First Issue Special #9

First Issue Special #9, December 1975

First Issue Special is an odd little series. It was the brainchild of then-DC Publisher Carmine Infantino, who, in a time of falling sales, really needed a solid gold hit. He then came up with an idea that could’ve been a stroke of genius: if the first issue of any new series sold better than subsequent issues, then a series made up entirely of first issues was bound to be a huge seller.

It wasn’t.

While it appears to be a kind of try-out title for new concepts in order to gauge sales and reader interest, it was actually something of a “dumping ground” for inventory material that was sitting around the DC offices. Atlas (FIS #1), Manhunter (#5) and Dingbats (#6) were all Jack Kirby creations. His erstwhile partner, Joe Simon, came up with The Green Team (#2) and The Outsiders (#10). Mike Grell contributed Warlord (#8), Steve Ditko revived The Creeper (#7), and Bob Kanigher gave the world Lady Cop (#4).

On occasion Infantino engaged creators to come up with brand new First Issues, essentially reviving the old Showcase book in all but name, such was the case with Dr Fate in #9. I wrote an article for Back Issue #24 looking at the story behind this comic, probably the most fondly-remembered First Issue Special. Written by Martin Pasko and drawn by Walter Simonson, this re-imagining of DC’s master mage was very influential, and cast a long shadow over pretty much every subsequent appearance of the character.

It seems that Infantino’s original notion was to actually number each issue as #1, but that never happened and the series follows a conventional numbering sequence. There were 13 issues in total, but ultimately only two ideas graduated to their own series: Gerry Conway’s revival of The New Gods (#13) and Grell’s Warlord. And even then, Warlord was actually earmarked as a regular series before it appeared in FIS!

Second and third issues of both the Dingbats and the Green Team were produced, but languished in a drawer as inventory material. No more was seen of Kirby’s final kid gang, but the Green Team saw very limited life in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade a couple of years later.

While it was never a fabulous series, First Issue Special has some nice work and is a lot of fun — the Outsiders has to be seen to be believed! If nothing else, the Doctor Fate issue is well worth seeking out.

Cover by Joe Kubert.

Image ©2011 DC Comics