Saturday, October 31, 2020

First official credit for various DC Comics superheroes

Superman debuted in 1938. Batman in 1939. Wonder Woman in 1941. And starting with each of their first appearances, writer/artist creators were credited in-story. (But not always all the creators. Exhibit B. Exhibit WW.)

With respect to creator credit, what ended up being the DC trinity ended up being exceptions rather than rules. The majority of DC superhero characters who debuted in the Golden Age (1938-1956) and Silver Age (1956-1970) of Comic Books did not receive a “created by” credit from the get-go. 

Once you get into the Bronze Age (1970-1984), mileage began to vary. Some characters (Black Lightning, Booster Gold) were explicitly credited while others (Mister Miracle, Swamp Thing) weren’t. By “explicit,” I mean some variation of the words “created by” were used. The creators of Mister Miracle and Swamp Thing were credited as writers and artists, but not identified as creators. 

I’m referring in particular to characters who headlined their own title as opposed to characters who first appeared as part of a team (Power Girl, Katana) or as a supporting character (Vixen, Lobo). Those characters typically would not receive a creator credit till they got their own series or mini-series, and sometimes not even then (Red Tornado, Elongated Man).

Sometimes a creator credit appeared once, or for one mini-series, then not again for a while. There is also an inconsistency—though the logic is surely delineated in a contract unseen by the public—to when regularly credited characters get credited outside their own books. In some group titles or crossovers, the creators of certain characters are present and accounted for, but in other instances, creator names are as visible as Clark Kent when Superman is on the premises.

A handful of A-list characters still do not have creator credits:

  • Robin (Dick Grayson)
  • Flash (Barry Allen)
  • Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
  • Green Arrow
  • Black Canary
  • Supergirl
  • Batgirl

Below is a roundup of first known creator credits for many of the rest of DC’s most popular characters. Farther below are comic book pages (and their corresponding covers) doing the honors of announcing the creators themselves.

Winner of the longest spell from creation to credit: Aquaman! (Actually, he’s the runner-up to Batman. Writer Bill Finger co-created Batman in 1939 and was not credited till 2015—76 years later. And when artist H.G. Peter, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and Olive Byrne are finally credited for Wonder Woman, she will take the top spot.)

The credits in their natural habitat:

Dr. Fate debuted 1940, credited 1978

Aquaman debuted 1941, credited 2003

Martian Manhunter debuted 1955, credited 1988

Atom debuted 1961, Hawkman debuted 1964,
both credited 2010

(Atom’s inaugural credit appeared
in two titles the same month)

Zatanna debuted 1964, credited 1987

Metamorpho debuted 1965, credited 1986

Plastic Man debuted 1966 (DC), credited 1980

Deadman debuted 1967, credited 1989

Swamp Thing debuted 1971, credited 1982

Shazam debuted 1973 (DC), credited 2019

Firestorm debuted 1978, credited 1978

Nightwing debuted 1984, credited 2011

* The Dr. Fate creators are cheekily if obliquely referred to as “original archivists.”

** Only original Aquaman artist Paul Norris is credited. Original writer Mort Weisinger is not.

*** Oddly, in Martian Manhunter #4 (1988; the first series he headlined), the creator of his logo (Alex Ray) is credited, but not the creator of the character himself. 

**** The 1987 one-shot was the first comic Zatanna headlined. In 2014, in Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell, the Zatanna credit was amended to add Murphy Anderson.

***** Plastic Man debuted in Police Comics #1 (1941), then got his own title in 1943, both published by Quality Comics; in Plastic Man #1, the sole credit is “By Jack Cole.” Later, DC acquired the character. DC first published him in 1966, but without credit, which is why I start the credit countdown clock at that year.

****** In 1989, Deadman was credited to Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino. The next time the credit appeared, in Wednesday Comics in 2009, it included only Drake. (At least five Deadman series or one-shots came out between 1989 and 2009; none gave credit.)

******* Nightwing’s secret identity Dick Grayson (and original superhero identity Robin) debuted in 1940.

Thank you on infinite earths to the immeasurable John Wells and Bob Hughes for taking the time to help me compile this information. 

If any readers find any mistakes—or would like to suggest characters to add—please let me know in the comments.

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