Portrait of Jenette Kahn by Michael Netzer
|Awards||Library of Congress Living Legends, 2000
Inkpot Award, 2010
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 left the company in 2002 to pursue other endeavors.
Education and early career
Jenette Kahn grew up in Pennsylvania. Her father was a rabbi and her brother Si Kahn would become a singer-songwriter and activist. 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 University with honors in art history, she would found three 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 such as 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. Kahn followed with another magazine, Smash, for Xerox Education Publications and hired designer Milton Glaser as its art director.
Kahn was 28 years old when she became publisher of DC Comics in 1976, a division of Warner Bros. and home to over five thousand characters, including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Sol Harrison served as the company's President. Kahn stated in a 2012 interview that "I can't really say that Sol and I had much of a working relationship. He, more than anybody, resented my being hired because he felt that the job [of publisher] was rightfully his." In February 1981, she became President following the retirement of Harrison. 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. This includes addressing the company's problem of having ongoing series fizzling out quickly by creating the limited series publishing concept to allow for more flexible arrangements for the talent.
Under Kahn’s aegis, DC broke new ground with comic books and graphic novels, including Ronin, The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Hellblazer, The Sandman, The Books of Magic, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, 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. In 1989, she assumed the title of Editor-in-Chief while retaining the office of president but stepped down as publisher.
Kahn oversaw the launch in 1993 of the Vertigo imprint 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 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 oversaw a diversification of the originally overwhelmingly male staff at DC, to the point where when she left, almost half the employees were women. Kahn left DC Comics in 2002 after 26 years with the company to pursue a career as a film producer.
Double Nickel Entertainment
Jenette Kahn is a partner in Double Nickel Entertainment, a film production company she co-founded with Adam Richman after leaving DC Comics. Double Nickel's first film was The Flock (2007) starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes and directed by Andrew Lau. Gran Torino (2008), which Clint Eastwood directed and starred in, was 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/Arnie Zane 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 2002.
Kahn received the Library of Congress Living Legends award in the "Writers and Artists" category in April 2000 for her significant contributions to America's cultural heritage. She received a Inkpot Award in July 2010.
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.
- Contino, Jennifer (May 2001). "A Chat with Kahn". Sequential Tart.
- Kahn, Jenette (w). "And Now... We Interrupt this Comic to Bring You a Word from Your New Publisher..." Batman 285 (March 1977)
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
Jenette Kahn replaced Carmine Infantino as publisher of a struggling DC Comics.
- Levitz, Paul (2010). 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Cologne, Germany: Taschen America. p. 452. ISBN 978-3-8365-1981-6.
Replacing [Carmine] Infantino in 1976 was a balance of experience and the improbable: 55-year-old production exec Sol Harrison, who had worked on National's very first comics as a color separator before being moved up to president. He was teamed with an unlikely equal partner as publisher, a 28-year-old woman from outside comics, Jenette Kahn.
- Greenberger, Robert (July 2012). "The Path of Kahn". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (57): 12.
- Levitz p. 455
- Catron, Michael (June 1981). "Harrison Retires From DC Presidency". Amazing Heroes. Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics Books (1): 31.
- Catron, Michael (June 1981). "Executive Shifts at DC". Amazing Heroes. Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics Books (1): 25.
- Kahn, Jenette (September 1978). "Publishorial: Onward and Upward". DC Comics. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013.
- "The DC Implosion". The Comics Journal. Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics Books (41): 5–7. August 1978.
- Kahn, Jenette (w). "And Now... Still Another Message of Untold Importance from our Prolific Publisher!!" Batman 286 (April 1977)
- Romero, Max (July 2012). "I'll Buy That For a Dollar! DC Comics' Dollar Comics". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (57): 39–41.
- Daniels, Les (1995). DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. New York, New York: Bulfinch Press. p. 173. ISBN 0821220764.
DC's royalties plan, inaugurated in 1981, gave percentages to writers and artists on all comics that sold beyond the break-even point of 100,000 copies.
- Levitz p. 567
- Groth, Gary (March 1981). "The Dick Giordano Interview (Part One of Three)". The Comics Journal. Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics Books (62). Archived from the original on November 8, 2013.
- "Comic Books: Swamp Thing's Quagmire". Time. July 10, 1989. Archived from the original on February 10, 2014.
- Weiland, Jonah (February 6, 2002). "DC Comics President Jenette Kahn to step down". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on February 11, 2014.
- Levitz p. 638
- "Living Legend: Jenette Kahn". Library of Congress. n.d. Archived from the original on May 25, 2010.
- Wahl, Andrew (July 24, 2010). "CCI: Jenette Kahn Earns Her Inkpot Award". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on October 11, 2013.
- Mangels, Andy (July 2012). "A Heroine History of the Wonder Woman Foundation". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (57): 48–55.
- Jenette Kahn at the Internet Movie Database
- Kimball, Kirk. "Explosion and Implosion," part one of "Secret Origins of the DC Implosion," Dial B for Blog
- on YouTube at the Chicago Humanities Festival, December 4, 2013
- Jenette Kahn Video produced by Makers: Women Who Make America
|Publisher of DC Comics
|President of DC Comics