First Comics

First Comics was an American comic-book publisher that was active from 1983 to 1991, known for titles like American Flagg!, Grimjack, Nexus, Badger, Dreadstar, and Jon Sable. Along with competitors like Pacific Comics and Eclipse Comics, First took early advantage of the growing direct market, attracting a number of writers and artists from DC and Marvel to produce creator-owned titles, which, as they were not subject to the Comics Code, were free to feature more mature content.

First Comics
IndustryComics
Founded1983
FounderKen F. Levin
Mike Gold
HeadquartersEvanston, Illinois (1983–1985)
Chicago, Illinois (1985–1991)
Key people
Alex Wald (art director)[1]
Kurt Goldzung (sales manager)[2]
Larry Doyle (editor)[3]
Bob Garcia[4]

History

Based in Evanston, Illinois, First Comics was co-founded by Ken F. Levin[5] and Mike Gold. It launched in 1983 with a line-up of creators including Frank Brunner, Mike Grell, Howard Chaykin, Joe Staton, Steven Grant, Timothy Truman, and Jim Starlin. In 1984, First acquired all the titles of the short-lived publisher Capital Comics, including Mike Baron's action/superhero/fantasy/comedy series Badger, and Baron and Steve Rude's space-superhero series Nexus.

Among First's best-known titles were Chaykin's satirical futuristic cop series American Flagg; John Ostrander and Tim Truman's Grimjack; Baron & Rude's Nexus; Badger; Jim Starlin's space opera series Dreadstar and Mike Grell's Jon Sable, which was briefly adapted for TV.

In 1984, the publisher sued industry giant Marvel Comics, claiming that Marvel flooded the market with new titles in 1983 specifically to shut out First and other new companies. In the same lawsuit, First also sued printer World Color Press for anti-competitive activities, claiming the printer undercharged Marvel for its business, and in return overcharged First and its fellow independents.[6][7] The suit took up much of the mid-1980s before finally being resolved in the spring of 1988.[8][9]

The company moved to Chicago in 1985. Mike Gold, one of First's founders, served as the company president until late 1985;[10] Gold soon moved to New York to become a senior editor at DC Comics.[11] Gold later used his First Comics connections to bring Grell, Chaykin, and Truman over to DC to create memorable series like Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, Blackhawk, and Hawkworld.

From 1985–1988, First published Peter B. Gillis and Mike Saenz's digital comic Shatter, the first commercially published all-digital comic book.

In 1986, despite its success with the direct market, First experimented with newsstand distribution.[12] Later that same year, the publisher found itself in the middle of the industry-wide debate about creators' rights.[13] (Clashes with DC Comics, First, and other publishers on this issue led in part to the drafting of the Creator's Bill of Rights signed by Scott McCloud, Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Dave Sim, Rick Veitch, and other comics creators in late 1988.)

First also published a series of comic adaptations of the Eternal Champion books by Michael Moorcock and English translations of the Japanese manga series Lone Wolf and Cub.

The company's final major project was a revival of Classics Illustrated.[14][15] The company partnered with Berkley Books (then Berkley Publishing Group) to acquire the rights, and Classics Illustrated returned with new adaptations and a line-up of artists that included Kyle Baker, Dean Motter, Mike Ploog, P. Craig Russell, Bill Sienkiewicz, Joe Staton, Rick Geary, and Gahan Wilson. However, the line lasted only a little over a year.

First Comics ceased publishing in 1991, and closed their doors for good in early 1992.[16]

Rebirth

In July 2011, just before San Diego Comic-Con International, First co-founder Levin announced that the company would resume publishing new material in late 2011.[5] On November 22, 2013, Mike Baron announced a new project on his Facebook page: "HOWL! coming next year from First Comics. Shane Oakley is the artist."[17] Publishing resumed in June, 2014.[18]

On June 15, 2015, First Comics and Devil's Due Publishing merged to form Devil's Due/1First Comics LLC. In addition to reprinting older properties, Devil's Due/1First Comics announced that they will be launching five new ongoing series. Despite the merge and emphasis on creator owned properties, both 1First Comics and Devil's Due intend to maintain editorial independence.[19]

Awards

The company picked up many industry awards, including a 1985 Kirby Award for Best Graphic Album for Beowulf.

