At last, the award-winning (well, not really) series is back! When last we left off, we had finished almost all of Marvel’s crossovers until the current Secret Wars. And now it’s DC’s turn.
DC Comics is a strange one, because unlike Marvel (which was one company, Timely and then Atlas, before it became Marvel), DC was multiple companies before they joined together to become DC Comics. Specifically, there was National Allied Publications, which published More Fun Comics (which introduced the Spectre, Dr. Fate, Aquaman, and Green Arrow), Adventure Comics (which introduced the Sandman and Starman) and Action Comics (which introduced Superman) and Detective Comics, Inc. which published Detective Comics (which introduce that famous detective...Slam Bradley! okay and Batman sure).
Then there was All-American Publications, a sister company that was started by Max Gaines (the founder of EC Comics and Mad Magazine). They published All-American Comics (which introduced the Green Lantern and the Atom) and Flash Comics (which introduced both the Flash and Hawkman). The Flash and Green Lantern were later spun-off into their own books, All-Flash and Green Lantern.
(Funny story: the Golden Age Green Lantern was co-created by Bill Finger, who also co-created — but was cheated out of any credit for —- Batman.)
The most important comic All-Star Published, however, was something nobody had seen yet: All-Star Comics #3. The first intercompany crossover there ever was.
All Star Comics started as an anthology comic, like most other comics at the time, but it published stories about superheroes from both All-American Publications and National Comics (which was the merger between National Allied Publications and Detective Comics, Inc). And then, in the third issue, it brought them all together to form the Justice Society of America.
The JSA started out with All-American’s heroes the Flash, the Atom, Hawkman, and the Green Lantern and National’s heroes the Spectre, the Sandman, Dr. Fate, and Hour-Man. They didn’t really form to stop any grand supervillain, but rather to sit around and tell stories of their adventures (it was still an anthology comic). The issue does end with the entire group agreeing to meet with the FBI and then they go as a team...and then split up again. This became the running outline of the JSA’s stories: the team would be told about some sort of villainy or evil and then would split up into individual members and each heroes’ story would be told before the very last story, in which the JSA would reunite. This was actually a clever way to still publish an anthology comic with disparate heroes, yet still connect them together.
All Star Comics #8 also introduced something new that would change comics: Wonder Woman. Published in the Dec. 1941-Jan. 1942 issue, there was a nine-page backup story that introduce Diana, Paradise Island, and Steve Trevor. This led to Sensation Comics #1 in 1942. Wonder Woman even joined the JSA in All Star Comics #12...as their secretary. She didn’t even get her own adventure in the book, she just wrote down reports.
By this point, although there were several different publishers (Sensation Comics was being published by “J.R. Publishing Co”), they were almost all branded as “A Superman DC Publication.” National Comics knew it had a hit with Superman and Batman and wasn’t afraid to rebrand all of their properties to show they were part of the same company.
National Comics bought out All-American Comics (leaving Max Gaines with only one comic — Picture Stories from the Bible — as the foundation for his next company, EC Comics) and then merged to create National Periodical Publications. This wasn’t the first company National had absorbed (the earlier Detective Comics, Inc. was) and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. They were already seeing what they deemed copycats: Fox Comics’ Wonder Man (who only appeared once due to the lawsuit) and Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel.
As stated before, by the late ‘40s, the superhero genre had faded. Like Atlas (the precursor to Marvel), National started publishing westerns and science fiction instead. Action Comics and Detective Comics were still being published, but All Star Comics became All Star Western and All-American Comics became All-American Western and then All-American Men of War.
It wouldn’t be until the 1950s when another anthology comic book called Showcase would mark the return of the superheroes...and the return of the crossover.