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DC Comics (1934)

Type :  

  Summary  

DC Comics, Inc. is one of the largest and most successful companies operating in the market for American comic books and related media. It is the publishing unit of DC Entertainment a company of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which itself is owned by Time Warner. DC Comics produces material featuring a large number of well-known characters, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Robin, Aquaman, Nightwing, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, and the Flash, and such superhero teams as the Justice Society, the Justice League and the Teen Titans, and such antagonists as Lex Luthor, the Joker, the Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Bane, Catwoman, Sinestro, the Penguin, Two-Face, General Zod, Gorilla Grodd, Brainiac, and Darkseid.

The initials "DC" came from the company's popular series Detective Comics,which featured Batman first debut and subsequently became part of the company's name. The title can be considered a redundant initialism. Originally in Manhattan at 432 Fourth Avenue, the DC Comics offices have been located at 480 and later 575 Lexington Avenue; 909 Third Avenue; 75 Rockefeller Plaza; 666 Fifth Avenue; and 1325 Avenue of the Americas. DC currently has its headquarters at 1700 Broadway, Midtown Manhattan, New York, New York.

Random House distributes DC Comics' books to the bookstore market, while Diamond Comic Distributors supplies the comics shop specialty market. DC Comics and its major, longtime competitor Marvel Comics (currently owned by Time Warner's main rival The Walt Disney Company) together shared over 80% of the American comic-book market .

  Biography  

 Origins
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 , 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 . 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 . 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, and 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 , 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.

On February 22, 2010, a copy of Action Comics #1 sold at auction from an anonymous seller to an anonymous buyer for $1 million, besting the $317,000 record for a comic book set by a different copy, in lesser condition, the previous year.

 The Golden Age


National Allied Publications soon merged with Detective Comics Inc. to form National Comics, which in 1944 absorbed an affiliated concern, Max Gaines's 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, 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 in 1977.

The company began to move aggressively against what it saw as copyright-violating imitations from other companies, such as Fox Comics' Wonder Man, which Fox started as a copy of Superman. This extended to DC suing Fawcett Comics over Captain Marvel, at the time comics' top-selling character. Despite the fact that parallels between Captain Marvel and Superman seemed more tenuous (Captain Marvel's powers came from magic, unlike Superman's), 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 Age


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 writers 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 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 , 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 Jack Schiff, introduced the successful Batwoman, Bat-Girl, Ace the Bat-Hound, 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. 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 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 , editor Schwartz 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.

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 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 . Nevertheless, the period was plagued by short-lived series that started out strong but petered out rapidly.

In 1967, National Periodical Publications was purchased by Kinney National Company, which later purchased Warner Bros.-Seven Arts and became Warner Communications.

The Fourth World


In 1970, Jack Kirby moved from Marvel Comics to DC, at the end of the Silver Age of Comics, in which Kirby's contributions to Marvel played a large, integral role. Given carte blanche to write and illustrate his own stories, he created a handful of thematically linked series he called collectively The Fourth World. In the existing series Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen and in his own, newly launched series New Gods, Mister Miracle, and The Forever People, Kirby introduced such enduring characters and concepts as archvillain Darkseid and the otherdimensional realm Apokolips. While sales were respectable, they did not meet DC management's initially high expectations, and also suffered from a lack of comprehension and internal support from Infantino. By 1973 the "Fourth World" books would all be cancelled, although Kirby's conceptions would soon become integral to the broadening of the DC Universe. Kirby went on to create other "daring and different" series for DC, including Kamandi, about a teenaged boy in a post-apocalyptic world of anthropomorphic talking animals, when directed by the publisher to come up with something resembling Planet of the Apes.

 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 sometimes darker themes. Illegal drug use, banned by the Comics Code Authority, explicitly appeared in comics for the first time in Marvel Comics' The Amazing Spider-Man in early 1971, and after the Code's updating in response, DC offered a drug-fueled storyline in writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neal Adams' Green Lantern, beginning with the story "Snowbirds Don't Fly" in the retitled Green Lantern / Green Arrow #85 , which depicted Speedy, the teen sidekick of superhero archer Green Arrow, as having become a heroin addict.

