Robot 6 Q&A | Larry Young on the return of First Comics

Yesterday we learned by way of the San Diego Comic-Con Thursday panel schedule that First Comics, a hallmark of 1980s independent comic book publishing, is returning. According to the write-up for the panel:

First Comics: The First of the Great Independents Is Back with a Fury!— Legendary ’80s independent publishing powerhouse First Comics is returning when the world needs it most, not unlike the promised return of King Arthur. And the assembled Round Table of extraordinary comics creators are here to tell you how they will once again be rocking your world with comics entertainment from the cutting edge. Panelists include Ken F. Levin (Wanted, The Boys, First Comics co-founder and director), Joe Staton and Nick Cuti (E-Man), Bill Willingham (Fables), Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition), Brian Mullens (founder of DaQRi; QR director), Alex Wald (art director then and again), Susannah Carson (A Truth Universally Acknowledged; First Comics YA editor), and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (The Tarquin Engine, The Last Sane Cowboy). Moderated by Larry Young (The Black Diamond; First Comics director of production). Room 23ABC

As noted in the description, several on the panel were involved with First Comics back in the 1980s; others, like Willingham and Collins, were involved in making prominent independent comics at the time (Collins created Ms. Tree, published by Eclipse and other companies, while Willingham created Elementals, published by Comico). And there are new faces, like Goodbrey and Young. Goodbrey stated on his blog that his webcomic Necessary Monsters would be involved. And Young, publisher of AiT/Planet Lar, will serve as director of production for the returning company.

I caught up with Young, who answered a few questions about First's return.

JK: When did the "band" start to get back together, so to speak? And when and how did you came to be involved?

Larry: Not sure exactly when that happened. It was casually mentioned to me confidentially at this last Wonder-Con and I asked who did I have to kill to be in – I still have an old college photo wearing a First Comics baseball hat, so I'm pretty psyched to be able to help out. Seriously, I feel like Peter Graves threw my picture on to the table with Martin Landau and Barbara Bain and Greg Morris.

JK: A lot of people remember the "first" First Comics, as the publisher of American Flagg!, Dreadstar, etc. Are you guys looking at bringing some of those titles back, or should we expect all-new stuff from First? And can you give any details on what you'll publish and when we should expect to see stuff?

Larry: I asked the same thing. I got a question back: what did you like about First Comics the first time around? I said that First seemed to publish anything and all of it was cool. They said yup, that’s still the plan. So old stuff, new stuff, new stuff of old titles, I think all of that and more. Honestly, keeping track of when Warp and E-Man and Starslayer and Grimjack were coming out is how I learned about skip weeks.

JK: I remember First as being an alternative to the mainstream companies ... very creator-focused (and publishing creator-owned comics), more mature content, direct market-only in a comics world that wasn't just direct market-only at the time. A lot has changed since then, and these aspects are standard for many comics companies today. What will set the new First Comics apart this time around?

Larry: I don't want to reveal too much this early in the game about what will set First apart from other companies; but look at the old days. I'm not sure I agree the playing field is all that different now than it was when First first took the field. But for now, First will have four (!) “preview” books at San Diego – but they’re using “preview” to mean that the books won’t be released to retail 'til October or November. Other than Special Convention Limited Editions, they are complete advance copies.

JK: What's the status of AiT? Are you still planning to publish books yourself, or will First be taking up the majority of your time?

Larry: My agreement with First allows me to keep the AiT doors open; we'll have Elvis Van Helsing (out July 6) at the AiT compound in San Diego, for example. But I'm concentrating on my own writing now; being a dad is taking up all the energy I used to use on making sure freelancers had full bottles and clean diapers.

JK: What does a director of production do?

Larry: Right now, I'm helping out with trafficking the books, compiling files, talent co-ordination, stuff like that. I just did the file to make the company San Diego banners. Throwing in my two cents on marketing and PR strategies, helping out where I can. Honestly, it's a lot like what I do for AiT, just without the big target on my head.

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