Kids! Dynamite! Smash! After founding these wildly successful magazines, all aimed at younger readers, it seemed only natural that Jenette Kahn would eventually find a home at DC Comics. (Portrait of Kahn seen right by Neal Adams.)

Kahn grew up in Pennsylvania with her parents (her father was a Rabbi) and her brother Si. After graduating from Harvard with honors in art history, she went on to found Kids, Dynamite, and .Smash magazines. Though she was just 25 years old when she founded Smash, Kahn was savvy enough to convince legendary designer Milton Glaser to become the magazine’s art director.

In 1975, Warner Publishing Chairman Bill Sarnoff asked Kahn to join DC Comics (a Warner company) as its publisher. She accepted, joining the cmpany in 1976. Although DC would later acclaim her as “the driving creative force behind the growth of a small comic book imprint into the multi-billion dollar home of some of the most recognized iconic characters in the world,” Jenette Kahn remembers her first five years at DC as “the most difficult of times.” What Kahn terms difficult, the rest of the comic world remembers as a nearly lethal trauma.

It all began when DC decided to dramatically increase the number of titles they were publishing, adding an astonishing 57 new titles in four years. They also increased each book's page count from 17 to 25, at the same time raising prices from 35 to 50 cents. The company’s house ads labeled all this “The DC Explosion” (see ad below, which Robby used to make the fake "Secret Origins" cover seen at the top of this page).
.In Onward and Upward, the "Publishorial" which announced the DC Explosion (pictured right, click for full-size version), Jenette Kahn wrote, "Being in a more profitable format for the retailer, our comics should be a little easier to find... most harder-to-find comics will get better distribution." In time, these words would come back to haunt DC's new publisher.

"An explosion of new ideas, new concepts, new characters, and new formats," Kahn called the effort in her Publishorial. Titles which had previously featured first-string heroes in a single, book-length story, such as Batman and Flash, would get new back-up stories starring secondary existing characters such as OMAC and Enemy Ace. Titles such as Justice League of America would now have 25 page, all-new stories.

This, Kahn said, would allow "near-limitless opportunities to experiment, to do longer and indeed better stories." DC also introduced Dollar Comics, a line of books featuring 80 pages of all-new story and art for $1.00, familiar titles such as Superman Family, House of Mystery, World's Finest and G.I. Combat (house ads shown below).

DC launched 16 new titles in 1975, 21 in 1976, 12 in 1977, and 8 in 1978 -- a total of 57 new titles in four years. New superhero books included Firestorm, Black Lightning, Shade The Changing Man, and Steel. There were also relaunches of older books such as Jack Kirby's New Gods and Mister Miracle. With all the thousands of new pages DC now had to produce on a monthly basis, the company must have wished they could recruit some "super" help to produce their diverse and demanding new titles, and new lines, of comic books.
Introducing the DC-TV COMICS line!
What’s on TV? Comic books! Jenette Kahn was among the first to aggressively promote comic-television synergy, and DC was able to license several TV shows to adapt as comic books, and vice versa. The company’s television properties, grouped together as the “DC-TV” line, consisted of reincarnated Egyptian super heroine Isis, Captain Marvel aka Shazam, the animated Justice League aka the Super Friends, and Gabe Kaplan’s Welcome Back, Kotter! aka the show that introduced John Travolta (aka Vinnie Barbarino) to the world.
Introducing the all-new DC FANTASY-ADVENTURE line!
In an attempt to “diversify” DC's offerings, the company also added a whole new line of fantasy/adventure comics, including Beowulf Slayer of Dragons (hero of the epic poem), Claw the Unconquered (a Conan rip-off), Hercules Unbound (inspired by Thor), Justice Inc. (starring Pulp hero the Avenger), Kong the Untamed (a Korak, Son of Tarzan rip-off), Stalker (“The Man with the Stolen Soul”), Tor (a Joe Kubert caveman), and The Warlord (by Mike Grell). BELOW: First... Then... Now!
Things seemed to be flying along at DC, and with the imminent premiere of Superman The Movie, the first of the popular film series starring the late Christopher Reeve as Superman, the future looked bright. In 1977, DC held ."The Great Superman Movie Contest." Pictured below are Jenette Kahn, Christopher Reeve and DC President Sol Harrison burrowing through stacks of entries. The contest winners, two teenager boys, .were awarded cameo roles in the movie playing members of the Smallville football team who run past waterboy Clark Kent.

