|Parent company||Krupp Comic Works (1970–1975)|
|Country of origin||U.S.|
|Headquarters location||Princeton, Wisconsin (1970–1992)|
Northampton, Massachusetts (1993–1999)
|Publication types||Comic books|
|Fiction genres||Alternative, Underground|
|Imprints||Krupp Comic Works|
Kitchen Sink Comix
Kitchen Sink Enterprises
Top Dollar Comics
|Official website||Denis Kitchen and Kitchen Sink Press|
Kitchen Sink Press was a comic book publishing company founded by Denis Kitchen in 1970. Kitchen Sink Press was a pioneering publisher of underground comics, and was also responsible for numerous republications of classic comic strips in hardcover and softcover volumes. One of their best-known products was the first full reprint of Will Eisner's The Spirit—first in magazine format, then in standard comic book format. The company closed in 1999.
In 1969 Milwaukee artist Denis Kitchen decided to self-publish his comics and cartoons in the magazine Mom's Homemade Comics, inspired in part by the seminal underground comix titles Bijou Funnies and Zap Comix. The selling out of the 4,000 print-run inspired him further, and in 1970 he founded Kitchen Sink Press (initially as an artists' cooperative) and launched the Milwaukee-based underground newspaper The Bugle-American, with Jim Mitchell and others. Under the name of the Krupp Syndicate,[a] he syndicated comic strips to almost fifty other underground and college newspapers.
In addition to Milwaukee artists like himself, Mitchell, Bruce Walthers, Don Glassford, and Wendel Pugh, Kitchen began to publish works by such cartoonists as Howard Cruse, Trina Robbins and S. Clay Wilson (as well as taking over the publishing duties of Bijou Funnies from 1970 to 1973), and he soon expanded his operations, launching Krupp Comic Works, a parent organization into which he placed ownership of Kitchen Sink Press and through which he also launched such diverse ventures as a record company and a commercial art studio.
Kitchen established a long-running relationship with Will Eisner beginning in 1973 with a two-issue series of Eisner's classic comics series The Spirit. As a result of the success of Kitchen Sink Press's underground reprints, Warren Publishing launched a regular Spirit reprint series in magazine format in 1974. After Warren's magazine folded in 1976, Kitchen Sink picked it up in 1977, continuing with Warren's numbering until issue #41 in 1983. Other notable Kitchen Sink titles from the 1970s include anthologies like the horror title Death Rattle vol. 1 (3 issues, launched in 1972), Bizarre Sex (10 issues, launched in 1972), Snarf (15 issues, launched Feb. 1972), and Dope Comix (5 issues, launched in 1978).
The publisher supplemented revenues with the sale of merchandise such as posters, buttons, trading cards, and sound records.
Legal restrictions in the mid-1970s closed down many head shops, which had been a primary outlet for underground comix. Kitchen Sink diversified what it published, expanding into post-underground alternative comics, such as with the works of Don Simpson, Charles Burns, and Reed Waller, and reprints of older works by artists such as Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, and Ernie Bushmiller. Kitchen Sink also maintained a large back catalogue. As Kitchen devoted himself to publishing, his own cartooning work became scarce.
Transitioning from an underground publisher, in the 1980s Kitchen Sink launched such titles as Death Rattle vol. 2 (18 issues, beginning in 1985), Mark Schultz' post-apocalyptic Xenozoic Tales (14 issues, beginning in 1987), James Vance & Dan Burr's acclaimed limited series Kings in Disguise (6 issues, 1988–1989), and Doug Allen's Steven (8 issues, 1989–1996). Other titles launched by Kitchen Sink Press in this period, but later continued by other publishers, include Howard Cruse's Gay Comix, Don Simpson's Megaton Man, and Reed Waller and Kate Worley's Omaha the Cat Dancer. Kitchen Sink continued publishing the Snarf anthology until 1990.
Kitchen launched a second volume of The Spirit reprints in 1983, with a smaller page count and in standard comic book format. This incarnation of the reprints ran for 87 issues until 1992. Also in 1983, he launched the magazine Will Eisner's Quarterly, featuring new work by Eisner (previously, excerpts of Eisner's new projects had appeared in the Spirit magazine). The 1980s also saw Kitchen Sink branching out into reprints of classic comic strips beyond EIsner's work. Kitchen Sink published Steve Canyon reprints from 1983 to 1992, Li'l Abner collections from 1988 to 1999, and Nancy collections from 1989 to 1991.
Continuing their practice of collecting comic strips, in the 1990s Kitchen Sink reprinted volumes of Alley Oop, Flash Gordon, and Krazy Kat. Original titles published by Kitchen Sink in the 1990s include Grateful Dead Comix (9 total issues, 1991–1993), editor Diane Noomin's Twisted Sisters limited series, (1994), Death Rattle vol. 3 (5 issues, 1995–1996), and more Eisner projects. Kitchen Sink also launched Charles Burns' Black Hole, which was later republished and augmented by Fantagraphics Books.
In 1993, Kitchen moved operations from Princeton, Wisconsin, to Northampton, Massachusetts, in a controversial – and ultimately disastrous – merger with Tundra Publishing. Kitchen Sink/Tundra's output was strong through 1993, as reflected in the company's success at the 1994 Harvey Awards, coming away with Harveys for Best Writer (Scott McCloud for Understanding Comics), Best New Series (Captain Sternn), Best Graphic Album of Original Work (Understanding Comics), Best Anthology (Blab!), and Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation (Understanding Comics). (The company also picked up an Eisner Award that year for Best Comics-Related Book for Understanding Comics.)
In 1994, the company was sold to a Los Angeles-based investment group. The company spent the bulk of 1996–1998 releasing various original The Crow limited series, but the writing was on the wall. Media entrepreneur Fred Seibert cobbled together a group of small investors to try to reverse the fortunes of the company in 1997. After the failure of expansion into other venues of entertainment and merchandising, Kitchen Sink Press dissolved in 1999.
In 2001 and 2012, Kitchen published comics under the publisher name of Denis Kitchen Publishing.
In 2013, Dark Horse Comics announced an imprint, helmed by Denis Kitchen and John Lind, called Kitchen Sink Books. Dark Horse editor Philip Simon commented on unannounced projects saying "everything [Denis and John] are bringing to the table is going to be historically important".
Also in 2013, Columbia University's Rare Book & Manuscript Library made arrangements with Kitchen to acquire the archives of Kitchen Sink Press, including business documents, artwork, and correspondence. Columbia librarian Karen Green said the archives were "meticulously preserved".
Green called the collection "meticulously preserved" and joked about Kitchen: "God bless his compulsive, obsessive comics collecting tendences." She said the comics literary agent Judy Hansen, who formerly worked with Kitchen Sink Press, told her of the existence of the collection and encouraged her to approach Kitchen. Although initially he said he wasn't thinking about what would happen to the archive, Green said he eventually realized that Columbia University offered, "the resources to show off and preserve the collection. He knows his stuff will be taken care off."