Robot 6

Robot 6 Q&A | Larry Young on the return of First Comics

Warp #1

Yesterday we learned by way of the San Diego Comic-Con Thursday panel schedule that First Comics, a hallmark of 1980s independent comic book publishing, is returning. According to the write-up for the panel:

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

As noted in the description, several on the panel were involved with First Comics back in the 1980s; others, like Willingham and Collins, were involved in making prominent independent comics at the time (Collins created Ms. Tree, published by Eclipse and other companies, while Willingham created Elementals, published by Comico). And there are new faces, like Goodbrey and Young. Goodbrey stated on his blog that his webcomic Necessary Monsters would be involved. And Young, publisher of AiT/Planet Lar, will serve as director of production for the returning company.

I caught up with Young, who answered a few questions about First’s return.

JK: When did the “band” start to get back together, so to speak? And when and how did you came to be involved?

Larry Young, right

Larry: Not sure exactly when that happened. It was casually mentioned to me confidentially at this last Wonder-Con and I asked who did I have to kill to be in – I still have an old college photo wearing a First Comics baseball hat, so I’m pretty psyched to be able to help out. Seriously, I feel like Peter Graves threw my picture on to the table with Martin Landau and Barbara Bain and Greg Morris.

JK: A lot of people remember the “first” First Comics, as the publisher of American Flagg!, Dreadstar, etc. Are you guys looking at bringing some of those titles back, or should we expect all-new stuff from First? And can you give any details on what you’ll publish and when we should expect to see stuff?

Larry: I asked the same thing. I got a question back: what did you like about First Comics the first time around? I said that First seemed to publish anything and all of it was cool. They said yup, that’s still the plan. So old stuff, new stuff, new stuff of old titles, I think all of that and more. Honestly, keeping track of when Warp and E-Man and Starslayer and Grimjack were coming out is how I learned about skip weeks.

JK: I remember First as being an alternative to the mainstream companies … very creator-focused (and publishing creator-owned comics), more mature content, direct market-only in a comics world that wasn’t just direct market-only at the time. A lot has changed since then, and these aspects are standard for many comics companies today. What will set the new First Comics apart this time around?

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.

JK: What’s the status of AiT? Are you still planning to publish books yourself, or will First be taking up the majority of your time?

Larry: My agreement with First allows me to keep the AiT doors open; we’ll have Elvis Van Helsing (out July 6) at the AiT compound in San Diego, for example. But I’m concentrating on my own writing now; being a dad is taking up all the energy I used to use on making sure freelancers had full bottles and clean diapers.

JK: What does a director of production do?

Larry: Right now, I’m helping out with trafficking the books, compiling files, talent co-ordination, stuff like that. I just did the file to make the company San Diego banners. Throwing in my two cents on marketing and PR strategies, helping out where I can. Honestly, it’s a lot like what I do for AiT, just without the big target on my head.

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Comments

29 Comments

Looking forward to see First Comics back on the shelves – excellent news

I did like some of their output from the 80s, it’s where I learned of the awesomness of Howard Chaykin via American Flagg.

Hope they do well and put out some good & new stuff.

loved first comics if it means maybe resurecting some of the old titles like Dreadstar and grim jack along with what ever new stuff they no doubt have in the works. look forward to their return.

I’m looking forward to this too… mostly b/c I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some more Staton/Cuti E-Man goodness :)

Maybe Steve Rude can get an ongoing gig for NEXUS???

Valiant now First a lot of relics is coming back in an over crowded industry thats not performing to well. Whats next Defiant?

More Dynamo Joe, please!

Larry, if you don’t bring The Badger back ah’ma tear the roof off the sucker! Uf-da!!!

Warren Newsom

July 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

E-Man!

Bitter Olde Manne

July 8, 2011 at 10:22 am

Forget NEXUS. If they’re gonna get Steve Rude, they should revive his and Gary Martin’s excellent comic, THE MOTH.

It is really damn good news to know FIRST comics is coming back,WOW, such good memories, Jon Sable, Warp,Eman,Dynamo joe and all the others, There’s a GOD after all

This is interesting. I loved a lot of First titles back in the day, but with all of the IPs spread out and gone to other companies what are they going to have to make it First comics in more than just name only?

I’ll be watching this, though, because if they can put together a roster of talent and titles to do what they did in the 80s, then they’re going to be a great alternative to Marvel and DC.

This is great news… There were some good titles from First… Whats next Comico making a comeback, I would love to see a Elementals revival…

Robert L. Washington III

July 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm

The way I heard it it’ll be a cold day in Hell before [i]any[/i] of the original First creators (or their creations) go back – the way I heard it from Nadine Messner-Loebs, wife of Bill, the original publishers basically lied to them, telling them they had full creator’s rights when in fact they had nothing but the right to [i]buy[/i] their creations [i]back[/i] from First – that’s the real reason behind the big walkout during Year 2 where half the creators left, and why Badger and Nexus bounced around so much over the past decade – basically Baron and Rude had to earn X amount for First before they could get control back.

