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DC Comics: A Quick and Compelling Chronology

DC Comics: A Quick and Compelling Chronology

By Steven Romano

DC... Never has a pair of humble letters contained such a storied legacy, one that has created and introduced us to inspiring superheroes and heroines who are veritable pop culture institutions. Today, as a part of Get Pop Culture's DC Comics Spectacular, we've compiled the company's major milestones in our quick and compelling chronology!

1) New Fun from National Allied Publications

The DC Comics we would come to know began life as National Allied Publications, founded by entrepreneur Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson in 1934. At the time, most—if not all—comic book publishers simply printed compiled newspaper strips in a magazine format. Bucking this industry trend, Wheeler-Nicholson released New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine, a well-received anthology of original material encompassing the full spectrum of genres. The solidification of National Allied Publications' reputation was beginning.

2) Of Detectives and Super Men

With the success of New Fun, National Allied Publications branched out into single-genre magazines, beginning with Detective Comics (published out of Detective Comics, Inc.) in 1937 and Action Comics in 1938 (featuring the grand debut of a certain red-caped hero named Superman). Despite the hard-boiled crime fiction genre's popularity, Detective Comics didn't gain a true foothold until issue #27's first appearance of Batman. Standing alongside Superman as the publisher's mascots, these two icons kicked off the Golden Age of Comics (soon to be joined by a wondrous female hero).

3) And Wonder Woman Makes Three

By the 1940s, National Allied Publications had merged with Detective Comics, Inc. and numerous other affiliates to form National Periodical Publications. Adding heroes such as Hawkman and the Golden Age Green Lantern and Flash to its growing roster, only one, however, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Superman and Batman as a trio of enduring pop culture legends synonymous with the publisher—and Wonder Woman was her name! Counting herself as one of the few female superheroes at the time, Wonder Woman blazed a trail for others to come.

4) The DC Implosion

The late '60s going into the '70s were a turbulent time for National Periodical Publications. Aside from being purchased by Kinney National Company—which was subsequently bought by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts—the publisher began losing market share. To reclaim lost territory, NPP now officially began operating as DC Comics, launching an initiative dubbed the "DC Explosion." Increasing its publication output to over 50 titles a month, the company released obscure series starring Hercules, Deadman, and others. Due to economic factors and loose quality control, the titles failed to catch on and were abruptly cancelled. This event came to be unofficially labeled the "DC Implosion" by fans.

5) The '80s Usher in the Modern Age

Dusting itself off following the fallout of the DC Implosion, the publisher returned to business as usual in the '80s... or so it appeared. Unbeknownst to fans, DC would be putting itself back on the map, owing success and praise to the company-wide crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths (which revamped years of established continuity) and Alan Moore's Watchmen—the comic that deconstructed and redefined the superhero genre. The public soon started to view the comic book medium as a sophisticated art form, shedding its long-held stigma as pure children's fare. Other comics including Frank Miller's "Batman: Year One" arc and Grant Morrison's artistically absurd Doom Patrol run would strengthen this notion.

6) Superman Dies; DC Just Gets Vertigo

Leaving an indelible mark on '80s comic book history, DC pushed the envelope even further charging into the '90s, staying in rhythm with the changing sensibilities of the readership. Audiences were demanding more substance and realism in their comics—and DC was more than happy to oblige. First came 1992's landmark "Death of Superman" arc, running through nearly the entire family of titles. Next, in 1993, editor Karen Berger launched the Vertigo imprint, specializing in gritty, audacious titles that showcased gripping storytelling coupled with commensurate  artwork.

7) The New 52 and Beyond

Over twenty years after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DC Universe needed another major overhaul, this time divorced completely from decades of complex continuity and starting fresh. Praised by some and panned by others, DC presented the "New 52" in September 2011—a sweeping initiative introducing new, accessible stories and re-imagined characters for the modern age! Three years later, this new universe continues to grow, taking familiar heroes and villains to interesting places.

What's your favorite DC period?

Tags: batman, barnes and noble, superman, wonder woman, dc entertainment, get-pop-cultured, dec, dc chronology

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About the Author
Steven Romano

Like Captain America, Steven Romano is just a boy from Brooklyn. When he isn't contributing to The MindHut and other geeky websites, Steven's hard at work writing his first novel and comic book scripts. Follow him on Twitter @Steven_Romano, and swing by his blog: stevenromano.tumblr.com

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.