Over the years, fans of the old Dope Rider comic strip from High Times have occasionally contacted me asking for copies of some of the images, which they intend to have tattooed on their backs, painted on their drum sets, or airbrushed onto the gas tanks of their Harleys. To make it easier for these folks, and to create an archive for anyone interested, I have set up this site to post the complete Dope Rider oeuvre. 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!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dope Rider in "High Times," Part 1

After the third appearance of Dope Rider, Dennis Lopez told me that the then-new High Times magazine wanted to run the strip and sent me off with his blessing. Dennis was convinced High Times was going to be huge, the next Playboy. I visited its office a few times, which was located first on West 11th Street and later in a loft on Broadway near Cooper Square, but its founder and editor-in-chief, Tom Forçade, was never there. I heard Forçade had started High Times with the profits from a few DC-3s full of top-notch weed he had brought in, and I gathered that he was a fugitive. His real name was Gary Goodson, and his pseudonym was a joke alias, sounding like "facade." After he saw my first story, "Meanwhile, Back At the Ranch," he called me around midnight and rambled semi-coherently for a couple of hours. I don't recall much of that conversation, but I remember I didn't have to contribute much.

I drew the story assuming it would be three pages and black and white--that's why it has the Zip-a-tone dots on it. Forçade told me he wanted four pages and full color, so I had to add a page and learn to color using Pantone film on an acetate overlay. The process was tedious, something like making a stained-glass window, with each individual color cut out of adhesive-backed translucent film and stuck to an acetate overlay. However, I eventually got comfortable with this technique and used it until the early 1990s.

The story appeared in the August/September 1975 issue, #5, which was the first anniversary issue. (Click on image for larger version.)

Forçade thought the psychedelic scene on page three was a hilarious spoof of cliched drug imagery. I didn't let on that I wasn't trying to be ironic.

The train coming out of the fireplace is from Magritte.

Rene Magritte's "Time Transfixed."

This 1940 postcard from the Hayden Planetarium depicting American Indian star myths inspired the background in the last frame.

The line "Pyramid: to look within, to peer amid," is a Tom Conroy-ism.

I had Dope Rider riding a Honda 750, because I had good "swipe" on one, but that was a faux pas about which some readers complained--"No rice-burner for the Lone Stoner!" Obviously, he would ride a Harley.

I did one very bad thing in this story--I depicted the logo of the nation's premier motorcycle club on the back of Dope Rider's vest. That motorcycle club, whose New York City clubhouse was a few blocks from the High Times editorial office, sent over a contingent of large, hairy negotiators to make it clear that they didn't care to be associated with High Times or the Dope Rider character. Forçade let me know he would just as soon not have that happen again. I've blurred the logo out here in case they're still checking up. (Love you guys!!)

After the first Dope Rider was published in High Times, I got a call from New York magazine, whose art director, superstar designer Milton Glaser, had seen my comic and wanted me to illustrate an article on the so-called "Saturday Night Massacre," when President Ford fired Kissinger and Schlesinger. Glaser told me to show Ford machine-gunning the two cabinet members.

"With, like, bullet holes and blood?" I asked.

"Sure, why not?" he answered.

I drew it up to the best of my ability and the end result was so tasteless that Glaser decided the magazine couldn't use it. I got a generous kill fee and I heard that Glaser told that story for years afterward as an example of miscommunication.

The next appearance of Dope Rider was in the October/November 1975 issue. I wasn't happy with the way it reproduced--a lot of the line work broke up and the color was slightly off register, which I've fixed up a bit.





On page two, I drew Dope Rider shooting up. Forçade asked me to cover that up with the dialog balloon, as he didn't want his magazine to glamorize needle drugs. Admittedly, I wasn't really thinking about the moral implications of what I was depicting, just in terms of images and their impact. Here is the original frame, which was shown in a French translation of the strip.


At this point my girlfriend (now wife) and I had moved out of New York and rented a small apartment on a large, wooded estate in Connecticut. Wally Wood also moved to the area, and I continued to work for him on and off. He inked some of the faces on the first page of "Geckos."

Wally Wood in 1979.

"The best thing about being high is the view" is another Conroy line.

 Tom Conroy dreaming up more Dope Rider dialog.

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