Fire & Water #168 – First Issue Special #11: Codename: Assassin

Rob welcomes back podcaster extraordinaire Michael Bailey to discuss FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #11, featuring the debut of Codename: Assassin by Steve Skeates, Gerry Conway, The Redondo Studio, and Al Milgrom.

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9 responses to “Fire & Water #168 – First Issue Special #11: Codename: Assassin

  1. I haven’t finished listening yet, but I just wanted to chime in on this part:

    If any part of the referenced-but-unpublished Green Arrow/Black Canary story was actually plotted, I’m guessing it was repurposed for their backup features during the dollar issue-era of WORLD’S FINEST. They each had a ten-page story in issue #244, with Ollie’s story picking up right where Dinah’s ended, so those combined twenty pages might’ve been what would’ve gone in FIRST ISSUE. Of course, the two stories were scripted by different people (Jack Harris for BC and Tony Isabella for GA). Gerry Conway started writing their backup stories with issue #245, but the story arc lasted five issues and would’ve been way too long for a single appearance in FIRST ISSUE.

  2. Loved the Skeates/Aparo Aquaman stories (as well as the David Micheline and Jim Aparo stuff).

    This was the first issue of First Issue Special (that sounds even more ridiculous out loud) that I ever encountered. A neighbor had it and I borrowed it and loved it. It’s a good solid story, with an interesting and different hero, one more in keeping with the Men’s Adventure pulps of the paperback book rack. Not sure if it is Gerry Conway or Steve Skeates idea; but, it is very much in the vein of the Executioner, Destroyer, Penetrator, Death Merchant, and the rest, with a sci-fi hook. The man is telekinetic and somewhat telepathic, which gives him an edge, Since it is comics, he uses dart guns (ala Doc Savage), rather than firearms. The costume was different, though the rust/orange color for the accessories is an odd choice. It’s a good solid story with some interesting characters and some awesome hitmen, at the climax. Now, imagine my agony that we never find out how Assassin defeats them, or if he does?

    The Redondo studio and the Filipino artists, in general, excelled at this kind of stuff. There are a lot of action-oriented comics in the Philippines, with spies, detectives and vigilantes. Redondo himself did amazing work. It’s a shame so much of the work from these artists is unknown to people who didn’t experience in the 70s. They did some great work on things like Conan, the Burroughs books at DC (especially Alex Nino’s Korak stories), and most of the attempts at fantasy and action comics. Anything moody seemed to fit their style.

    Quite frankly, this had much greater potential to be something really good than later attempts at vigilante characters, like the Vigilante (Adrian Chase) and Wild Dog.

    Ben Murphy? Naah. Gemini Man this isn’t. Jan Michael Vincent is closer; I might go so far as to say Michael Beck (Warriors). He did a tv movie/pilot, The Last Ninja, that tread this kind of territory.

    Big Jim? I had one of those, though before they introduced the PACK. He was Mattel’s attempt to swipe the GI Joe market and had karate-chopping action. You press a button built into his back and his arm would swing down. He had an accessory camper van. I got the doll and van for Christmas, while my sister got a Barbie, with her own camper van (same van, different coloring and accessories). That was the original release, while the PACK followed, with the pulpy weapons specialists and an enemy. This was the same era as the GI Joe Adventure team, with the Eagle-Eye GI Joe, Bulletman, and a cave man character, as well as the Steve Austen doll line. In a further comic connection, Jack Kirby did character art for the toy packaging.

    I have to disagree with Michael a bit here. Marvel was experimental; but, at the fringes. It was the same for DC in the early 70s and then Jenette Kahn was encouraging it more across the line in the later 70s. The experimentation at Marvel came from Conan, Master of Kung Fu, Deathlok, Killraven, and Gerber’s defenders and Howard the Duck. The rest of their books, yeah they were very homogenous, especially at the end of the decade, when Shooter is running things (though X-Men and Daredevil are exceptions, at the end of the decade).

    Thanks for another great trip into some 70s memories, which are getting foggier all of the time. I’m hitting 50 this year and the grey cells aren’t what they used to be. 50; man that seemed like an impossible age when I was young. Weren’t we supposed to have jetpacks, and flying cars that folded into briefcases by now? I used to watch the Jetsons all of the time and that’s what they kept saying. I still want my foodaracacycle and the people conveyor from the front door.

  3. So let me get this straight. Michael can cope with the Superman titles through the post Zero Hour years that gave us such stinkers as the Death of Clark Kent & The Trial of Superman, but he couldn’t make it through New Krypton?

    1. Death of Clark Kent was a solid story. Not the best of the crossovers from that era but certainly not the worst. I liked Conduit as a villain and the ending was pretty boss.

      Trial of Superman was on the low side of the crossovers in the Post Crisis era. It wasn’t the best idea and went on for a bit too long.

      However both of those were done in less than a year with a few months of stories between them. New Krypton started as a two month storyline that stretched well over a year. Superman was taken out of his two titles (SUPERMAN and ACTION) and while I liked the Nightwing and Flamebird characters I found the Mon-El stories to be pretty boring. World of New Krypton was a good series but ended up feeling like it wasn’t part of the overall story.

      So yes, I couldn’t make it through the never ending New Krypton but love the stuff from the ’90s.

  4. Great episode! Always nice to hear Mike stop by.

    That Big Jim’s P.A.C.K. ad and most of the packages featured art by none other than Jack Kirby!

    Michael makes a great point on Robinson constantly returning to that well of 1st Issue Special. I’m honestly surprised he didn’t put Lady Cop in his post-Cry for Justice JLA. She could have been Dick (Batman) Grayson’s latest love interest!

    The splash page of this issue has a slight Frank Robbins vibe to it. It’s a LOT more constrained than Robbins, but the energy is there. I have to say, I like the navy blue and orange color combo. Perez was also fond of it, as both Taskmaster and Deathstroke would rock it in a few years.

    It could be a Glen A. Larson production…or perhaps Stephen J. Canell? I mean they can just reuse the them to “The Greatest American Hero”. “Believe it or not, I’m walking on air…”


  5. Love these First Issue Special reviews – always interesting to hear about these new concepts that were not developed any further in what appears to be a lot of cases! Just had a quick check on Codename: Assassin’s wikipedia page, and apparently James Robinson referenced him as having operated in Opal City during the 1970s in his Starman series, so he obviously was in his mind for a while. One thing that was good about Cry for Justice was that James Robinson had a text piece in the back of each issue which detailed the history of one or more of the characters who starred in the issue, which was a nice way to get their backstory and development of the characters spotlighted.

    Look forward to the next First Issue Special.

  6. Another great First Issue Special episode! My thanks to Michael Bailey for stepping in during my “recovery”.

    Soooooo… Codename: Assassin. By definition, shouldn’t an assassin kill, rather than maim or lobotomize? I know you guys talked about him choosing not to kill, but wasn’t sure if you dug into the specifics of his name in relation to killing. And if Rob talked about this on the show, my apologies. After 5 years, my “Rob Filter” is hard to turn off.

    Looking forward to Dingbats of Danger Street!

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