Entrepreneur Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications debuted with the tabloid-sized
New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine
#1 in February 1934. The company's second title,
#1 (cover dateDecember 1934), appeared in a size close to what would become comic books' standard during the period fans andhistorians call the Golden Age of Comic Books, with slightly larger dimensions than today's. That title evolved into
, which continued through issue #503 in 1983, becoming one of the longest-running comic book series.Wheeler-Nicholson's third and final title,
, advertised with acover illustration dated December
1936, eventually premiered three months late with a March 1937 cover date. The themed anthology series wouldbecome a sensation with the introduction of Batman in issue #27 (May 1939). By then, however, Wheeler-Nicholsonhad gone. In 1937, in debt to printing-plant owner and magazine distributor Harry Donenfeld
who also publishedpulp magazines and operated as a principal in the magazine distributorship Independent News
Wheeler-Nicholsonwas compelled to take Donenfeld on as a partner in order to publish
Detective Comics, Inc.
was formed, with Wheeler-Nicholson and Jack S. Liebowitz, Donenfeld's accountant, listed as owners. MajorWheeler-Nicholson remained for a year, but cash-flow problems continued, and he was forced out. Shortlyafterward, Detective Comics Inc. purchased the remains of National Allied, also known as Nicholson Publishing, at abankruptcy auction.Detective Comics Inc. soon launched a fourth title,
, and the premiere of which introduced Superman(a character with which Wheeler-Nicholson had no direct involvement; editor Vin Sullivan chose to run the featureafter Sheldon Mayer rescued it from the slush pile).
#1 (June 1938), the first comic book to featurethe new character archetype
soon known as "superheroes"
proved a major sales hit. The company quicklyintroduced such other popular characters as the Sandman and Batman.On February 22, 2010, a copy of
#1 (June 1938) sold at auction from an anonymous seller to ananonymous buyer for $1 million, besting the $317,000 record for a comic book set by a different copy, in lessercondition, the previous year.
The Golden Age
National Allied Publications soon merged with Detective Comics Inc. to form
, which in 1944absorbed an affiliated concern, Max Gaines's and Liebowitz's All-American Publications. That year, Gaines letLiebowitz buy him out, and kept only
Picture Stories from the Bible
as the foundation of his own new company, ECComics. At that point, "Liebowitz promptly orchestrated the merger of All-American and Detective Comics intoNational Comics... Next he took charge of organizing National Comics, [the self-distributorship] Independent News,and their affiliated firms into a single corporate entity,
National Periodical Publications
National PeriodicalPublications 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 (the DC logo could be seen on their covers and ads as early as 1940), and the companybecame 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 othercompanies, such as Fox Comics' Wonder Man, which (according to court testimony) Fox started as a copy of Superman. This extended to DC suing Fawcett Comics over Captain Marvel, at the time comics' top-sellingcharacter. Despite the fact that parallels between Captain Marvel and Superman seemed more tenuous (CaptainMarvel'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, Fawcettcapitulated in 1955 and ceased comics publication. Years later, Fawcett ironically sold the rights for Captain Marvel