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DC stands for Detective Comics, a company founded in 1934 as National Allied Publications. "Detective Comics" was one of the company's early popular lines, famous for having introduced the character of Batman in 1939, while its sister publication, "Action Comics," had introduced Superman in the previous year. (The company would assume the (somewhat redundant) name "DC Comics" formally in 1977, though it had been referred to by that name since the 'Forties by its fans.) In the Golden Age of comics, the company introduced some of the most well-known characters in sequential art: the Flash (1940), Hawkman (1940), the Green Lantern (1940), Wonder Woman (1941), Aquaman (1941), and the Green Arrow (1941). The Silver Age would see the introduction of all-star teams such as the Justice League of America and its Little League equivalent, the Teen Titans.

The first superhero to appear in animation also belonged to DC:  Max Fleischer's Superman 1940-1943 series of shorts set a high standard in artistry. Thereafter, DC would not appear in cartoons for a good twenty years, until the appearance of Filmation's The New Adventures of Superman in 1966.  DC's heroes would appear sporadically in cartoons thereafter (Wonder Woman's debut actually being in a cameo on Filmation's 1972 The Brady Kids (!)), but it was the creation of Bruce Timm's 1992 Batman (generally referred to as "Batman: The Animated Series") that marked the creation of the "DC Animated Universe," the shared mythos of a collection of animated series that substantially affected the public's view of the DC mythos.  (For instance, it was the Animated Universe that introduced the wildly popular character of the Joker's sidekick, Harley Quinn .)  Several of these series ran for a time on Cartoon Network, and prompted the creation of CN's DC Nation, a series of superhero cartoons highlighting the DCAU legendarium.

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