Back Issue #57 July 2012 (magazine review).

The principle interview in this ‘Back Issue’ is ‘Bobby’ Greenburger’s interview with former DC president and publisher Jenette Kahn about her 26-year career at the comic book company there. In time served, Kahn has had to have had one of the most successful careers in comic books, and yet, other than some of the changes she made, I really didn’t know much about her background. Give yourself plenty of time to sit down and read in one sitting. Considering how male-dominated DC Comics were, she really shook things up. History makes light of her previous career, but having three successful magazines under her belt before being offered the job, plus an interest in comics, more than made up for it, Kahn was also an advocate for creator royalties, returning original art, giving different imprints to different audiences, and getting into the comics market, which was inevitable. Although Greenburger didn’t dwell on any failures, it is interesting that her bosses didn’t consult with her regarding films and merchandise as much as they should. Warner and its successors appeared to tolerate DC Comics until the Marvel super-hero films made money and realised they were sitting on their own ‘treasure trove’. I could go on, but the interview does the real work, and if you can get this issue, then you’ll learn how to shake up a company in a good way for its employees and freelancers.

The rest of this ‘Back Issue’ is devoted to various projects that Jenette Kahn instigated, their reasoning, and how long they lasted. The Dollar comics, as writer Max Romero relates, lasted 2 years, giving 4 times the comic pages for 3 times the price back in 1977, although they had limited circulation in the UK. Looking objectively, I think one of the problems comicbooks had back then was not keeping up with the rate of inflation, and it took the likes of changing the paper quality, effectively an upgrade, to change the prices. I always found it odd back then how there was a fuss stateside from going from 30 cents to 35 cents. In the UK, that would have been a couple pence and easily absorbed. Then again, in comparison, UK comics were a lot cheaper with multiple continuing stories than one per comicbook.

Writer John Wells pointed out in his article, ‘The Lost Kids Line’, how DC editor Nicola Cuti in 1984 pointed out that there was an increasingly lack of comics for children because, without them, there would be no adult audience in the USA. As such, both DC and Marvel Comics instigated junior comics, although neither lasted for more than a few years. Looking objectively back today, kids get hooked on the films and merchandise probably more than the actual comicbooks, showing how much things have changed. With the films, though, the use of bad language and violence does indicate there are fewer superhero films targeting the junior audience. In the UK, we’ve always had tiered-age comics, and you can grow from one age to another pending on your reading age. A lot still depends on story quality, which has dropped somewhat, and UK publishers depend on putting free gifts with them all the time to ensure newsagents stock them, not whether kids will actually read anymore.

The ‘Wonder Woman Foundation’, as writer Andy Mangels relates, only lasted 3 years and was stopped by Warner’s simply because another company buyout failed for them and they lacked cash. Considering this was started in 1981–84, you would think it could be reinstated now. Its purpose was to celebrate significant women, and then it was long overdue for a resurrection.

Writer Eddy Zeno’s look at DC Comics’ look at social issues focuses more on the special issues, using their characters more than within the comicbook series themselves.

Finally, writer Alex Boney’s look at the history of the Vertigo imprint is also a brief history of the independent comic companies, and I found myself totting up how many I had read until the 1990s, when expense caught up with me and stopped. I hadn’t read many Vertigo titles, and the focus was turning from artists to writers there, many from the UK. I suspect if Vertigo hadn’t existed, some other company would have come up with it.

This edition of ‘Back Issue’ is still available as a paper edition from publisher TwoMorrows and is worth spending some time over if you get a copy.

GF Willmetts

March 2024

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $10.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it currently on sale for $ 6.27 (US))

check out websites: www.TwoMorrows.com and https://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_54&products_id=1024


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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