Jenette Kahn, a former children's magazine publisher, replaced Infantino as editorial director in January 1976. DC had attempted to compete with the now-surging Marvel by dramatically increasing its output and attempting to win the market by flooding it. This included launching series featuring such new characters as Firestorm and Shade, the Changing Man, as well as an increasing array of non-superhero titles, in an attempt to recapture the pre-Wertham days of post-War comicdom. In June 1978, five months before the release of the first Superman movie, Kahn expanded the line further, increasing the number of titles and story pages, and raising the price from 35 cents to 50 cents. Most series received eight-page back-up features while some had full-length twenty-five page stories. This was a move the company called the "DC Explosion". The move was not successful, however, and corporate partner Warner dramatically cut back on these largely unsuccessful titles, firing many staffers in what industry watchers dubbed "the DC Implosion." In September 1978, the line was dramatically reduced and standard-size books returned to 17 story pages but for a still-increased 40 cents. By 1980, the books returned to 50 cents with a 25-page story count but the story pages replaced house ads in the books.

Seeking new ways to boost market-share, the new team of publisher Kahn, vice-president Paul Levitz, and managing editor Giordano addressed the issue of talent instability. To that end — and following the example of Atlas/Seaboard Comics and such independent companies as Eclipse Comics — DC began to offer royalties in place of the industry-standard work-for-hire agreement in which creators worked for a flat fee and signed away all rights, giving talent a financial incentive tied to the success of their work. In addition, emulating the era's new television form, the miniseries while addressing the matter of an excessive number of ongoing titles fizzling out within a few issues of their start, DC created the industry concept of the comic book limited series. This publishing format allowed for the deliberate creation of finite storylines within a more flexible publishing format that could showcase creations without forcing the talent into unsustainable openended commitments.

These changes in policy shaped the future of the medium as a whole, and in the short term allowed DC to entice creators away from rival Marvel, and encourage stability on individual titles. In November 1980 DC launched the ongoing series The New Teen Titans, by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez, two popular talents with a history of success. Their superhero-team comic, superficially similar to Marvel's ensemble series X-Men, but rooted in DC history, earned significant sales in part due to the stability of the creative team, who both continued with the title for six full years. In addition, Wolfman and Pérez took advantage of the limited-series option to create a spin-off title, Tales of the New Teen Titans, to present origin stories of their original characters without having to break the narrative flow of the main series or oblige them to double their work load with another ongoing title.

 Late 1980s


This successful revitalization of the Silver Age Teen Titans into The New Teen Titans led DC's editors to seek the same for the entire line and for the wider DC Universe. The result, the Wolfman/Pérez 12-issue limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, gave the company an opportunity to realign and jettison some of the "baggage" of its history, address "errors" in the characters' long histories and - particularly - revise, update and streamline major characters such as Superman and Wonder Woman. A companion publication in the new prestige format, two volumes entitled The History of the DC Universe, set out briefly the revised history of the major DC characters, and set the scene for an effective reboot of all titles, while still rooted in the long tradition and history of the DC Universe. Effectively moving from the realism of the Bronze Age towards the era sometimes called the "Dark Age," Crisis featured many key and resonant deaths which would shape the DC Universe for the following decades, and separate the timeline of DC publications into pre- and post-"Crisis".

Meanwhile, a parallel revolution had started in the non-superhero and horror titles. Since the start of 1984, British writer Alan Moore had re-energized the horror series The Saga of the Swamp Thing, and his acclaimed work sparked the comic-book equivalent of rock music's British Invasion. Building on the dark naturalism of the Bronze Age, numerous British writers, including Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison, subsequently began freelancing for the company. The resulting influx of sophisticated horror/fantasy material led not only to DC abandoning the Comics Code for particular titles scripted by those talents, but also to establishing in 1993 the Vertigo mature-readers imprint.

Key titles in the subtle shift towards the Modern Age include the two DC-published limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Watchmen by Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. These titles drew attention to changes at DC for their dark psychological complexity and promotion of the antihero. The new creative freedom and attendant publicity that allowed Miller to produce a dark, future Batman and Moore to create a similarly dystopian alternate history allowed DC to challenge Marvel's industry lead. These titles also paved the way for comics to be more widely accepted in literary-criticism circles as suitable reading for adults, and to make inroads into the book industry, with collected editions of these key series selling particularly well as trade paperbacks.

Conversely, while the mainstream DC Universe got a shade darker, the mid-1980s also saw the end of many long-running DC war comics, including venerable series that had been in print since the 1960s. These titles, all with over 100 issues, included Sgt. Rock, G.I. Combat, The Unknown Soldier, and Weird War Tales.

In March 1989, Warner Communications merged with Time Inc., making DC Comics a subsidiary of Time Warner. In June, the first non-camp Batman movie was released, and DC began publishing its hardcover series of DC Archive Editions, collections of many of their early, key comics series, featuring rare and expensive stories unseen by many modern fans. Restoration for many of the Archive Editions was handled by Rick Keene with color restoration by DC's long-time resident colorist, Bob LeRose. These collections attempted to retroactively credit many of the writers and artists who had worked without much recognition for DC during the early period of comics, when individual credits were few and far between.

