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average writing
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 6
Smile #1
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1st Printing / September, 1970 / 36 pages / Kitchen Sink
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Jim Mitchell had built up quite an inventory of his comic strips while attending Marquette University, so when Denis Kitchen asked him to contribute to his start-up publishing company, Mitchell was eager to pitch in. After providing some comics for Jay Lynch's anthology, Teenage Horizons of Shangrila #1, Mitchell was featured in a one-man showcase with Smile #1, which became the first comic book of the newly formed Krupp Comic Works.

Smile #1 has front cover art featuring flowers, birds, balloons and a rainbow, which all seem quaint until you see there's also a hippy-style President Nixon sharing a joint with John Lennon. Well, nowadays that's probably considered kind of quaint, too. The book features half a dozen short stories and leads off with "Fang," a thinly-veiled autobiographical tale about Mitchell and his girlfriend dogsitting an out-of-control canine for an afternoon. The story is fairly funny and Mitchell is able to show off his caricaturist skills and deadpan expressions, though it also exposes his mediocre compositions and action sequences.

These strengths and weaknesses are demonstrated to a greater degree in the next story, "Be it Ever So Humble, There's No Place Like a Rocky Fest!" In this adventure, Mitchell and his pal Gumpy recruit some friends, load up their party materials, and hit the road to attend a rock festival. Corny jokes and awkwardly composed panels aside, the story manages to entertain because of Mitchell's adroit illustration of character types.

The four remaining stories (and a one-pager to close the book) provide other slices of Mitchell's diverse topics, ranging from light-hearted political satire to coy, child-like humor. The three-page "Wouldn't it be Nice if Everyone Were Children Again" mixes an idealistic social fantasy with a buxom, buck-naked tooth fairy. Despite the odd anachronism and relatively simple plotting, John Lennon found the story to be so charming that he actually called Mitchell on the phone to praise it.

The four-page, dialog-free story that follows ("Smile") features one of Mitchell's signature characters, a nameless, nearly bald, capsule-shaped person similar to Tom Wilson's famous Ziggy cartoon character. Mitchell's character does as little as possible (and says nothing) in four pages while visiting a beach and buying a hot dog, creating two very soft (and wordless) punch lines that could only be described as "cute."

And "cute" is the legacy of Smile #1, despite the mild drug and sex humor. The term nearly applies to the nascent rise of Kitchen Sink as well, which in its early years published books with much less controversial content than its contemporaries in San Francisco. But Smile #1 proved to be quite a success, selling well enough (mostly in the midwest) to warrant three printings of 10,000 copies each.
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keyline
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HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES:
There are three known printings of this comic book, all by Kitchen Sink, all with 50-cent cover prices, and all with 10,000 copies produced. All three of the printings are easily distinguished by the front cover. The 1st printing has the tagline "for any adults that were once children" on the front cover in the white space below the front cover art. The 2nd printing does not have this tagline and also does not include the "by mitchell" in the white space. The 3rd printing does not have the tagline either, but it does include the "by mitchell" in that white space. In addition, the 2nd and 3rd printings are also identified in the indicia on the inside front cover.

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COMIC CREATOR:
Jim Mitchell - 1-34, 36
Denis Kitchen - 35 (ad)
Smile 1 3rd
3rd Printing
Only states "by mitchell" on front cover.
 
Back Cover
Back Cover
(click for larger image)

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REVIEW SCORE 6