DC's 1st Issue Specials

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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  • I just got this last month even I have most of the original issues.

  • By this time I have now refreshed the entire series in my head and ranked the issues best to worst. I did this by cutting a piece of paper into 13 strips and writing the name of the features on each one. It is my intention to present one each day in release order, but I hadn't factored in the Thanksgiving holiday, so I'll start the next week so as not to be interrupted once I get started. 

  • "It is my intention to present one each day in release order..."

    I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to rank them from worst to best (or least favorite to favorite if you prefer). 



    WRITER: Joe Simon

    ARTIST: Jerry Grandenetti

    PEDIGREE: None (new)

    LEGACY: None

    RANK: 13th

    In late 1973, several people in DC editorial (notably writer/editor Joe Kubert) were keen to team Joe Simon up with his old partner, Jack Kirby, to do another "kid gang" comic for which the pair were so famous for back in the '40s (the Newsboy Legion, the Boy Commandos, Boys' Ranch, etc). Neither of the men were all that eager to resume their partnership, but each one agreed to develop a "kid gang" comic on his own. This is Joe Simon's.

    I remember seeing "The Green Team" one on the spinner rack at Ahmann's Newsstand when I was 11 years old. As I have said before, at that time I was interested in any and every first issue I could find, not because I thought it would "be worth something someday," but because I desperately wanted to be in on the beginning of something new. the words "1st Issue Special" jumped right out at me. It wasn't until I got home when I noticed it was somehow the second issue (How could that be?) and I felt cheated. Then I read it and was disappointed. Even as an eleven-year-old kid I knew it was crap. I  was never to see another new issue of 1st Issue Special on the spinner rack again for the remainder of the series' brief run.

    Three issues were produced, but the second and third ended up in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade

  • THE GREEN TEAM did not age well. The book was filled with stereotypes and unlikable characters with a menace that was never really menacing. 

    And they had money gimmick outfits! 

  • Plus these stories were supposed to appear in 1st Issue Special but appeared elsewhere:

    Batgirl & Robin/ Batman Family #1 (O'75)

    Green Arrow & Black Canary/ Green Lantern #100 (Ja'78)

    Metal Men/ Metal Men #45 (My'76) 

  • Wow... If you were going from worst to best, I would've bet you'd start with The Outsiders. I bought that as a back issue, and man, was I sorely disappointed. 

  • I saw The Green Team about a million times in 20¢, 25¢, and 50¢ boxes. I never had any desire to pick it up. Glad my instincts were right.

  • The book does have a bit of a legacy, though. In 2013 DC released The Green Team as an ongoing series, written by Art and Franco of Tiny Titans fame, with art by Ig Guara. It lasted 8 issues. From what I've heard, a lot of their ideas for the book were nixed by the publisher after the book was greenlit, so some DCU-centric ideas (like, say, the team having bought a salvaged Batmobile, or a fleet of them) never saw the light of day for fear they'd diminish the DC heroes. 

  • I actually like the concept of the Green Team, and I'd life to write a series about them five years later. They've evolved into a sort of Shark Tank group, plus they have honorary members such as Damian Wayne that do things like help in disaster relief situations. I see a fair amount of potential. 

  • I think Conway's comments are partly off the mark. When the reader buys the first issue of any title he buys just one issue. The problem of a spotlight series like this one is there needs to be someone involved in shaping each project who has a sense of what will be commercial. There also needs to be people involved who have quality objectives.

    Some number of spotlight series have employed the one-at-a-time approach. Showcase started that way and regularly used the approach from #72-#81. Marvel Premiere and Marvel Spotlight both had periods where one-issue spotlights predominated.

    I speak of spotlights rather than try-outs because such titles were sometimes used to launch a series that had already gotten the go-ahead. The Warlord is a case in point, as its first issue appeared two months after the spotlight.

    I'm with Randy on the Green Team. They're like a kid gang version of the Challengers of the Unknown crossed with Richie Rich.

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