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.
And that Squire Sebastian Senator link is GOLD!
Ah, Jeff. Considering how many times you've correct my incorrect names in the Dark Shadows thread, it gives me no small joy to say:
Oh dear. That's even scarier than "First Teen President."
It really is! Although Trillionaires of any age are scary things.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
Oh dear. That's even scarier than "First Teen President."
The original Outsiders concept was interesting enough, yet the character designs were terrible. None of them looked appealing, heroic or cool like other "monster" heroes like the Thing. Their powers were mostly super-strength and durability.
The one with the most "potential" was, ironically, Doc Scary who could still be out there, saving lives under a rubber mask!
In the period Simon also did Champion Sports, with Grandenetti, for three issues; edited Young Love and Young Romance; and packaged Black Magic, which recycled material from the Prize title.
Grandenetti's work from the period has a sloppy look. But I like it on horror stories. He was a great, great comics artist who varied his style over his career. He got his start in the 1940s as one of Will Eisner's assistants, and was the artist of the Fiction House feature "The Occult Files of Dr Drew". He was one of the staple artists on DC's war titles in the 1950s and 1960s and drew a good number of the "Strong Bow" stories in All Star Western. He also ghosted for Joe Orlando.
"The Outsiders" is sloppily done and aimed young, but I think it had potential. It's like Warren for little children. It seemed to me envelope-pushing and a bit scary when I first encountered it, second-hand, as a kid. Ranking-wise I'd place it ahead of "Dingbats of Danger Street" by a country mile.
"Their powers were mostly super-strength and durability."
I attribute that to Simon concieving them as "freaks."
"In the period Simon also did Champion Sports, with Grandenetti, for three issues; edited Young Love and Young Romance; and packaged Black Magic, which recycled material from the Prize title."
I did not know that. Sports and romance are genres I would not have been interested in when I was 11. Thanks.
"It's like Warren for little children."
Interesting way to look at it.
"Ranking-wise I'd place it ahead of 'Dingbats of Danger Street' by a country mile."
I am open to flipping some of my ranking for the final tally. I had already decided to flip "Green Team" and "Outsiders" (especially taking the 2013 Green Team series into consideration), but I'll have to consider the "like Warren for little children" argument. I rank "Dingbats of Danger Street" somewhat higher than you do for reasons I shall get to presently. Moving on, my third worst choice is...
WRITER: Bob Haney
ARTIST: Ramona Fradon
PEDIGREE: Silver Age
LEGACY: BATO, JLI, Outsiders again (but not the ones above)
My first exposure to Metamorpho was Action Comics #415: "The New Metamorpho Returns Again." The way it worked was (I suppose), first there was Metamorpho; then there was the new Metamorpho; then he returned; then he returned again. I wasn't too impressed with the character that first time I encountered him, but I can tell you this: I didn't see 1st Issue Special #3 until well into adulthood, but if I had seen it when I was 11 I would have liked it even less. This is the only issue in the collection I had to struggle to get through. So why didn't I rank it last? I took into consideration its pedigree and its legacy. (Regarding the latter, I think Metamorpho went on to later success despite 1st Issue Special #3 rather than because of it.) I would have liked to rank a story drawn by Ramona Fradon higher, but this story was more like Plastic Man than Metamorpho.
I think this was the first Metamorpho story I read. I like the original series, but this issue lacks its vital spark. I suppose the characterisations are the same but here they don't come across as amusing. I've always found the climax confusing, but that's not the problem.
WRITER: Robert Kanigher
ARTISTS: John Rosenberger and Vince Colletta
PEDIGREE: None (new)
LEGACY: She became the Chief of Police of Ivy Town in The All-New Atom (2006).
As a young girl, Liza Warner watched from underneath the bed as her parents were murdered by a killer wearing white cowboy boots. This experience led to to the field of law enforcement, I think it it possible, maybe even likely, that this issue was based on the TV show Policewoman, which starred Angie Dickenson and ran from 1974-1978. I remember the show but never watched it; I was more into Kung Fu and Planet of the Apes at that time. I think the concept itself had potential, but in execution it wasn't much different than a standard romance comic of the era.
It also occurs to me that three of my four least favorite issues are among the first four issues of the series, meaning (in my estimation, anyway) this series got off to a really weak start.
I know I read the Metamorpho issue, but damned if I can remember anything about it.
Now, Lady Cop? No interest, and to be fair if this had been "Dude Cop"? My interest level would have been the same
"...to be fair if this had been 'Dude Cop'? My interest level would have been the same."
In the 1950s, Chester Gould took a recent widow (Lizz Worthington) and turned her into a cop in Dick Tracy. If "Lady Cop" had been anything like that, it might have been better... 20 years late, but better.
METAMORPHO: I never saw him as a comedic character, having never read most of his Silver Age run. The artists who I'd seen draw him treated him seriously. This issue seemed more like a storyboard for a Saturday morning cartoon show. It's very overwritten and could not "sell" the Element Man!
LADY COP: one of the two 1st Issue Special I don't own. While I never watched Police Woman, I did see Charlie's Angels so there was a market for action women. Maybe she could have had a spot in Young Love or Young Romance. Very pedestrian.