Who founded DC comics? Exploring history of iconic comic publishing giant

Justice League (Image via DC Comics)
Justice League (Image via DC Comics)

DC Comics have given us some of the most iconic characters of all time, including Batman, Joker, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Robin, to name a few.

The organization was founded in 1934 and got exceptionally famous for its amazingly successful run titled Detective Comics in 1937. However, it was not officially called DC Comics until 1977.

Yes, we know. It's hard to imagine DC being anything other than DC for such a long time, but don't panic yet! Let us explain the long-running history of the legendary DC Comics step by step, and you'll get to know how it has come a long way.

The history of DC Comics

DC Comics was founded by Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson under the name of National Allied Publications. Nicholson wanted to introduce fresh ideas into the comic book industry, including quality comic strips.

For years, he had been a writer with best-selling books such as The Coral of Death and The Modern Cavalry. He knew what the audience wanted and had plans to provide it.

Before National Allied Publications or NAP, general comics were made as an extension to the doodles in the funny section of the newspaper. Nicholson didn't want to recreate newspaper comics.

New Fun #1 (Image via DC Comics)
New Fun #1 (Image via DC Comics)

He had a vision, and he wanted to start something new, so he created an all-new line of comic books named New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine under the NAP label, and it was a hit.

New Fun was also the first magazine to feature promotions and advertisements. After its success, Nicholson had to expand his firm, so he hired an experienced publishing partner, Harry Donenfeld, and an accountant, Jack Liebowitz, to be his partners around 1937.

All three of them then invented the comic series Detective Comics in 1937, a massive hit all over the United States of America. In 1939, the Dark Knight also joined the run and became a national treasure.

A year later, Nicholson left the comic book industry entirely and sold his shares and business to his partners, Jack Liebowitz and Harry Donenfeld.

However, Gerard Jones, in his book Men of Tomorrow, mentioned a whole another story for Nicholson leaving the comic book industry.

Detective Comics #0 (Image via DC Comics)
Detective Comics #0 (Image via DC Comics)

According to Jones, in early 1938, the firm was struggling for new concepts, and Donenfeld arranged for a cruise for Nicholson and his wife so that Nicholson could get his head cleared and think of some new inventive ideas.

When Nicholson came back, he discovered the lock to his office changed and an awaiting legal notice asking for his attention. Donenfeld had sued Nicholson for non-payment, which led to him leaving the organization at once.

After Nicholson left, both the National Allied Publication pieces and Detective Comics started publishing comics under National Publication or NP.

It was around that time when the father of American comics, Max Gaines, was publishing his comics, namely Famous Funnies, when Donenfeld offered to fund Gaines' new publication, An All-American Publication or AA publications.

AA publications then became a sister company to NP and went on to create legendary characters like Flash, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern.

The Green Lantern Corps #207 (Image via DC Comics)
The Green Lantern Corps #207 (Image via DC Comics)

Because of the contributions of AA publications, we get to see these iconic heroes in the DC universe today.

AA publications lent these characters to NP in exchange for using their characters in their publications. They also published a lot of comics under the DC logo of Detective Comics to make more money as Detective Comics and Batman were (and still are) tremendous successes.

After some time, Donenfeld made Leibowitz partner at the AA publications, which made Gaines' and Donenfeld's relationship sour. Due to this, Gaines stopped using NP's characters and the DC logo in their publications.

After some time, Gaines' agreed to sell his share to Donenfeld, which meant Leibowitz and Donenfeld owned three prevalent publications (NAP, AA publications, and DC). They then changed the name to National Comic Publication, all three publications combined.

Since the formation of the Comic Code Authority, also known as CCA, in 1954, every publisher had to include major changes to their pieces, and NCP was one of them (marking the end of the golden age of comics).

The Flash (1959) Annual #1 (Image via DC Comics) Justice League (Image via DC Comics)
The Flash (1959) Annual #1 (Image via DC Comics) Justice League (Image via DC Comics)

Everything became less gory, less disturbing, and more conventional. One of the significant changes that NCP decided to stick to was bringing a new flash aboard, Barry Allen (marking the beginning of the silver age).

While NCP continued publishing classics like Green Lantern, they released a new version of the definitive Trinity, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, for the silver age.

In 1965, Donendeld passed away, making his son Irwin in charge of the company. At that time, Irwin changed the name of the company again to National Periodical Publication or NPP.

In 1969, the company was purchased by Kinney National Company which had also purchased Warner Brothers in that same year. The company then separated its entertainment and non-entertainment entities, namely Warner Communications and National Kinney Corporations.

DC Superhero Logos (Image via cutewallpaper.org)
DC Superhero Logos (Image via cutewallpaper.org)

Over the years, with the creation of hundreds and hundreds of amazing comic books under its publication, NPP still flaunted the DC logo unofficially as a branding tool.

Finally, in 1976, Jeanette Conn was selected as an editor for the NPP comic books, and she changed the official name of the publication to DC Comics (at last).

DC symbolized the most significant hit of NPP, the Detective Comics, and it was time to celebrate its legacy. She also came up with a new logo which has been an inspiration for every logo change till now.

With the absolute success of her decisions, she was made the president and the editor-in-chief of DC Comics.

Conn's contributions to DC have made her one of the most integral parts of its success today. She's also known as the First Lady of comic books for her influence in the industry.

So, this is how it all came to be what it is now, the iconic comic publishing giant, DC Comics: the organization that has given us the characters that we inherently love and comics that we read, again and again.

What are your thoughts on the history of DC Comics? Don't forget to comment below.

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Edited by Yasho Amonkar
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