Obviously, some of the bad blood settled, but I wouldn’t count on seeing any but a small number of the old titles back.

Another vote for Dynamo Joe!

It would be nice if the comics stayed at their 1980’s prices too. I’m not familiar with most of their titles except American Flagg so I hope to see what they have. From what everyone is describing it doesn’t all seem like capes and tights so that’s always good for the industry and there’s BIll Willingham so they’ve piqued my interest.

I’d like to see the return of Whisper.

Tom Fitzpatrick

July 8, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Well, damn … , tHis past year Has seen a resurrection of bankrupt companies of tHe ’80’s.

First, CrossGen;

Second, Valiant;

THird, First Comics;

FourtH, Eclipse Comics?

FiftH, Comico?

I have to admit Max Allen Collins being on the panel is making me hope for a reborn Ms. Tree.

The world needs more Ms. Tree

We need some Badger, Nexus, and The Trouble with Girls!

Honestly, while I would love to see some of the old titles come back, they’re not going to sell in today’s market. Unless the company goes with an all-digital format, there’s going to be too many whiney fanboys bitching that $3.99’s just too much to pay. IDW released not one but two GrimJack and Jon Sable series between 2005 and 2010. Each of the first series from 2005 started off reasonably well–GJ started with more than 12,500 and Sable started with more than 7800; however, the final issues of each series were seriously down–GJ plummeted to a little over 3700 copies (a 70% drop) and Sable went to around 4800 (a 38.5% drop). But the second series from 2009 started MUCH lower–GJ started off with 4000 and Sable started off with 3400 and their final issues (GJ was a 6-issue series; Sable only 5) each sold around 2500.

And these were arguably two of the top selling books at First. Additionally, GrimJack had the old team of Ostrander and Truman on both series and Sable was handled by Grell so it’s not like these series were reboots or reimaginings or old fans taking new approaches. (Caveat to note: Both of the 2009 series collected the webcomics stories from ComicMix which might explain the lower sales figures.)

Now, as I said, I would love to see First to come back but I can’t see the company succeeding with the monthly (or bi-monthly) 32-page format in today’s economy. Maybe if they go with the OGN format–maybe along the lines of DC’s Vertigo True Crime GNs or the Superman: Earth One GN (a $20 HC or $13/14 TPB with 96-120 pages and expecting a 750-1000 copy print run)–the company can make it.

I’d absolutely love to see the return of Warp. Fingers crossed.

If they bring back Shatter, will the graphics stay 8 bit, but maybe this time colored digitally instead of watercolor over printouts?

Looking back on it today, I still love the dark edgy Blade Runner feel!

I’m just feeling nostalgic. Brink back anything good, print new stuff, just love me some First Comics!

I am glad to see them back

I’d only be interested if they brought back DREADSTAR. None of their other titles ever interested me…

I for one am really glad First Comics is returning. We need some new (old?) perspective! And Robert L W III– re your post of “the way I heard it from Nadine Messner-Loebs, wife of Bill, the original publishers basically lied to them, telling them they had full creator’s rights when in fact they had nothing but the right to [i]buy[/i] their creations [i]back[/i] from First – that’s the real reason behind the big walkout during Year 2 where half the creators left, and why Badger and Nexus bounced around so much over the past decade – basically Baron and Rude had to earn X amount for First before they could get control back”… I think you’ve got the wrong company perhaps? cause 1) ) there was no “big walkout” during Year 2 at First (or ever, for that matter); 2) never met Nadine Messner-Loebs, or Bill, but Bill never ever had a title at First Comics that I can find, and 3) no creator I’ve ever heard about ever claimed he/she had to “buy back” their creations from First Comics. certainly Baron’s not shy, and he never said anything remotely like that. Hey First Comics — welcome back!

That “big walkout” sounds more like Aardvark-Vanaheim – WM-L’s original publisher for Journey. That company was owned by Dave Sim & Deni Loubert. After they divorced, everything that wasn’t Cerebus left AV for a new company, Renegade Press (owned by Loubert).

Then again, I think I do remember Rude mentioning some situation like that regarding Nexus in the past.

Note that NEXUS, BADGER, and WHISPER all started at Capital Comics; I believe First bought the rights to those from Capital, and thus they may well have represented a different situation.

Note that Jim Starling brought DREADSTAR to First from Marvel/Epic, and that he was able to publish a new DREADSTAR mini through Mailbu/Bravura not too long after First died. Of course, as he was bringing a book that had already seen success from another publisher, maybe *his* situation was the exception.

Going to Mike Gold’s blog, to see if he makes any comments.

My name is Don Lomax. I worked for First Comics back in the day (Black Flame, American Flagg, Munden’s Bar). I heard that Bill and Company were re-launching the First imprint but have had no luck in finding who is in charge of an address with which I can get in touch with the publisher. I (of course, like every other would be comic book artist) have a submission they might be interested in. Can you help an old man out?

Don Lomax
dozen@grics.net

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