Detective Comics is one of the oldest series of comic books in history. And it is not the same as Detective Comics Inc.! Detective Comics is a series of comics whereas Detective Comics Inc. (today called ‘DC Comics Inc.’) is the publishing company that published that series.
This means that DC Comics actually = Detective Comics Comics (dumb).
Anyway, this article is not about the DC Comics Inc. “Detective Comics” … it is about the DC Comics Inc. Detective Comics’s early Detective Comics series… erm, did that make sense?
Of course it didn’t!
This article is not about DC Comics Inc. the publisher. It is about the Detective Comics series, published by Detective Comics Inc. before they were rebranded as DC Comics Inc.
There! That made sense, right?
In any case, it’s safe to say that the Detective Comics series is best known for its introduction of the worldwide cultural phenomenon that is Batman. And it’s the second oldest comic books series ever, too!
But it was Detective Comics #27 (1939) when Batman eventually strolled onto the scene. Detective Comics initially made its name without its timeless icon.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the colorful history of the legendary Detective Comics! (If you want to know where you can purchase these comics, then scroll to the bottom of this article).
Detective Comics: Formation and Origins
Detective Comics #1 was published in March 1937 by pulp magazine and comic book entrepreneur Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Wheeler-Nicholson previously served for the U.S Army in World War I and became interested in the fantastic world of comic books. He partnered up with Maz Donenfield to publish Detective Comics #1, the first comic book ever published by Detective Comics Inc.
Detective Comics #1 featured Ching Lung on its cover, who would also be the story’s main villain. Speed Saunders featured as the issue’s main hero, supported by the famous Slam Bradley (created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) among others.
Slam Saunders and Slam Bradley featured as headliners of the series for the next year. Larry Steele, Bruce Nelson, Buck Marshall, and Bart Regan provided support for them, plus Steve Malone and Inspector Kent of Scotland Yard featured, too. There was also the landmark first appearance of a masked hero in Detective Comics #20 with the Crimson Avenger. But Speed Saunders and Slam Bradley were certainly the most featured faces of the Detective Comics series in those early issues.
And then arrived the hero Detective Comics Inc. had been searching for…
Detective Comics #27: Batman’s First Appearance
Detective Comics #27 is one of the most valuable comic books in history. So much so that an original copy auctioned for more than $1,000,000 in 2010! Yep, that’s more than 1 million dollars. If you happen to have a copy unknowingly stored away somewhere, then you’d better find it quickly and wrap it up in the finest cotton wool money can buy. (Do it now!!)
It was Bob Kane (artist) and Bill Finger (writer) who created and conceptualized the first Batman (named ‘The Bat-Man’ in those early comics). That debut storyline was titled ‘The Case of the Chemical Syndicate’. In the comic, we are introduced first to Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon with The Bat-Man being introduced later on. Obviously The Bat-Man beats down some criminals.
At the end of the story, Bruce Wayne is revealed as the super-mysterious Bat-Man. It must have been a killer plot twist back in 1939!!
You can read this comic book strip on YouTube! Check it out here:
Building a Legacy
Of course, the Bat-Man immediately jumped to the front page of the comic. So what if he didn’t feature in the first 26 issues?! He was awesome! And clearly that was a good choice. He has been the driving force of the comic series for literally decades. He usurped the previous figured-head Speed Saunder and was an instant selling point.
Detective Comics Inc. obviously planned to push The Bat-Man from the very beginning. After the success of Superman in Action Comics, they wanted another reliable cash-cow to capture audience’s imagination in a similar way. They published The Bat-Man soon after Bob Kane’s excited introduction … and the rest is history!
Due to his success, the publishers created a new comic series dedicated entirely to the hero (titled Batman – the first issue featured the debut appearance of the Joker). The Batman comic series ran alongside Detective Comics series, which continued to feature Batman as its main star.
It was in these years, with Batman and Superman as their figureheads, that DC Comics Inc. rooted itself as one of most influential publishers ever. That is a legacy that has lasted (to date) 84 years. Impressive.
Detective Comics: Supporting Acts
Batman is the most notable character of the Detective Comics series by a significant margin, and he headlined the series for many years. But he was by no means the only protagonist to have appeared in the series. Stories about other heroes usually supported his headlining act.
