Jenette Kahn
Portrait of Jenette Kahn by Michael Netzer
Born (1947-05-16) May 16, 1947 (age 77)
AwardsLibrary of Congress Living Legends, 2000
Inkpot Award, 2010

Jenette Kahn (/kɑːn/; born May 16, 1947[1][2]) 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.

Early life

Jenette Kahn grew up in Boston. Her father was a rabbi.[3] Her brother, Si Kahn, is 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.[3]


After graduating from Radcliffe College with a degree in art history,[1] Kahn eventually founded three magazines for young people. The original publication, Kids, was entirely written by children for one another.[3][4] Its subject matter included drug abuse, diversity, animal protection, and the environment. Kahn's second magazine was Dynamite, for Scholastic Inc.[4] Kahn followed with Smash for Xerox Education Publications.[4]

DC Comics

Kahn was 28 years old on February 2, 1976, when she became publisher of DC Comics,[5][6] 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.[7] 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."[8] In February 1981, she became president following the retirement of Harrison.[9][10][11] She was the youngest person in the company to become president of a division, and the first woman. Furthermore, before Kahn began her new position, she was instrumental in dissuading the head of Warner Publishing Services from simply ending National's publishing in favor of simple license maintenance, and kept it a going concern.[12]

To mark her new direction for the company, Kahn officially renamed National Periodical Publications to DC Comics, complete with a bold new company logo, nicknamed the DC Bullet, designed by Milton Glaser.[13] Furthermore, she moved to centralize editorial from its individual fiefdoms to place the characters in a more interactive DC Multiverse with a more systematic approval process for the artistic staff to produce fewer and commercially sounder titles. To that end, Kahn sought to hire young staff to revitalize the content such as an unsuccessful attempt to recruit Marvel Comics mainstay artist, John Buscema, and a successful recruitment of major Marvel writer, Steve Englehart.[14] Later in her administration, Kahn's recruitment goals became easier for the fact that Marvel Comics' Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter, was proving alienating to much of his company's creative staff and they consequently proved receptive to Kahn's offers including major talents like Roy Thomas, Gene Colan, Marv Wolfman, and George Perez.[15]

In addition, Kahn, unlike her predecessors, was impressed by Jack Kirby's seminal Fourth World titles, like The New Gods, and viewed their abrupt cancellation as a serious mistake. While Jack Kirby could not return to DC when Kahn revived the property in the 1970s as he was under contract with his return to Marvel,[16] Kahn's faith in the property was borne out in the 1980s when the toy company, Kenner Products, judged it ideal for their Super Powers Collection action figure adaptation of the DC characters. This enabled Kahn to invite the now available Kirby to not only return to his characters in the first two Super Powers limited series, but also design their action figures for Kenner, earning his first royalties for his work.[17]

Kahn initiated the "DC Explosion" of new titles and formats[18] which was followed in 1978 by a company downturn referred to as the "DC Implosion.[19] Along with editor and executive vice president Paul Levitz[3] and managing editor Dick Giordano, Kahn then revitalized the company through the remainder of the decade and the 1980s, including the introduction of "Dollar Comics" publications,[20][21] as well as limited series to allow for more flexible arrangements for the talent. Kahn supported creators' rights in an industry in which royalties and other traditional publishing rights were not the norm, thus giving the talent a stake in the commercial success of their work that the industry's traditional work-for-hire arrangements never encouraged.[3][22] In 1989, she assumed the title of editor-in-chief while retaining the office of president but stepped down as publisher.[23]

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. Giordano commented that Kahn had no editorial restrictions on creators, as far as he could tell.[24] 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.[25]

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.[3] Kahn left DC Comics in 2002 after 26 years with the company[26] to pursue a career as a film producer.[27]

Double Nickel Entertainment

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. Its second was Gran Torino (2008), starring Clint Eastwood, who also directed.

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.[28] She received an Inkpot Award in July 2010.[29]

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.

