The Denis Kitchen Interview

by SidSid Keränen
Copyright © 2001 Heart-Attack-Series, Ink!

Interview was made in April and October 2001.

Denis Kitchen was born in 27th Aug. 1946 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the U.S.A. About his art school background he replies, "None, thank God". His first published comic story was in a fanzine called "Mom's Homemade Comics" in 1969. First print run of 4000 was soon sold out ja Denis desided to be a published by himself, partly because he thought that San Francisco u-comics movement was too amateur. Kitchen Sink Press was founded in the end of 1969. The most well known characters from Kitchen are Little Ingrid, Pooch, the Dread Spud, Mr. Krupp. Kitchen has published a collection called "The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen". He said he was never a full-time comic creator because he draws too slow. "I could not reach even minimum salaries". Then again he loves to be a publisher. Kitchen differs from other u-comic creators because he always did work with big syndicates too. In 1974 he edited for Marvel three issues of Comix Book which tried to publish underground comix for the mass public, but it did not sell well. Kitchen Sink Press is one of the pioneers of u-comix; it published comic books like, Bijou Funnies, Mr. Natural, Gay Comics and Omaha. In Finland Kitchen comics can be found at least from u-comix books Jymy and Huuli. The most well know artists alongside of Kitchen were Robert Crumb, Jay Lynch, Richard Corben, Howard Cruse and Art Spiegelman. In 1972 Kitchen Sink Press started to publish classical collections from names like, Ulla by Erine Bushman, Lil'l Abner by Al Capp, The Spirit by Will Eisner, Krazy Kat by Herriman and Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond. The more newer names are, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs by Mark Schultz and Understanging Comics by Scott McCloud. Under Krupp Comics Works Kitchen published also 78 rpm Records where Robert Crumb played with the band. His companies had got in golden years 35 workers. In 1996 strikes crise on comics scene all around. Kitchen Sink Press got financial problems and was shut down in the end of 1998. Soon after Kitchen founded another, new company, Denis Kitchen Publishing (www.deniskitchen.com).

There is a book about Kitchen Sink: Dave Screiner: Kitchen Sink Press. The First 25 Years. Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink, 1994. 128 pg. ISBN 0-87816-307-7 (Softcovers) and 0-87816-292-5 (Hard Bound).

Written (in Feb. 2002) by Pauli Ruonala [for the Finnish Comic Society's magazine Sarjainfo (will be out in summer 2002)]. Here on this web site with permission of author.
Translated (in the end of April 2002) by SidSid Keränen.

Sarjainfo #87 (2/1995) reports in short article, "Kitchen Sink exerts from the underground to the big screens" ("Kitchen Sink ponnistaa maan alta valkokankaalle"), by Harri Römpötti, that a couple years ago Kitchen Sink and Tundra were going to co-operate. Tundra was an uncommercial quality publication company by a teenage mutant ninja turtle miljonaire Kevin Eastman. Before that Kitchen Sink started to work with the multimedia firm from the west coast. Kitchen was going to be a multimedia company with movies and television games, says the article. The closest to that would be the Dark Horse publishing company. Kitchen Sink was planning to do movie version from Hell series by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. The script would be done by Terry Hayes (Road Warrior) and they wanted to have Anthony Hopkins as a leading role. The lastest news about rights of Hell series says that they are in Touchstone studios by Disney, concludes the article.

What was the first comic story you saw made by Mr. Corben?

It would have been one of his self-published Fantagors in early 1971.

When or how you did meet him?

After several years of correspondence and a cancelled meeting that was originally scheduled for January 1971, I finally met Richard in April 1976 when I stopped in Kansas City on a cross-country driving tour.

In 1972 Mr. Corben did the cover art and one story with Mr. Jan Strnad for Fever Dreams. What kind of deal you had with Mr. Corben and Mr. Jan Strnad with that story ("To Meet the Faces You Meet")? Was it ordered with exact page count; Fever Dreams is divided with Mr. Corben's and Mr. John Richardson half and half?

It was a standard underground comix deal: a 10% royalty based on cover price, and with all rights retained by the creators. I didn't order an exact page count. I was eager to publish a comic by Richard Corben. Frankly, I was disappointed l when I learned Richard was doing just half the book. I was further disappointed when I saw John Atkins Richardson's contribution. His style was not "my cup of tea" and I was not pleased that his story, instead of Richards's, was designated the lead story. this was largely offset by Richard's magnificent front cover. Fever Dreams sold very well for Kitchen Sink Press. I'm certain it would have sold even better had it been a full-length story or, at least, Corben throughout.

Both stories are from Mr. Jan Strnad; why him?

He was a good friend of Richard's, living in the same city. They were frequent collaborators, as you must know.

You did go on with Mr. Corben in Death Rattle #1 in the very same year. Did you ask story for it? Or was it Mr. Corben's proposal?

I asked Richard if he would contribute to my new horror series and he said he'd love to. I was delighted with his cover. His story ["Gastric Fortitude"] inside was a bit of a "quickie."

Later Mr. Corben did some "realistic fantasy art" covers for Bizarre Sex #4 (1975) and #5 (1976). Was there "picture in your mind", what kind of covers you were after on those magazines?

I did not tell Richard "what" to draw. I thought the title "Bizarre Sex" was enough to stimulate his imagination. There were already pre-existing covers that he had seen. Richard more than met my expectations with his covers, particularly #5, with the naked women crawling over the giant phallic slug.

According my files you were together in the same book next time in Jay Lynch's Nard n' Pat #1 (1974). Did you know about his part in that story?

You are referring to the single-panel jams we each did with Jay? I don't recall if I had seen Richard's before I did mine. I seem to recall that Jay sent me some "teasers," and it's very possible Richard was among them. I know Jay was one of the earliest supporters of Richard's self-published work.

You stopped collaboration with Mr. Corben because of die out of underground boom?

Unfortunately, yes. The undergrounds provided the fairest income but not the steadiest for contributors. Richard generally had bad luck with publishers. He warned me once that he never got along with any of them, so he preferred to self-publish.

Are you familiar with Mr. Corben's recent works? How do you like them (as a producer/artist)?

I have to confess that I have not read Corben's recent works.

Thank you for your time.

It was happy to cooperate. ---Denis Kitchen (www.deniskitchen.com)

Oh, one more thing, I always wanted to ask, who did beautiful/ugly woman pict in inner front cover in Fever Dreams (1972)? And was front cover design (with logo) by Mr. Corben?

Yes, that inside cover was by Corben.


© Dennis Kitchen, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Copyright © 2002 Heart-Attack-Series, Ink!,
Created: April 27, 2002. Modified: February 16, 2013.
(Q's 10th April; A's 24th Oct. 2001.)