Review: Jack Kirby’s Dingbat Love

looking for Ebony

Dingbat LoveHaving read an advanced copy (PDF) of Jack Kirby’s Dingbat Love, I now understand the title. It’s a bit of a portmanteau. I fear, though, tha the casual reader will misunderstand it as just romance comics featuring not very bright people.

As Steve Sherman, one of Kirby’s assistants in the 1970s notes in one of the text pieces, “Dingbat” is what Archie Bunker called his wife Edith on the TV show All in the Family. But Jack had named the “kid gang” he drew and wrote the Dingbats of Danger Street. They had a few issues in the mid-1970s, but I somehow missed them.

And I did read Kirby in this period: New Gods, Kamandi, and OMAC among them, even though I was primarily a Marvel fan then. Dingbats is an entertaining read, especially when inked by Mike Royer and D. Bruce Berry, and colored especially for the book.

All you need is…

The “Love” angle in the title is represented by True-Life Divorce, an abandoned newsstand magazine. Also stories from Soul Love, a romance book inked by Vince Colletta and Tony DeZuniga finally sees the light of day. The dialogue was occasionally clunky, but the stories were surprisingly good. The Kirby women, for the most part, were realistically zaftig.

The discussion of WHY these items were not published at the time is nearly as entertaining as the strips. Editor John Morrow examines the era, while Jerry Boyd analyzes Soul Love. Kirby assistant Mark Evanier explains going to several stores looking for Ebony magazines. Kirby wanted them as references for faces of black people, but they were hard to find in Thousand Oaks, CA.

Still, as Morrow noted, “What was unprecedented was Kirby’s inclusion of black heroes in his Marvel Comics series in the 1960s. In 1963, Gabe Jones debuted as a black member of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos in Sgt. Fury #1. But the one that really broke down barriers was the Black Panther, first appearing in Fantastic Four #52 (1966).”

It’s odd. After Kirby’s tumultuous departure from Marvel c 1970, one might think that DC would be inclined to let the King do what he would like. That would be an erroneous assumption. As Evanier noted: “We’re talking here about Jack Kirby, the man whose rejects were more interesting than what most creators got accepted.”

You may order the book Dingbat Love, a 176-page FULL-COLOR HARDCOVER, from your local comic book store – I hope – or through Two Morrows. They’re the same folks who put out Kirby & Lee: Stuf’ Said!

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