DC Comics (founded in 1934 as National Allied Publications) is one of the largest and most popular companies operating in the market for American comic books and related media. It is the publishing division of DC Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary company of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which itself is owned by Time Warner. DC Comics produces material featuring a large number of well-known franchises, including:
- Superman franchise
- Batman franchise
- Wonder Woman franchise
- The Flash franchise
- Aquaman franchise
- Green Lantern franchise
- Green Arrow franchise
- Justice League franchise
- Teen Titans franchise
- Young Justice franchise
The initials "DC" came from the company's popular series, Detective Comics, which subsequently became part of the company's official name. DC Comics has its official headquarters at 1700 Broadway, New York, New York. Random House distributes DC Comics' books to the bookstore market, while Diamond Comics Distributors supplies the comics shop specialty market.
DC Comics is a major, longtime competitor to Marvel Comics and the two companies together share over 80% of the American comic-book market.
Entrepreneur Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications debuted with the tabloid-sized New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine #1 in February 1935. The company's second title, New Comics #1 (December 1935), appeared in a size close to what would become comic books' standard during the period fans and historians call the Golden Age of Comic Books, with slightly larger dimensions than today's[update]. That title evolved into Adventure Comics, which continued through issue #503 in 1983, becoming one of the longest-running comic book series.
Wheeler-Nicholson's third and final title, Detective Comics, advertised with a cover illustration dated December 1936, eventually premiered three months late with a March 1937 cover date. The themed anthology series would become a sensation with the introduction of Batman in issue #27 (May 1939). By then, however, Wheeler-Nicholson had gone. In 1937, in debt to printing-plant owner and magazine distributor Harry Donenfeld — who also published pulp-magazines and operated as a principal in the magazine distributorship Independent News — Wheeler-Nicholson was compelled to take Donenfeld on as a partner in order to publish Detective Comics #1. Detective Comics, Inc. was formed, with Wheeler-Nicholson and Jack S. Liebowitz, Donenfeld's accountant, listed as owners. Major Wheeler-Nicholson remained for a year, but cash-flow problems continued, and he was forced out. Shortly afterward, Detective Comics Inc. purchased the remains of National Allied, also known as Nicholson Publishing, at a bankruptcy auction.
Detective Comics Inc. soon launched a fourth title, Action Comics, the premiere of which introduced Superman (a character with which Wheeler-Nicholson had no direct involvement; editor Vin Sullivan chose to run the feature after Sheldon Mayer rescued it from the slush pile). Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the first comic book to feature the new character archetype — soon known as "superheroes" — proved a major sales hit. The company quickly introduced such other popular characters as the Sandman and Batman.
The Golden AgeEdit
National Allied Publications soon merged with Detective Comics, Inc. to form National Comics, which in 1944 absorbed an affiliated concern, Max Gaines' and Liebowitz's All-American Publications. That year, Gaines let Liebowitz buy him out, and kept only Picture Stories from the Bible as the foundation of his own new company, EC Comics. At that point, "Liebowitz promptly orchestrated the merger of All-American and Detective Comics into National Comics... Next he took charge of organizing National Comics, [the self-distributorship] Independent News, and their affiliated firms into a single corporate entity, National Periodical Publications". National Periodical Publications became publicly traded on the stock market in 1961.
Despite the official names "National Comics" and "National Periodical Publications", the line used the logo "Superman-DC" throughout, and the company became known colloquially as DC Comics for years before the official adoption of that name.
The company began to move aggressively against imitative copyright violations by other companies, such as Fox Comics' Wonder Man, which according to court testimony Fox created as a copy of Superman. This extended to DC suing Fawcett Comics for Captain Marvel, at the time comics' top-selling character. Despite the fact that parallels between Captain Marvel and Superman seemed more tenuous, the courts ruled that substantial and deliberate copying of copyrighted material had occurred. Faced with declining sales and the prospect of bankruptcy if it lost, Fawcett capitulated in 1955 and ceased comics publication. Years later, Fawcett ironically sold the rights to Captain Marvel to DC — which in 1973 revived Captain Marvel in the new title Shazam!. featuring artwork by his creator, C. C. Beck. In the meantime, the abandoned trademark had been seized by Marvel Comics in 1967, disallowing the DC comic itself to be called that. While Captain Marvel did not recapture his old popularity, he later appeared in a Saturday morning live action TV adaptation and gained a prominent place in the mainstream continuity DC calls the DC Universe.