Although DC published only a small handful of tie-ins, the movie was expected to boost DC's profile considerably, and in turn raise the sales of Superman titles as well as DC's other superhero books, and perhaps revitalize the entire industry. High hopes that, unfortunately, were never fulfilled. Fate had other plans.


It looked as though Kahn had DC revved up and firing on all cylinders -- but there was one deadly enemy that Kahn and Harrison hadn't counted on: Old Man Winter.

In late 1977, America was frozen stiff as horrendous winter weather swept much of the nation, with one blizzard raging on for as long as 25 hours, and wind chills reaching 60 below zero. Seven western New York counties were declared national disaster areas, and in Buffalo, 29 people died of exposure. Then, in February 1978, the "Blizzard of 1978” battered the entire East Coast, claiming 54 lives and causing an estimated billion dollars in damage.

Chilling as these storms were for normal everyday life, they were devastating for the comic book industry in general, and for DC in particular. .Jenette Kahn had earlier promised that "most harder-to-find comics will get better distribution," but now whole shipments were going undelivered. Comic specialty shops were few in number, and were not the huge market force they are now. Most comic books were sold from newsstands.

As the winter raged outside, parents were too busy coping with the deadly storms and their aftermath to venture out and buy young Johnny some silly comic books. If they did manage to make it outside in the storms, they were far more concerned with obtaining food and water -- and most supermarkets didn't .sell comic books!

From 1975 to 1978, DC had premiered 57 new titles, and as winter sales figures began to trickle in, it became apparent that the new titles were not selling. The dreadful weather was certainly a major factor, but it must also be said that the quality of DC’s dozens and dozens of new books was really not very good.

Many of the new comics starred heroes that were just pale knockoffs of existing characters, and the revivals were halfhearted at best. To be honest, most of DC's explosion-era comics read like filler material. Only a small handful of explosion titles survived the storms, and in truth, only a small handful DESERVED to survive!


Late in 1978, Warner executives, ignoring the recent winter's temporary chilling effect on sales, ordered Kahn and Harrison to permanently cut the DC line to just 26 books -- twenty 40 cent books and six $1.00 books. All in all, DC suffered through a staggering total of 65 cancellations, and actually leaving the company with eight less titles than it had previously published before detonating the “Explosion.” Not all of these cancellations were made at once; they occurred over the course of several years. The end result of this horrifying turn of events was announced in far more muted fashion than the screaming "DC Explosion" ads in the modest little promo from Flash #268 (Dec. 1978) seen below.


In addition to the numerous cancellations, a bloodbath that was mockingly labeled "The DC Implosion," there were also five brand-new titles in the works which never saw publication: Demand Classics (which would have begun by .reprinted the Legion of Superheroes stories revolving around Ferro Lad), Deserter (a western), Green Team (a group of boy millionaires), Vixen (future member of JLA Detroit), and Western Classics (reprinted cowboy stories).

What happened to the already-completed artwork for these cancelled comics? It didn’t disappear. Some of .it was reprinted in various titles, but much of it was published ONLY in “Cancelled Comic Cavalcade,” an ultra-rare, inter-company publication named after Comic Cavalcade, the Golden Age comic that first starred the original GL, Wonder Woman and Flash (cover pictured left), and later featured funny animals.

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 and #2 are actually two collections of B&W photocopies of then-unpublished inventory material, some of it dating back as long as five years. These "comics," bound under a nondescript blue cover (pictured right), are among the rarest ever printed! There are only 35 original copies of each of the two volumes in existence. They were made by the Warner Duplicating department for the material's creators, and for the purpose of legally securing DC's copyright on the new characters.

What dark and forbidden secrets lurk beneath the mysterious blue cover seen above? Find out tomorrow, as DIAL B for BLOG rips the cover off of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1, and reveals unpublished art by Rich Buckler, Vince Colletta (wait, it gets better), Mike Kaluta, Joe Kubert (see?), Bob McLeod and Al Milgrom, from unseen issues of Black Lightning, Claw, The Deserter, Doorway to Nightmare, Firestorm and The Green Team!


Comic Cavalcade #1!