|Former type||Comic book publisher|
|Founder(s)||Ken F. Levin
|Headquarters||Evanston, Illinois (1983–1985)
Chicago, Illinois (1985–1991)
|Key people||Alex Wald (art director)
Kurt Goldzung (sales manager)
Larry Doyle (editor)
First Comics was an American comic-book publisher that was active from 1983–1991, 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.
Based in Evanston, Illinois, First Comics was co-founded by Ken F. Levin 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. The suit took up much of the mid-1980s before finally being resolved in the spring of 1988.
The company moved to Chicago in 1985. Mike Gold, one of First's founders, served as the company president until late 1985; Gold soon moved to New York to become a senior editor at DC Comics. 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.
In 1986, despite its success with the direct market, First experimented with newsstand distribution. Later that same year, the publisher found itself in the middle of the industry-wide debate about creators' rights. (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.)
The company's final major project was a revival of Classics Illustrated. 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.
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. As of August 2012, this has failed to occur. 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."
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. 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.
- Alex Wald interview, David Anthony Kraft's Comics Interview #52 (1987).
- Kurt Goldzung interview, David Anthony Kraft's Comics Interview #52 (1987).
- "First," The Comics Journal #124 (August 1988), p. 19.
- "Bob Garcia Joins First Comics," The Comics Journal #126 (January 1989), p. 34.
- Phegley, Kiel. "CBR News: EXCLUSIVE: Levin On Relaunching First Comics," Comic Book Resource (July 14, 2011).
- "First Comics Sues Marvel Comics for Anti-Competitive Activities," The Comics Journal #89 (May 1984), p. 8.
- Goodrich, Chris. "Captain America, Get a Lawyer!: An upstart comic book publisher sues mighty Marvel Comics," San Francisco Chronicle (01 June 1986), p. 9.
- "First vs. Marvel and World Color," The Comics Journal #102 (September 1985), pp. 11-14.
- "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.
- "Mike Gold Leaves First Presidential Post" The Comics Journal #103 (November 1985), pp. 14-15.
- "Mike Gold Leaves First Comics to Become Senior Editor at DC," The Comics Journal #105 (February 1986), p. 27.
- "Editorial: First Comics to Experiment with Newsstand Distribution this Spring," The Comics Journal #107 (April 1986), pp. 14-15.
- "First Comics Pays Up," The Comics Journal #110 (August 1986), pp. 9-10: On creators' rights.
- "First Comics Revives Classics Illustrated," The Comics Journal #120 (March 1988), p. 12.
- "First Comics Revives Classics Illustrated in January," The Comics Journal #132 (November 1989), p. 23.
- "Newswatch: First Closes Offices," The Comics Journal #148 (February 1992), p. 27.
- Mike Baron’s “Badger” is Back, Comic Book Resources, August 29, 2007