For example, The Boy Commandos in Detective Comics #64 (1942) proved quite popular. A squad of orphaned kids from different allied nations, fighting against Nazis! (Or “ratzies,” as they called them in their own lingo.) Talk about feeding into social attitudes of the time!
The Martian Manhunter, one of seven founding members of the Justice League, made his first ever appearance in Detective Comics #225 (1955), and prominently featured in the series until 1964. His last appearance in the series was issue #326.
In issue #327, that feature was replaced by The Elongated Man, whose debut appearance was actually in the Flash comic series (1960). The Elongated Man crossed-over with Batman a few of times during his supporting run, lasting until issue #383 (1969). He featured occasionally in the series for the next 18 years, culminating in his final appearance in issue #572.
After the Elongated Man’s stint as the support act (back in 1969), he was replaced by Batgirl. She featured prominently until issue #424 (1972).
Issue #572: 50th Anniversary
Issue #572 (1987) was notable as a 50th anniversary celebratory issue. That beastly publication featured Sherlock Holmes working with Batman, Robin, The Elongated Man, and the legendary Slam Bradley. Sweet!
The Green Arrow was the next significant support act to Batman, running from issue #521 (1982) up to issue #567 (1986).
The Return of Back-Up Features
Batman became the solo feature for the next decade, and the series did away with supporting heroes.
Issue #746 (2000) saw the return of back-up features with private investigator ‘Jacob’, who would feature until issue #757. Following #757 the legendary Slam Bradley returned for issues #759-762, ushering in a new Catwoman comic series that published in 2002. Back-up features after this included Josie Mac and Detectives Crispus Allen & Renee Montoya.
The final supporting stories of this era were of Killer Croc, featuring from issue #808-#810 (2005).
Detective Comics Volume 2, The New 52, and Back to Original Numbering
The series rebranded and rebooted into Volume 2 as part of The New 52 series – a relaunch of all the DC Comics ongoing comics book series’ (also including the legendary Action Comics).
This series would continue until 2016, launching 52 monthly issues and 3 annual issues.
DC returned to the original numbering system in 2016, restarting with issue #934 – the number it would have been had Volume 2 been a. continuation of Volume 1.
In March 2019, the series became the second comic book series in history to publish its 1,000th issue (after, you guessed it, DC’s Action Comics in 2018). The ‘Landmark Issue’ (as sold on its front cover) included 6 original Batman stories, from a mixed bag of old and new writers/creators.
Where Can I Get Detective Comics?
This depends entirely on what you are looking for. Let’s start with copies of the original comics:
Before deciding that you want the entire collection – of original issues from 1937 to the present day – you should hedge your expectations somewhat.
To start with, the original comics are extremely rare – and in the circumstances where you actually manage to source them, they are very expensive. And that makes sense, to be fair. Can you imagine keeping a flimsy, paper magazine in even relatively good condition for anything close to being ‘readable’ for more than 80 years? That’s hard enough as it is, and adds a certain value to a product that has stood that test of time. That value is increased, of course, by the fact that these comics are as as unbelievably iconic as they are today.
You can see a price guide for all of the Volume 1 Detective Comics at this excellent, comprehensive website, ‘My Comic Book Shop‘ for copies of the originals. If you’re serious about buying one of the originals, then hold your nose and dive on into this pool of antiques.
If you are looking for something physical that you can touch, smell, and taste … well, for reissues of those early comics (especially of issues #1-26), that’s not so easy either!
DC Comics did publish a two-volume omnibus of the ‘Before Batman’ issues, but due to criticisms of those early comics for racist depictions – especially of Asian people – DC Comics are no longer allowed to sell them. comics. A Slipcase of those 2 volumes were being sold on Amazon and all serious retailers. But they appear unlikely to sell them again.
If they ever do, you will be able to find them here:
Nevertheless, if you just want to get your hands on the Batman comics, then there are reissues still available to buy. If you want to buy the entire collection, though, you should still be prepared to put some cash aside (after all, 80 years worth of comics is not joke!).
You can find all available collections here:
If you just want to read the comics, though, and aren’t too fussed about owning physical copies, or building up a collection, then you’ll be glad to know that you can read all of the Detective Comics series online for free! If you search ‘read Detective Comics online’ into Google, you’ll quite easily find some suitable links.
Whatever your decision, though, be sure that you enjoy the journey. These are truly classic pieces of literature that will remain culturally-relevant for at least another 85 years – probably longer. Be grateful for the opportunity, my friends!