One author who was far from shy on the pot topic was Brian Phillipson, the co-founder and president of Bliss on Tappublishing. I wasn’t surprised as his booth was one of the only places where I could find cannabis in comics at this and last year’s New York Comic Con. They publish Weed Magic, a comic book series which had its first issue released during the week of 4/20/17.
There have been two follow up issues since, both released on the weeks of 4/20 in the following years with every copy costing $4.20. And odes to the stoner holiday don’t end there. If you took a hit every time you saw those numbers in the first issue, you might find yourself in a kush coma before reaching the last panel.
Laced with humor from the first page to the last panel, Weed Magic features the tale of two friends that fail to get weed on 4/20 before the dispensaries in LA sold out. So, they decide to cop buds from a man in an alley while desperate to score some smoke for the holiday. He claimed it was magic but they didn’t take it seriously. It wasn’t until they smoked half of their supply and gained superpowers that they realized they were the caretakers of the last of this magical weed. HT: Do you read many comics and graphic novels? BP: Yes. HT: Have you seen any other comics featuring pot? BP: Not so much in comics that I’ve read. The stories aren’t matching how many people smoke weed. HT: Did you have any concerns before releasing Weed Magic? BP: Yes. Weed Magicwas one of my earlier ideas. First off, it was mid-2000’s so I thought, “can you get away with it? Will a distributor put it in stores? Can I sell it for $4.20?” And there were the nagging thoughts of “someone is going to do this, someone is going to do this,” and every year no one did it. But so many comic writers are stoners and so many stoners read comics. That’s when I thought, someone has got to do it and it’s going to be me. So, I finally ask the distributor “are we allowed to put this out?” and they started cracking up which was the first good sign. So I followed up with “well you’re not going to let me sell them for $4.20, right? And they responded “THAT’S GENIUS!” So I’m like, “how come no one is doing this?!” HT: I guess you found the right distributor. BP: Not even, it was Diamond, the same distributor of Marvel and DC comics. HT: So there’s no conspiracy? Then why aren’t more people including cannabis in their comics? Are they just not passionate about it? BP: I feel like people are self-censoring themselves… Or they’re scared. Or they don’t want to be outed as a consumer or advocate. HT: But they’re not afraid to portray nudity, violence, cursing and other R rated content in their comics. BP: That’s funny, I’ve actually been asked if I was worried about kids coming across it [Weed Magic] and I responded that they probably shouldn’t be reading it but they can also find a hot girl in a G string at the next booth that nobody is worried about. HT: Is there something that sets Weed Magic apart from other attempts at a comic series that may have featured cannabis in some way? BP: Well, to start, it’s meant to be read in a certain state of mind. We are also raising the bar higher, no pun intended. Alex Cormack brings higher quality illustrations to our pages than you’d expect from a stoner comic. And my co-writer Jordan Lichtman is a General Counsel who has always been up front about his cannabis use and never afraid to advocate for the cause. So far, it’s been well-received and now we’re even sponsored by our local dispensary in Los Angeles.
Train 8 The Zombie Express #2 Bliss On Tap Publishing/ BPositive Films 2018 Created & Written by David Stephan & Marysol Levant Illustrated by Alex Cormack Coloured by Ashley & Alex Cormack Lettered by Ales Murillo Train 8 speeds through the wilds of northern Idaho, barrellingthrough its scheduled stops. Confused and panicked, a group of surviving passengers have barricaded themselves into the last Observation Car. Unable to contact the Engine cab, the Train Conductor plans to lead a volunteer group to the front of the Train. If they can stop the Train, they will survive this nightmare...or so they think.
While I do love the idea here, every time I look at the book all I can think of is Train to Busan which was Bloody Brilliant for a new genre of zombie film and that it was in Korean that didn’t deter me from enjoying the hell out of it. Now that being said there are a number of things that set this apart from that feature film. I like the way that this book is structured as well as the oversized issues so that they can fit more into an issue while allowing it to feel right. By right I mean there is a logical stopping point in the story leaving the reader saying “wait what no, that’s it!” and wanting more.
I like that we see this being told from multiple angles and not just from inside the train itself. Although that’s really where all the action is. It could have worked that way but I like that they have noticed the runaway train and making attempts at stopping it. Plus with all the technology at their disposal finding patient zero and tracing back to maybe finding a cure or at the very least destroy all the work is definitely being utilised well. Plus it gives us a look at new characters and I for one appreciate that break from the terror on the train.
The characterisation here is marvellous! We see all the personality types and some that are floating up and down between them. Fear can do some serious damage if you let it, or you can step up find that inner strength you didn’t know you had and as the phrase goes “man up.” So that we have those we want to see be eaten, such a terrible thing to say lol, and those we are rooting for, which is dangerous since they always seem to die, all based on the characterisation which is their dialogue and their actions.
I am a huge fan of Alex and the work that he does. It has been a privilege and an honour to see him grow as an artist. This one is a tad older yet you can see those flashes where you are like, hot damn this guy is good! The way he’s able to manipulate the varying weights of the linework to coax out this stunning attention to detail is so much fun to see. The panel construction here is something else, I mean through the page layouts and how we see the angles and perspective in the panels show us his stellar eye for storytelling, but it’s how the panels are constructed, utilised (see backgrounds) that make this book as effective as it is. Also it is surprisingly gore free though there is plenty of blood and that leads me to the colour work we see in these pages. This too is exceptionally well done and the way that the train’s limited light sources are utilised and how we see the intensity and horror they do is magnificent. This is a well developed story with a strong plot and direction. I am hugely impressed with the characterisation and the characters use of their own minds and abilities here. Instead of laying down waiting to die a horrible and gruesome death they have a plan but the question remains can they do anything to stop the train and get out alive while not letting the zombies out?