Hey there guys and welcome to the very first ‘Throughout The Ages’ blog post. This is the place where I share with you the history of a game, brand, developer, comic, movie, director, etc and mention their major achievements and such. So without further ado, here is ‘Throughout The Ages – DC Comics’.
DC Comics was founded in 1935, but was called National Allied Publications (a not-so catchy company name if you ask me) back then. Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications debuted with the tabloid sized New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine #1 and New Comics #1 a couple of months later. The latter appeared in a size close to what would become the standard size during the so-called Golden Age of Comic Books. This title evolved into Adventure comics, which stopped in 1983. With its 503 issues it’s one of the longest running comic book series ever.
Wheeler-Nicholson introduced a third and final title, Detective Comics. This themed anthology series would become a sensation with the introduction of Batman in issue #27. By then, however, the company was in debt to a printing-plant owner and magazine distributor, Harry Donenfeld. Wheeler-Nicholson had to take Donenfeld on as a partner in order to publish Detective Comics #1. And so Detective Comics Inc. was formed.
Soon after this whole financial debacle, Detective Comics Inc launched a fourth title, Action comics, which featured the first appearance of Superman. This was also the very first comic book to feature a new character type, the so-called superheroes which proved a major sales hit. The company quickly introduced one character after another such as the Sandman and Batman.
The Golden Age
National Allied Publications soon merged with Detective Comics Inc. to form National Comics, which in 1944 absorbed All-American Publications. The merger of All-American and Detective Comics into National Comics followed soon after. 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 in 1977.
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 such as Action Comics and Detective Comics continued publication.
The Silver Age
In the mid-1950s, a one-shot Flash story in the try-out title Showcase was published. Instead of reviving the old character, the writers 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 re-imagining 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 (JLA), and many more superheroes, heralding what historians and fans call the Silver Age of comic books.
National did not re-imagine its continuing characters (primarily Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman), but radically overhauled them. The Superman family of titles introduced such enduring characters as Supergirl, Bizarro, and Brainiac. The Batman titles introduced the successful Batwoman, Bat-Girl and Bat-Mite in an attempt to modernize the strip with non-science-fiction elements. Schwartz, together with artist Infantino, then revitalized Batman in what the company promoted as the “New Look”, re-emphasizing Batman as a detective.
DC’s introduction of the re-imagined superheroes did not go unnoticed by other comics companies. In 1961, with DC’s JLA as the specific spur, Marvel Comics writer-editor Stan Lee and legendary creator 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 the DC Universe. With the story “Flash of Two Worlds”, in Flash #123 (September 1961), the editors 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’ “Earth 1” — in the process creating the foundation for what would later be called the DC Multiverse.
The Bronze Age
Following the science-fiction innovations of the Silver Age, the comics of the 1970s and 1980s would become known as the Bronze Age, as fantasy gave way to more naturalistic and often darker themes. DC offered a drug-fueled storyline in Green Lantern, beginning with the story “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” in the retitled Green Lantern / Green Arrow #85 (September 1971), which depicted Speedy, the teen sidekick of superhero archer Green Arrow, as having become a heroin addict.
The comics industry experienced a brief boom in the early 1990s, which is mostly thanks to a combination of speculative purchasing and several storylines which gained attention from the mainstream media. DC’s extended storylines in which Superman was killed, Batman was crippled, and superhero Green Lantern turned into the supervillain Parallax resulted in dramatically increased sales. Unfortunately, this increase would prove temporary as sales dropped off as the industry went into a major slump.
In March 2003, DC acquired publishing and merchandising rights to the long-running fantasy series Elfquest. This series was followed up by T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, another non-DC title.
In 2005, DC launched a new “All-Star” line with titles such as All-Star Superman and Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder. All Star Wonder Woman and All Star Batgirl were announced in 2006, with the release of Superman Returns in movie theaters but neither of those have been published as of yet I believe.
Well, that concludes a rather short history of DC Comics as a company. I tried to keep it fairly light, as it really is a long history with tons more references and names of editors and writers. So I hope you learned something you didn’t know yet and I hope you’re looking forward to the next ‘Throughout The Ages’ which, I promise, will be a bit easier to digest.