DC released a collection of this series two years ago, and I've been considering posting some thoughts on it ever since (occasionally, not continuously). Specifically, I want to rank the issues first through thirteenth. The decision that has been holding me up is whether to rank low to high, high to low, or in numerical order. But Tom King's Danger Street is scheduled to begin next month and that has provided impetus. 

When I read the stories in this collection in 2020, some of them for the first time, I discovered that some of them were clearly better than others. In fact, it occurred to me that I could pick any two issues of the series, compare them side-to-side, and pick a favorite. For example, there are three Jack Kirby comics in the series' 13-issue run, and it's pretty easy to pick my first, second and third favorite among them. The problem is, enough time has now passed that I must read some of them again because I just can't remember which I preferred between, say, Lady Cop or Code Name: Assassin; between The Outsiders or The Green Team.

As the story goes, because first issues generally sell better than subsequent issues, publisher Carmine Infantino decide to publish a series of all "first issues." I will be ranking them taking into consideration the following criteria: concept, writer, artist, pedigree and legacy/potential. The collection includes editorials introducing the feature for most of the issues. By "pedigree" I mean was it a new character/concept or a revised/reintroduced one? By "legacy/potential" I mean did the character/concept go on to be used by other creators? 

Gerry Conway (from his introduction to the collected volume): "As a concept, the 1st Issue Special series was, frankly, frankly, more than a little half-baked. Supposedly a tryout book for new concepts or revised and reintroduced characters, it didn't really serve that purpose effectively. One-shot appearances don't do much to project reader interest in a character or series. They also don't provide a creative team sufficient time to develop whatever potential a new or revised character might have. And in the case of 1st Issue Special, production requirement didn't allow for much pre-development of any idea either." 

I have decided to present the issues in publication order, BUT... because it's been two years, I'm going to want to reread them all before I even get started, so bear with me. 

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Kirby and Lear were both Northeasterners of about the same generation, so maybe it was common in their time and place.

Captain Comics said:

The etymology of the word is complicated, and most uses in my research (which is what I call "20 seconds of Googling") are from the 19th century. Clearly Norman Lear had heard the word before, so perhaps it was in use in some New York or Hollywood subcultures.

Kirby and Lear were both Northeasterners of about the same generation, so maybe it was common in their time and place.

They were both Jewish, and both served in World War II, as well. Somewhere in all those commonalities, "dingbat" must have been in use.

In one episode of All in the Family, Edith explains: "Well in them days, Archie was too shy to call me 'sweetheart' or 'darling,' so he called me 'his little dingbat.'" Maybe Jack Kirby picked up the term where everybody else did: from Archie Bunker! 

But where did Norman Lear get it?

Interestingly, one site noted that "dingbat" was used (at least at one point) as a replacement word, like thingamajig, thingamabob, whatsit, gizmo, dojigger, etc. I have heard all of those, and I have to say dingbat seems to fit comfortably alongside them.

Hot damn! I thought I had reviewed a couple of these comics before, so traveling back to 2009 (!) here is what I said about issue 11:

Well that future never came about, as the character wouldn't show back up for like 25 years, in an issue of Starman for those scoring at home. Then he would only be absent 7 more years before his next appearance. The banner on the first page said, “Possibly the wildest action hero you've ever seen.” Maybe he was just too wild for DC. I don't know if there could have been more generic names for the bad guys than The Snake and Powerhouse. Assassin is a horrible name for a hero who never kills anyone, plus it is very generic as well. The art is only okay.

And issue 7:

Okay, lets get this out of the way. Those are two horrendous costumes on the cover, and perhaps two of the worst EVER. Wow. Okay now that that is out of the way, this is average maybe a little below average. A couple of bits I did like: Lynns was actually worried about his costume fitting him after being in jail for so long. Not something you see often. I also enjoyed how the people laughed at his costume when he first showed up. I thought Firefly's scheme was actually a pretty good. A good use of the abilities available to him.

I didn't mention it above, but the part with Ryder's boss using the TV to villify the Creeper was very Spider-Man like.
Why didn't Lynns use his laser to cut a way out of his cell that led straight outside instead of just the bars? He would have been able to escape much more quietly if he had done that. I had no idea the Creeper could survive such a fall, I don't believe he is quite so resilient now.

