1999: Mona

This is the two hundred and twenty-first post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

Mona (1999) #1 edited by Robert Boyd

This is it! Finally! The last post in this blog series! Sort of!

As far as I can tell, Mona was the last thing Kitchen Sink published, but some of the dates on some of these things are unclear. But it might be the last thing. So this should be the final blog post, except for me missing a couple things while doing the series chronologically, so I’m going to be posting a handful more posts after this…

And after that, I can finally pack my Professional Comic Snapping Studio up and the guest room can revert to, like, having guests.

And since this is the final thing Kitchen published, I’ll also be covering how Kitchen Sink finally went under, and that story is a doozy. But that has to wait until the end of this blog post, because we first have to read this anthology.

It’s pretty fitting that the final thing that Kitchen Sink published was an anthology, because anthologies had pretty much defined Kitchen Sink from when it started.

Mona is a pretty unusual beast — it’s about 100 pages long, and it’s a mix of shorter and longer pieces, with the longest one being the Hutch Owen strip by Tom Hart.

Which is very funny and quite affecting. Tom Hart should have been a superstar, but it never quite happened. The 90s were hard for comics artists.

Boyd includes a handful of pages by Harvey Kurtzman (originally run by L’Écho des Savanes in the 70s).

And a very strange longer piece by Lorentzo Mattoti.

Boyd explains that this was supposed to be a continuing series, but for reasons he doesn’t state, there’s only one issue. Reading news stories around this time, Boyd had accepted stories and covers for the next two issues, at least, so more were really in the pipelines. But it sounds like Boyd was allowed to push this out at the last moment, after Kitchen Sink had mostly shut down already.

J. Bradley Johnson does a short thing about bees (note: not biologically accurate).

Before we end with a number of shorter pieces by Matthew Guest. This meticulous rendering style combined with the kinda ugly figures makes things exquisitely gross.

It’s a really strong anthology. I think it’s just about the perfect size for an anthology — 100 pages allow you to drop in longer pieces without having them dominate the issue, and you can drop in surprises without annoying the readers. While the contents seem to be a bit all over the place, I think this could have grown into an important anthology.

Milo George includes it in his top 5 in The Comics Journal #220, page 37:

The most frustrating non-event Of 1999 would
have to be the stillbirth of this unique anthology.
One Of the casualties Of Kitchen Sin king, Mona had
the best contributor signal-to-noise ratio Of any
anthology published this year: a cover by Jaime
Hernandez (with Dave Cooper’s striking logo), an
anti-corporate imperialism Hutch Owen farce from
Tom Hart, three pages of solo Harvey Kurtzman
from the 1970s (prefaced with an enthusiastic prc»
file of Kurtzman by editor Robert Boyd) and a
translation of Lorenzo Mattotti ‘s breathtaking pen-
and-ink fever dream The Thinker’s Secret. “That’s
a lot Of signal for five bucks. Monds broad diversity
Of material was refreshing — how Often does work
from Hart, Kurtzman and Mattotti appear between
two covers? — but not as refreshing as the generous
amount of space Boyd allowed for contributions;
most anthologies the same size would feature twice
as many contributions shoehorned and truncated
to fill the pages. Monacould have been a place where
journeymen cartoonists could stretch out of the 5-10
page anthology box for a change. A place where
reprints of obscure work by past masters and trans-
lations of exquisite foreign work could see the light
of day. Mona had a lot of promise, and that what
makes its stillbirth so frustrating.

