201107081335.jpgYesterday’s SDCC ’11 panel descriptions had some news buried in it, including this little tidbit:

First Comics: The First of the Great Independents Is Back with a Fury!— Legendary ’80s independent publishing powerhouse First Comics is returning when the world needs it most, not unlike the promised return of King Arthur. And the assembled Round Table of extraordinary comics creators are here to tell you how they will once again be rocking your world with comics entertainment from the cutting edge. Panelists include Ken F. Levin (Wanted, The Boys, First Comics co-founder and director), Joe Staton and Nick Cuti (E-Man), Bill Willingham (Fables), Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition), Brian Mullens (founder of DaQRi; QR director), Alex Wald (art director then and again), Susannah Carson (A Truth Universally Acknowledged; First Comics YA editor), and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (The Tarquin Engine, The Last Sane Cowboy). Moderated by Larry Young (The Black Diamond; First Comics director of production). Room 23ABC

First Comics was a Chicago-based company that flourished in the 80s. Along with Eclipse and Pacific it pioneered that era of creator-owned comics and created tons of properties — like Nexus, American Flagg!, Grimjack and so on — that have been either fondly wished for or the subject of raging IP battles for 20 years.

This relaunch seems to be headed by Ken F. Levin, a lawyer and agent who currently reps people like Bill Willingham, Max Allan Collins and Garth Ennis, but was the co-founder of First, along with Mike Gold.

Larry Young is involved as production manager and talks a bit about the project at Robot 6 :

Larry: I don’t want to reveal too much this early in the game about what will set First apart from other companies; but look at the old days. I’m not sure I agree the playing field is all that different now than it was when First first took the field. But for now, First will have four (!) “preview” books at San Diego – but they’re using “preview” to mean that the books won’t be released to retail ’til October or November. Other than Special Convention Limited Editions, they are complete advance copies.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem to be related to other ongoing revivals of First titles like Grimjack that MIke Gold is helming at ComicMix — at last his name hasn’t come up yet.



  1. Since I can’t imagine they’re going to be reviving Peter Gillis’s “The Black Flame” or “Blaze Barlow”, and Mike Baron and Mike Grell’s titles are at other publishers–I’m not sure what First Comics *could* revive that I would be interested in other than E-Man. Oh, maybe Whisper; that’d be good. And I’d have to give a chance to an American Flagg! revival, even though Chaykin has disappointed me repeatly over the last 30 years.

  2. Interesting… but Mike Gold really represents First to me, in a lot of ways.

    What’s next- Eclipse returns? :)

  3. While I LOVED First Comics (only missing ~24 issues of their entire output) I don’t know that they deserve to be credited as a pioneer of ‘creator owned’ comics.

    A quick check of one of their promo comics, First Six-Pack, shows all six featured characters: Nexus, Badger Grimjack, Jon Sable Freelance, American Flagg, Dynamo Joe (and all prominent characters…are trademarks of First Comics Inc).

    IIRC Baron and Rude only received ownership of Nexus due to Dark Horse purchasing the rights from First.

    Additionally, Capital Comics gets credit for initially developing Nexus.

    Anyhow, good luck folks! I’ll look forward to seeing your solicitations and will appreciate getting larger doses of E-Man than the recent one-shots.

  4. John, First only licensed most of the titles from my understanding and after a certain period of no printing all rights returned to the original creators.

    Snikt, Starlin has said he has one Dreadstar story left, so let’s hope he can make something with it.

    And I am really hoping Ms. Tree turns out to be part of this line.

  5. Wow! That sounds like great news, but like Justin H., I’m skeptical if Mike Gold is not involved. Their whole line took a huge dip in quality and direction after DC poached him. Still, if Cuti, Staton, Max Collins and Bill Willingham are involved, it’ll definitely be worth a look. And maybe we’ll finally get that sequel to Mars!

  6. “and created tons of properties — like Nexus,”

    I don’t believe that Nexus was created at First, but anyway I hope they bring back E-Man with Joe Staton.

  7. Justin H, I’d LOVE to see some of the Eclipse line come back! Can you imagine if we still had a book of the caliber of Aztec Ace around? Sophisticated art, hearfelt, smart and witty writing, overall a thing of beauty.
    As for First, it would be nice to see Whisper come back. I think Staton is probably too busy with Dick Tracy to resume E-Man, but I’d be glad to be wrong.

  8. Three of First’s best titles–Nexus, Badger, and Whisper–were originally published by Capitol Comics, the publishing arm of Madison, Wisconsin-based Capitol Comics Distributors, one of the larger distributors in the 1980s and the last competitor to Diamond until they succumbed in 1996.

    It appears that Capitol owned the series, and licensed them (or sold them) to First, which then eventually sold them to Dark Horse. Dark Horse retained ownership for a while and eventually reverted the rights to Mike Baron. I seem to recall hearing that Dark Horse was hanging on to the rights until they had earned back their purchase price, but that really has to just count as a rumor.

  9. @Kevin J. Maroney

    First purchased Badger and Nexus from Capital because Mike Baron had signed a work for hire contract with them and didn’t own the characters.

    First sold the characters to Dark Horse. In the mid-90s, Mike Richardson gifted them to Mike Baron free and clear.

  10. As I understand it, First did a sneaky thing back in the ’80s; they signed “creator-owned” contracts with all their writers and artists, guaranteeing that the creators would own all copyrights to all their work, then they quietly filed for trademarks on all the books, declarign them to be owned by First Comics. So if, say, Howard Chaykin wanted to pack up and take AMERICAN FLAGG! to another company, he couldn’t, because First owned the names, logos and character designs, and the contracts were worthless without them. The creators owned their work, but couldn’t publish it anywhere but First Comics.

    Given that the new First is owned by the lawyer who came up with this dodge, I don’t have high hopes for the company, and I expect to hear that the creators recruited for it have once again been burned. I hope I’m wrong.