Throwback Thursday: Jenette Kahn’s Comic-Con

In 2010, San Diego’s Comic-Con International was trying out a new-fangled online scheduling system. It showed that only 77 people were signed up to attend a Spotlight on the first female comic book executive, Jenette Kahn. But as we know now, the online record doesn’t necessarily present the in-person picture. As Comic Book Resources reports, a crowded room stood to receive Jenette Kahn with applause as she received an Inkpot Award for her 27 years at DC Comics.

Comic-Con International awards Inkpots to individuals for their “contributions to the worlds of comics, science fiction/fantasy, film, television, animation, and fandom services.” As the Spotlight session went on, it became clear how Kahn had contributed to these worlds.

When she became publisher of DC Comics in 1976, Kahn was shocked by the lack of women and general diversity. When she started, the staff consisted of 35 people and three women (including Kahn herself). Kahn grew the company to 250 people with women representing one-half of the staff.

When she joined DC (a division of Warner Brothers), Warner Brothers management considered comics to be a type of children’s publishing. Kahn, inspired by French comics gaining popularity in the US,  wanted to create a more upscale product for an older audience. To renew creativity, Kahn sought to first improve creators’ rights. Under Kahn’s leadership, creators were no longer required to sign over all rights in perpetuity. Creators were awarded a royalties payment plan as well.

Khan also saw comics’ potential to portray real-life consequences. She oversaw the creation of anti-mining comics which earned her honors from the Clinton Administration, Madeleine Albright, the UN, and the Department of Defense. The FBI also honored Kahn for her work on gun control.

This year, thousands of people return to San Diego for their annual fan fest. Though you won’t hear Kahn give another in-depth Q&A there, you can hear her story (even beyond comics) right here: