A few weeks ago, based on the purchase of Atlas comics rights by Paramount; back issues of many of the old Atlas titles spiked to unseen levels. This event highlights one of the unintended but welcomed perks that has emerged with the increasing pop culture weight comic book based movies and shows have acquired.
Today attention is paid to smaller publishers and less popular titles in the hopes that some of these can become breakout hits.
In this post, I’ll take a look at another smaller comic publisher with titles that may soon make the jump from newsprint to live-action film: the dynamic catalog of First Comics.
Mike Gold and Ken F. Levin originally founded First Comics in Evanston, Illinois, back in the early 1980s. The 1980s saw a maturing of comic reading audiences in North America and First Comics was in part both a consequence and a facilitator of that change.
During their heyday, they published books with complex and mature themes. They also solicited work from some of the most talented creators in the industry. These personnel included: Howard Chaykin, Joe Staton, Mike Grell, John Ostrander, Frank Brunner, Steven Grant, Timothy Truman, Frank Miller and Jim Starlin among others.
After filing for bankruptcy in 1991, there has since been an attempted revival of the brand and First Comics has tried to make a comeback. So far nothing they have published has reached the creative heights of their 1980s catalog.
In the remainder of this post, I’ll list the best titles published by First Comics between 1983 and 1991.
Warp is a comic based on a science fiction play, ‘Warp’ (or ‘Warp!’) is the story of a banker who is transported to the realm of Fen-Ra where he learns that he’s not David Carson but, in reality, Lord Cumulus the “avenger of the universe”. Frank Brunner, Peter B. Gillis, and John Ostrander are the main creative team behind this book. It last sold for $37.95 in 9.8 grade on eBay (10/18/2017). Warp is a super-affordable 1980s sci-fi action/adventure.
This comic was an attempt to translate the 1970s Japanese Manga series by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, about a Samurai warrior and his three year old son for an American market. A huge hit in Japan, the English version has a cover and introduction by Frank Miller at his peak, what’s not to like about this adaptation? Only the first third of the series was published before First Comics went bankrupt, but issue #1 can fetch around $34.00 in 9.8.
The inimitable Howard Chaykin brought his American Flagg comic to First and it was published continuously between 1983 and 1989. Set in Chicago in the 2030s this is a sci-fi political satire like no other. Issue #1 in 9.8 blue label certified condition can be owned for around $80.00. This comic has sold for over $100.00 (eBay sale of 02/07/2019, $110.00) and for less than $50.00 (the very last eBay sale was for $49.99 on 07/12/2019) in the same grade.
Written and penciled by Mike Grell, Sable is a cross between James Bond and Doc Savage. In other words: a classic Grell hero. He gets by on his cunning, daring and wits. Sable is a formidable enemy who in these gritty and riveting stories works as a bounty hunter for hire and a mercenary. There are currently 58 copies of the debut issue of Jon Sable recorded on the CGC census (up by 8 over the last year). A year ago, 9.8 graded copies had a fair market value of $75.00. Today a 9.8 have dipped and can be found for around $30.00. Now is a good time to buy as you’ll be able to take advantage of the inflation in price that occurs when a Sable film comes out.
This is a gritty comic about an ex-gladiator turned detective who works in a dystopian section of a “pan-dimensional” future city called Cynosure. Grimjack was created by John Ostrander (Suicide Squad, The Spectre). First appearing in Mike Grell’s, Starslayer #10 [Pacific Comics] (November 1983) , Grimjack quickly became a fan favorite and soon found a home at First Comics. Grimjack actually makes a cameo appearance in Warp #5 (August 1983), and then takes center stage as the star of this comic. Recently the Russo Brothers, in the same announcement at the San Diego Comic Con where they announced they would direct a Gatchaman – Battle of the Planets movie, also announced their plans to bring Grimjack to the big screen. So far, prices on this haven’t moved at the same level as Battle of the Planets #1, but if Grimjack is a successful movie, expect that to change big-time.