1971: Cloud Comix

Cloud Comix (1971) #1-2 by Bill Skurski, Peter Bramley, Gail Burwen and others

As with many of these Kitchen books, it’s not made abundantly clear who’s doing what, but I think the leading strip in the first issue is by Peter Bramley. It’s a Western bit about an asshole cowboy, and it’s got a vigorous art style, at least, but the stories don’t really go anywhere.

The most interesting thing in the first issue is this fumetti, of all things. That is, it’s interesting graphically — they seem to have applied mechanical tone to it manually, which means that it’s not as stark and awkward as these things usually are.

And they’re gotten people who are good at posing to pose.

But again, the story is just… not there.

Gail Burwen’s strip is also interesting graphically — it’s got some interesting pop art stuff going on here, but it collapses on the following pages.

And… er… ok…

I’m guessing the first issue didn’t sell, so Kitchen didn’t want to do the second issue? So it seems to be published by something called Head Imports, Aspen Colorado instead?

It’s the same people from the first issue, with some additions. This is Bill Skurski.

It gets really amateurish.

Unfortunately, the most professional thing in here is by Jay Kinney, and it sucks.

At least Gail Burwen sends us off on a lighter note.

Kidding!

But that page does have a certain jennesequa, doesn’t it?

Bill Sherman writes in The Comics Journal #44, page 53:

Cloud ComiX 2 (Head )
A sleeper: Nev York humr comix similar
to early Lampon (note the presence
and p O ‘ and
totally to Bijou 7, though
this Issue care Out the sage year. Here
the mre detached. steeped on
nostalgia and studied artifice while
maintaining its bite. Cloud Studios
(Bramley, Bill Skurski, Ned Sonntag,
and others) did several comix in
mags but they never matched this issue
s. Jay s
satire seems even eunnier after Anima2
House. Best piece: Burwen•s (what—
happened
Bob ? red
produce a the
70s Depression. (“So even they/Stop
re/Cue food stamps/ Repeal abortion/
Close the libraries/You goeta dance I

Geez! The OCR really didn’t like that page. I’ll screenshot instead:

Well, he liked it.

Ah, Peter Bramley was the first art director for the National Lampoon.

This guy didn’t:

Cloud Comix is not even close to the worst comics the underground era offers, and the second issue was significantly better than the first, but it remains in that group of comics that crowded the marketplace and helped obscure some of the best comic books that were ever published.

This is the eighth post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

1971: Home Grown Funnies

Home Grown Funnies (1971) #1 by Robert Crumb

Crumb was, of course, the biggest commercial success in underground comix. I mean, by a ridiculous degree: I’m guessing he stood for a mighty high percentage of the total market cap.

So all the underground publishers wanted his books, and he ended up giving them books in a sort of round-robin sort of way: One for Last Gasp, one for Print Mint, and now one for Kitchen.

And it’s pretty thrilling to read this book. I read Fantagraphics’ complete Crumb edition the other year, and I was bemused at how unimpressed I was. I mean, I loved Crumb when I was a teenager, but reading the work again in that decontextualised manner was deadly.

But now, holding this 24 page comic, chock full of Crumb, it’s thrilling again. He’s putting so much into this — there’s no wasted space (while the previous Kitchen books I’ve been reading for this blog seemed to have more than its share of space-filling “will this do?” work).

And note that Crumb is giving all small enterprises the right to reprint the work herein. That’s cool.

After the piece on the inside front cover, we get the infamous Angelfood McSpade/Snoid er “crossover”, and I’m not snapping any of the more… er… controversial bits for this blog.

I think this is probably the piece that get quoted most when people accuse Crumb of being racist and misogynist? And it’d hard to defend, and I hate doing anything that’s hard, so let’s skip it.

The bulk of the issue is one of Crumb’s most beloved stories: Whiteman Meets Bigfoot. It’s about a dull American guy who gets kidnapped by Bigfootses (Bigfeet?), but then he realises that he’s much happier living with his Bigfoot wife in a cave than in the city, holding down a boring job.

It’s a story that really tapped into the zeitgeist, and it’s just a perfect mixture of wistfulness, romanticism and sex.

And, man, I’d forgotten how viscerally horrifying civilisation (here represented by some hillbillies) welcomed them back.

The story has been reprinted a gazillion times, and comics.org claims that this book went into 15 reprintings:

I guess 10K copies a pop? So 150K copies of this exists in the US alone. (At least.)

And we end on a note of confusion.

So with this book, Kitchen Sink Comix was suddenly a major player in undergrounds, from being on the margins (both geographically and commercially) for a couple of years.

Kitchen in The Comics Journal #264, page 125:

ROSENKRANZ: Is Homegrown Funnies your
best selling title to date?
KITCHEN: Cumulatively. In fact, we’re just
starting the ninth press run. It’s been a
very steady seller. When it first came out,
it sold very fast, and then it kept selling
very steadily. A book that Will sell well for
over a year is a rare book. The Bijous are
steady sellers. The Bijous never take off,
but you can count on sales every month.
The last Bijou, #7, is still selling well on
the basis of its reputation and the fact
that itk solid.

Steve Monaco writes in The Comics Journal #114, page 52:

Homegrown is the gem of the
three, featuring the full-length classic
“Whiteman Meets Bigfoot.” Reportedly
Crumb’s own personal favorite Story, it’s the
most bizarre love story comics has ever seen,
and it may be the most thorough synthesis
of the.most salient ingredients Of Crumb’s
best work—humor, violence, weird sex, and
pointed social commentary. The comic was
first printed in 1971, and 15 years and
140,000 copies later it’s still as fresh and en-
joyable as ever.

