Saturday, March 25, 2017

Retro Marvel: Star Wars #7 versus Pizzazz #1

There is a debate about which came first, Star Wars #7 or Pizzazz #1.  One of these two publications has the first original Star Wars material or the first Expanded Universe story.  Star Wars #7 has a cover date of January 1978 and Pizzazz #1 has a cover date of October 1977.  If you simply went by the date on the cover, Pizzazz #1 clearly looks like the winner.

Star Wars #7a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (January 1978)
Unfortunately, because comic publishers post-dated their comics, determining which came first based on a cover date is not straight forward.  Traditionally, comic publishers put a cover date that is two to three months out from the time the comic was published.  This was done to increase the shelf-life of a comic.  Newsstand vendors would use the cover date to determine when to pull unsold issues which they would then return for credit.  (At some point, just returning the cover for the issue was adopted since it was more cost effective than returning the entire comic.)  John Jackson Miller, a writer of several Star Wars comics and novels, has done exhaustive research into comic circulation numbers which he documents on his site The Comic Chronicles.  (This is a site I frequently use, specifically when I do my monthly sales estimates.)  He believes, based on Marvel's Statement of Ownership, that Marvel was post-dating its comics by around five months during this period.  That would put the publication of Star Wars #7 in September, although even Miller cannot be sure.  Pizzazz is a magazine and, even though it contains a Star Wars comic strip and was published by Marvel, it's cover is not post-dated in the same manner as Star Wars #7.  The tradition for magazines has been to put the cover date one month ahead.  This would put the publication of Pizzazz #1 in September.  So, clearly, both were published very close to each other, perhaps even just weeks apart, so how can we determine which was published first?

Pizzazz #1a - Marvel Comics, U.S. (October 1977)
Roy Thomas wrote Star Wars #1 - 10 as well as The Keeper's World story arc for the Star Wars comic strip in Pizzazz #1 - 9.  (Roy Thomas did much more than this; he is the key reason Marvel even acquired the Star Wars license and I for one am grateful for his efforts.)  Since he worked on the two publications in question, I wrote him asking which was published first and he wrote back:

"Sorry, but I've no idea which went on sale first.  I'd have thought I probably wrote STAR WARS #7 first, that wouldn't mean it would necessarily go on sale first.  They were intended to be happening at more or less the same time."

Not surprisingly, many years and many comics later, Roy Thomas does not remember which was published first.  Even so, I appreciate his response and other details he provided.

The Comic Reader #149a - Street Enterprises, U.S. (October 1977)
The Comic Reader #149 might be the best indicator yet of which came first.  In the Pocket Checklist section of this fanzine it shows Star Wars #7 and Pizzazz #2 both on sale in October 1977.  This corresponds to a column in Pizzazz #1 that states Pizzazz #2 goes on sale on October 20, 1977.  The Comic Reader fanzine publishes the on-sale month and date next to the description for the issue and for Star Wars #7, it shows 10/11 (October 11th) and next to Pizzazz #2 it shows 11/1 (November 1st).  I will need to track down a copy of The Comic Reader #148 to be definitive, but it is very likely it will confirm Pizzazz #1 was published in September.

Based on the information, I believe Pizzazz #1 has the distinction of being the first original comic material published.  This does not diminish the important of Star Wars #7 in the least; while it was not published first, it is the first original Star Wars comic book and was written before the comic strip that appeared in Pizzazz #1.  The first original novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, would not be published until February 1978.  Both Star Wars #7 and Pizzazz #1, are both an important part of Star Wars comic history and both are worthy of inclusion into a fan's collection.

2 comments:

  1. Wookepedia claims Pizzazz #1 released on September 22, 1977. Mike's Amazing World (a great comics resource) claims Star Wars #7 released October 11, 1977. Both of these seem to corroborate your findings, I'd be interested to see what you find in The Comic Reader #148!
    - Gabe

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    1. http://dcindexes.com/features/comic.php?comicid=57636

      http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Pizzazz_1

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