DC Comics had been around since the 1920s but saw little success, since no one wanted to take a gamble on a comic book series featuring unknown artists and characters. However, the launch of the "Superman" superhero in a 1938 issue of "Action Comics" began a new area of comics graphic novels; one where superheroes captivated audiences with their enviable superpowers.
Public fascination with the superheroes of DC Comics came and went throughout the 1940s and 1950s. In mid-1955, the Silver Age of comics was born, characterized by a revamping of old characters that were somewhat more "human," and an amalgamation of different universes into battles royal.
The Justice League of America would bring together Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and other characters for the first time. It's said that this era inspired Marvel Comic Books' Stan Lee to create more "human" characters and combine superheroes in the Fantastic Four series.
After "the Silver Age of comic books" of the 1950s and 1960s came "the Bronze Age" of the 1970s and 1980s. The Silver Age had introduced characters who were more "human" and less stereotypical do-gooders.
They, like humans, hosted a range of emotions, interacted with other humans and struggled with complex psyches. During the "Bronze Age," darker and previously-off-limits themes of drug abuse, personal vices, inner conflict and anti-hero character development entered the comic realm.
Kids were no longer the only readers, so the business savvy comic book creator had to address more serious themes of society, personality defects and science. The 1980s began what is known as "the Modern Age of comic books," which persists today. This "Modern Age" builds off the Bronze Age but delves even further into the darker side of graphic novels, intertwining sex, drugs, vices, psychological struggles, imperfect anti-heroes, cynicism and social critique.
During this time, the DC Comics Batman's The Dark Knight series takes off, X-Men launches into the complex back histories of their characters and the Mutants went to war against the humans, and a number of apocalyptic comics graphic novels came out, threatening the end of the world.
Perhaps what makes DC Comics so enduring is the ability of their writers to adapt to changing demands in their market. They recognize the need to change costumes, to make characters more tangible, to incorporate modern themes into their graphic novels and to give the public an occasional imperfect superhero.
Given the pervading cynicism of the 1980s and 1990s, it's hard to imagine a do-gooder like Superman dominating with his humdrum perfection. Instead, a psychologically driven Batman captivates modern audiences, with his childhood fear of bats, the pain of his parents' murder, his utility belt weakness, his unfulfilled love life and his relentless quest for vigilante justice.
Audiences wanted bigger and better, so creators teamed up superheroes and pitted their characters against Marvel Comics characters too. Today, comic books aren't just for kids with an extra quarter in their pockets: they are for anyone who needs a hero to get through their day.