Get This: Lit Up, Inked Up, in Pages of Stoner Comix
Budzilla surfs on his own massive tail into monster island, only to find his lair (and his stash) ocupado by King Chronic and the multiheaded lizard, Tetra-Hydra. What’s a five-story tall green lizard to do? One toke of Dino-Kush, of course, and he’s vaporizing King Chronic’s gorilla hide with laser vision.
Score one for the red-eyed dino.
And though Mad star Alfred E. Neuman’s gap-toothed visage doesn’t grace Stoner Comix’s pages, similar spoofs roam free: Bong Wars, Smugglers Cove, Tales from the Danksyde, and Spyda-Mon! all infuse popular culture with a dosage of the good green.
Writer and publisher Vince Dugar told SF Evergreen that San Francisco art guided the spirit of Stoner Comix as well.
“These are a complete homage to Zap Comix,” said Dugar, of R. Crumb’s seminal series. “It’s a San Francisco Bay Area legacy. I’m a child of the 60s in San Francisco, and remember being on my father’s shoulders and hear him say ‘hey son, this is Santana, he’s going to be famous some day!’”
But cannabis culture spans generations, Dugar says, and that inspired him to look for an artist with a fresh perspective. He and Nathan Gomez met at the local APE Comic Expo, and a partnership blossomed.
“They’re a bunch of gray beards. I’m the young buck,” Gomez said. He’s got a fair pedigree behind him, though, having worked on Striperella with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.
Gomez says he lights up while he draws because as many will attest, cannabis can be inspiring.
“You go back to your peaceful Narnia place,” he said.
The comics are black and white, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t variety. Gomez and Richard Becker, who inks the comics, swing wildly between the style of characters like Star Wars riff Lord Vapor, with his bold thick lines, and the clean manga style of Budzilla.
Becker said work on some comics sets an artist into only one style, but because Stoner Comix is a variety show grab bag, “I get to do so many different things, that it flexes my artistic muscles.”The variety show format was originally inspired by artist Pat Ryan and over three decades of his marijuana themed art, mostly posters, featuring characters like Super Skunk, Muy Blastido, Humboldt Honey, and more. Dugar and Ryan collaborated on the four-issue run of Tales of the World Famous Drive Thru Bud, but the two had so much fun they then channeled their creativity into Stoner Comix.
Super Skunk was put on the back burner, and the group brainstormed new characters. Still, Ryan is the elder statesman artist of the bunch, Dugar said, even mentoring Gomez and others.
The newer tales can be allegorical, like in Tales from the Danksyde. The Tales of the Crypt spoof features a cannabis scientist who hopes to addict local hippies with a genetically altered strain, until his creation comes back to haunt him.
Dugar said the allegory was intentional, a direct comment on weed issues of today.“With this burgeoning cannabis industry, there’s issues between what’s organic and chemically manufactured,” Dugar said. “I’m saying yeesh, we love getting stoned, but if it’s being made in a factory farmed manner, this is as bad as anything.”
The artists are all scattered across the Bay Area, and pull in influences from the Emerald Triangle and other local scenes into some of their work.
For now, Dugar said, the comics are all a labor of love, with the initial investment paid for out of his own pocket. But despite the comic’s home-grown nature, Dugar and Gomez feel they’ve seen a lot of success.
“I think people resonate with it,” Dugar said. That’s likely due to the audience: enthusiasts at marijuana events.
“Credit to stoners, as they support art and they support artists,” Dugar said. “At Emerald Cup and other places, stoners will buy handmade stuff, clothing, art, and comics.”
“They appreciate the humor, intelligence and,” he added, “the punning.”