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What does the ‘DC’ in DC Comics stand for?

Photo by DC Comics

Learn the secret identity of the founder of DC Comics.

Entering the world of comic books can be daunting for any newcomer. While longtime superfans might spend hours embroiled in a Marvel vs. DC debate, new comic fans understandably might just wonder—just what does DC Comics stand for? Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman might be part of the pop culture lexicon, but just because you’ve seen a movie from the DC cinematic universe doesn’t mean you know anything about its history.

Whether you found DC through its animated projects, through reading comics online, or you’ve heard about the new DC Universe streaming service, there’s a story behind how DC comics got its name. 

Who created DC Comics?

DC Comics was founded in 1934 by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, following his departure from the army. Originally launched as National Allied Publications, the company pioneered the concept of a comics featuring entirely original content. Previously comic books sold in stories reprinted old strips from the newspaper. Its first title was New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine. It was released in February 1935, was a 10-inch by 15-inch anthology that bared little resemblance to the modern books it publishes today.

New Fun became a launching pad for new talent, most famously Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. In 1935 they added another book Adventure Comics, which ultimately ended up running until 1983. However, it was Major Wheeler-Nicholson’s final title published with National Allied Publications that set the company on its true future path.

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What does DC Comics stand for?

In 1937, NAP published Detective Comics #1, its first hard-boiled crime series. At the time, Major Wheeler-Nicholson was in major debt with his printing company. However, the company’s owner, Harry Donefeld, had another idea. The duo teamed up and formed a partnership called Detective Comics Inc. and published the first book. The Major ended up selling his share of the company to Donefeld—whether it was to pay off debts associated with the Great Depression or as part of a hostile takeover remains up for debate today.

Detective Comics became the eventual birthplace of Batman in issue #27.

Even before the Detective Comics’ popularity skyrocketed, the series was known colloquially as DC Comics. However, National Comics didn’t officially rebrand as DC Comics until 1977. Technically this means DC Comics’ original name, unabbreviated, is “Detective Comics Comics.”

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Who owns DC Comics today?

DC’s current ownership is surprisingly entertaining. National Comics was purchased by Kinney National Company in 1969. Kinney held the rights until the 1970s. Kinney National also held a stake in several games, from films under its Warner Bros. label to parking and property management companies. In 1972, Kinney National was forced to split its entertainment and non-entertainment entities following a scandal involving price fixing in its parking garage business. The Kinney National Company’s entertainment assets were moved under the umbrella of a new company, Warner Communiations Inc.

In 1990, Warner Communications and Time, Inc. merged into one massive media company. Although the merger was announced in 1987, it took almost three years for the deal to be finalized. Finally, Time Warner was purchased by AT&T in 2016 for $85.4 billion dollars, leaving Superman and the Justice League in the hands of one of the world’s largest telecom companies.

 

John-Michael Bond

John-Michael Bond

John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adapter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.