Dingbats of Danger Street
These obscure characters — Good Looks, Non-Fat, Krunch and Bananas — have but one real appearance. Namely, 1st Issue Special #6 (1975).
This book was a sort of tryout space for new concepts. Most of these attempts, including the Dingbats, didn’t take off.
The Dingbats are an iteration over the “weird kids street gang” genre. Which is distinct from the more respectable “tight-knit group of kids have adventures”, as the protags normally have much lower social status.
They were created by Jack “The King” Kirby, who loved the genre. Decades before he and his pal Joe Simon had been behind the Boy Commandos, and the Newsboy Legion. The latter prolly is the exemplar of the genre.
These stories arc back to Kirby’s own rough-and-tumble childhood on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, as he ran with the Suffolk Street Gang.
The gang’s all here
The Dingbats do not drive the story. They’re about ⅓ of it, with the baddies and the police each having their own third.
The concept is that they *react* to strange threats popping up in a weird neighbourhood. Hence the “Danger Street” nickname for the area.
This means that we have little material about them. If you wanna use the Dingbats, I guess it’s going to be along one of those angles :
- A cameo appearance, to enjoy the warm glow of Kirby coolitude.
- With additional development based on other Kirby material, to flesh them out.
- With additional development taking them in an original, personal direction.
Going for the “they’ve since become adults” angle doesn’t work as well. 1975 is well into “modern times” on a super-hero comic book sliding time scale. And we see them again in 1995, with no visible aging.
Another key aspect of the concept is that they are misfits. They’re runaway kids, there’s no place in the world for them, and they don’t like society.
They especially don’t trust adults. There’s an implication that they’ve all been victims of parental abuse.
How the Dingbats procure food and shelter is unrevealed. For the second, the typical solution would be squatting in an abandoned building. The Dingbats seem nearly, but not quite homeless – they have ways to stay clean, remain in decent health, rest safely, hide what little they own, etc..
They also have their own turf, a street corner nicknamed Danger Street. Most people avoid it anyway – weird trouble happens there with frightening frequency.
Part of the misfits angle is that the Dingbats aren’t particularly likable. They’re just weird, hardened, non-compliant kids who survive in their own broken corner of the world.
(Kirby calls them “lovable dum-dums”. But that only works if you relate to strange street kids as much as he does.)
There goes the neighborhood
The location where the Dingbats’ adventures happen is never stated. But later on, they are seen in Metropolis. It’s reasonable to assume they were there all along.
Based on that, it seems likely that they live in Hell’s Gate, one of Metropolis’ six boroughs. Hell’s Gate is mentioned yet never described in The Atlas of the DC Universe, but there’s a bit of material about it in The Daily Planet Guide to Metropolis.
We thus know that it’s a tough, blue-collar area that has been through a lot of trouble. Its two main neighbourhoods are Tealboro and Senre Ville. From what I can tell, it was barely ever seen in the comics.
(Since both Gotham and Metropolis are echoes of New York City, the Hell’s Gate borough likely is named after the Hell’s Gate railroad bridge . And having it be a working class ‘hood may be a way to reference pre-gentrification Hell’s Kitchen.)
Since the large majority of those people we see are White, Danger Street likely isn’t in Suicide Slum (a.k.a. Hob’s Bay, a.k.a. Southside). This tenement area was devastated by the Great Depression, and by 1975 White Flight had run its course.
Thanks to the magic of redlining , most folks there were by then Black or Brown. Including a local hero who would soon emerge — or surge, I guess — Black Lightning (Jefferson Pierce).
During the 1975 appearance :
- Costumed bandits Jumping Jack and Gasser steal a roll of film with industrial secrets.
- But they are pursued by police lieutenant Terry Mullins.
- The Dingbats accidentally help Mullins arrest Jumping Jack. But Jack hides the film in Dingbats member Non-Fat’s hot dog. The fiend !
- Gasser attempts to repossess the film, but the Dingbats repulse him. Non-Fat unreasonably gives chase.
- Correctly assuming that Non-Fat’ll get captured, the Dingbats reluctantly contact Lt. Mullins. They offer the film in exchange for the police raiding the criminals’ hideout, hopefully freeing Non-Fat.
