Kitchen Sink (1972-1990)
In the span of a few months in 1972, Kitchen Sink launched three major underground comics anthologies: Snarf, Bizarre Sex and Death Rattle. The first of those was Snarf, which debuted in February with work from Tim Boxell, Evert Geradts and Wendel Pugh among others (including Kitchen). The second issue added Peter Poplaski, Richard “Grass” Green and featured an awesome Jay Lynch cover. The first four issues came out in a little over a year, added Joel Beck and Howard Cruse as contributors, and scored a major triumph with front-cover art by Will Eisner (featuring the Spirit).
The end of the golden age of underground comix in 1973 hit Kitchen Sink pretty hard, but they survived a couple rough years and emerged as a smarter publishing company. In 1975 Krupp Comic Works was dissolved and the publishing imprint of Kitchen Sink Enterprises reformed as Kitchen Sink Press, Inc. Snarf didn’t come out with its sixth issue until two years after its fifth, but bouyed by brand recognition it resumed publishing a new issue about once a year through the ’70s, though at half the print volume of the first three issues.
Kitchen Sink continued publishing multiple undergrounds and alternative comics through the ’80s and ’90s, but also expanded into publishing non-underground comics, graphic novels and extensive anthologies, most notably by Will Eisner, Al Capp, Milton Caniff and Harvey Kurtzman. As busy as Kitchen Sink was with these projects, it seems almost accidental that Snarf took a six-year break between its 9th and 10th issues, but it returned in 1987 with a fantastic Will Elder cover.
For a time, it seemed Snarf would become a regular title again, as it put out its last five issues over the span of 21 months. But the series ended in 1990, a generation (18 years) after it began. Shortly after Snarf ended its run, Kitchen Sink Press merged with award-winning but cash-strapped Tundra Publishing and Kitchen moved his entire company to Tundra’s location in Northampton, Massachusetts. The merger proved financially disastrous and eventually led to Kitchen Sink’s demise in 1999.
But of course, 30 years of publishing had left behind quite a legacy, not the least of which was Snarf. Snarf was one of those rare underground titles that evolved from being a truly underground comic title into a truly alternative comic title. Comics that present the same characters by the same artist (e.g., Freak Brothers) didn’t make that evolution, nor did anthologies with the same core contributors (e.g., Zap Comix). The only other titles that made that transition are Rip Off Comix and Wimmen’s Comix, with Dr. Wirtham’s and Young Lust qualifying to a slightly lesser degree.
Snarf wasn’t always the strongest comics anthology, as Denis Kitchen favored his local Milwaukee artists at first and then he used the title to discover new talent, including several who didn’t have the chops of the underground legends he knew so well. But Kitchen also helped launch the careers of several exceptional new cartoonists, including Charles Burns, Joe Matt, Richard Sala, Mark Schultz, Reed Waller and many others.
In the end, Snarf isn’t the first underground comic that comes to mind when most collectors and historians think of the all-time great titles, but it had some all-time great stories and certainly some of the best front-cover artwork of any series. It’s one of those titles you feel very comfortable having around, as it doesn’t deliver some of the egregious shocks that more salacious undergrounds do, but it delivers enough to drop the jaws of your fuddy-duddy friends.