What can leap tall buildings in a single bound but can’t pass a drug test? What is faster than a speeding bullet, but not before at least 11am? Captain Cannabis, that’s who!
The world’s first (confirmed) pot-smoking superhero, Captain Cannabis was crafted by Verne Andru in the late 70s. Four decades later, Andru is in pre-production for a Captain Cannabis film, and shopping the digitized, re-released versions of his original series of two Captain Cannabis comics.
For most of us, a cannabis superhero brings to mind the roommate who finds weed in the couch cushions after your stash ran out, a cop who got an urgent call on the radio and left you on the side of the road without searching your car, or the inventor of the Doritos Locos Tacos. First published in 1977, Captain Cannabis actually is a bonafide superhero, the alter ego of a weedhead named Hal Lighter, whose girlfriend Marion Jones (not the Olympic track star, she was two in 1977) is abducted. Lighter comes to the rescue after he smokes “mysterious glowing reefer” that turns him into Captain Cannabis.
Other cannabis tales (How High comes to mind) deal with the notion of a super weed that imbues an everyday stoner with supernatural talents, but great minds think alike, and Andru is the only one to actually publish those thoughts in a comic book — that we know of.
This week, Andru sat down with El Planteo to bring them up to the minute on the story of Captain Cannabis, and how he is emerging into the light in the age of legalization.
According to Andru, he first started sketching Captain Cannabis in 1975 in the cold of Winnipeg on the prairies of western Canada. He self-published the first issue that year, and finally registered his government copyright for the comic on 4/20/1977.
“Everyone instantly loved him and his future seemed assured,” Andru told El Planteo, adding that “we had a receptive audience and a distribution network in the headshops.”
From the beginning, Andru said he stationed Captain Cannabis in a post-legalization world, so that the villains would stand the test of time.
“I felt that the story had to be situated in a post-prohibition world. That meant that the traditional antagonists (narcotics agents and / or the police) would not be present in the long run. You can do a number of stories about bashing the police, but I don’t like gratuitous violence. That made me dig deep to find the right elements and make a sensitive hero who could stand the test of time,” Andru said.
Nonetheless, until Canada legalized cannabis in 2018, Andru had trouble finding space at comic book conventions for his work, he told El Planteo.
In 2017, on the 40th anniversary of Captain Cannabis, he released digitized and airbrushed versions of the comics original run, which includes the two original comics: Roll Me Another One and Roll Me Another One Just Like the Other One.
But how do you mix the stoney effects of cannabis with the Pow! Braka-Braka! Ka-Bang! violence of comic books? You don’t, basically.
“While creating Captain Cannabis I stayed as close to the cannabis culture as possible. People who smoke are somewhat reluctant to fight anything. They are relaxed, lazy, they empty your refrigerator and pass out on your couch, but fighting is too much nuisance,” Andru told El Paseo.
What’s his main goal? Captain Cannabis is looking to “prevent people from mistreating each other and being jerks,” and “the first superhero dedicated to peace, love and understanding.”
He also sounds like the first superhero who will be ripped off by a friend’s cousin who asked him to front him the money for a quarter pound, and who will nonetheless decide to let the cousin stay on his couch anyway after he gets evicted. There is no indication in Andru’s interview that he is planning any sort of Dark Knight anti-hero noir turn for Captain Cannabis, who doesn’t sound like he’s built for that life.
“He’s a stoner created in the spirit of underground comics. Captain Cannabis is anything but a typical Marvel or DC Comics hero,” Andru is quoted as saying.
And while the coronavirus pandemic has shut down comic book conventions for now, Andru is working on a feature film for Captain Cannabis, which is currently in pre-production. The IMDB page puts the budget at “$40,000,000 (estimated),” which could be seen as a sign of the level of capital moving into cannabis as a result of legalization. It could also just be a sign of the fact that anyone can edit an IMDB page.
What’s next for Captain Cannabis? The future is uncertain, but if there was ever a time that we — cannabis consumers and abstainers alike — needed a superhero, it’s now.
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