So does Dylan Horrocks in The Comics Journal #220, page 40:

Ah, anthologies… Actually, this last slot was a toss-up between Boyd’s ill-fated Monaand Kim Thompson’s ill-fated Zero Zero, since both were marvellous
anthologies and deserved to flourish. But we all know how hard it is for anthologies to survive these days, and poor old Mona never got a chance, with Kitchen
Sink imploding before it even hit the shops. W’hich is a damn shame— the combination of Tom Hart and Lorenzo Mattotti (both With long stand-alone
stories) was a sign of great things to come. At least we still have one more Zero Zero to look forward to…

The Comics Journal #208, page 10:

It was also reported to the Journal,
starting with rumors on October 23,
that Kitchen Sink Press had dismissed
empl oy e es in light ofcontinuingfund-
ing problems. Contacted by the
Journal, Kitchen Sink Senior Director
of Publicity and Marketing Jamie
Riehle confirmed that an editor and a
designer were let go by Kitchen, not
because of a period of financial diffl-
culties like those that caused the
company to be re-financed in times
past, but to better reflect KSP’s move
away from the comic book market.


Both persons fired by Kitchen
Sink are working with the company
on a freelance basis. For example,
Editor Robert Boyd had been re-
tained to edit the forthcoming
anthology Mona, although Richle
admits that With and that
alternative anthology will probably
no longer attempt to meet its an-
nounced monthly schedule. think
we’re going to do it more quarterly, ”
he said.


Because what ultimately went down was something so absurd that… that… well, it was absurd. Basically, the new owner of Kitchen Sink fired Denis Kitchen.

Yes, you’re now saying “but but Denis Kitchen was Kitchen Sink”? Yup.

In short, a swindler called Donald Todrin was instrumental in getting Fred Seibert to pony up money to buy Kitchen Sink from the smoking embers of Ocean Group in 1997. This was after the second Crow movie had bombed, and Kitchen Sink was left with a lot of unsaleable merchandise.

Kitchen didn’t know much about Todrin, but it soon became clear that Todrin was problematic. For instance, he showed up at the Kitchen offices wearing an ankle monitor (because of previous swindling), and generally acting like an ass.

After a year, Denis Kitchen had had enough, so he called up Seibert and said “either he goes or I go”. Seibert claims that he then consulted a wise woman and she said “keep the asshole and fire the nice guy”. Seibert then fired Denis Kitchen, and Todrin took over the company… and stopped publishing comics. He only wanted to do the lucrative candy sales (which had been a side-line at Kitchen Sink).

The end.

But people disagree about the particulars, of course.

The Comics Journal #213, page 15:

Todrin’s version Of things, as one
might imagine, doesn’t quite match
up with Kitchen’s. take the heat,”
he told the Journal. “I know I’m the
bad guy. But somebody had to make
the hard business decisions.
Todrin pointed out that he and
his financial management company,
Workout Group, had pulled Kitchen
Sink back from the abyss of bank-
ruptcy in early 1997, and by the end
of the year, the company had “no
debt, [but did have] inventory, cash
and a new environment.” Kitchen
Sink’s owners were so impressed, he
said, “they asked me to stay around to
make sure they didn’t make the same
mistakes again.
That proved to be a diffcult man-
date to carry out. “No matter what I
did, at the end of the day, Denis had
control over What to publish,” said
Todrin. In the year following KSP’s
fresh start, ‘*he managed to lose an-
otherS 1.5 million. (Kitchen disputes
this, saying it couldn’t have been
more than a million.)
Approaching the showdown from
the opposite end Of the street, Todrin
reached the same conclusion Kitchen
had: the company wasn’t big enough
for the two of them. “I basically had
to shoot him between the eyes,”
Todrin said, building to a paroxysm
ofmetaphor. “l had to kill the Kitchen
because the Sink was clogged up.”
The problem, as Todrin saw it,
Was that Kitchen wouldn’t know a
good commercial property if it flew
in the window with a bright red cape.
“He was totally committed against
publishing things that would sell,”
Todrin told the Journal. “We needed
a monthly superhero title, but we
couldn’t get one, because Denis took
a stand against it. Denis abhorred The
Crow, even though it made him tons
of money. These are mistakes. He
called them political necessities.”
Todrin paused a moment in won-
der at such commercial imbecility.
He did not want to say these terrible
things about Kitchen and had tried to
persuade theJoumal to keep his com-
ments off the record. “l know the
industry holds Denis in reverence,”
he said. ‘ ‘That reverence should be
felt for him as an artist, but not as a

Todrin sounds like a real gentleman.

