What is known today as DC Comics was founded in 1934 by publishing entrepreneur Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson under the name of National Allied Publications. DC was formed by the merging of National Allied Publications and Detective Comics Inc, as well as the affiliated All-American Publications. Despite being officially known as National Comics, the comic covers carried a "DC" logo and were referred to as a result of its nickname: DC Comics. People had nicknamed it DC because of one its most popular comic series; Detective Comics which has now one of the world's most recognizable comic book brandings along with rivals Marvel publishing. The company did not officially change its name to DC Comics until 1977 during the presidency of Jenette Kahn.
DC Comics has its current official headquarters at 1700 Broadway, 7th, New York, New York. Random House distributes DC Comics' books to the bookstore market, while Diamond Comics Distributors supplies the comics shop specialty market.
National Allied Publications' first comic was New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine #1 which was released in the February of 1935. It hit off, and was surprisingly popular. Later that year, a second title was released: New Comics #1. The size and length New Comics #1 became the archetype for many comics afterwards, and it became the longest running comic series of all time.
In 1938, National launched Action Comics, which featured the brand new character from regular contributors Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman. Originally dismissed as "silly" by editorial, reports soon came back noting the popularity and sales increase resulting from the Superman feature. Superman quickly became a sensation and before long, dozens of imitations from both National and other publishing houses appeared almost overnight. Writer Bill Finger and his artist employer Bob Kane soon submitted Batman to appear in Detective Comics and before long, an entire Justice Society of America had been formed including properties such as The Flash, Green Lantern, The Sandman, Wonder Woman, Hawkman and The Spectre, to name a few, many of whom were either created or written by the prolific Gardner Fox.
With the establishment of DC as one of the major comic book companies and with many of the most marketable names in the early years of comics, it is sometimes considered the main company that other companies had to compete with. Companies tried different approaches, One that succeeded and often outsold DC for instance was Fawcett Publications who had a character who some consider similar to Superman who was an all-powerful hero with a supporting "family" known as Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family, whereas other companies such as Charlton Comics created entire new worlds preventing DC from attacking them with lawsuits. Further along in the Silver Age many of these companies failed or like Fawcett were sued out of existence. Thus although they had once been competitors, many of the soon public domain properties of Fawcett and Charlton were eventually revived and trademarked and seemingly taken under DC's control.
Silver & Bronze Age
During the post-War years, the popularity of superheroes had declined almost completely, though DC and other publishers were still going strong moving into other genres such as funny animals, romance, Sci-Fi, Westerns and horror. Major characters such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman has managed to remain in publication and by the mid-1950s the superhero was again due for a comeback. Showcase #4 in 1956 introduced readers to Barry Allen, the all-new Flash re-imagined with a sleeker design and steeped much heavier in science fiction (an the older Golden Age heroes being relegated to existing on Earth Two). Characters such as The Atom, Green Lantern and the JSA, now reinvented as the Justice League of America soon followed and a new superhero boom was kicked off.
During this time, The Comics Code Authority has also come into play, which drastically subdued the content available in the comic book medium. Many of the stories during the period moved away from more controversial horror or violent themes.
With the re-invigoration of Marvel in the 1960s under the leadership of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, DC found itself a new and more potent competitor. Marvel succeeded by breaking what had become by then generic archetypes of superheroes by introducing characters which were younger and more flawed (and thus appeared more human and appealed to a younger crowd in a more direct manner.) After falling behind Marvel in sales, DC was finally forced to adopt much of the same system which Marvel had, by introducing such young teams as the Teen Titans to compete with the X-Men.
Modern Age & Crisis on Infinite Earths
In 1985, DC Comics decided its 50 years of continuity and numerous alternative Earths had become too messy and was in need of new blank slate. DC penned one of the first major comic book crossovers that incorporated almost every DC title and character ever published by the company. The series ended with multiple Earths being erased and merging into to one unified Earth. Following this, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were given new leases of life thanks to big name creators such as John Byrne, Frank Miller and George Perez that redefined the elderly heroes for a new generation.
During this same period, the comic audience has begun to grow up and the direct market for comic stores had opened allowing a wider variety of publications to be experimented with. One such experiment involved bringing in British writer Alan Moore to pen the low selling Saga of the Swamp Thing series. What resulted was style of comic book not experienced before by mainstream readers in its literary and story driven complexity and execution. Before long, other writers from across the pond such as Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan and Grant Morrison were recruited to revamp obscure properties and tell new and interesting stories with an older audience in mind. 1986 saw the release of two seminal works from DC Comics, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's Watchmen that reached unprecedented levels of critical acclaim and outside media attention. By the 90's DC and the entire comic book industry experienced a boom in mature comics aimed at older audiences and simultaneously witnessed a collector's boom that increased sales but almost caused the industry to collapse soon after.
