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Hello reader! Welcome to the 600th issue of Dial B for BLOG, the world's most original comic book blogazine. I'm Robby Reed, and in this special issue, "Robby Reed meets Jack Kirby!" Whole books have been written about Jack Kirby, but they've never done what we're going to do this issue. We're going to "ZAP OUT!" And when we DO, even if you're the greatest Kirby fan who ever lived, I promise you will see something NEW, and I don't care if you're Mark Evanier himself! (Hi Mark!)

Buckle up, reader! This is the BIG ONE. We're going to go beyond the final barrier, to a place few mortals have ever been, in search of history's judgment on Jack Kirby. If you don't think such a thing is possible, thank you for reading Dial B for BLOG for the first time! Too bad you picked our final issue to start. Oh well -- at least it's an "80-pg. Giant," which means its like ten regular-size issues of DIAL B, or in terms of the average comic blog, it's like 1,000 issues long, or perhaps almost infinite compared to some.

If you're NOT a Jack Kirby fan, you may not think this issue of DIAL B is very deep, or particularly brilliant. Of course, if you ARE a Kirby fan, you just might think the exact opposite! I know what MY bet is. And MY bet is we are all about to experience the internet's first collective Kirby-gasm! Ready reader? Off we go... Chapter ONE of FIVE...
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XTHE DEAD END KIDS

"The Dead End Kids" were sort of like a juvenile Rat Pack of the Thirties. These young actors from New York had appeared on Broadway in a play called "Dead End" in 1935. The leader of the Kids was played by Leo Gorcey, who was born in 1917 -- the same year Jack Kirby was born.

"Dead End" was turned into a film in 1937, and the "Kids" were a big hit. They continued to make movies under various names, such as The East Side Kids. As The Bowery Boys, the cast made 48 movies! Each member of this kid gang had a singular personality trait. Leo Gorcey was a wise guy punk in the mold of James Cagney, while the zany Huntz Hall provided comic relief, etc., etc.

The "Kids" were survivors of an area known as the Bowery -- New York's squalid lower East Side. Jack Kirby was born and raised here. The Dead End Kids were loud mouths, wise guys, buttinskis, know it alls who might even be considered obnoxious by some people -- in short, they were New Yorkers to the core. The gang also had their own comic book stories, which ran in the back-up in Street and Smith's Shadow comic book, as seen on the blurb below, from the cover of Shadow v. 1 #11
(1947).
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Always ready to latch onto a popular trend, DC got into the kid-gang business in Star Spangled Comics #7 by introducing The Newsboy Legion, a group of juveniles very much like the Dead End Kids. They weren't the first "Kid Gang" in comics, though. That honor went to "Young Allies," a sort of Marvel Golden Age Teen Titans scripted by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. The Newsboy Legion feature debuted in April 1942.
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THE NEWSBOY LEGION
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The Newsboy Legion series was written and drawn by the hottest team in comics at the time: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (pictured right), who based many aspects of the series on their own lives.

In the Thirties, it was common for boys who lived on the same block to form "gangs" like the ones they saw in The Dead End Kids. Kirby belonged to several "gangs" as a teenager, groups formed mainly for their members mutual protection. Strength in numbers.

In Steranko's History of Comics, Kirby says, "I spent all my early life drawing on the sidewalks of the lower East Side. In my kid strips, I was duplicating the atmosphere I knew. I knew all the kids in my comics. I'd grown up with them."

The Dead End Kids were loud mouths, wise guys, buttinskis and know-it-alls -- they might even be considered obnoxious by some people! Their cinematic role models were lovable gangsters played by superstars such as James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Why not? After all, Robinson was ONE of them. As a kid, Edward G. had lived just a block away from the house young Jack Kirby and his family resided in.

The Newsboy Legion's policeman friend (who soon became their legal guardian), Jim Harper, also moonlights as superhero The Guardian, a Captain-America-esque vigilante crime buster (with a yellow shield shaped like a police badge, instead of circular red, white and blue).
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ABOVE: From left to right, the talkative Gabby, the brainy Big Words, average kid Tommy, and feisty Scrapper. To me, they all look a bit like the young Jack Kirby, especially Gabby.
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ABOVE: A 1935 meeting of the "teen gang" known as "The Boys Brotherhood Republic." The 18-year-old in the upper right corner is Jacob Kurtzberg, aka Jack Kirby. (Photo from Mark Evanier's super-excellent book, "Kirby King of Comics.")

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