DC Comics is one of the largest and most successful comic book publishers in the industry. With characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash in its stable of intellectual properties, people from all parts of the world know the name “DC” is synonymous with superheroes. But what does DC Comics stand for?
Not everyone knows what the two letters in “DC Comics” actually is short for. Interestingly, the company did not always use this name but acquired it from one of its properties – which makes the actual comic book company name amusingly redundant.
In 1934, the company that would become DC Comics was called National Allied Publications. Known for producing the tabloid New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine, National’s original comic book publications were basically newspaper strips published in anthology form. The comics ran the gamut in genres – and included comedic “funnies,” Westerns, and adventure stories. Some of the stories were also based on superheroes – including an early version of Doctor Occult created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster before they invented Superman.
National later came out with other anthology magazines, including Adventure Comics and Detective Comics, both of which later evolved into the more familiar DC comic books still in publication today. As the title of Detective Comics indicates, most of its stories dealt with fictional comic book detectives like Slam Bradley, another creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Around this time, financial difficulties caused National Allied Publications’ founder Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson to partner with Harry Donenfield, the print-plant owner and magazine distributor. The two formed Detective Comics, Inc., using the title of their anthology magazine as their business title. Wheeler-Nicholson eventually sold his share to Donenfield and Detective Comics, Inc. later brought Wheeler-Nicholson’s entire National Allied Publications.
After Wheeler-Nicholson left, the company published another title, Action Comics, in 1938 which introduced Superman in its debut issue, starting the modern superhero genre. Batman soon followed in 1939’s Detective Comics #27 and DC’s pantheon of superheroes began taking shape. While the company was still officially called “National Allied Publications” and later “National Comics Publications,” during the early 1940s, its comics began including seals on its comic books reading, “A DC Publication,” “A Superman DC Publication” and later, “Superman DC National Comics.”
Obviously, “DC” stood for the “Detective Comics” in “Detective Comics, Inc,,” but with all the other words in the seal, the name had to be shortened. Readers began referring to the comics as “DC Comics” although the company didn’t formally change its name to “DC Comics” until 1977. While this gave them a solid brand, it didn’t make a lot of sense to anyone who realized the full business name was actually “Detective Comics Comics.”
Despite the redundancy, “DC Comics” was a recognizable brand that was already linked strongly to some of the most popular superheroes in America. It may have been born out of a jumbled-up group of names in a corporate mishmash, but no one can say the company’s name didn’t become iconic in its own right!
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