I originally set up this blog to showcase the old Dope Rider comic strips I occasionally did for High Times from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s. With High Times' 40th anniversary issue in 2014, I restarted the strip and have been doing my best to get one done for each issue. A few months after they appear in the magazine, I will archive them here. Note: all images are copyrighted by Paul Kirchner.

If you'd like to purchase Dope Rider merchandise, visit my Dope Rider Store at CafePress.com and click on a design you like. Your patronage is most appreciated!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dope Rider: The Prologue

In 1973, I was 21 years old, living in New York City, attending the Cooper Union School of Art, and trying to break into the comic book business. To do so, I needed to create a sample story. Inspired by my love of Sergio Leone westerns and surrealistic imagery, I drew up a nine-page wordless story titled "Valley of Death," its style owing a lot to Jim Steranko. Not being confident in my inking talents, I left it in pencil. If you click on any of the scans below you can bring up a higher-resolution image, and double-click for an even larger one.

It contains some in-jokes: in the western town on page five, one store says "Ed Summer" on the sign, while another says "Calkins." Ed Summer is a well-known comic fan (and much more) who owned the Supersnipe Comic Art Emporium on New York's Upper East Side. Chuck Calkins ran a comic book store in the East Village where I worked part time. The name "Last Chance Saloon" is taken from the cowboy wallpaper I had in my room as a kid.

Some years later I inked a version of this story, wrote some copy, and sold it to Charlton Comics, where it appeared in Scary Tales no. 2, October 1975. As with everything Charlton printed, it looked like crap, so I prefer the original.

In my junior year at Cooper Union I was introduced to Larry Hama, who was then working as an assistant to Wally Wood. Larry took me to meet Neal Adams at Continuity Associates, the studio he and Dick Giordano kept at 9 East 48th Street. Neal must have liked my work, as he called Joe Orlando, then an editor at DC Comics, and got me some work. I penciled some horror stories for Tex Blaisdell to ink and assisted him on the "Little Orphan Annie" newspaper strip, which he had taken over after the death of Harold Gray. I also assisted Ralph Reese, who eventually got me a job assisting Wally Wood.


  1. Finding this is amazing. I (still) have a copy of the first 3 stories published in High times from a spanish compilation of comics "made in USA". Since the 80s DR has been in my top ten (rivaling there with Arzak, Adele Blanc Sec... and well, the absurdity of Fat Freddie's cat... The thing is I was born in 76....

  2. Hi Paul,

    I wanted to ask you a question about the Wood FOO illustrations you worked on. Any chance you could email me at robsteibel@yahoo.com so I can ask the question? I'd appreciate it because I've owned one of those pieces for years and I always wanted to know whether you worked from a Wood sketch and if Wood signed them himself. Thanks and I enjoyed looking at your artwork here.

  3. Any chance of your work being collected? I love checking out your blog, but would love to have a book collecting Dope Rider, the Bus and anything else you have done.

  4. Thank you for your interest!

    There is a Ballantine collection of my "bus" strips that you can find fairly reasonably on Amazon last time I checked. A French publisher, Tanibis Editions (http://www.tanibis.net/#/the-bus/), did a beautiful hardcover collection last year, in French and English. This edition is complete, unlike the Ballantine one, and has additional material.

    Tanibis is planning a collection of the Dope Rider series, on which I'm currently correcting the colors. (High Times reproduction was not always satisfactory.) That book will also include my better Screw covers and Heavy Metal stories. No publication date has been set yet.

  5. VERY good news!!! Do you have any original art for sale? Do you do commissions? I tried to use the 'contact' link but it did not work.

  6. Thanks for letting me know about the contact link. I did a jury-rigged repair.

    Regrettably, I sold almost all the Dope Rider art 20 years ago, as well as most of my Screw covers. What I have left I need to have scanned for the anthology. I haven't done many commissions but I would consider it.

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