Detective Comics is an American comic book published monthly by DC Comics since 1937, best-known for introducing the iconic superhero Batman. It is, along with Action Comics, the book that launched with the debut of Superman, one of the medium's signature series, and the source of its company's name. With 852 monthly issues published as of March 2009, it is the longest continuously published comic book in the United States.
Detective Comics was the final publication of the entrepreneur Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, whose comics company, National Allied Publications, would evolve into DC Comics, one of the world's two largest comic book publishers, though long after its founder had left it. Wheeler-Nicholson's first two titles were the landmark New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine #1 (Feb. 1935), colloquially called New Fun Comics #1 and the first such early comic book to contain all-original content, rather than a mix of newspaper comic strips and comic-strip-style new material. His second effort, New Comics #1, would be retitled twice to become Adventure Comics, another seminal series that ran for decades until issue #503 in 1983.
The third and final title published under his aegis would be Detective Comics, advertised with a cover illustration dated Dec. 1936, but eventually premiering three months late, with a March 1937 cover date. In 1937, however, Wheeler-Nicholson was in debt to printing-plant owner and magazine distributor Harry Donenfeld, who was as well a pulp-magazine publisher and a principal in the magazine distributorship Independent News. Wheeler-Nicholson took Donenfeld on as a partner in order to publish Detective Comics #1 through the newly formed Detective Comics, Inc., with Wheeler-Nicholson and Jack S. Liebowitz, Donenfeld's accountant, listed as owners. Wheeler-Nicholson was forced out a year later.
Originally an anthology comic, in the manner of the times, Detective Comics #1 (March 1937) featured stories in the "hard-boiled detective" genre popular, with such stars as Ching Lung (a Fu Manchu-style "yellow peril" villain); Slam Bradley (created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster before their character Superman saw print two years later); and Speed Saunders, among others. Its first editor, Vin Sullivan, also drew the debut issue's cover.
Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) featured the first appearance of Batman (as "The Bat-Man"). That superhero would eventually become the star of the title, the cover logo of which is often written as "Detective Comics featuring Batman".
Issue #38 (April 1940) introduced Batman's sidekick Robin (billed as "The Sensational Character Find of 1940" on the cover). Robin's appearance and the subsequent increase in sales of the book soon led to the trend of superheroes and young sidekicks that characterize the era fans and historians call the Golden Age of Comic Books.
In addition to the Batman stories, the comic also had numerous back up strips such as "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel" in Detective Comics #225, the story which introduced Martian Manhunter.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the magazine adopted the expanded format used by the canceled Batman Family, adding solo features including "Robin: the Teen Wonder", "Batgirl", "The Human Target" and the anthology called "Tales of Gotham City", which featured the stories of the ordinary people of Gotham City. This was done in part to boost sales, as at the time "Batman Family" outsold Detective Comics, putting Detective Comics in peril of cancellation following 1978's DC Implosion.
Another sales ploy of the 1980s was the use of serialization of the main Batman story, as stories from "Detective Comics" and "Batman" directly flowed from one book to another, with cliffhangers at the end of each book's monthly story that would be resolved in the other title of that month. A single writer handled both books during that time beginning with Gerry Conway and followed up by Doug Moench.
In 2009, as part of planned reorganization of the Batman universe due to the events shown in Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis, "Detective Comics went on hiatus for three months while DC Comics published the Battle for the Cowl mini-series.
Upon its return, the series featured the newly reintroduced (in the pages of the 52 mini-series) Batwoman as the new star of the book as well as a ten page back-up feature starring Renee Montoya as the new Question. Greg Rucka is the new writer and is currently scheduled to write the book through 2010. With the Batwoman feature consisting of material created for the planned but ultimately aborted Batwoman series, it is through the Montoya back-up feature that the series remains semi-connected to the other main Batman books, with the current plans for a cross-over taking place within the pages of this year's Batman and Detective Comics annual to establish the new Azrael ongoing series.
The "Manhunter" series that ran as a backup in "Detective Comics" from 1973 to 1974 won the Shazam Award for Best Individual Short Story (Dramatic) in 1974 for "Cathedral Perilous" in issue 441 (with Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson).
|Slam Bradley||#1||March 1937|
|Crimson Avenger||#20||Oct. 1938|
|Commissioner James Gordon||#27||May 1939|
|Joe Chill||#33||Nov. 1939|
|Hugo Strange||#36||Feb. 1940|
|Clayface (Basil Karlo)||#40||June 1940|
|Tweedledum and Tweedledee||#74||April 1943|
|Red Hood||#168||Feb. 1951|
|Batmen of All Nations||#215||Jan. 1955|
|Martian Manhunter||#225||Nov. 1955|
|Calendar Man||#259||Sep. 1958|
|Clayface (Matt Hagen)||#298||Dec. 1961|
|Batgirl (Barbara Gordon)||#359||Jan. 1967|
|Jason Bard||#392||Oct. 1969|
|Talia al Ghul||#411||May 1971|
|Harvey Bullock||#441||July 1974|
|Leslie Thompkins||#457||March 1976|
|The Calculator||#463||Sept. 1976|
|Silver St. Cloud||#470||June 1977|
|Clayface (Preston Payne)||#478||July 1978|
|Maxie Zeus||#483||May 1979|
|Killer Croc||#523||Feb. 1983|
|Jason Todd||#524||March 1983|
|Ventriloquist (Arnold Wesker)||#583||Feb. 1988|
|Renee Montoya||#642||March 1992|
|Crispus Allen||#742||March 2000|
|Sasha Bordeaux||#751||Dec. 2000|
|Nyssa Raatko||#783||August 2003|
|Ventriloquist (Peyton Reilly)||#827||March 2007|
- Batman Archives (seven volumes): Collects Batman stories issues from #27-154
- Batman Chronicles (seven volumes): Includes Batman stories from #27-70
- Batman: The Dynamic Duo Archives (two volumes): Collects #327-339 (1964-1965)
- Showcase Presents: Batman (four volumes): Collects #327-390
- Manhunter: The Special Edition: Collects Manhunter backup from #437-442, and the Batman/Manhunter crossover in #443
- Batman: Strange Apparitions: Collects #469-476, 478-479 ISBN 1-56389-500-5
- Batman: Year Two: Collects #575-578
- Batman: Blind Justice: Collects #598-600
- Batman: Anarky: Collects #608-609
- Batman: Evolution: Collects #743-750
- Batman: The Man Who Laughs: Collects #784-786
- Batman: War Drums: Collects #790-796
- Batman: City of Crime: Collects #800-808, 811-814
- Batman: Detective: Collects #821-826
- Batman: Death and the City: Collects #827-834
- Batman: Private Casebook: Collects #840-845
- Batman: Heart of Hush: Collects #846-850
Detective Comics stories also appear in other Batman collections.