When Did Marvel and DC Appear as Companies Within Their Universes?

In "When We First Met," we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Reader Jason H. wrote in to ask, "My question for you is, when was the first time that Marvel or DC became their own in-universe comic book companies? And by this I don’t mean an in-panel cameo of someone looking like Stan or Jack, but when one of the characters refers to the company, for example, when Reed Richards says “We may be calling our friends at Marvel Comics and telling them to start publishing the Fantastic Five!”, Ben Grimm is sitting on a sofa reading a Marvel comic, or when Steve Rogers was hired by Marvel to draw himself! Something like that. No idea how you would be able to determine the first one ever, but I just thought it would be interesting to know how/when it came about."

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Sure thing, Jason!

Now, I think the important thing to note about all of these things is that in order to really establish an answer that fits what Jason is looking for, I think we have to first established a cohesive shared universe. For instance, in the early days of comics, there really weren't any such thing as crossovers. Even when DC began crossing over their characters in All-Star Comics, those crossovers tended to not be referenced in other comics. There really wasn't a "shared" universe in the way that we think about it today.

Thus, when Sensation Comics #1 introduces Ted Grant as the Wildcast (in a story by Bill Finger and Irwin Hasen), the mention of Green Lantern comic books in the story really doesn't mean anything, per se...

Hilariously, Finger had a story earlier in the issue introducing Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys (art by Jon L. Blummer) and they were inspired by the Wildcat story that appeared LATER IN THAT ISSUE!

Similarly, years later, when John Broome, Robert Kanhigher, Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert introduced the new version of the Flash in Showcase #4, having Barry Allen reference the original Flash, Jay Garrick, was just a clever way to explain why Barry took on the identity of the Flash...

It really wasn't a reference to any sort of shared DC universe. The only shared universe at DC at the time was in the pages of World's Finest Comics, where Batman and Superman became partners (and as a result of that, the two began to appear as supporting characters in each other's comics, as well). Soon, though, the Justice League of America was formed in Brave and the Bold #28 and the writer of that series, Gardner Fox (the guy who did the first DC crossover in All-Star Comics #3 with the creation of the Justice Society of America), was all in on the idea of a shared DC Universe.

One of the key aspects in that shared universe was the concept of Earth-2 to explain where the older versions of the rebooted DC heroes of the late 1950s/early 1960s had come from. In that story in Flash #123 (by Fox, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella), it is established that Fox himself and the Flash comic book series existed in the main DC universe....

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