Monday, November 13, 2017

GEEK Speaks w/ Weed Magic Writer Brian Phillipson

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Weed Magic is one of the year's best new comics, and I had a chance to talk to its creator at NYCC!

By Josef Rodriguez | 11/6/2017 04:00 PM PT

Stoner culture has been making its way into the mainstream, especially during the last few years. As more and more states legalize marijuana – both medical and recreational – the cultural attitude towards smoking weed has softened. The idea that smoking weed somehow turns even the most productive human being into a lackadaisical couch potato is one that becomes more and more outdated by the minute. When I talked to Weed Magic writer Brian Phillipson about this, one of the first people that came up was Barack Obama, living proof that even the most significant figures partake in “the circle,” as it were.

“We have the visual evidence of it,” Phillipson said. “And that’s not a slacker. I think the slackers tend to be slackers whether they’re stoners or not. And, you know, I write a million comics, I work a full-time job, I have a family. It hasn’t slowed me down. It’s just helped.” The writer’s new story follows two friends – Bunny Cortez, an aspiring filmmaker, and his attorney-in-training best friend, Moe Green – who come upon a strain of magical marijuana that gives them powers beyond their wildest dreams. The story of how Weed Magic came to be isn’t exactly a surprising one, in that it was conceived during a particularly enlightening smoking session.

“This is an idea I’ve had in my head for ten years, smoking with my friends. At the time, my girlfriend – who’s now my wife – was with her friends just like smoking, like, ‘Oh my god I’m so high what is this? It’s magic weed. It’s weed magic!’ just being silly. And it’s just one of those things, doing conventions for all these years I’m like, ‘Someone’s gonna come up with this. It’s so obvious. You don’t see leaves anywhere. You don’t see anything at the comic-con. So many comic readers are stoners, and so many stoners are into comics. It felt like a natural fit and I literally saw nothing for that. And finally, I was, like, ‘You know what? Fuck it. I’m doin’ it.'”

With the idea coming a full decade in the making, I asked Phillipson how he planned to keep the series going now that the first issue is finished. “We’re probably gonna put out two to three a year,” he said. “Our next one will be coming out April 20th, 2018, and then I’ll probably have an issue 3 later that year; probably average about three a year. A lot of my comics tend to be indie. This is actually my first superhero comic. Because the weed gives him superpowers, there’s a limited edition of the weed, meaning that all the magic left in the world is in that bag. So it’s following them as they go on this journey of the hero, it just happens to be through weed. And it’s basically: you have superpowers, but it’s a limited time. And I wanted it to be through the lens of what would you and I do if we truly had this bag of magic weed? Like, we’d smoke half of it with shits and giggles, have all the fun with it. And then there’s that responsibility. What is that responsibility in two average guys’ hands? What would we do?”

Phillipson told me that his experiences with marijuana actually did start with a need for some help curbing symptoms of anxiety and mental unrest. “I was from California, got a medical card. As a writer, you tend to be very emotional and it really did help with the anxiety and insomnia. And then also, on top of that, it helps with creativity, which is just a bonus. And it’s like, instead of having a drink, if you told me ‘You want a beer or a smoke?’ I’d rather have a smoke any day. It’s kinda nice, now that it’s [becoming] legal, people are a lot more accepting of it. And it’s been kinda nice to see people turn that corner. Whereas, five years ago, ‘Oh, stoner, can’t do anything.’ You start finding out how many people smoke. They’re not all slackers.”

“A lot of the people you think are smokers, the typical ones probably are,” Phillipson continued. “But there’s, like you were saying, so many people smoke. So many people don’t have the courage because society doesn’t let them have the courage. Of course, everyone has wine or a beer. But there are so many people who smoke, or who wanna smoke, who are just afraid of the social stigma for it. And I think in the next ten years of it becoming legal, we’re gonna find so many more people open up and [more] books like this, TV shows, movies more that incorporate it. And that it can be all types of things, not just this typical stoner comedy, but incorporating the superhero part of it. And who knows what other creators come up with? But I think that helps start breaking down walls, you realize, ‘Oh weed’s just this thing.'”

He went on to explain how the benefits of medical marijuana have had an impact on his life beyond his own struggles with anxiety. “My mother in law’s actually going through breast cancer right now. And she, you know, they’re the older generation. Like, ‘We don’t smoke weed, we don’t do that!’ She’s taking CBD, which is the active ingredient without getting high. And now she swears by it, and she’s, like, “Brian I heard you have this weed comic, may I read it?” And the fact that my 70-year-old mother-in-law is into it, boundaries are changing. Things are changing. There’s hope for the future.”

When it comes to balancing the stoner humor with story, character, and genuinely good material, a lot of comedies come up short. We’ve all had to sit through cringe-inducing depictions of what weed does and how stoners actually act, which is something that Phillipson was extremely aware of. “What’s most important to me is the story. And it took me and my co-writer, Jordan Lichtman, a while to finish it. We were conscious of not making another stoner comedy. We wanted a good story, that happens to incorporate weed. But that’s the whole point, to have a good story. Not overplay our cool creed and weed creed. ‘Cause at this point, it’s around. It’s not taboo anymore. It’s a thing.”

“So many people have smoked it. I can’t fool the people who’ve smoked, who know what it does, and now it’s like I’m just trying to entertain you. And also trying to entertain the people around you and maybe make them think, ‘Oh, it’s not so bad.’ The perfect thing would be someone reads it who’s never smoked, and it might make them kinda wanna smoke it. It’s almost like if I can reach one person, I’ve done my job. If I can get someone to smoke who hasn’t smoked, I’ve accomplished something.” And, don’t worry, if you were wondering which strain inspired Phillipson to write Weed Magic in the first place, I didn’t forget to ask. His answer? “Blue Dream all the way. Blue Dream is what started the Weed Magic.”

Weed Magic #1 is available on Amazon for, you guessed it, $4.20!

Images: Josef Rodriguez, Bliss on Tap Publishing