When Was DC First Officially Called DC Comics?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com).

Reader Scott D. wrote in to ask, “I have a question concerning DC Comics. Detective Comics is commonly referred to as DC Comics but isn’t that an odd name, Detective Comics (DC) Comics?

When exactly did DC switch their name from Detective Comics to DC Comics?

Also, why would DC still continue to use DC Comics as a name if it is less commonly referred to as Detective Comics Comics?”

Sure thing, Scott. It ends up making a lot more sense when you look at DC’s history.

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Okay, the origins of DC Comics really stretch back to Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s comic book company, National Allied Publications, one of the very first comic book companies EVER! He released New Fun Comics in 1935, the first comic book centered around original material rather than simply reprinting comic strips from the newspapers…


Comic books had a hard go of it during this period, and Wheeler-Nicholson ended up in debt to Harry Donenfeld, the guy who both printed Wheeler-Nicholson comics and distributed them. Donenfeld found some promise, though, in Wheeler-Nicholson’s business idea, so when Wheeler-Nicholson wanted to launch a third comic book series (to go with New Fun Comics and New Comics) centered on detective stories called Detective Comics, Donenfeld worked out a deal where he would form a new company with Wheeler-Nicholson just for Detective Comics…


The company, naturally, was titled Detective Comics, Inc. Donenfeld had his accountant, Jack Liebowitz, be the official co-owner of Detective Comics, Inc. with Wheeler-Nicholson.

In 1938, Liebowitz also co-founded All-American Publications, as Donenfeld funded early comic book pioneer Max Gaines in Gaines’ new company…


By the time that Detective Comics, Inc. was set to launch its second series, Action Comics, Wheeler-Nicholson had been pushed out of the company due to financial issues. Action Comics #1 was still published by Detective Comics, Inc….


Detective Comics, Inc. then purchased Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications at a bankruptcy auction.

At the time, none of the books had logos for the overall company. Just check out Detective Comics #27, the debut of Batman…


However, starting with books in 1940, they were now labeled “A DC Publication”…


This makes sense, of course, as Detective Comics, Inc. was the company that owned all of them!

Even the comics that had originated under Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications were labeled “A DC Publication”….


In 1941, the company decided it made no sense to keep their most famous character off of the logo, so it now became “A Superman-DC Publication”…


That didn’t change the company’s name, though, as it remained Detective Comics, Inc.

That changed at the end of 1946, when Donenfeld consolidated a bunch of different companies into National Comics Publications (including National Allied, Detective Comics and All-American Publications, plus the company’s distribution wing, as well). This change was reflected in the indicas of books between the end of 1946…


and the start of 1947…


However, the covers also saw “National” join “A Superman-DC Publication” on the logo…


This remained the status quo into the late 1960, when National was purchased by a consortium than also purchased Warner Bros. Around this time, the company tried distinct logos on the covers before settling on DC as a general logo for the whole company in the early 1970s…


You have to understand, then, that the company had been having “DC” as its logo for decades now, so even though DC stood for Detective Comics, people still obviously referred to the company as “DC Comics.”

Finally, when Jenette Kahn took over as publisher in late 1976, she re-organized the company as DC Comics, Inc. The company change was reflected in the indicas at the end of 1976 going into 1977…



However, the change also went along with a new logo, the iconic Milton Glaser “DC Bullet” logo…



To this day, while DC has gone through a number of logos (only a handful actually used the full name “DC Comics,” though), they have remained credited to DC Comics in the indica. Like this week’s Detective Comics #1005…



So there ya go, Scott, that’s why DC is often referred to as DC Comics even though the DC stood for Detective Comics, because the overall company was Detective Comics for a long time and so it really was Detective Comics Comics. There’s no real redundancy if the first part is a specific name, ya know?

Thanks for the question, Scott! If anyone else has a question about comics, feel free to drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!


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