Anyway, the article ...
Hey! I'm Red Raven, and I keep bob-bob-bobbin' along! I honestly don't know what I - and about a zillion other forgettable Golden Age characters - would have done if it weren't for Roy Thomas. He brought me back from my sole appearance in my very short-lived 40's self-titled book - and what kid wouldn't fall all over himself to plop down ten cents for the magic and adventure that the title "Red Raven Comics" promises - for a Marvel Premiere story featuring the Liberty Legion! We were such a force for good that we were led by Bucky! A sixteen year old kid!
Anyway, speaking of sixteen year old kids, let me introduce you to four guys too young to drown their sorrows in the Comic-Book Loser Afterlife Bar and Grill (Happy Hour every Tuesday from four to eight, karaoke every Wednesday)...
Oh, I've been wanting to do these fellas for the longest time. I've always been a fan of Kirby's sensawunda boy's adventures, like the Newsboy Legion, and - as I'm sure you've figured - I love really crap comics. And Look! Both at once!
Yeah, I'm hard on this book, but it's pretty indefensible. First off, even though Joe Simon brought us the Outsiders, he did have a great hand at team books back when he and Kirby were an item. Unfortunately, Simon was nowhere near this project when it was green-lighted. Secondly, the book really lacks a clear focus as far as story and characterization - hell, even consistency what with super-villains bounding and leaping and passing gas (and all this without Kilgore Trout penning a word) in the center of an urban slum. So, not only is this not exactly Fantastic Four, I perceive it gets partially derailed by a sort of abortive Stan Lee parody.
The situation between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby really is a bit nebulous, even to the most dedicated insider (which
I am certainly not. And neither are you, so shaddup). Whereas they had a very final split, it was never a very vocal one, at least on behalf of the Man and the King.
By some records, it was a hateful parting between the two old collaborators, but you'd be hard-pressed to find either of them saying a bad word towards the other. Stan has never failed to praise Kirby, and the King's always looked
ahead; he had little to say about past slights, and always an excitement about the future.
The Stan/Jack split plays a big role in this story because of the character, Jumpin' Jack, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Lee. Course, I didn't see much of Lee in the character beyond his Stan 'stache and his Marvel-like moniker, except for an occasional quote that seemed to swipe a little at Lee. Like this one, sparing us any more of Jack's "quotes."
Lest the anal legions come pouring over the ramparts at the omission, I will take a moment to mention Kirby's piercing and flamboyant Stan Lee parody, Funky Flashman. A staple of the Mister Miracle books, Flashman was at once both a model of base human desires used in contrast to the godly
concerns and morality of the New Gods, and an exaggerated caricature of Stan Lee. Blustering, bombastic, deceptive, short-sighted and glory-hogging, Flashman was a constant thorn in the side of the messianic and ever-patient Scott
Free, as well as to Kirby's common clay everyman (and alter-ego, perhaps?) Oberon.
But, as Flashman's schemes wore on, he inevitably ended up (reluctantly, of course) benefitting the common good. Likewise, though he was a well known con man and thief, Oberon and Free tolerated him time and time again. In fact, as I do maintain that Oberon was Kirby's "voice" in these books, just as Flashman represented Lee's, and Miracle constantly kept a peace between the two of them which inevitably resulted in Flashman's humiliation and Oberon's humbling. And then they'd start it all over again. And since Miracle represented the unfettered spirit of man, and he was the peacekeeper between the two of them ... well, what does this say about Kirby's feelings for the Man?
I know a lot of you are disappointed that this review isn't mean yet, but COME ON, we're talking about the KING here!
Alright, anyway, back to the Dingbats.
"Look out for these lovable dum-dums." I didn't write that. "Their parents don't want them! Their friends don't want them! Society doesn't want them!" Heck, I don't want them, but here they are!
I hope you got all the characterization you wanted out of that prelude, cause that's all there was. From those opening words, the comic goes on to present an unconvincing series of idiosyncrasies and unmotivated character traits.
We start with ... "I'm Good Looks! -- Know why I'm laughin'? 'Cuz in a minute there'll be NUTHIN' to laugh about." And boom, that's about it for Good Looks. He doesn't even get the screen time that Tommy got in the Newsboy Legion. Or Proty got in the Super-Pet Legion.
Looks is backed up by the team brute, Krunch, who shops for belts at the same place Thor does.
Then there's the team nut ball, Bananas, who I THINK is supposed to be telling jokes and wise-cracking throughout the book, but nothing he says really makes sense. "Flap off," he tells adult
authority figure Det.Mullins, "Yer jail needs a sweepin'." Uh, okay. And then there's Non-Fat.
Okay, I don't really get what Non-Fat's role is supposed to be, except maybe he's the team anal-retentive or anorexic or something, and I've got NO idea how that fits into the classic team dynamic (Mister Fantastic, The Human Torch and Karen Carpenter? Rocky, Prof, Red and Callista Flockheart?). His shtick is that he has this hot dog, and he's not letting go of it. Nope. Alright. Oh, but he's gonn eat it too. And he's skinny. And his name is Non-Fat, but hot dogs are pretty much ALL fat.
And and and Non-Fat is pretty clearly MEANT to be black, but instead turns up white through out the entire book (for that matter, I suppose Bananas is supposed to be Asian, judging from his gross caricature. At least he didn't end up with the bright yellow skin so common to Asian characters in the Seventies). I'm not sure if the coloring choice was an editorial edict or a simple mistake, but the effects are eerie; Non-Fat is deeply and reflectively shaded, huge oily pools of blackness stick to his hands and face. And you know, that'd work fine with your usual black character from the Seventies (Black Lightning, Luke Cage, etc), but on a white guy it's WEIRD.
I mean, if I'm wrong, let me know, but why does Non-Fat gets his ridiculous hat in a twist when he hears someone call him "boy?" And why does Krunch warn Bananas not to let Non-Fat call him "Snow White?" It's so puzzling.
So the character concept is weak, and Non-Fat is all about food but he's incredibly skinny, and beyond that, they're all colossal fuckups and have no personality. And somehow they get involved in industrial espionage and capture two super-villains, but I'm not denying you a thing by skipping the content of the story.
But how about this edgy, youth-oriented slang? "We don't want to be hassled..." and "they're hassled by weird characters..." and "Man, reading this book was a real hassle." Also, you have to love that this obviously kids-oriented book starreda group of kids who'd named themselves "Dingbats," a term which, at the time, was only in popular use by middle-age, white Irish-American blue collar television icon Archie Bunker.
Plus, overall, what seems like the majority of the book is given over to the lame storylines involving industrial espionage, the super-villainous threat of Jumpin' Jack and the Gasser, and Det. Mullins either doing the traditional tough-guy comic cop routine or pondering the fates and psyches of the Dingbats, rather than the Dingbats themselves. And in case you didn't catch that, I said there was a super-villain called "The Gasser." THE - GASSER. Let me spell that for you, jee-ay-double-ess-eee-ar, GASSER! One who gasses!
The Next Issue box asked for folks to write in if they wanted to hear the "tragic stories" of the Dingbats. And I'd like to offer a deep and heartfelt thanks to everyone who failed to write in. I liked the Green Team better.