When the popularity of superheroes faded in the late 1940s, the company focused on such genres as science fiction, Westerns, humor and romance. DC also published crime and horror titles, but relatively tame ones, and thus avoided the mid-1950s backlash against such comics. A handful of the most popular superhero-titles (most notably Action Comics and Detective Comics, the medium's two longest-running titles) continued publication.
The Silver AgeEdit
In the mid-1950s, editorial director Irwin Donenfeld and publisher Liebowitz directed editor Julius Schwartz (whose roots lay in the science-fiction book market) to produce a one-shot Flash story in the try-out title Showcase. Instead of reviving the old character, Schwartz had writer Robert Kanigher and John Broome, penciler Carmine Infantino and inker Joe Kubert create an entirely new super-speedster, updating and modernizing the Flash's civilian identity, costume, and origin with a science-fiction bent. The Flash's reimagining in Showcase #4 (October 1956) proved sufficiently popular that it soon led to a similar revamping of the Green Lantern character, the introduction of the modern all-star team Justice League of America, and many more superheroes, heralding what historians and fans call the Silver Age of comic books.
National did not reimagine its continuing characters (primarily Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) but radically overhauled them. The Superman family of titles, under editor Mort Weisinger, introduced such enduring characters as Supergirl, Bizarro, and Brainiac. The Batman titles, under editor Jordan Stewart, introduced the successful Batwoman, Bat-Girl and Bat-Mite in an attempt to modernize the strip with non-science-fiction elements. Schiff's successor, Schwartz, together with artist Infantino, then revitalized Batman in what the company promoted as the "New Look", re-emphasizing Batman as a detective. Meanwhile, editor Kanigher successfully introduced a whole family of Wonder Woman characters having fantastic adventures in a mythological context.
DC's introduction of the reimagined superheroes did not go unnoticed by other comics companies. In 1961, with DC's superhero team the Justice League of America (JLA) as the specific spur, Marvel Comics writer-editor Stan Lee and the legendary Jack Kirby ushered in the sub-Silver Age "Marvel Age" of comics with the debut issue of The Fantastic Four.
Since the 1940s, when Superman, Batman, and many of the company's other heroes began appearing in stories together, DC's characters inhabited a shared continuity that, decades later, was dubbed[by whom?] the DC Universe. With the story "Flash of Two Worlds", in Flash #123 (September 1961), editor Schwartz (with writer Gardner Fox and artists Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella) introduced a concept that allowed slotting the 1930s and 1940s Golden Age heroes into this continuity via the explanation that they lived on an other-dimensional "Earth 2", as opposed to the modern heroes' supposed "Earth 1" [in actuality, "Earth Prime"] — in the process creating the foundation for what would later be called the DC Multiverse.
A 1966 Batman TV show on the ABC network sparked a temporary spike in comic book sales, and a brief fad for superheroes in Saturday morning animation (Filmation created most of DC's initial cartoons) and other media. DC significantly lightened the tone of many DC comics — particularly Batman and Detective Comics — to better complement the "camp" tone of the TV series. This tone coincided with the famous "Go-Go Checks" checkerboard cover-dress which featured a black-and-white checkerboard strip at the top of each comic, a misguided attempt by then-managing editor Irwin Donenfeld to make DC's output "stand out on the newsracks."
In 1967, Batman artist Infantino (who had designed popular Silver Age characters Batgirl and Phantom Stranger) rose from art director to become DC's editorial director. With the growing popularity of upstart rival Marvel Comics threatening to topple DC from its longtime number-one position in the comics industry, he attempted to infuse the company with new titles and characters, also recruiting major talents such as ex-Marvel artist and Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko and promising newcomer Neal Adams. He also replaced some existing DC editors with artist-editors, including Joe Kubert and Dick Giordano, to give DC's output a more artistic critical eye.
These new editors recruited youthful new creators, in part in an effort to capture a market which had grown from being dominated by children, to include older teens and even college students. Some new talent, such as Dennis O'Neil, who had worked for both Marvel and Charlton, gained critical and popular acclaim on titles including Batman and Green Lantern (his Green Lantern run with artist Neal Adams became a key title in the burgeoning 1970s Bronze Age, and the move away from the Comics Code Authority). Nevertheless, the period was plagued by short-lived series that start
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