Who Created DC Comics – A Story of Stories

author img
BY July 5, 2019

DC Comics has given us some of the most famous superheroes of all time. Characters like Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman, to name a few. The superheroes from DC Comics might be famous. However, very few people actually know anything about who created DC Comics.

The man who started it all, the man who created DC Comics, was Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. He was was also a superhero in his own way as part of the U.S. Army during World War I.

The Major Who Created DC Comics

When wondering who created DC Comics, it all comes back to Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. He was born in 1890 in the mountains of Tennessee in a town called Greeneville. Before creating DC Comics, his mother moved their family to Portland,Oregon in order to pursue journalism when he was 10 years old. His father passed away in 1898. Wheeler-Nicholson grew up horseback riding and eventually went on to attend St. John’s Military Academy.

He joined the U.S.Cavalry as a second lieutenant in 1912 and proceeded to move up quickly in the ranks. At 27 Wheeler-Nicholson became one of the youngest majors in the Calvary. As a major, he saw combat in Mexico, the Philippines, and even served as a liaison to the Japanese embassy. After World War I, he went to the École Supérieure de Guerre in Paris which is where he met his wife, Elsa Bjorkböm who was a Swedish aristocrat. The pair married in Koblentz, Germany.

All of his war experiences directly impacted his writing career and what would eventually inspire him to create DC Comics. During his time in the army, Wheeler-Nicholson wrote an open letter to President Warren G. Harding. The letter criticized the Army command. It published in the New York Times.

The Letter

In the letter, Wheeler-Nicholson wrote about how difficult it was to get an audience with a General. He stated “The only way a junior officer gets an audience with a General, with a complaint of injustice, in many instances is through getting a United States Senator interested, just as United States Senators have been interested in my case. It is easier to obtain an audience with European royalty than an audience with some American Generals. Many of them don’t care a whoop for the junior officer.” He went on to say that his own case appeared almost to be a conspiracy.

His military career was cut short after he was fired at during an assassination attempt where he was shot by a guard in an upstairs window and was left bleeding on the ground. The letter and his injury led to an eventual $100,000 lawsuit. The court found him innocent in the shooting, but guilty of violating the 96th Article of War by writing a letter that openly criticized the Army and publishing it. Following the trial, he left the army and began to pursue a career in writing.

The Early Writing Days

Tying his two interests together, Wheeler-Nicholson’s titled his first book The Modern Cavalry. He published it in 1922. It was a military strategy book that military journals still quote often. His second book was The Corral of Death in 1929 which was a western mystery. People called his writing visual and immediate which made it very easy for his readers to visualize the scene in their heads.

In 1925, he began publishing under Wheeler-Nicholson Inc. which was the beginning of his venture into the world of comics. Pulp magazines of the time features his adventure stories. In 1929, he and his wife lived in Paris. That year the stock market crashed. They moved back to New York for financial reasons.

Wheeler-Nicholson decided that amidst the fearful financial times, he was still going to pursue his dream of being a writer. He was creating comic strips, but also noticed a need within the realm of comics that he decided to explore. Until that time, comic strips were often difficult to read and not very high quality art. Wheeler-Nicholson wanted to create artistically graphic comic strips and began re-creating classic literature into comic books.

New Fun

In 1934, Wheeler-Nicholson released a comic book titled New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine under his newly formed publishing company, National Allied Publications. This was the very beginning stage of what is now known as DC Comics. New Fun was the first comic book ever written that contained all-original material. Not only that, but New Fun also was larger than other comics at the time, measuring at 10 by 15 inches. In addition to be unique, original content and larger than any other comic book, it was also the first comic book to feature advertisements.

The first issue of New Fun was filled with comics about animals, kids going off to college, western mysteries, adventures, and fighting against villains. The magazine sold so well that National Allied Publishing began releasing a magazine with all new comic strips every month.

The sixth issue of New Fun featured writers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who would eventually go on to create Superman. Eventually, after 32 successful issues, Wheeler-Nicholson added a second magazine in 1935 called New Comics. Eventually renamed New Adventure Comics magazine ran until 1983 and became one of the longest-running comic books of all time after publishing 503 issues. New Adventure Comics came back in 2009 for two years and fizzled out in 2011 with issue #529.

The Beginnings of DC Comics

After publishing many comics and struggling to get by financially, Wheeler-Nicholson released a new comic book called Detective Comics which released in March 1937. Detective Comics exploded as a national sensation. In 1939 Batman joined the series. So when you’re wondering who created DC Comics, this is the moment it really got going.

With the success of Detective Comics, Wheeler-Nicholson formed Detective Comics, Inc along with Jack S. Liebowitz who was his accountant. Unfortunately, Wheeler-Nicholson was only a part of DC Comics for one year. He was still struggling financially and ended up selling the business to Harry Donenfield and Jack Liebowitz. Gerard Jones, though, a comics historian says that there was a little bit more to the story than that:

“In early 1938, Harry Donenfield sent him and his wife on a cruise to cuba to ‘work up new ideas.’ When they came home, the major found the lock to his office door changed. In his absence, Harry had sued him for nonpayment and pushed Detective Comics, Inc. into bankruptcy court…Harry gave the major a percentage of More Fun Comics as a shut-up token and wished him well.”

The company forced Wheeler-Nicholson to leave his own company. He continued to write war stories and military critiques. In 1965, he passed away Long Island, New York.

The Legacy Lives On

Kinney National Company purchased Detective Comics in 1969 and then in 1972, Warner Communications Inc purchase the rights and they still own the company today. Detective Comics officially changed its name to DC Comics in 1977.

DC Comics is the world’s largest comic book company. People call it the “king of all comic books.” The comics introduced the original superheroes for America like Batman and superman. In 1965, Flash came on the scene as a new superhero.

