Dope Comix

"Denis Kitchen
Born: August 27, 1946
Milwaukee, Wisconsin" (p. 275)

"[Kitchen] graduated [UWM] in June 1968 and was drafted in November. Already tall and thin, he tried to lose enough weight to flunk the physical, but was still one pound over the minimum weight for a 6 foot, 5 inch inductee, so Kitchen was shaven, shorn, and shipped to Fort Campbell, Kentucky for basic training. There he made a pact with another reluctant recruit, who had the opposite weight problem, and was trying to gain pounds so he would be rejected as overweight. " he ate my mashed potatoes, which I had peeled on K.P. duty, and I ate his crackers and water," Kitchen said. "Twenty-two days later we both got out." (p.121)

"[Kitchen's] first comic was published int he summer of 1969 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "I was working in a vacuum. I didn't set out to do an underground comic, just a comic for local consumption." He had 4,000 comics printed then he and his brother Jim and partner Bill Kauth sold them on the the streets. "I was hawking them downtown at the Schlitz 4th of July parade," said Kitchen. "Some plain clothesmen who were at the parade approached me and asked me what I was selling. I told them it was just a comic book and there was nothing wrong with it. They said, 'We'll judge that.'. They started flipping through. There was this really innocuous panel with a woman with bare nipples, really innocuous. They saw that, and they handed it back to me and said 'If we see you selling this to anyone under 21, you'll be in the clinker'.
Kitchen sent a copy of Mom's Homemade Comics to the Bijou Publishing Empire post office box in Chicago. Lynch and Crumb, who was visiting at the time, read it and decided to take a road trip to Milwaukee and meet Kitchen in person." (pp. 162- 163)

"[In 1971, the] biggest problem for publishers Rip Off Press, Last asp Eco-Funnies, Krupp Comic Works, and Print Mint were getting the comic books out fast enough to satisfy their customers. Heap shop owners were clamoring for new titles and new readers continued buying the old titles, which were often reprinted several times. Business was booming and a print run of 20,000 was average for a new title. Counterculture comedies like Mother Oats and Furry Freak Brothers proved to be more marketable then LSD-inspired epics like Googiewaumer and Tales from the Sphinx." (p. 171)

"Kitchen was trying everything to get his company rolling, including wall murals, t-shirts, rings, marijuana leaves in epoxy, and a semi-erotic puzzle game. He had slightly better luck in a music venture, and in the spring of 1972 he invited Crumb and the Keep on Truckin' Orchestra to come to Wisconsin to record a 78 rpm record of 1920s style blues music." (p. 213)

"[In 1973] head shops started having trouble and they were forced to choose being selling cigarette papers and pipes and [marijuana] comics... They couldn't sell both in the same store because the police would testify that Freak Brothers [and other marijuana] comic were an instruction manual on how to use papers and pipes to smoke marijuana and not tobacco. If the storeowner didn't have these comic books in the store, he could legitimately say he was selling these papers and pipes to smoke tobacco in. That forced a lot of head shops to make this choice. As a result the underground comix lost a lot of their distributors...
Kitchen Sink Press published Bizarre Sex #3, Commies from Mars and two issues each of Snarf and Death Rattle that, but far too few of the copies left the warehouse. When the next royalty payment time rolled around, Kitchen asked his artists to take comic books instead of cash. Crumb agreed to accept 11,000 copies of Homegrown Funnies and XYZ Comics in lieu of a royalty check, and others grudgingly agreed to peddle their own books, which was a step above no payment, they concluded. Their last venture that year was Kruppcards, a collection of Christmas cards by Krupp artists, which turned out to be the only decent seller." (pp. 119- 126)

"Krupp Comic Works managed to stay in business by concentrating on fewer projects, but continued to expand their range of offerings, which soon included The Famous Cartoonist Button Series, several sets of Kruppcards, and Kurtzman Komix, a collection of Harvey Kurtzman's early comic strips. After Kurtzman drew a Flash Gordon parody cover for Snarf #5, Kitchen attempted to recruit other overground comic artists to do Snarf covers, including Al Capp and Wally Wood, but they died before he could convince them.
Wet Satin: Women's Erotic Fantasies, edited by Trina Robbins, turned out to be their most controversial book of 1976. Kitchen's regular printer in Port Washington, Wisconsin refused to run it through his press, so they had it printed in San Francisco. New titles likeCorporate Crime Comics, Dutch Treat, and Dope Comix keep them alive through the rest of the decade, as well as several Crumb titles, which could always be counted on to sell well, including the second printings of The People's Comics, Artistic Comics and Mr. Natural #3, which collected Crumb strips that had appeared in the Village Voice." (pp. 258- 259)

"The comic giants of the 1960's, DC and Marvel, no longer monopolize the marketplace. Today many smaller independent publishers supply a large share of adult and children's comics. The example of successful underground publishers like Print Mint, Last Gasp, Rip Off Press, and Kitchen Sink Press had inspired many other individuals to start publishing the work of artists and authors that they like, despite being underfinanced and outgunned by large media conglomerates." (p. 262)

"In 1993, artist and publisher Denis Kitchen moved his Kitchen sink Press operation from Princeton, Wisconsin to Northamptom, Massachusetts in a merger with Tundra, a comics publishing company founded by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co- creator Kevin Eastman..... In January 1999, Kitchen announced that his publishing company, after 30 years in the comic biz, was shutting down.
Kitchen is also a founding member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which was started in January 1990 to raise money to help defray legal expenses for bookstore owners busted for selling "obscene" materials, and to defend publishers' rights to freedom of the press. He now works as an artist's agent for the Kitchen & Hansen Agency, as a packagers for such projects as a complete collection of Little Anne Fanny an, and has recently launched a new publishing imprint, Denis Kitchen Publishing, which released Harvey Kurtzman's The Grasshopper and the Ant in 2001." (p. 275)

-Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution (1963-1975) by Patrick Rosenkranz (2002)

Related Reading:

Dope Comix #4
Dope Comix #2
Dope Comix #5
Dope Comix: The Buzz-Off Edition
Dope Comix #1