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‘Jack Kirby’s Dingbat Love’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Jack Kirby
Edited by John Morrow
Published by TwoMorrows


I’m one of those folks who went absolutely nuts over Jack Kirby’s DC work in the 1970s. I credit the first issue of Forever People as being the comic book that brought me back to collecting after briefly listening to those voices that were saying I was too old (at 11) to keep reading about superheroes.

Not long afterwards, I discovered fandom when I purchased my very first fanzine solely because it featured a centerfold of an unused Jimmy Olsen cover by Kirby.

After being somewhat stagnant for a couple of years before he left Marvel, the King’s imagination was running wild at DC, not just for new characters and new concepts but also for new formats and new marketing.

Unfortunately, much of this was never seen by his fans because the behind the scenes folks at DC and its parent company were reluctant to reinvent the wheel. It’s mainly thanks to people like Jack’s former sidekick (and biggest fan) Mark Evanier, as well as John Morrow and his long-running The Jack Kirby Collector, that we’ve since pieced it all together.

Which brings us to Dingbat Love.

Dingbat Love is the latest project from John Morrow, a separate book both chronicling and printing for the first time Kirby stories from several aborted projects of the early 1970s.

Kirby, the man credited with co-creating the romance genre in comics, also created True Divorce Cases and Soul Love. Not a single story was ever published. Kirby, the man credited with co-creating the kid gang in comics, gave us the Dingbats of Danger Street. The latter concept got at least one issue published, as part of the Showcase-style First Issue Special series.

Much more than just compiling unpublished story pages in order—many already printed piecemeal in The Jack Kirby CollectorDingbat Love goes the extra mile, presenting them both IN context and WITH context.

Both Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman, who worked with Kirby on some of this material, provide historical background and personal memories and Jerry Boyd provides an enlightening intro to a full-on re-creation—cover, ads, and all—of what Jack’s Soul Love magazine might have looked like had it actually appeared.

The stories themselves are not particularly memorable, but they aren’t really the point. The two Dingbats tales are actually quite good, suffering only from—and here your mileage may vary—Kirby’s dialogue. Although they have humorous characters and bits, they’re basically played straight, kind of like the old East Side Kids movies. They’re newly inked and colored here but we also get to see a lot of the original art pages.

There are, in fact, a lot of original penciled pages herein, as well as some inked at the time by Vince Colletta, Tony DeZuniga, D. Bruce Berry, and both old and new work for this project by Mike Royer, Kirby’s handpicked inker.

Colletta, often correctly chastised for speeding through an assignment and even erasing backgrounds so he wouldn’t have to ink them, was in his element with romance stories. He had done them for Atlas, Charlton, and others since the 1950s. His work over Kirby here looks as though he actually took his time and did a good job.

The book itself is a real beauty. It’s a hardcover book with just the right mixture of content and historical info. The book’s design is impressive, too, what with its attempt at creating an actual copy of Soul Love as it might have looked at the time. There are even several fold out pages allowing for the King’s double page spreads to be properly highlighted.

It’s been said that even lesser Kirby is better than the best of lesser comics creators. Dingbat Love may well be the ultimate representation of that remark, presenting all this footnote material all done up in a package beautiful enough to actually make it all the more interesting and intriguing.

New 50-year-old Jack Kirby work? Don’t ask! Just buy it!

Booksteve recommends.


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