Chatting with Jenette Kahn for Back Issue!
I completely missed that my editor Michael Eury announced, just before Christmas the contents of the June issue of Back Issue! The cover story and bulk of the issue will be a career retrospective interview I conducted with Jenette Kahn. For those unfamiliar with Jenette, she arrived out of the blue to become DC’s publisher in 1976 and became its President as well in 1980, taking the title of Editor-in-Chief later on.
Jenette, with Paul Levitz, was responsible for DC experimenting with formatting such as 80-page dollar comics and adding eight-page backup stories in what was intended as a DC Explosion but management canceled the plan so today it’s better recalled as the DC Implosion. Still, she improved page rates and reprint rates for the talent, later ushering in the field’s first royalty plan and created an environment that encouraged talent to experiment.
Under Jenette, DC expanded in countless ways including creating its Special Projects division and upgrading the quality of the licensed merchandise the company approved. She championed the characters moving forward, heading into television and movies although that took a lot more time. It’s really her efforts in print that are best recalled since she allowed the content to mature and rewarded the efforts by creating Vertigo and later Piranha/Paradox Press. She also recognized when the time had come to spruce up the Big Three, using Crisis on Infinite Earths as the catalyst. It all culminated in 1986, the company’s biggest year when it released Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight, the revamp of Superman, and Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ The Watchmen.
Jenette left staff about a decade back and has gone Hollywood, a partner at Double Nickel Productions, which was responsible for Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino. Through the years, Jenette has usually preferred to let everyone else talk so has been rarely interviewed. When Michael suggested it was time for a career look back, I jumped at the chance. Jenette agreed and we spent hours between June and August chatting. The resulting transcript is being fact-checked and edited right now and I should be delivering this to Michael in a few weeks.
Also in the issue will articles on those Dollar Comics, the unrealized kids’ line, the Wonder Woman Foundation, an interview with my pal and neighbor Bob Wayne, the early days of Vertigo, and a tribute to the recently departed Eduardo Barreto. Should make for some fine reading.