The Comics Journal #213, page 16:

Even without the albatross Of
Kitchen’s refined taste, however,
Kitchen Sink Press continued to lose
money. Though most ofKSP’s titles
had been canceled, Todrin said he
pinned his hopes on a handful ofbig-
ticket projects for the book market,
hardcover projects along the lines of
KSP’s recent, profitable Cages collec-
tion, as well as some non-graphic
novels and pop-culture-themed
books. A distribution deal was being
negotiated with Logun Publishing
Company, and Todrin planned to
“enter the millennium as a new com-
Kitchen agreed to stay with KSP
for an additional six weeks after he
was fired by Seibert. His final depar-
ture was effected at the beginning of
February. Two months later, Todrin
sent a letter out to KSP’s creators and
vendors under the dramatic heading
‘ ‘Re: ‘The End.'” The letter stated in
part: “There will be no further cash
distribution to any trade creditors,
artists, authors, or creators of any sort
for any amount. There are no re-
maining assets to liquidate; there are
only the remaining bills that cannot
be paid. We are sorry that it couldn’t
have been otherwise. This will be my
last communication with you.”


The amount of money finally
raised to pay Kitchen Sink creators,
according to Todrin, was exactly zero.
“The downsizing ended in nothing, ”
he told the Journal. “The liquidation
process itself ended up absorbing all
Ofthe money we made.” Todrin said
he threw in the towel once he saw
that there would be no capital to pay
debts let alone relaunch publishing


According to Kitchen, m
three semi trucks full of
Kitch en Sink inventory were
sold to Logun Publishing
Company. Large-volume
purchases were also made by
Bud Plant. *’For Todrin to
claim there were no pro-
ceeds from the liquidation
—that’s very disingenuous,”
Kitchen said.
A knowledgeable source
at Kitchen Sink, who asked
not to be named, told the
Joumal that income from the
liquidation alone — not
counting the Bud Plant sale,
licensing and other income
— was in excess ofS50,OOO.
At the time ofhis departure,
Kitchen estimated total an-
ticipated receivables to be
“well into six figures.”

The Comics Journal #213, page 21:

Untangling the wreckage Of
Kitchen Sink is not easy, when two
men (Seibert and Todrin) can wear at
least five different corpo-
rate masks (KSP, KSK/
True Confections, Work-
out Group, Disappearing
Inc., First Class Film Co.)
In the case of First Class
Film co., Kitchen him-
self functions as the
corporate fice of Seibert
and Todrin. One thing
that is certain is that, as
Kitchen himself put it,
S ‘lt•s an ignominious end
to a 30-year run.”
If, as Kitchen asserts,
Donald Todrin was the
primary instrument of his
destruction, there is a cer-
tain bitter irony in the fact
that it was Kitchen who insisted
Todrin be brought into the fold. “l
rue the day I ever met Don, Kitchen
told I’Mag.

The Comics Journal #213, page 24:

Once the full story of his bank-
fraud sentencing came out, Kitchen
and Grover said, Todrin showed no
shame or remorse around the Kitchen
Sink offices. “The ankle bracelet was
always visible, because he always wore
shorts, even though he’s probably not
the sort of person who should wear
shorts,” said Kitchen. ‘ ‘He wore the
bracelet like a badge of honor.”
Grover told the Journal, “He
would put his feet on the table be—
cause he wanted you to know they
were there.”

