DC Comics

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The current DC Comics logo, adopted in May 2005.
DC Comics is one of the largest companies in comic book and related media publishing. Today a subsidiary of Time Warner, DC is responsible for such famous characters as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and their teammates in the Justice League. For decades, DC Comics has been one of the two largest American comic book companies (the other being Marvel Comics). For many years, its headquarters were located at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City; in the 1990s, they moved to 1700 Broadway. The initials "DC" are an abbreviation for Detective Comics, after one of the company's flagship titles.


The company was originally three companies, National Allied Publications, Detective Comics, and All-American Publications. The first two companies merged in the 1930s to become National Comics (later National Periodical Publications) and the third shared offices until it was bought by the merged company in 1945. At this time "DC" was simply an informal logo regularly used on the cover.

Golden Age (1930s and 1940s)

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Cover of Action Comics #1, which featured the debut of Superman, the first superhero.

This company was the first to publish original stories in comic book form in 1937, and then was the first to feature superheroes beginning with Action Comics in 1938. It was the foremost exploiter of the new genre in the Golden Age of Comic Books, introducing such popular characters as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the first superhero team, the Justice Society of America.

When the superhero genre faded in the late 1940s, the company focused more on other genres, such as science fiction, westerns, humour and romance. They largely avoided the crime and horror trends of the time, and thus avoided taking the brunt of the backlash against crime and horror comics in the 1950s. A handful of the most popular superhero titles (most importantly Action Comics and Detective Comics, the two longest-running titles in comics history) continued publication.

Silver Age (1950s and 1960s)

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Showcase #4 (September-October 1956, the first appearance of the Silver Age Flash which helped revitalize the superhero genre.

Under the editorship of Julius Schwartz in the late 1950s, the company was responsible for kickstarting the Silver Age of Comic Books, with the revival of The Flash in a modernized form. The company quickly followed with revamps of Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Atom, all with a more science-fiction angle to them. The superhero team concept was revived and updated as the Justice League of America. Interest in comics picked up, and DC enjoyed being at a prominent position in the industry.

In the early 1960s, Marvel Comics - previously a relatively minor publisher - was beginning to rise quickly in the market, due largely to the creative contributions of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. DC was slow to react to Marvel's successful focus on more complex characters and tighter continuity, and the publisher began to develop a reputation in the market for simplistic and "old-fashioned" storytelling. It was mainly with defectors from Marvel like Ditko, or newer talents like Neal Adams that this new approach to storytelling took hold at DC.

Late 1960s and early 1970s

A major change happened in the late 1960s when many veteran creators petitioned DC management for health plans, pensions and similar considerations. DC responded by curtly firing most of the offending staff and replacing them with young people... who had largely grown up with the Marvel influence in comics. This proved to be a mixed blessing: for while the new employees strove for sophisticated storytelling and characters, they had little experience in the industry and the relative lack of professionalism in their work hampered the product of the company.

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Green Lantern #76 (April 1970), The first issue of an acclaimed run that delved in social commentary in the genre.
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New Gods, the flagship title of Jack Kirby's Fourth World titles.

There were, however, bright lights, like Dennis O'Neil, who worked on Green Lantern and Batman. The period was plagued by short-lived series that started out strong, but quickly petered out when the creators, not having strong financial reasons to stay, abandoned their creations.

In addition, Jack Kirby defected from Marvel to create his most artistically ambitious creation, The Fourth World titles, in which Kirby attempted to create an original sophisticated sub imprint that could appeal to a loyal fan audience. However, conflicts with management who had little faith in the concept led to the venture's premature cancellation, although the characters and concepts would become integeral to the DC Multiverse.

Late 1970s and 1980s

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The New Teen Titans, the series credited in beginning the revitalization of DC Comics.

The company was acquired by Warner Communications (now Time Warner) in 1976. During this time, DC attempted to compete with Marvel by dramatically increasing its output, which they called the "DC Explosion", including series featuring new characters, such as Firestorm and Shade, the Changing Man and several non-superhero titles. This didn't last long, with many of these series being abruptly cancelled in what industry watchers dubbed "the DC Implosion". In addition, the company introduced the popular publishing concept of the limited series, a series with a predefined set of issues which offered more flexible arrangements for stories without the need for long term commitments.

In the early 1980s, the new management of publisher Jenette Kahn, vice-president Paul Levitz, and managing editor Dick Giordano decided to offer more concrete financial rewards to their talents, such as royalties to encourage long term commitments to the company. This immediately paid off with the success of Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Prez, a superhero comic that earned significant sales with its artistic quality and the stability of the talent who kept with the title for years.

This successful revitalization of a minor title lead the editorship to look at doing the same to their entire line comics. The result was the limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, which gave the company an opportunity to dismiss some of the "baggage" of its history, and revise major characters such as Superman and Wonder Woman. Yet DC did not abandon their history completely. In 1989, they began publication of the DC Archive Editions, a series created to collect their early, rare issues into a permanent hardback format.

Acclaimed limited series such as The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Alan Moore's Watchmen, also drew attention to changes at DC. This new creative freedom and the attendant publicity allowed DC to seriously challenge the dominance of Marvel.