Legacy/collected editions

Dark Horse Comics would later reprint the Lone Wolf and Cub series in English, and finally complete it in 2002. In 2005, IDW Publishing revived Jon Sable and Grimjack with new miniseries and reprint collections of the First Comics issues, and would also publish a complete collection of Mars. In 2007 IDW also started reprinting Badger as well as starting a new series.[20] IDW also reprinted the four Oz stories by Eric Shanower originally published as issues of First Graphic Novel as Adventures in Oz. First Graphic Novel also featured colorized reprints of early issues of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Alex Wald interview, David Anthony Kraft's Comics Interview #52 (1987).
  2. ^ Kurt Goldzung interview, David Anthony Kraft's Comics Interview #52 (1987).
  3. ^ "First," The Comics Journal #124 (August 1988), p. 19.
  4. ^ "Bob Garcia Joins First Comics," The Comics Journal #126 (January 1989), p. 34.
  5. ^ a b Phegley, Kiel. "CBR News: EXCLUSIVE: Levin On Relaunching First Comics," Comic Book Resource (July 14, 2011).
  6. ^ "First Comics Sues Marvel Comics for Anti-Competitive Activities," The Comics Journal #89 (May 1984), p. 8.
  7. ^ Goodrich, Chris. "Captain America, Get a Lawyer!: An upstart comic book publisher sues mighty Marvel Comics," San Francisco Chronicle (01 June 1986), p. 9.
  8. ^ "First vs. Marvel and World Color," The Comics Journal #102 (September 1985), pp. 11-14.
  9. ^ "First Awaits Court Verdict," The Comics Journal #121 (April 1988), p. 8: lawsuit involving First Comics, Marvel Comics, and printing of comics, and World Color Press.
  10. ^ "Mike Gold Leaves First Presidential Post" The Comics Journal #103 (November 1985), pp. 14-15.
  11. ^ "Mike Gold Leaves First Comics to Become Senior Editor at DC," The Comics Journal #105 (February 1986), p. 27.
  12. ^ "Editorial: First Comics to Experiment with Newsstand Distribution this Spring," The Comics Journal #107 (April 1986), pp. 14-15.
  13. ^ "First Comics Pays Up," The Comics Journal #110 (August 1986), pp. 9-10: On creators' rights.
  14. ^ "First Comics Revives Classics Illustrated," The Comics Journal #120 (March 1988), p. 12.
  15. ^ "First Comics Revives Classics Illustrated in January," The Comics Journal #132 (November 1989), p. 23.
  16. ^ "Newswatch: First Closes Offices," The Comics Journal #148 (February 1992), p. 27.
  17. ^ https://www.facebook.com/michael.a.baron.7
  18. ^ https://www.facebook.com/FirstComics/posts/681463641901029
  19. ^ http://deadline.com/2015/06/devils-due-1first-comics-merger-film-licensing-1201443257/
  20. ^ Mike Baron’s “Badger” is Back, Comic Book Resources, August 29, 2007

References

Adventures in Oz

Adventures in Oz is a collection of five graphic novels by Eric Shanower set in the Land of Oz. They were originally published separately from 1986 to 1992. The first four, The Enchanted Apples of Oz (1986), The Secret Island of Oz (1986), The Ice King of Oz (1987), and The Forgotten Forest of Oz (1988) were published by First Comics. The fifth, The Blue Witch of Oz, was published by Dark Horse Comics in 1992. The hardcover edition contained an extensive appendix by Shanower about his Oz comic work, including previously unseen artwork and comics, as well as alternate endings to some stories.The five volumes were collected, revised, and published in an omnibus edition by IDW Publishing in 2006. Recently, the collection has been split into two pocket-size volumes called Little Adventures in Oz.

American Flagg!

American Flagg! is an American comic book series created by writer-artist Howard Chaykin, published by First Comics from 1983 to 1989. A science fiction series and political satire, it was set in the U.S., particularly Chicago, Illinois, in the early 2030s. Writers besides Chaykin included Steven Grant, J.M. DeMatteis, and Alan Moore.

Classics Illustrated

Classics Illustrated is an American comic book/magazine series featuring adaptations of literary classics such as Les Miserables, Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Iliad. Created by Albert Kanter, the series began publication in 1941 and finished its first run in 1971, producing 169 issues. Following the series' demise, various companies reprinted its titles. Since then, the Classics Illustrated brand has been used to create new comic book adaptations. This series is different from the Great Illustrated Classics, which is an adaptation of the classics for young readers that includes illustrations, but is not in the comic book form.

Dargaud

Société Dargaud, doing business as Les Éditions Dargaud, is a publisher of Franco-Belgian comics series, headquartered in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. It was founded in 1936 by Georges Dargaud (French pronunciation: ​[daʁɡo]), publishing its first comics in 1943.

Dreadstar

Dreadstar was the first comic-book series published by American publisher Epic Comics, an imprint of Marvel Comics, in 1982. It was centered on Vanth Dreadstar, sole survivor of the entire Milky Way galaxy, and an ensemble cast of crewmates, including cyborg sorcerer Syzygy Darklock, and their struggle to end an ancient war between two powerful, evil empires: The Church of The Instrumentality, run by the Lord Papal; and the Monarchy, administered by a puppet king.

The comic book, created by Jim Starlin, was bimonthly during most of its run. Epic published 26 issues, after which it was published by First Comics who carried it for 38 more issues, for a total of 64 issues. The first 41 issues were published bi-monthly, after which the book was published monthly for a time, though it resumed bi-monthly publication with issue 51. In the early 1990s, a six issue limited series was published by Malibu Comics' Bravura line of creator-owned titles. Jim Starlin had stated in interviews as early as 2000 that he was working on a new Dreadstar series titled "Class Warfare" (including sample artwork in Slave Labor Graphics' The Price trade paperback), but the last mention of this was in late 2002. In 2011, in promotion for 'Breed III, Starlin again mentioned the possibility of another Dreadstar series.