- The raid is a success, and the Dingbats are reunited.
… or menace ?
The Dingbats made a few cameos 20-ish years later, during Karl Kesel’s Adventures of Superman run.
Circa 1995, they had moved to a shuttered-for-decades cinema in Suicide Slum, the Goldberg.
However, young clones of the Newsboy Legion eventually moved into the Goldberg. It had been the hideout of the original, 1940s Legion back in the days. And the clones had these memories.
Brawls ensued, which attracted the attention of Superman (Clark Kent/Kal-El). He contacted *another* group of Kirby-created teenage boys, the Green Team.
The adventurous boy millionaires paid two millions in cash for the Goldberg, then financed its renovation as a youth centre. Including housing for street kids such as the Dingbats and the Legion.
Members (and game stats)
There isn’t enough material to credibly propose game stats. But a baseline of 02s everywhere, Wealth 001, the Age (Young) Drawback and no Skills likely ain’t too far off the mark.
The tall-for-his-age, superiorly-coiffed G.L. is the apparent leader. That is, he’s the one who takes the most initiatives, and tends to speak for the Dingbats.
He has a Lower East Side working class diction (think the Thing (Benjamin J. Grimm)).
We can also see that he’s a voracious reader, always carrying unidentified books.
And… that’s all we know. There’s no clear schtick or talent or knowledge to be seen. AURA 03 is a possibility, but otherwise you’ll have to make something up.
Non-Fat is tiny and badly underweight. He’s always wearing an improbable woollen hat and “Skinny Power” T-shirt. Both are way too large for him.
Non-Fat is fond of to-go street food, such as hot dogs from carts.
He has a STR of 00 (that’s null APs, not an absence of APs) and BODY 01. Though he frequently tries to kick people in the shin, they can barely feel the ineffectual blow. Non-Fat will likely hurt his feet, though – but he keeps doing it.
Non-Fat is determined and aggressive. One gets the impression he spent a lot of his time defending himself against larger bullies – by attacking first. MIN 04 SPI 04 and Iron Nerves (!) are clear possibilities.
His aggressive courage can get near-suicidal. Even if it’s something as trivial as going after somebody who ruined his hot dog.
His features and some of the dialogue hint that Non-Fat was meant to be Black, but was miscoloured as White in the published story.
Though he’s not as tall as an adult man yet, Krunch is built like a shick brithouse. He does strength-building exercises to pass the time, and it shows.
DEX 03 STR 03 BODY 03 are likely stats. Getting punched by Krunch will floor most people.
He’s grumpy and sounds somewhat bitter, but he seems fairly smart and articulate. However his preference for direct, physical solutions often results in additional trouble.
(A new version of Krunch appeared in 2018. He’s many reboots away from the original, without much in common. And in true DC Comics fashion the rest of the gang was tortured to death.)
Bananas is almost as short as Non-Fat, and wears thick glasses. He’s called that because he’s apparently insane – and he sure likes to point out that he’s crazy.
(“Bananas” has 1/ gained more racist charge since and b/ has become less common to designate something crazy. So rather than having the East Asian kid go by “Bananas”, you might want to change his name. “Bonkers” isn’t as bad, and could be a childish play on the sound of some given names, such as Hong-Kyu.)
He seems to actually be psychotic. In the medical sense(s), not the “murderously eviiiilll” sense often deployed in fiction. So there’s a sort of fire break between him and reality. He tends not to interact with anything, and his reactions (usually in the form of comments) are random, often with a lack of empathy.
He’s also fond of doing random physical things to amuse himself. Such as walking on his hands, or attempting to balance atop a rolling barrel. The running commentary he does about most things also seems to be for his amusement.
Bananas is highly observant. He rarely misses a thing, draws clean conclusions, and seems to ignore stress and confusing circumstances. INT 04 WIL 03 and Sharp Eye are possible.
Return of the Dingbats
In 2020, some unpublished Dingbats stories were recovered and published in a hardback that I definitely cannot afford.
Source of Character: 1st issue special Vol. 1 #6.
Helper(s): Darci, Fandom to check for in-comics appearance of the Hell’s Gate borough.
Writeup completed on the 25th of May, 2021.