Shortly thereafter, the Justice League of America was formed, featuring everyone’s favorite superheroes of the time. Enhancing the popularity and success of the superhero genre was the Licensing Corporation of America which marketed all of DC’s characters in a range of products and merchandise. Now fans of the series could have a Superman action figure, lunch box, etc…

The Movies

In 1979, Superman received his own movie, Superman. In 1989, Tim Burton directed Batman. The Batman series has gone on to be very successful with the Dark Knight trilogy. In the 1990s, there was a decline in the comic book industry, but DC Comics was able to survive the decline and the Justice League characters have been seen in movies, theme parks, TV shows, etc… which have made them a part of the American culture.

DC Comics biggest rival in the superhero and comic book industry is Marvel comics which features the Avengers; however, even Marvel has Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson to thank for their success. Wheeler-Nicholson truly pioneered the comic book boom in popularity and is, essentially the father of all superheroes as we know them today.

The story of DC Comics is filled with conspiracy, passion, and perseverance. If Wheeler-Nicholson hadn’t been unwilling to give up, in spite of his financial circumstances and the difficult political climate at the time with things like The Great Depression, the world wouldn’t have superheroes as we know them today.

In those times, the comic books with heroic stories served as a reminder to the reader that hope could exist even in difficult circumstances. Today the same heroes bring readers and movie goers the same hopeful feeling in the current political and trying times. In a way, even though Wheeler-Nicholson himself didn’t get the chance to see how his comics’ impact, he changed the world when he created DC Comics.


Leave a comment


COMICSPop Culture
Graphic Novelist Lynda Barry Wins MacArthur Genius Grant For Her Impressive Career

Lynda Barry has many titles to her name. She is a cartoonist, graphic novelist, painter, educator, and author. But now she can add Lynda Barry: MacArthur Genius to her accolades. Because last week, Lynda Barry won a prestigious MacArthur Genius Grant. Otherwise known as ‘the genius grant.’ The MacArthur Foundation offers grants to creators, writers, […]

BY Emily O'Donnell September 30, 2019
BATMAN WHO LAUGHS #1 – DC Seriously Hits the Mark

Every once in a while you lay your hands on a comic, and soon you are engrossed in it and at the same time regret picking it up because it scares you too. Batman Who Laughs #1 is the perfect candidate for such a comic. Although it’s just a mini-series, the titular character has all […]

BY Richard Saunders April 29, 2019
Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore (Best Run Ever Part 2)

Alan Moore Saga of the Swamp Thing, his first critically acclaimed comics, is an intense read. Every issue is packed with massive ideas and massive emotions to match them. He gets into themes of separation anxiety, the nature of power vs tranquility, and the prejudiced treatment of “non-traditional” couples. It is a heavy series, even […]

BY Roman Colombo October 12, 2019
Star Wars Battlefront 2 Celebration Edition is Jam Packed with Content

There’s nothing like a good redemption story. We see it all the time in comic books. A villain suddenly sees the error of their ways, turns good, and we love them for it. We don’t see it as much with video games, and no, I don’t mean characters. If a game is cast aside as […]

BY Taylor Bauer December 4, 2019
Super Mario Maker 2 Update – What’s New?

When it comes to popular Nintendo Switch games, Super Mario Maker 2 has been huge. The game is still seeing a ton of players daily, months after its release. The developers at Nintendo working on the game are ready to send more content to the game as well. In an update coming on December 5th, […]

BY Taylor Bauer December 2, 2019
Ring Fit Adventure Shortage in Japan Sparks Apology from Nintendo

It seemed a little like a joke at first, but Ring Fit Adventure is a hit. The Nintendo published fitness game for the Switch is huge all over the world. Of course, Japan took to the game quite fondly. Even here in the United States, people are really into this game. Essentially, you track movements and […]

BY Taylor Bauer December 1, 2019
RuneScape Glitch Almost Destroyed the In-Game Economy

RuneScape is a historic MMORPG with a fervent player base to this very day. For nearly 18 years, the game has brought 200 million accounts into its fantasy world. For a lot of people, a few hours on RuneScape is a part of the normal daily routine. There is a new version of the game, […]

BY Taylor Bauer November 27, 2019


Henry Cavill Disinterested in the Snyder Cut, Wants to Think About the Future of Superman

The internet is all a-flutter, because Zach Snyder confirmed that he has some cut of Justice League ready to go. Yet, the key figure in the director’s takeover of DC doesn’t seem all that interested in the movie. Henry Cavill neither saw nor cares much about the Snyder Cut, instead he is interested in the […]

BY Joshua M. Patton December 7, 2019
Wheel of Time Casting News: The Gleeman and an Ogier Join The Party

Casting news for The Wheel of Time show on Amazon Prime has been steadily rolling out. The first season is currently filming in Prague, but fans have been wondering who was going to play certain major roles. This week’s #WOTWednesday brought us the actors who will play the the gleeman Thom and the loveable Ogier named […]

BY Emily O'Donnell December 6, 2019
Zack Snyder Confirms Snyder Cut Exists In New Photo

After 2 years of back and forth, theories, assumptions and presumptions, Zack Snyder confirms Snyder Cut is very real and it exists.

BY Shah Shahid December 6, 2019
The Foundation Show on Apple TV+ Casts New Faces

An adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is coming to Apple TV+ and is rapidly adding cast members.  Jared Harris (Chernobyl) will play Hari Seldon, “a mathematical genius who predicts the demise of the empire.” This week brought more casting news, some of which may be surprising to book readers. Several major characters will gender-swap, […]

BY Emily O'Donnell December 6, 2019