 1990s
The comics industry experienced a brief boom in the early 1990s, 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, but the increases were as temporary as the hero's replacements. Sales dropped off as the industry went into a major slump, while manufactured "collectibles" numbering in the millions replaced quality with quantity until fans and speculators alike deserted the medium in droves.

DC's Piranha Press and other imprints (including the mature readers line Vertigo, and Helix, a short-lived science fiction imprint) were introduced to facilitate compartmentalized diversification and allow for specialized marketing of individual product lines. They increased the use of non-traditional contractual arrangements, including the dramatic rise of creator-owned projects, leading to a significant increase in critically lauded work and the licensing of material from other companies. DC also increased publication of book-store friendly formats, including trade paperback collections of individual serial comics, as well as original graphic novels.

DC entered into a publishing agreement with Milestone Media that gave DC a line of comics featuring a culturally and racially diverse range of superhero characters. Although the Milestone line ceased publication after a few short years, it yielded the popular animated series Static Shock. DC established Paradox Press to publish material such as the large-format Big Book of... series of multi-artist interpretations on individual themes, and such crime fiction as the graphic novel Road to Perdition. In 1998, DC purchased Wildstorm Comics, Jim Lee's imprint under the Image Comics banner, continuing it for many years as a wholly separate imprint - and fictional universe - with its own style and audience. As part of this purchase, DC also began to publish titles under the fledgling WildStorm sub-imprint America's Best Comics , a series of titles created by Alan Moore, including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Tom Strong, and Promethea. Moore strongly contested this situation, and DC eventually stopped publishing ABC.

 2000s
In March 2003, DC acquired publishing and merchandising rights to the long-running fantasy series Elfquest, previously self-published by creators Wendy and Richard Pini under their WaRP Graphics publication banner. This series then followed another non-DC title, Tower Comics' series T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, in collection into DC Archive Editions. In 2004, DC temporarily acquired the North American publishing rights to graphic novels from European publishers 2000 AD and Humanoids. It also rebranded its younger-audience titles with the mascot Johnny DC, and established the CMX imprint to reprint translated manga. In 2006, CMX took over from Dark Horse Comics publication of the webcomic Megatokyo in print form. DC also took advantage of the demise of Kitchen Sink Press and acquired the rights to much of the work of Will Eisner, such as his The Spirit series and his graphic novels.

In 2004, DC began laying the groundwork for a full continuity-reshuffling sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, promising substantial changes to the DC Universe (and side-stepping the 1994 Zero Hour event which similarly tried to ret-con the history of the DCU). In 2005, the critically lauded Batman Begins film was released; also, the company published several limited series establishing increasingly escalated conflicts among DC's heroes, with events climaxing in the Infinite Crisis limited series. Immediately after this event, DC's ongoing series jumped forward a full year in their in-story continuity, as DC launched a weekly series, 52, to gradually fill in the missing time. Concurrently, DC lost the copyright to "Superboy" when the heirs of Jerry Siegel used a provision of the 1976 revision to the copyright law to regain ownership.

In 2005, DC launched a new "All-Star" line , designed to feature some of the company's best-known characters in stories that eschewed the long and convoluted continuity of the DC Universe, and were produced by "all star" creative teams. All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder launched in July 2005, with All-Star Superman beginning in November 2005. All Star Wonder Woman and All Star Batgirl were announced in 2006, with the release of Superman Returns in movie theaters, but neither have been released or scheduled as of the end of 2009. Adam Hughes, who was initially announced as the writer/artist on All Star Wonder Woman in 2006, explained at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International that that project was "in the freezer" for the time being, due to the difficulty involved in both writing and illustrating himself.

DC Entertainment
In September 2009, Warner Bros. announced that DC Comics would become a subsidiary of DC Entertainment, Inc., with Diane Nelson, President of Warner Premiere, becoming president of the newly formed company and DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz moving to the position of Contributing Editor and Overall Consultant there.

 2010s
On February 18, 2010, DC Entertainment named Jim Lee and Dan DiDio as Co-Publishers of DC Comics, Geoff Johns as Chief Creative Officer, John Rood as EVP of Sales, Marketing and Business Development, and Patrick Caldon as EVP of Finance and Administration.

In May 2011, DC announced it would become the first comic-book publisher to begin releasing digital versions of their comics on the same day as paper versions.

 Relaunch

On June 1, 2011, DC announced that it would end all ongoing series set in the DC Universe in August and relaunch its comic line with 52 issue #1s, starting with Justice League on August 31, 2011 , with the rest to follow later on in September.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "DC Comics", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.