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.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dope Rider in "High Times," Part 2

After the second appearance of Dope Rider in High Times, Tom Forçade felt comfortable enough to have me escorted to the hotel suite where he lived. When he opened the door he was wearing a gray three-piece suit, like a felon at a court appearance. Unlike the hippie-ish editorial staff, Forçade was straight looking, wiry and intense, with a neat haircut and trim mustache. He reminded me of photographs I had seen of Jesse James and I later learned he had grown up in Phoenix and liked guns, which may be why he was drawn to my Western imagery.

A not-so-cleancut Tom Forçade, on left, in 1971, with Mayer Vishner and Abbie Hoffman.

Forçade had wanted me to sketch up some cover ideas for the Christmas issue, which ultimately were not used. As he studied the sketches I started to talk about them. He held up his hand to stop me and said, "You spent a lot of time drawing these; can you give me a few minutes of quiet to look at them?"

That was good advice and never again would I babble to an art director while he was looking at my work, which after all has to speak for itself.

Forçade asked me how much I was being paid. I told him I didn't know. He asked, "You did all this work and you didn't know how much you'd be paid?"

I said, "I assume it will be fair."

He said, "Suppose I told you you were getting $5,000 for these sketches? Maybe you should have put some more work in them. Suppose I told you you were getting $50? You would have put in way too much work already. Never do anything without knowing what you're getting paid."

More sage advice.

There was a hospital-sized tank of nitrous oxide next to the couch, from which two of the editors were filling balloons and taking hits. They started carrying on a quiet conversation.

"Could you guys stop talking?" said Forçade. " 'Cause I'm trying to talk to Paul here and I can't concentrate."

"Sure, Tom," said one, "sorry."

Forçade continued, with some intensity, "You know, when I'm trying to talk to a guy, and other people are talking, it's really disturbing. I mean I can't hear what Paul has to say, do you get that? Is that hard to understand?"

"That's cool, Tom, no problem," one said.

Even more intense: "Because I don't like talking when other people are talking, you know? I mean, when two people are talking at the same time, who am I supposed to listen to, right?"

"Yeah, Tom, fine."

A weird little scene. Forçade was extremely disturbed by ambient noise. According to an article, one day when he was working in the office he fired the entire editorial staff because they were too noisy.

I never had another meeting with him. Perhaps he was put off that I had turned down his offer to smoke some $200-an-ounce pot. (Note to hipsters: pot typically cost around $35 an ounce in those days.)

Dope Rider appeared in the December/January 1976 issue in a story titled "Beans For All," an actual slogan of the Mexican Revolution that I took to heart. (Click on images for a larger version.)

Dope Rider didn't make another appearance until the August 1976 High Times.

On the last page of the issue were short profiles of some of the contributors. Here is mine from August 1976. I think the picture was taken at the office. I was ahead of my time with that little tuft of beard they call chin pubes. It wasn't really a style then, but then neither was the brown corduroy jacket. By the way, I never liked the demeaning term "spaghetti westerns" applied to the stunning work of director Sergio Leone. It's like calling Akira Kurosawa's films "kung-fu movies."

Around this time National Screw, a low-rent nudie magazine published by Al Goldstein, featured a take-off of High Times, to which I contributed a spoof of Dope Rider. It made no sense for me to spoof my own strip, but that in itself made it seem worth doing. Plus, you know, money.


  1. Thank you for that tail end on the post. I've been mining old men's mags for comics & stories and ran into Dopey Rider. The strip was unaccredited, and was driving me nuts. I knew the style looked familiar, but many years and smoke clouds obscured the memories. Once your name appeared with it here, the "D'oh! Of course!" panel lit up and forehead smacking began.

    BTW - in case no one's mentioned it lately, The Bus was and remains brilliant. (I'm sure it's been mentioned plenty, but memories fade, so not sure it's been mentioned lately.)

    1. Hey, thanks much! And thanks for your kind words about the bus. I've got a new strip, Hieronymus & Bosch, that appears regularly on the comic page at the Adult Swim website. If you hate it, please don't let me know!

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  3. That part where Dope Rider says, "EARTH IS THE INSANE ASYLUM OF THE UNIVERSE" is still so relevant for 2017. Especially with an Orange-coloured Alien as POTUS!