In 1993, senior editor Karen Berger convinced DC to make her own imprint for mature readers named Vertigo. Using popular titles such as Hellblazer, The Sandman and Shade, The Changing Man as its blueprint along side new creator owned material, DC/Vertigo became a hub for intelligent and acclaimed comic books. While rival Marvel Comics continued to dominate the publishing arena with their exceedingly popular properties, DC/Vertigo became the destination for literary and inventive titles during the period.
All Star DC Comics
In 2000 Marvel Comics started an imprint called ultimate marvel in which the characters' origin is changed and modernized. This eventually led DC to starting an imprint of their own in 2005, thus All Star was born.
Both All star series are in their own continuity, except All Star Batman and Robin which was part of Earth- 31
All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder
All Star Batman started in 2005 and was written by Frank Miller and Penciled by Jim Lee. This was the first series in the All Star imprint and opened to mainly negative reviews but had high sales. The series was released in a sporadic schedule. The series only reached 10 issues (2008) 2 issues before the intended end of the series.
All Star Superman
All Star Superman started in 2006 and was written by Grant Morrison and Penciled by Frank Quitley. This was the second series under the All Star imprint, the first being All Star Batman and Robin. The series opened to mainly good reviews and went on to win the Eisner Award for best new series in 2006 and best ongoing series in 2007 and 2009. Like All Star Batman the series was also released in a sporadic schedule. The series ended with issue 12. The series overall has widely considered to be one of the best Superman stories of all time.
The New 52
In 2011, after a period of declining comic sales, DC announced they were cancelling all the main titles and starting over with all New 52's as part of a relaunch. In charge of the relaunch is Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. The relaunch started with the release of Justice League # 1 on August 31st. this was done partially to revitalize the company and to de-age the characters and thus make them more dynamic. On January 12, 2012, it was announced that there would be a second wave of the new 52 where six titles would be getting canceled with another six to replace them, though the plan to stay at 52 ongoing monthlies seems to be consistent. DC also released a Third wave in September 2012, one year after the relaunch in September 2011. One book in the Third Wave, Talon, starring Calvin Rose was the first solo book for a character who was introduced in the New 52. The Fourth wave started in January 2013 and ended in March 2013, meaning that it was the first wave not to come out in a single month. The Fourth Wave also included a book, Threshold, centralized around a character who was introduced in the New 52, Jediah Caul. The Fifth Wave is currently being released with the Movement, the Green Team and Superman Unchained being the only book released so far with another two being released over the next month (June 2013).
The New 52 has been proved to be so successful with critics, fans and commercially that Marvel the main competitor of DC decided to do a relaunch of their own called "Marvel NOW!" in late 2012.
DC Imprints and Sub-Imprints
*the imprint was founded in 1992 but as part of the Image conglomerate and only moved to DC in 1999
DC Comics' parent company Warner Brothers (with a few exceptions) has produced a variety of feature films based on DC Comics properties for cinematic release.
- Superman and the Mole-Men (November 23, 1951)
- Batman: The Movie (July 30, 1966)
- Superman (December 15, 1978)
- Superman II (June 19, 1981)
- Swamp Thing (February 18, 1982)
- Superman III (June 17, 1983)
- Supergirl (November 21, 1984)
- Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (July 24, 1987)
- Return of Swamp Thing (May 12, 1989)
- Batman (June 23, 1989)
- Batman Returns (June 19, 1992)
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (December 25, 1993)
- Batman Forever (June 16, 1995)
- Batman & Robin (June 20, 1997)
- Steel (August 15, 1997)
- Catwoman (July 23, 2004)
- Constantine (February 18, 2005)
- Batman Begins (June 14, 2005)
- Superman Returns (June 28, 2006)
- The Dark Knight (July 18, 2008)
- Watchmen (March 19, 2009)
- The Losers (April 23, 2010)
- Jonah Hex (June 18, 2010)
- Green Lantern (June 17, 2011)
- The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012)
- Man of Steel (June 14, 2013)
Other films based on publications from DC Comics include RED, RED 2, V for Vendetta, Road to Perdition and A History of Violence.