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average writing
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 6
Back Cover
Back Cover
(click for larger image)

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Smile #2
Only Printing / 1972 / 36 pages / Krupp Comic Works
A lot happened in the two years between the first and second issue of Smile. Jim Mitchell, the primary creator of the title, had become a popular contributor to other underground publications and began designing concert posters and tour t-shirts for a variety of rock bands. He was also running the Krupp Comic Works comics syndicate, which distributed various artists' work to underground and college newspapers throughout the country.

But by 1972, Mitchell was getting pushed out of his partnership in Krupp by Denis Kitchen and Tyler Lantzy, who Mitchell had introduced to Kitchen. Mitchell had been spending so much time on other projects he had little left for the company Kitchen had originally asked him to help run with Don Glassford. Lantzy and Kitchen had already successfully eased out Glassford, but Mitchell had to be forced out with a business ultimatum that Mitchell felt was unfair. The Dark Horse book about Kitchen's artwork, The Oddly Compelling Work of Denis Kitchen, states that Mitchell was "bitter about being removed from the company" and was considering a lawsuit to regain his share of ownership.

Sometime shortly before, during or after this turmoil, Krupp Comic Works published Smile #2, one of the rare Denis Kitchen-produced undergrounds that actually used the Krupp imprint instead of Kitchen Sink.
Smile #2 features Mitchell's distinctive illustration on the front and back covers, but is mostly comprised of short comic strips that Krupp had sold through its syndicate in 1970 and '71. Hence the peculiar horizontal format of the comic book; it was the best format to present standard, newspaper-style strips without making the strips too small.

The quality of Smile #2 almost entirely rests on the strength of those strips, which range from pretty good to damn near awful. The strongest work comes from Kitchen himself, who rarely produces a cartoon without a solid funnybone, and Don Glassford, whose efforts are often very funny and occasionally sublime. Wendel Pugh also contributes a fine comic that surpasses just about everything he did in Googiewaumer.

Most of the rest of the book, which is more than half of it, is filled with a few hits and lots of misses, not the least of which come from Mitchell himself. All of Mitchell's "Smile" strips feature his nameless character that looks like Tom Wilson's Ziggy, and they're all pretty bad. The Smile strips are predicated on the most lightweight of premises and often have even lighter-weight outcomes that rarely produce even a smirk.

Bruce Walthers, the fourth major contributor to Smile #2, provides several "Kabibbler Funnies" strips featuring his signature character, Oscar Kabibbler. Walthers, a middle-aged executive at a model train company, was a competent comic artist, but most of his strips are overtly conventional and sometimes vacuous.

The good and bad parts of Smile #2 are literally shuffled together like a deck of cards, so there's no way to recommend just the good parts without exposing you to the bad. But the good parts are essential reading for fans of Denis Kitchen's cartooning (count me in!) and include some of Don Glassford's best work, so I can't denigrate the entire issue. Just skim through the book and pause to savor Kitchen, then hope that anything else you land on is worth the time (and at least some of the work by all of the artists is).
Krupp Comic Works printed approximately 30,000 copies of this comic book. It has not been reprinted. So...despite the single printing, Smile #2 had just as many copies produced as the first issue did.
By the way, in case you wondered (as I did), Tom Wilson's Ziggy character was first published in 1968, before Jim Mitchell created his Smile character, so we can't say that Wilson stole the idea from Mitchell (more likely the other way around, though I think Mitchell's character was probably born during a typical creative process with multiple influences). Wilson, who died in 2011, was sued in 1985 for $30 million by an alleged ex-lover who claimed she co-created the Ziggy character. I don't know what the result of that lawsuit was, but I presume it failed.

Jim Mitchell - 1-3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 18, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 (collaboration), 30, 31, 32, 34, 36
Bill Lee - 4, 18
Bruce Walthers - 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14-15, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29 (collaboration), 31, 34
Denis Kitchen - 4, 6, 7, 9, 12, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29 (collaboration), 31, 34
Don Glassford - 5, 8, 11, 13, 18, 23, 25, 26, 29 (collaboration)
Wendel Pugh - 10, 29 (collaboration)
Alan Rose - 16-17
Peter Loft - 19-21, 33