The First Kingdom by Jack Katz

The First Kingdom
Story/write/art: Jack Katz
Published by Comics & Comix, 1974–1986.

The First Kingdom is a 24-issue, 768-page graphic novel that took Katz twelve years to complete, outside of writing the story. He finished two books per year, intentionally totaling twenty-four in order to mirror the number of books in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. During Kingdom's creation, many sacrifices were made and harships endured by Katz and his wife at the time, Carolyn. For this reason, every issue is dedicated to her.

The epic was published by Comics & Comix Co. from 1974 to 1977, at which point publication was taken over by Bud Plant (a Comics & Comix co-founder) and completed in 1986. Early praise for Kingdom came from Playboy magazine and the Rocket's Blast Comicollector fanzine, but it was never a commercial success due in part to the frequency with which it came out and its adult content. Another contributing factor may have been that Kingdom was sold strictly through mail-order and specialty comic stores.

Attempts have been made to reissue Kingdom as collected volumes. Wallaby Pocket Books published a large-format version of the first six books in 1978. In 2005, Century Comics (under its former name, Mecca Comics Group) released the first volume of an anticipated four-volume set, collecting issues 1-6. The second volume collected issues 7-12 and followed months later, but Century Comics went out of business before it could publish the final two volumes.

There are a number of things that set Katz's illustrative style in Kingdom apart from that of other comic artists. It is hyper-detailed, all of his human (and humanoid) forms have ideal, heroic bodies rendered with anatomical accuracy, there are no gutters and murals fill single-panelled pages throughout the work. The quality of Katz's art matures as he progresses further into the story: the panels get larger and he shifts from pen to brush in the fifth book, a suggestion from Jim Steranko.

Will Eisner and Jerry Siegel among many others considered Kingdom to be innovative in many respects. In the foreword to Book 23, Eisner claims that the work helped carve a niche for the graphic novel medium. Comics historian R. C. Harvey believes that Katz was the, '...first person in comics to pursue a personal vision at such length'. Its density of plot and art alike pushed beyond comics' unidimensionality: "[Katz] believed in the unlimited potential of the comic art medium to become a vehicle for mature, literary, and sophisticated storytelling". To trailblaze was Katz's intention from the start, stating in the introduction to Book One that, "The work I am the first in a series of books in which I hope to extend the dimension of comics to the potential art form that one of its earliest and greatest artists, Hal Foster, laid down the foundations for."

The First Kingdom is the first part of a trilogy, which will include Space Explorers Club and Destiny. Its genre is sci-fantasy with a heavier emphasis on science fiction after Book Six. The story opens on a new, post-nuclear prehistoric era with tribes fighting for survival on a primitive, fantastic Earth filled with gods and monsters. Gods meddle in human affairs, their appearance, temperament and vices resembling the gods of Ancient Greece. The story spans generations and has a huge cast of characters. It abounds with theories to account for religion, evolution, migration and why humans allow themselves to be distracted from the, "plaguing questions of our existence". The story's protagonist, Tundran, is introduced in Book Four. He overcomes obstacles in order to return to his father's usurped kingdom of Moorengan as a liberator. Along the way he falls in love with Fara, a "transgoddess" incarnate, and their adventures together represent the most linear plot line in the story.

Katz admits that the first twenty issues are the introduction to the real Kingdom story, issues 21-24. The first twenty issues are filled with past histories that are interwoven and repeat the same doomed cycle: a hard-won ascent from primitivity blossoms into a golden age of scientific advancement which inevitably devolves into war and a preoccupation with survival and superstition. Katz's fears concerning the human condition are revealed here. His characters haven't been able to transcend their "early programming" born out of environmental stresses; they can't escape their base motivations such as greed, envy, jealousy, etc. The chance for humanity to break this cycle comes with the arrival of Queltar in Book 20, who encourages a select few to join him and embrace their true potential among the stars.

The original series

First Kingdom #1 (1974) First Kingdom #2 (1975) First Kingdom #3 (1975) First Kingdom #4 (1976) First Kingdom #5 (1976) First Kingdom #6 (1977) First Kingdom #7 (1977) First Kingdom #8 (1977) First Kingdom #9 (1978) First Kingdom #10 (1978) First Kingdom #11 (1979) First Kingdom #12 (1980) First Kingdom #13 (1980) First Kingdom #14 (1981) First Kingdom #15 (1981) First Kingdom #16 (1982) First Kingdom #17 (1982) First Kingdom #18 (1983) First Kingdom #19 (1983) First Kingdom #20 (1984) First Kingdom #21 (1984) First Kingdom #22 (1985) First Kingdom #23 (1986) First Kingdom #24 (1986)

Comics & Comix/Bud Plant.
Issues #1-6 reprinted by Pocket Books and Century Comics.
Issues #7-12 reprinted by Century Comics.
All issues will be later reprinted by Titan.
1974: #1.
1975: #2-3.
1976: #4-5.
1977: #6-8.
1978: #9-10.
1979: #11.
1980: #12-13.
1981: #14-15.
1982: #16-17.
1983: #18-19.
1984: #20-21.
1985: #22.
1986: #23-24.
2013: See the conclution published by Titan.


The First Kingdom (1978) Pocket Books

The First Kingdom

No Jacket. New York: Pocket Books, 1978 Trade paper. "The First All-Illustrated Herioc Fantasy Epic." Soft Cover. 12"-15" tall. 191 pgs. ISBN 0-671-79016-1
Incl. issues #1-6 of the original series.

The First Kingdom Book One (2005) Century Comics The First Kingdom Book Two (2006) Century Comics

The First Kingdom, Book One

May 2005. Century Comics. Four volume series. Incl. new front and back covers based on Jack's work as well as many of Jack's original sketches never published before. 198 pgs. ISBN 0-9766651-0-7
Incl. issues #1-6 of the original series.

The First Kingdom, Book Two

2006. Incl. new front and back covers based on Jack's work, as well as many of Jack's original sketches that had never been published before. ASIN 097666514X
Incl. issues #7-12 of the original series.

Titan Comics

The First Kingdom Vol. 1 (2013) Titan Comics The First Kingdom Vol. 2-1 (2013) Titan Comics

The First Kingdom Vol. 1

July 2013. Titan Comics. 144 pgs. B&W. $19.99. A reprint of the original series (Issues #1-4?).
The cover, a reprint from The First Kingdom #18 (1983).

The First Kingdom Vol. 2.1: The Space Explorers Club

Sept. 24, 2013. Titan Comics. 144 pgs. B&W. $19.99. A sequel for the original series.

Copyright © 2013 Heart-Attack-Series, Ink!,
Created: February 9, 2013. Modified: March 3, 2013.