All the 1970s - 80s Dope Riders, along with other of my comics, are in my anthology Awaiting the Collapse. The comics I've done from 2015 through 2020 are in my new anthology, A Fistful of Delirium. Both are available at If you'd like to purchase Dope Rider merchandise, I’ve opened shops on some on-line stores. I have a Dope Rider shop at Red Bubble and have a Dope Rider Store at Your patronage is most appreciated!

Monday, December 18, 2023

Great Review of "A Fistful of Delirium"

From the "Slings and Arrows" review site, a great review of A Fistful of Delirium, the compilation of my one page Dope Rider strips that appeared in High Times magazine from 2015 to 2020. As to the mention of my often outdated cultural references, I plead "Guilty as charged" but trying to do better.


Writer / Artist

Back in the day Paul Kirchner produced the engaging surreality of Dope Rider for High Times, but inspiration was sporadic, and the gaps between strips became longer until they stopped altogether. See them collected in Awaiting the Collapse. Inspiration, however, is a fickle muse, and in 2014 alighted on Kirchner’s shoulders once again. This time the Dope Rider strips would be restricted to a single page and lead to punchlines rather than more obscure conclusions.

Dope Rider is a mystical skeleton who leads a spiritual life in the remote desert shack he shares with an armadillo, although in the scheme of things that’s just a waystation as Dope Rider can manifest anywhere at any time.

A neat design element is separating each single page strip from the next via a small illustration. Forget any thoughts of padding out the page count, as it has three purposes. The strips are better appreciated individually rather than being crammed together, those illustrations have a progression telling their own story, ‘Smoke’, and if you’re adroit enough, they’re a flip book. A fourth more speculative conclusion is that for Kirchner it’s a break from the precision applied to the creation of his full page strips. On those the eye is always drawn where necessary, but then is free to wander and appreciate the focus on design, detail, composition and conceptual density, and, frankly, their great beauty. Almost every one presents its own new world. By contrast ‘Smoke’ is a relatively simple absurdist exercise, although also satisfying.

Perhaps you have a perception that a strip titled ‘Dope Rider’ can only be appreciated by the heavy spliffer. That’s not the case. Dope Rider is certainly messianic regarding his fuel of choice, but Kirchner’s influences are far wider, and much of the humour is universal and joyously unpredictable. It therefore welcomes anyone who wants a laugh, although younger readers may be puzzled by now severely dated cultural references. The sample page gag is funny, but possibly not to a couple of generations who’ve grown up without knowing who John Wayne is. Substitute Donald Trump and you’re 90% there.

Ignore that and A Fistful of Delirium displays a conceptual depth and work ethic that all artists should aspire to. Furthermore, for all the wonder that better creators can provide, it’s relatively rare that they’re truly original. Were Dope Rider turned over to J.H. Williams, to pick an artist sharing some sensibilities with Kirchner, the strip would be very different. It requires Kirchner’s creative mind as well as his artistic arsenal. He’s a true original and his books should be cherished.

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