By Jacobus Dixon

It was bad enough having to contend with Captain Marvel, but now Superman-DC (the nickname given to comics from National Allied Publications and Detective Comics Inc. as they unofficially merged) had to deal with Captain America as well. One was a living childhood fantasy; the other was a super-idealized form of what happens when you mix nationalism and super heroics. Yeah, Superman’s great, but he’s a grown up while Captain Marvel is actually still a kid doing amazing things. And it’s fun watching Batman and Robin take on the Joker with nothing but their manpower and wits, but Captain America is fighting the real threat of German spies. While both Batman and Superman are certainly not devoid of neither childhood fantasy nor real world danger (or at least as real as it gets in terms of comic book writing), those subjects did not feature as strongly in their stories. So how did they contend with characters that used them as a solid foundation?

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By Jacobus Dixon

Although All-Star Publications wasn’t in a complete rivalry with National Allied Publications or Detective Comics Inc. (due to the fact that they were all owned by Harry Donenfeld) they still didn’t want to sit out on the superhero craze that was transforming the publishing industry.  They had some success with the Flash, Hawkman, and Johnny Thunder in Flash Comics. And naturally that taste of success led them to produce more superheroes. The spooky Spectre had promise, but he may have been a little too supernatural to attract more average readers. While most superheroes were defined by their phenomenal abilities, it was that human appearance that made them so appealing to readers. So you didn’t want to step too far away from that (at least not in the late 1930s/early 1940s) if you wanted your character to be successful. People do like supernatural stories though, so where do you strike the balance?

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Batman

By Jacobus Dixon

While he still had a little ways to go in terms of reaching Superman levels of fame, Batman was still a pretty big hit for National Comics. But with the addition of Robin, that popularity doubled to the point where National thought it would be a good idea to give him his own title. Even with characters like Superman, there was always a little trepidation on giving a character their own magazine. Mostly because there was always the question of: “well, yeah…People like their individual stories, but will they read four consecutive stories with that character?” So far, Superman’s appearances in two magazines hadn’t hurt his image. But Batman wasn’t Superman…

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By Jacobus Dixon

With the arrival of Whiz Comics #2 (later renumbered to #1) and Captain Marvel, National Comics had some true competition against Superman, their star seller. What tipped the balance was a demographic that neither National Comics nor Fawcett Publications really paid much heed to, children. Ever since their onset, comic book magazines were really meant to be an all-ages form of entertainment. And all ages did indeed read them. From Little Lulu to Tarzan to Gasoline Alley, readers from a variety of demographics would indulge in the books to get some disposable entertainment while on the go or whenever they had a little downtime. As long as there was a demand for the comics, the publishers were happy to print them. As long as the profits came in, who cared who was paying for them? Although Captain Marvel was definitely not the first comic to feature a series based around a child or children, it combined the sensibilities of those previous comics with that of the superhero genre, and as a result swayed many children away from Superman to Captain Marvel.

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Batman No. 27

By Jacobus Dixon

Now as much of a smash that Action Comics #1 was, it was by no means the first comic book cover. And Superman was not the first recurring famous character. Characters like Doc Savage, The Shadow, Slam Bradley (also a Siegel and Shuster creation), Buck Rogers, and Flash Gordon were quite famous already and had their own fan bases to boot. However, none equaled Superman when it came to sales. The simple-but-appealing back-story, combined with amazing powers to take on current societal ills, wrapped in a dynamic costume really stuck out for readers. What happens when you’re digging and strike gold? Well, you’re gonna mine that vein till it’s dry! Which is exactly what National Comics (remember they weren’t DC just yet) were going to do.

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