The FBI honored Kahn for her efforts on gun control,[citation needed] as did former Governor Douglas Wilder of Virginia, who credited her with helping to pass stricter gun control legislation in his state.[citation needed] She was honored by the World Design Foundation for outstanding creative achievements.[citation needed]

Kahn created The Wonder Woman Foundation in honor of Wonder Woman's 40th Anniversary. In its three years of existence, the foundation contributed more than $350,000 in grants to women over 40 in various categories.[30]



  1. ^ a b Gutis, Philip S. (January 6, 1985). "Turning Superheroes into Super Sales". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 28, 2018. Retrieved June 7, 2017. ...Jenette Kahn, DC's now 37-year-old president and publisher...; And in the Central Park West apartment that she shares with her two cats and her husband of one year, Morton J. Fink, a former president of Warner Home Video.
  2. ^ "Jenette S. Kahn". Retrieved June 7, 2017. Name: Jeannette Kahn. Also Known As: Jenet Kahn, Jeanette S. Kahn, Jenette S. Kahn
  3. ^ a b c d e f Contino, Jennifer (May 2001). "A Chat with Kahn". Sequential Tart. Archived from the original on October 26, 2003.
  4. ^ a b c Kahn, Jenette (w). "And Now... We Interrupt this Comic to Bring You a Word from Your New Publisher..." Batman, no. 285 (March 1977).
  5. ^ Levitz, Paul (March 15, 2016). "Jenette Kahn Interview". Archived from the original on August 21, 2018. Retrieved June 7, 2017. Jenette Kahn arrived at National Periodical Publications in 1976 as a 28 year old ...; ...Groundhog's Day [February 2], 1976, when you arrived at DC.
  6. ^ 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. ((cite book)): |first2= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Greenberger, Robert (July 2012). "The Path of Kahn". Back Issue! (57). Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing: 12.
  9. ^ Levitz (2010) p. 455
  10. ^ Catron, Michael (June 1981). "Harrison Retires From DC Presidency". Amazing Heroes (1). Stamford, Connecticut: Fantagraphics Books: 31.
  11. ^ Catron, Michael (June 1981). "Executive Shifts at DC". Amazing Heroes (1). Stamford, Connecticut: Fantagraphics Books: 25.
  12. ^ Tucker, Reed (2017). Slugfest: In the Epic 50-Year Battle between Marvel and DC. Da Capo Press. pp. 100–1.
  13. ^ Tucker. Slugfest. pp. 105–6.
  14. ^ Tucker. Slugfest. pp. 101–2.
  15. ^ Tucker. Slugfest. pp. 112–3.
  16. ^ Scioli, Tom (2020). Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics. Ten Speed Press. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-9848-5690-6.
  17. ^ Scioli. Jack Kirby. p. 178.
  18. ^ Kahn, Jenette (September 1978). "Publishorial: Onward and Upward". DC Comics. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013.
  19. ^ "The DC Implosion". The Comics Journal (41). Stamford, Connecticut: Fantagraphics Books: 5–7. August 1978.
  20. ^ Kahn, Jenette (w). "And Now... Still Another Message of Untold Importance from our Prolific Publisher!!" Batman, no. 286 (April 1977).
  21. ^ Romero, Max (July 2012). "I'll Buy That For a Dollar! DC Comics' Dollar Comics". Back Issue! (57). Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing: 39–41.
  22. ^ Daniels, Les (1995). DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. New York City: 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.
  23. ^ Levitz (2010) p. 567
  24. ^ Groth, Gary (March 1981). "The Dick Giordano Interview (Part One of Three)". The Comics Journal (62). Stamford, Connecticut: Fantagraphics Books. Archived from the original on November 8, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  25. ^ "Comic Books: Swamp Thing's Quagmire". Time. July 10, 1989. Archived from the original on February 10, 2014.
  26. ^ Weiland, Jonah (February 6, 2002). "DC Comics President Jenette Kahn to step down". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on February 11, 2014.
  27. ^ Levitz (2010) p. 638
  28. ^ "Living Legend: Jenette Kahn". Library of Congress. n.d. Archived from the original on May 25, 2010.
  29. ^ Wahl, Andrew (July 24, 2010). "CCI: Jenette Kahn Earns Her Inkpot Award". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on October 11, 2013.
  30. ^ Mangels, Andy (July 2012). "A Heroine History of the Wonder Woman Foundation". Back Issue! (57). Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing: 48–55.
Preceded byCarmine Infantino Publisher of DC Comics 1976–1989 Succeeded byPaul Levitz Preceded bySol Harrison President of DC Comics 1981–2002 Succeeded byPaul Levitz Preceded byn/a Editor-in-Chief of DC Comics 1989–2002 Succeeded byBob Harras