The Return of a Classic Graphic Novel: Jack Katz, “The First Kingdom”

Guest Author: Jack Katz

jack_katz_2014 By the time I finished high school at the end of WWII, I realized the only way to learn how to draw and to make some kind of money as an artist was the comic book industry. I got jobs immediately but I was very slow, I would emphasize real anatomy and this kept me from becoming more successful, faster.

What had sustained the industry however was the war and by the time it was over in 1945, they were actually publishing mostly for the servicemen. From then on it was a fight for the publishers to survive.

Five years after that, the comic book crisis hit. It came when a psychiatrist claimed comics were making children violent or destructive. I went from company to company, job to job. I was working on and off at Timely, which was later renamed Marvel. But it was a desperate situation with a wife and two children. They all knew I was good but the publishers would only pay ten dollars a page. I was fortunate to have begun doing oils again and was teaching painting. This kept me going.

I didn’t return to comic book publishing until 1969 when the ‘underground’the first kingdom comics appeared. The First Kingdom had been on my mind for years, I had to bring it to life. So I started to put it together, going through innumerable notes. I had seen a lot and I had done an enormous amount of reading, hundreds of thousands of pages and this was all instrumental in creating The First Kingdom.

My wife at the time also had a job, so I actually was one of the first house-husbands, working on the comics and still doing the painting and teaching. I worked very hard and the first books came out in 1974…I was ahead of all the other graphic novelists. There were 24 volumes in the end when the last book of the Kingdom came out in 1986, 24 books like the Iliad.

TITAN’s “The First Kingdom Volume 2, Galaxy Hunters” begins with the original Book Seven and covers the six books that end the first half of the series. The actual story though starts in Book 20, everything else is a prelude. “The Galaxy Hunters” gives a more comprehensive understanding of the characters, the cyborgs and the people as they advanced into different galaxies. At this point in the story, everything changes. Tundran has been born and exiled just as his father, the king, Darkenmoor has been killed as was predicted by the oracle who had actually been an officer aboard a starship. The starship had been caught in the Atomic War and it was like a Rashomon story, everybody on that ship has a book almost devoted to them.

I have a passion for art, for anatomy. My love for the great artists and illustrators, Dean Cornwell, JC Leyendecker, Fernand Cormon in Europe, continues to this day for these giants. I wanted to earn my way at the price of everything else. With the Kingdom, I wanted to honor these great artists.

About Author:

Born in Brooklyn in 1927, Jack Katz is a painter, teacher and author of one of the first, classic examples of the independently produced graphic novel. He is the writer and artist of the “The First Kingdom“, an original set of 24 comic books begun in 1974 that tells the story of a post-apocalyptic earth and its survivors who try to find new planets and rebuilt what had once been. The series is a monumental work that recalls the “Odyssey and the Iliad” in is scope and took twelve years to finish in 1986. Since then, Jack has been working on two graphic novels that make up a sequel to the ‘Kingdom’, “The Space Explorers Club” and “Destiny“. The original 24 issues are being republished in 4 volumes with new captions from new plates by TITAN publishers in the UK. When completed at the end of 2014, TITAN will publish as well Jack’s two sequels which have never in print before. Jack continues to work on graphic material and to teach anatomy classes to this day; his last birthday was his 86th.

Leave a Reply

Stay Connected