The Comics Journal #213, page 25:

Wilner was a bearded, middle-
aged granola salesman hired in April
of 1998 to be part of Kitchen Sink’s
sales force. He soon learned that
Todrin was looking for someone who
understood food and candy distribu-
tion channels to guide KSK’s
candy-bar campaign and, based on his
background in granola, volunteered
for the job. Todrin hired him to be
KSK ‘s national sales director, report-
edly explaining to Kitchen, ” He wore
me down. If he can wear me down,
he can wear distributors down.”
According to Wilner, what got
him hired was the fact that Robert
Crumb liked the granola bars Wilner
sold asa sideline. Kitchen sent Wilner’s
granola bar to Crumb as a potential
companion to Devil Girl candy
bar and he gave it a thumbs-up, Wilner
Wilner•s honeymoon at Kitchen
Sink Was short-lived, If Todrin had
rubbed KSP staff the wrong way,
Wilner was like walking sandpaper.
“He was very Old Boys Network,”
said Grover. ‘ ‘He would often act in
a bawdy manner at meetings and he
had a tendency, when he was taken
with a joke or a comment, to throw
his arm around the person and stroke
their chest. ”


Anyway, that was how Kitchen Sink ended. Todrin apparently continued the candy bar business for a while, but it’s hard to google just how long. The company that was spun out of Kitchen Sink Konfections was called True Confections, and:

That’s probably the same company?

This is on Seibert’s insta account.

Buffy candy!?

None of the things there look extremely modern, so I’m guessing Todrin drove it into the ground eventually?

The Comics Journal #215, page 25:

Denis Kitchen has filed suit against
his former company, Kitchen Sink
Press, to take possession of inventory
that KSP Chief Financial Officer
Donald Todrin claims Kitchen has
already stolen.
The suit stems from an agree-
ment Kitchen says he made with KSP
Chairman of the Board Fred Seibert
in December of 1998. Seibert had just
fired Kitchen from the comics com-
pany Kitchen had founded 30 years
earlier, reportedly due to a conflict
between Kitchen and Todrin. Ac-
cording to Kitchen, Seibert had asked
Kitchen to stay on another six weeks
to help wind down the company’s
operations and liquidate its assets, and
Kitchen had agreed but only ifcertain
conditions were met.
Kitchen told the Journal he had
made four demands of Seibert: 1) that
owed that $36,000,” Todrin said.
“There’s no question about it. Just as
others are legitimately owed hundreds of
thousands of dollars by KSP.” Todrin
accused Kitchen of using his insider
status at KSP to elbow other creditors
out of the way and grab his share of
the failed company’s assets.
Todrin said Kitchen had taken a
number of books, including 600 cop-
ies of the signed, hardcover Crumb
book, as well as several copies of
Kitchen Sink: The First 25 Years, a
retrospective ofKitchen’s career. The
Crumb books originally sold for $300
apiece, and Todrin estimated the total
value of the books removed from the
warehouse by Kitchen to be closer to
$300,000 than the $36,000 owed
According to Kitchen, he is owed
the books, because his own money
was used to pay the pre-press costs of
preparing film for the book’s co-
publisher Little Brown. He
acknowledged that he had taken the
inventory, which he said was bemg
stored in “a neutral place.” He said he
had not taken all the Crumb books —
only what he calculated would equal
the amount owed him. The value of
the books is not the same as their retail
price, he said, noting that the books
that remained had not found buyers at
the recommended retail price of$300
apiece. Why file the suit if he already
has the books? “Seibert reneged on
the deal,” Kitchen said. “They con-
tested it in writing and gave me a
week’s notice to return the inven-
tory. I had no choice but to file the
suit. ”
As a result, Kitchen complained,
he is unable to sell the books, because
they are tied up in the lawsuit.
“I would never have stayed on
those extra weeks, if Seibert hadn’t
agreed to this,” Kitchen said. “I
worked long hours and put a tremen-
dous amount oflabor Into organizing
the shut-down of the company. I left
with my head high.”

And so on. Not the happiest way to end a company… but if it’s true that Kitchen Sink lost $1M even in its final year, then perhaps it would have gone under, anyway. It seemed like their publishing slate was on a pretty positive trajectory, though — most of the books from 1998 are pretty good, and I’m not sure how they could lose all that money, anyway.

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