting blind here. Got to say that I've never particularly cared for Kirby's kig gangs... with the exception of the unseen Yancy Street Gang. So, I'm a no-voter/hater, I'm afriad.

  12. Just wrote a lengthier review which I posted at several message boards, including Captain Comics...

    I included a link back to here so people could read the story. (Actually, I DID clean up the pages myself and re-posted them at my Kirby_Land yahoo group. But you can't see those unless you're a member. Let me know if you'd like to upgrade!)

  13. I had A Copy of this very Comic book , That's how I remember the name,
    Sadly when I left elementary school and discovered boys it ended up .gone or thrown out.

  14. I loved this comic book so much I still Remembered it's name, I had a copy in 1975, when I was a 5th grader.
    Sadly when I went on to Jr.high school in 77, it ended up in a box in the Basement, As I was growing more into dating like young people do.
    It ended up tossed out in the trash .
    I still remember "Crunch" he was my favorite.

  15. I like it :) it shows how/what Jack would have been like if he'd worked at, say, the Hanna-Barbera studios as a writer/animator instead of in the comics industry :D

    The cheesy simple almost simplis-*tic* characterizations, the idiosyncratic dialogue bordering on patronizing ("lootenint"? sheesh, lol), the implausible sight gags (ie: choking on a piece of the plot device, forcibly ejecting said plot device out with a comedic slap on the back, etc), the easily-defeated villains (who, in a real-world context, would murder our "heroes" without a second thought), etc, etc.

    In a larger panorama, Jack missed on two steps: he failed to give the Dingbats a sence of presence and history (ie: already being known by the authorities, having solved previous cases, villains exclaiming "Oh no, not them again!" etc) which we need to hear unless this is an origin story telling how they actually came together in the first place...which this is certainly definitely *not* :) and he didn't tie in the characters with their villains, making them a set-piece iconic in their duality ie: Joker/Batman, Luthor/Superman, Goblin/Spider-Man, most notably in how he did when he established Darkseid.

    And for me, personally, because it has the name right there in the title (ie: "...of Danger Street"), I would have liked to have seen more of the 'Danger Street' location, either if it's a ghetto where no other (sane) people care to travel, or a place where the barriers between worlds & dimensions are thinner and allow for more weirdness to happen than normal (in a manner similar to that established within the 'Archie' comics universe with their 'Memory Lane', 'Weird Mystery' and 'Mad House' aspects, among others) or a combination of both of these, or more :) but that was another piece missing, imo :D

    In all, Jack probably could have piloted this successfully as a saturday morning serial, with the obvious "hook" being "It's 'Fat Albert' meets 'Spider-Man'!" (or maybe "'The Goonies' meets 'The Dark Knight'", in this later day n' age :D) but, as it stands, it's an odd little comic that quite honestly deserves a second dusting-off to see how it might fit into the larger DC universe :)

    PS: I wonder what the obvious nod to Jack's inspiration for the Dingbats was here, in the line "I feel like I'm at a movie!"? Either the spy/crime/thriller aspect of Dirty Harry and etc. of the 70's was at work here, especially with the chosen villain & plot for this piece (spy cylinder, etc), or he was giving his own little insight into where he got his own inspiration *waaaay* back wen he was a boy n' sitting watching exciting films in the theatres of New York...I'm just guessing!

  16. I love DINGBATS as part of the canon of FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL issues Kirby did, 1 (ATLAS), 5 (MANHUNTER), and then 6 (DINGBATS). I saw it as a 1970's update of his Newsboy Legion series.
    There are, to my knowledge, 2 additional DINGBATS issues that went unpublished, that I have in Xerox form, that I keep in an "unpublished" section of my collection. Along with CANCELLED COMIC CAVALCADE, Kirby and Gil Kane's THE PRISONER one-shots, and Rick Veitch's unpublish Jesus story planned for SWAMP THING 88 if I recall.

    The FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL stories by Kirby were frustratingly not concluded. It was part of an explosion of craziness and brief stories by Kirby in his last year, including JUSTICE INC 2-4, RICHARD DRAGON 3, KOBRA 1, and SANDMAN 1 and 4-7, along with OUR FIGHTING FORCES 151-162. Kirby was flailing in a lot of directions at once, from mythology to pulp crimfighting adventure, to somewhat autobiographical W W II stories, to... well... DINGBATS. Along with his powerful regular titles OMAC and KAMANDI. It was a really interesting spectrum of material from Kirby. DINGBATS was a fun piece of the mix.



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Special thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics and Grand Comics Database for being such fantastic resources for covers, dates, creator info, etc. Thou art treasures true!

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