In one of our discussions I recently used the term “assorted dingbats” to describe my father-in-law’s friends who constantly got tickets to movie screenings of incomplete movies. They were not the target audience for any of those movies. Guys on the street would hand tickets to anyone willing to take them. I’m sure that their opinions/reactions misled the studios.

Norman Lear was born in 1922 and Jack Kirby was born in 1917. Their early lives in New York City and its “suburb” the state of Connecticut (see the map) probably included a lot of family contacts. Unlike today, three generations of a family would be crammed together in that overcrowded area.  If, as Cap says, dingbat was a 19th-century term, they may have heard it from their grandparents or the grandparents of friends.

The Dingbats remind me somewhat of the boys from the TV show The Kids from C.A.P.E.R., from the next year. There's a particular similarity between Good Looks and Doc.

In the first Newsboy Legion stories the boys are used to taking care of themselves and wary of Jim Harper. The Dingbats' relationship to Terry Mullins is similar.

Leaving aside his punny name, Gasser is a decent idea and visual for a villain. The Challengers of the Unknown fought a similar foe, Gas Master, in Challengers of the Unknown #44.

"But where did Norman Lear get it?"

He (or perhaps his father) possibly coined that particular usage of it. I mean, no one questions where the term "Sweathogs" comes from.

STARMAN:

WRITER/EDITOR: Gerry Conway

ARTISTS: Mike Vosburg & Mike Royer

PEDIGREE: Legacy hero (name only)

LEGACY: James Robinson's Starman

RANK: 5th

Talk about potential! 15 or 20 years earlier, Julius Schwartz revived a few Golden Age heroes, in name only, and created the Silver Age. In 1976 Gerry Conway tries it and... nuthin'. He got Joe Kubert to do the cover; perhaps if Kubert had done the interior as well, the alien Starman might have been a bigger hit (or a "hit" at all). Another problem is that Ted Knight already had a "legacy" (although he wasn't called "Starman") as established one month earlier in All-Star Comics #58, the Star-Spangled Kid. Ted Knight, the original Starman, had broken his leg and given his "cosmic rod" to Sylvester Pemberton, who should have changed his name to  "Starman" at that point. If nothing else, doing so would have saved him the trouble of, years later, trying to come up with a new name which dropped the "Kid" but retained the "Star." He eventually settled on "Skyman." (?)

James Robinson (him again!) saved the alien Starman from obscurity, so I rank him fifth best.

When I read this I was reminded of Marvel's Omega the Unknown. So I just checked Mike's Amazing World to see if "Starman" came out first. I was going suggest it was the Marvel title's inspiration if it had. I'm astonished to find Omega the Unknown's first issue came out on the same day. I don't think that's at all likely to be a coincidence. Conway had fairly recently come back to DC when "Starman" appeared, so perhaps he originally proposed it at Marvel and took it with him to DC.

RETURN OF THE NEW GODS:

WRITER/EDITOR: Gerry Conway

ARTISTS: Mike Vosburg

PEDIGREE: Bronze Age Jack Kirby

LEGACY: Revival of Kirby series (eight issues) plus assorted other appearances (seven).

RANK: 4th

I used to think that turning this series over to others was a big slap in the face to Jack Kirby (who had already contributed three other features to 1st Issue Special), until I realized that he already had one foot out the door already when those issues were done and was back at Marvel by the time 1st Issue Special #13 saw print. Conway's version is merely the first in a long succession of unsuccessful revivals of Kirby's "Fourth World" concepts, including attempts by John Byrne and Walt Simonson. Objectively, though, I don't think Conway's efforts were that much inferior to theirs, and it did have the cachet of wrapping up in three issues of Justice League of America, the last two of which were drawn by George Perez. Also, by extension, the pre-Crisis LSHs' "Great Darkness Saga" can be thought of as the same version, at least until the "Crisis in Time" cocked it up, anyway. 

I'm not sure how much 1st Issue Special #13 contributed to the series' revival (not much, I imagine) and how much was Jeanette Kahn's looking over the old sales figures, but a series did follow, and even watered down Kirby is better than nothing so I rank this issue fourth. In any case, Gerry Conway's version of the New Gods is available in its entirety in a handsome hardcover edition published in 2020. 

If I remember correctly it was Jack Kirby's hope to create new concepts and then hand them off to others.

Correct... but with him as editor.

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