Portrait of Jenette Kahn by Michael Netzer
|Awards||Library of Congress Living Legends, 2000|
Jenette Kahn (born 1948) is an American comic book editor and executive. She joined DC Comics in 1976 as publisher, and five years later was promoted to President. In 1989, she stepped down as publisher and assumed the title of Editor-in-Chief while retaining the office of president. After 26 years with DC, she stepped down in 2002 to pursue other endeavors.
Education and early career
Jenette Kahn grew up in Pennsylvania with her parents (her father was a rabbi) and brother Si. She was an avid comics fan, a practice supported by her parents, with particular favorites being Batman, Superman, Little Lulu, Uncle Scrooge, and Archie.
After graduating from Harvard with honors in art history, she went on to found three groundbreaking magazines for young people. The original publication, Kids, was entirely written by children for one another. Although published in the early 1970s, Kids tackled subjects that are relevant today: drug abuse, diversity, animal protection, and the environment.
Kahn's second magazine was Dynamite. Created for Scholastic Inc., it changed the fortunes of the company, becoming the most successful publication in its history and inspiring two similar periodicals for Scholastic, WOW and Bananas. Ms. Kahn followed with another magazine, Smash, for Xerox Education Publications. Though she was just 25 years old when she founded Smash, Kahn was savvy enough to convince legendary designer Milton Glaser to become the magazine’s art director.
Kahn was 28 when she became publisher of DC Comics in 1976, a division of Warner Bros. and Time Warner, and home to over five thousand characters, including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. In February 1981, she became President, and — when its founder William Gaines died — President and Editor-in-Chief of MAD Magazine as well. She was the youngest person in the company to become president of a division, and the first woman.
After a tough start at DC, which saw Kahn announce the "DC Explosion" of new titles and formats and then suffer through the infamous "DC Implosion" of 1978, Kahn oversaw much success for the company. Along with editor and executive vice president Paul Levitz and managing editor Dick Giordano, she was responsible for the 1970s and 1980s revitalization of the company's entire line of heroes, including the introduction of Dollar Comics publications.
Under Kahn’s aegis, DC broke new ground with comic books and graphic novels, including Ronin, The Dark Knight Returns, Hellblazer, Watchmen, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, Books of Magic, V for Vendetta, Sandman and 100 Bullets, many of which have been made or are currently in development as feature films. Kahn broke ground by championing and implementing extensive rights for creators in an industry where there were none.
Kahn oversaw the launch of the acclaimed Vertigo imprint in 1993, and of Milestone Media, a minority-founded and ethnically diverse line of comic books that DC published for several years (and from which Static Shock, the animated show on The WB Television Network, was developed). Kahn is credited with overseeing a successful period of reinvention for DC's classic characters, including the death and rebirth of Superman. In an interview conducted soon after Kahn joined DC, Dick Giordano commented that Kahn had no editorial restrictions on creators, as far as he could tell. Under Kahn’s leadership, DC became known for pushing boundaries in subject matter by addressing issues of domestic violence, sexual orientation, gun violence, homelessness, racism, and AIDS in the company’s mainstream titles. One exception to this editorial stance was Kahn cancelling an issue of Swamp Thing where the title character interacts with Jesus, which led to the writer and artist Rick Veitch quitting, citing censorship concerns.
She also oversaw a diversification of the originally overwhelmingly male staff at DC, to the point where when she left, almost half the employees were women.
Double Nickel Entertainment
Jenette Kahn is a partner in Double Nickel Entertainment, a film production company she co-founded with Adam Richman after stepping down as the head of DC Comics and MAD Magazine. Double Nickel's first film is The Flock starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes and directed by Andrew Lau, the director of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, the movie on which The Departed was based. Gran Torino, which Clint Eastwood directed and stars in, is Double Nickel's second film to be released.
In addition Kahn serves on the boards of Exit Art and Harlem Stage, and is an advisor to The Bill T. Jones Dance Company. She is a founding member of The Committee of 200, a nationwide forum of key women in business. Her first book, In Your Space, was published by Abbeville Press in the spring of 2002.
President Ronald Reagan honored Kahn for her work on drug awareness, and she has been honored by the Clinton Administration, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the United Nations, and the Department of Defense for her work on land mines.
She has also been honored by the World Design Foundation for outstanding creative achievements. In addition, Kahn created The Wonder Woman Foundation in honor of Wonder Woman’s 40th Anniversary. In its three years of existence, the foundation gave out more than $350,000 in grants to women over 40 in categories that exemplified the inspirational characteristics of the DC heroine: women taking risks, women pursuing equality and truth, women striving for peace, women helping other women.
- Levitz, Paul (2010). 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Taschen America. p. 452. ISBN 978-3-8365-1981-6.
- Levitz p. 455
- Levitz p. 567
- Levitz p. 638
- Contino, Jennifer. "A Chat with Kahn," Sequential Tart vol. 4, issue #5 (May 2001).
- Kahn, Jenette. "And Now... We Interrupt this Comic to Bring You a Word from Your New Publisher..." Our Fighting Forces #172 (Mar./Apr. 1977).
- "Executive Shifts at DC" Amazing Heroes #1 (June 1981) p. 25
- "Harrison Retires from DC Presidency" Amazing Heroes #1 (June 1981) pp. 31-32
- Kahn, Jenette. "Publishorial: Onward and Upward," DC Comics cover-dated September 1978.
- "The DC Implosion," The Comics Journal #41 (August 1978), pp. 5-7.
- Kahn, Jenette. "And Now... Still Another Message of Untold Importance from our Prolific Publisher!!" Superman #310 (April 1977).
- "COMIC BOOKS: Swamp Thing's Quagmire". Time. 10 July 1989.
- Kimball, Kirk. "Explosion and Implosion," part one of "Secret Origins of the DC Implosion," Dial B for Blog
|President of DC Comics
|Publisher of DC Comics