Oh, 16 printings:

The 16th printing of Home Grown Funnies is now sold out, but you can find a newer copy plenty cheap on eBay. It’s one of those “required reading” items in any underground comic book fan’s collection.

This is the seventh post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

1971: Hungry Chuck Biscuits Comics and Stories

Hungry Chuck Biscuits Comics and Stories (1971) #1 by Dan Clyne and others

The Hungry Chuck Biscuits strip in the Shangrila book was definitely the weirdest, so perhaps this is true. But probably not?

About half the issue is a Biscuits er epic — it’s mostly about him robbing a woman and trying to get laid, and it’s totally unhinged. It’s got that outsider art vibe going?

And some inspired gags. I mean, inspired by Mad Magazine.

The rest of the book is totally random. Here’s a Snappy Sammy Smoot thing by Skip Williamson, for instance.

I feel seen! That is totally me!

Denis Kitchen does a far out thing…

… and then there’s a jam, because of course there is.

Skip Williamson rounds out the issue with some practical advice.

This is pretty much a quintessential underground comic book… from outside the Lasp Gasp/Rip Off sphere. (The only person making a token appearance is R. Crumb in the jam comic.) But it’s got that weird, wiggly vibe going on, and it’s pretty successful.

And a commercial success, too:

There are four printings of this comic book, all by Kitchen Sink, all with 50-cent cover prices, and each producing 10,000 copies.

Dan Clowes mentions this book in The Comics Journal #233, page 63:

CLOWES: Oh, I thought you had some
secret collection Of “head” comics, like the
really weird ones. There are so many thou-
sands Of underground comics that are now
lost to the world forever .
SILVIE: And they had such huge print runs.
They consider them huge in the
guess. Maybe they did.
CLOWES: NO, I’ve talked to guys who did
underground comics that nobody remem-
bers, and they they talk about how they sold
60,000 copies Of every issue; numbers that
would make you a superstar in today’s
world.
I guess the Obvious observation is that
there were so many more people in the youth
culture then, there were so many more young
people available to support that culture.
CLOWES: Yeah, and the distribution was
just so much better, at least while the hip-
pie fad lasted.
SILVIE: Through head shops?
CLOWES: Yeah, yeah. Everybody was
going in to buy new bongs and power-hit-
ters all the time, and there would be that
comics rack. “Hey there’s the new Hungry
Chuck Biscuits — must have. ”

Kitchen is interviewed in The Comics Journal #264, page 125:

ROSENKRANZ: There was a Googiewaumer
#2 ad in Smile #1. That Googiewaumer
never came out, did it?
KITCHEN: NO, it didn’t. That was during
the period When we were just beginning.
We had just gotten burned On Quagmi
which was a dud. We were very cautious
about which book we were going to print
next. About that time we had Bijou #5
and maybe Homegrown. which was our
sixth or seventh title, and we had
Googiewaumer We printed the books
we were sure of, Homegrown and Bijou.
We held Googiewaumer back. Then we
were getting together some Other books,
like Mom’s and Hungry Chuck Biscuits.
We came to the conclusion that
Googiewaumer wasn’t going to do very
well, and we couldn’t afford to do it then.
Googiewaumer was a total disaster. I
understand that Print Mint had copies
left three years later. They just couldn’t
get rid Of them.

This is the sixth post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

1970: Quagmire Comics

Quagmire Comics (1970) #1 by Pete Poplaski and Dale Kuipers

I find it amusing that they have to apologise for not being “DIRTY nor RADICAL”.

And note that Kitchen is still pretending to be a subsidiary of Kumquat Publications — if I understand correctly, they were sort of going for a group-owned communal kind of thing, with a bunch of people being in charge. Kitchen grew tired of that after a while and dropped the Kumquat moniker.

I know Poplaski mostly from his much later work as a designer and colourist, I think? Here he’s doing serious fantasy/sci fi work… and I have no idea what this story is about, but it looks pretty impressive.

Kuipers does the other half of the book, and like the Poplaski thing, I have absolutely no idea what it’s all about. And it’s a horrible mess, really, and seems to have been drawn for a magazine size ratio.

Poplaski does a short (and pretty amusing) thing about dinosaurs…

… and Kuipers finishes off his story, in a different aspect ratio and a different rendering style.

As a “will this do?” kind of underground, it… doesn’t really. Like in the much later black and white explosion/implosion in the 80s, a lot of money grabbing publishers put out really crappy stuff during the first couple of Underground Comix years, but I really thought that Kitchen had a higher standard.

We’ll see!

It seems like most people were unimpressed:

To be clear, Quagmire’s mediocre score isn’t due to the artistic talent of the creators, because the artwork is about 50 times better than the really shitty undergrounds that were published in the early ’70s. My issue with Quagmire is that the storytelling is more muddled and less satisfying than in any of the aforementioned sci-fi comics.

[…]

Quagmire Comics, which Denis Kitchen candidly admitted “was a dud,” had the potential to be much more and had talented creators behind it, but the lack of fulfillment of that potential makes me less generous in my assessment of it than I would be of a comic book that was destined to be shitty from its birth.

Heh heh heh. That’s a good review.

This is the fifth post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

An Entirely Ill-Advised Reading of all Comics Published by Kitchen Sink Press