DC Comics is 75 years old this month! Without DC there would be no Superman, Batman or many other superheroes that have become so ingrained in popular culture. Following is my tribute to 75 years of DC Comics as written for the 2010 Vintage DC Comics Calendar.
In February 1935, Major Malcom Wheeler-Nicholson created National Allied Publications to publish a new comic book title, “New Fun: The Big Comics Magazine”. This was the very first comic book to feature all original material as opposed to reprints of newspaper strips seen in earlier efforts by other publishers. This 36 page tabloid sized magazine was a big hit, and many more issues followed. Little did Wheeler-Nicholson know that this comic book would be the first of millions of comics published by what would become DC Comics.
“New Fun Comics” changed to “More Fun Comics” after 6 issues and was one of DC’s main titles in the period between 1935 and 1938. At the same time, DC had hits with “Adventure Comics” (previously known as “New Comics” and “New Adventure Comics”) and “Detective Comics”. While “New Fun Comics” focused more on humorous stories, “Adventure Comics” and “Detective Comics” ultimately gave the reader more serious and action packed tales.
As the popularity of this four color medium grew, DC introduced a new title that would forever change the company and the entire comic book industry. In June 1938 DC Comics published its first issue of “Action Comics” and introduced Superman to the world in what has become known as the birth of the Golden Age of comic books. Superman’s meteoric rise to fame served as the catalyst for DC to reshape its earlier titles. A year later, Batman was introduced in the pages of “Detective Comics” #27 (May 1939), The Sandman was introduced in “Adventure Comics” #40 (July 1939) and the mysterious Spectre was debuted in “More Fun Comics” #52 (February 1940). DC introduced other heroes in these titles in the early 1940’s, such as Hour-Man, Starman, Dr. Fate, Aquaman, Johnny Quick, The Green Arrow and many others. Later, when DC merged with All-American Comics, such great heroes as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman and others joined DC’s ranks.
With the plethora of DC superheroes in the 1940’s and 1950’s, DC formed superhero teams in the pages of “All-Star Comics” (The Justice Society of America), “World’s Finest Comics” (Superman and Batman), and in “Leading Comics” (The Seven Soldiers of Victory). Even with these popular team-ups, the public was slowly losing interest in the superheroes and by the early 1950’s, DC turned to other genres such as westerns, war, mystery and science fiction. By 1951, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were the only DC superheroes whose titles were being continuously published.
Just as the introduction of Superman in 1938 was a watershed moment in the history of DC Comics, so was the introduction of a new Flash in the pages of Showcase #4 (October 1956). The introduction of this new Flash signaled the start of the Silver Age of Comic Books and many new superheroes and superhero teams were heralded into the DC Universe. While Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were still on the scene, many heroes were reinvented or reintroduced such as Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Spectre, Dr. Fate, Green Arrow and others. Many of these superheroes joined forces as the Justice League of America.
Ultimately, the Silver Age heroes teamed up with the Golden Age heroes (DC provided an explanation that these heroes co-existed on two parallel earths) and the Silver Age readers were treated to combined adventures of the JSA and the JLA – the best the Golden Age and Silver Age had to offer. From there, DC never looked back as it blazed a trail from the Silver Age of comic books into the present. Seventy Five years later, DC Comics is still going strong!