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Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #21, the issue that signalled the beginning of the comic book British Invasion.

Meanwhile, British writer Alan Moore had re-energized the minor horror series Saga of the Swamp Thing, and his highly acclaimed work sparked a comic book equivalent of rock's British Invasion, in which numerous British talents, including Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison, came to work for the company. The resulting influx of sophisticated horror and dark fantasy material led not only to DC abandoning the Comics Code for particular titles by those talents, but also to the later establishment in 1993 of the Vertigo imprint for mature readers.


The comics industry experienced a brief boom in the early 1990s, thanks to a combination of speculative purchasing of the books as collectibles and several storylines which gained attention from the mainstream media. DC's extended storylines in which Superman was killed and Batman was crippled, resulted in dramatically increased sales, but the increases were as temporary as the substitutes, and sales dropped off as industry sales went into a major slump.

DC's Piranha Press and other imprints in the 1990s were introduced to facilitate diversification and specialized marketing of its product line. They increased the use of nontraditional contractual arrangements, including creator-owned work and licensing material from other companies. They also increased publication of trade paperbacks, including both collections of serial comics and original graphic novels.

The Vertigo line was aimed at an older and more literary audience, largely free of the "kid stuff" stigma its main superhero line still held. DC entered into a publishing agreement with Milestone Media, which gave the company a line of comics featuring a more culturally and racially diverse range of superhero characters; although the Milestone line ceased publication, it yielded the popular animated series Static Shock. Paradox Press was established to publish material that would be considered "mainstream" in the book trade - including the large-format Big Book of... series, and crime fiction such as Road to Perdition - but paradoxically remained a niche in the comics industry. DC purchased Wildstorm Comics from Jim Lee and maintained it as a separate imprint with its own style and audience. Likewise they added the Wildstorm imprint America's Best Comics, created by Alan Moore, including the titles Tom Strong and Promethea.


Comics sales stopped declining but remained weak in the early 2000s, as DC continued diversifying its publishing activities to reach new markets. In March 2003 DC Comics acquired publishing and merchandising rights to the long-running fantasy series Elfquest, which had previously been self-published by its creators Wendy and Richard Pini under the Warp Graphics banner. In 2004 it established the CMX line to reprint translated manga volumes (an already-booming market at the time), and acquired the North American publishing rights to graphic novels from European publishers 2000 AD and Humanoids. It also rebranded its titles for younger children with the mascot Johnny DC.

See also list of DC comics, list of DC Comics characters, list of DC Cosmic Entities.

Evolution of the DC logo

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DC logos

DC's first logo appeared on the March 1940 issues of their titles. The letters "DC" stood for Detective Comics, the name the company used at the time. The logo was small and did not have a background. It simply said, "A DC Publication"

The November 1941 DC titles introduced an updated DC logo. This version was almost twice the size of the first one, and also was the first version with a white background. The name of Superman was added to "A DC Publication", effectively acknowledging both Superman (the company's flagship character) and Batman (star of Detective Comics). This logo was also the first version to occupy the top left corner of the cover, where the logo has usually resided ever since.

In November 1949, the logo was modified, incorporating the company's current name (National Comics Publications) into the logo. This logo would also serve as the round body of Johnny DC, DC's mascot in the 1960s.

In October 1970, the circular logo was briefly retired in favor of a simple "DC" in a rectangle with the name of the title, or the star of the book (i.e. many issues of Action Comics said "DC Superman"). An image of the lead character either appeared above or below the rectangle. For books that did not have a single star, such as House of Mystery or Justice League of America, the title and "DC" appeared in a stylized logo, such as a bat for House of Mystery. This use of characters as logos helped to establish the likenesses as trademarks, and was similar to Marvel's contemporaneous use of characters as part of their cover branding.

DC's "100 Page Super-Spectacular" titles and later 100-page and "Giant" issues published from 1972 to 1974 featured a logo that was exclusive to these editions, the letters "DC" in a simple sans serif font, in a circle. (A variant had the letters in a square.)

The July 1972 DC titles featured a new circular logo. The letters "DC" were rendered in a block-like font that would remain through later logo revisions until 2005. The title of the book usually appeared inside the circle, either above or below the letters.

In December 1973, the logo was modified, adding the words "The Line of DC Super-Stars" and the star motif that would continue in later logos. This logo was placed in the top center of the cover from August 1975 to October 1976.

When Jenette Kahn became DC's publisher in late 1976, she commissioned graphic designer Milton Glaser to design a new logo. Popularly referred to as the "DC bullet", the logo first appeared on the February 1977 DC titles. Although it varied in size and color and was at times cropped by the edges of the cover, or briefly rotated 45 degrees, it remained essentially unchanged for nearly three decades.

On May 8, 2005, a new logo was unveiled, debuting on DC titles starting in June 2005. In addition to comics, it was designed for DC properties in other media, such as Batman Begins, Smallville, Justice League Unlimited, collectibles, and other merchandise. The logo, which some have dubbed the "DC spin", was designed by Josh Beatman of Brainchild Studios.

Noteworthy creators


See also

External links

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