E-Man

E-Man is a comic-book character, a superhero created by writer Nicola Cuti and artist Joe Staton for the American company Charlton Comics in 1973. Though the character's original series was short-lived, the lightly humorous hero has become a cult-classic sporadically revived by various independent comics publishers. Ownership of the character has changed hands over the years, moving from the original publisher to the character's creators.

Grimjack

Grimjack is the main character of a comic book originally published by the American company First Comics. John Ostrander and Timothy Truman are credited as co-creators of the character, although Ostrander had been developing Grimjack with artist Lenin Delsol before Truman's arrival on the project according to Ostrander's own text piece in Grimjack #75. In that same essay, the writer also revealed having initially conceived the character to be the star of a series of prose stories, set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago.

Grimjack is the street name of John Gaunt, a sword-for-hire, ex-paramilitary, war veteran and former child gladiator. He operates from Munden's Bar in the Pit, a slum area of Cynosure, a pan-dimensional city to which all dimensions connect.

John Ostrander

John Ostrander (born April 20, 1949) is an American writer of comic books, including Suicide Squad, Grimjack and Star Wars: Legacy.

Jon Sable

Jon Sable Freelance is an American comic book series, one of the first series created for the fledgling publisher First Comics in 1983. It was written and drawn by Mike Grell and was a fully creator-owned title. Beginning in November 2007, it was published as an online comic series by ComicMix.

Lone Wolf and Cub

Lone Wolf and Cub (Japanese: 子連れ狼, Hepburn: Kozure Ōkami, "Wolf taking along his child") is a manga created by writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima. First published in 1970, the story was adapted into six films starring Tomisaburo Wakayama, four plays, a television series starring Kinnosuke Yorozuya, and is widely recognized as an important and influential work.

Lone Wolf and Cub chronicles the story of Ogami Ittō, the shōgun's executioner who uses a dōtanuki battle sword. Disgraced by false accusations from the Yagyū clan, he is forced to take the path of the assassin. Along with his three-year-old son, Daigorō, they seek revenge on the Yagyū clan and are known as "Lone Wolf and Cub".

Papercutz (publisher)

Papercutz Graphic Novels is an American publisher of family-friendly comic books and graphic novels, mostly based on licensed properties such as Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Lego Ninjago. Papercutz has also published new volumes of the Golden Age-era comics series Classics Illustrated and Tales from the Crypt. In recent years they have begun publishing English translations of European (mostly French) all-ages comics, including The Smurfs.

Peter B. Gillis

Peter B. Gillis (born December 19, 1952) is an American comic book writer best known for his work at Marvel Comics and First Comics in the mid-1980s, including the series Strikeforce: Morituri and the digitally drawn comic series Shatter.

Red 5 Comics

Red 5 is an independent comic book publisher, known for producing a combination of creator-owned and internally developed titles, including their best known title, Atomic Robo. Red 5 was one of the first comics publishers to jump into digital distribution.

Rik Offenberger

Rik Offenberger (born January 30, 1964) is an American comic book journalist and publicity agent, an early utilizer of the Internet for distributing comics news, and the public relations coordinator of Archie Comics.

Spirit of '76 (Harvey Comics)

The Spirit of '76 is a fictional comic book character from Harvey Comics.

The first comics character by this name is a patriotic superhero Gary Blakely, created by writer Gary Blakey and artist Bob Powell in Harvey's Pocket Comics #1 (August 1941). Early stories are attributed to "Major Ralston," the name of Blakely's ancestors. The personification of American folklore's Spirit of '76, the character would become a long-running feature in Harvey's Green Hornet Comics.

The Enchanted Apples of Oz

The Enchanted Apples of Oz is the first of the modern graphic novels based on American author L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz world, written by Eric Shanower. The book tells the story of Valynn, who protects a garden containing an enchanted apple tree, the fruit of which contains the essence of Oz magic.

In this, the earliest of Shanower's many Oz publications, the artist introduced the lushly romantic style of Oz illustration that would distinguish his work in the genre over the next two decades and win substantial critical praise.

The First (comics)

The First is a comic book series published by CrossGen featuring the First, very powerful, nearly immortal beings each based on a certain emotion. Due to CrossGen's bankruptcy in 2004, the plot of The First, both in their own self-titled comic and CrossGen's other titles, was cut short. The role of the First in the Negation War, a storyline in which the Sigil-Bearers and First were meant to defend the universe against invaders from another universe, is therefore unclear.

Warp!

Warp!, also spelled Warp, was an American science-fiction play created by the Organic Theatre Company of Chicago Illinois, in 1971 by co-authors Stuart Gordon and Lenny Kleinfeld, the latter under the pseudonym Bury St. Edmund. The play moved to Broadway for a short run in February 1973. The play and its backstory became the basis for spinoff comic books and other media.

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