When I heard about The Adventures of The Green Thumb and Purple Haze, cannabis powered superheroes, I knew I was in for a treat, and boy, was I right. I had the pleasure of obtaining this exclusive interview with comic creators, Oteil Burbridge and LeVar Carter.
Oteil Burbridge is a renowned bass player who has been performing with the legendary Allman Brothers Band for 17 years and counting. He was also a founding member of the Aquarium Rescue Unit and The Tedeschi Trucks Band, and has performed with many other notable musicians and bands. After being struck with the inspiration for The Adventures of The Green Thumb and Purple Haze, he teamed up with LeVar Carter, a very talented illustrator and writer who helped to shape the ideas of the story and characters. Together, these two ganja enthusiasts created this comic.
Read on for the official scoop on their inspiration, their personal cannabis philosophies, tasty eye candy from LeVar Carter and much more.
Issue #1 of the comic can be purchased and read online.
How did the inspiration for The Adventures of The Green Thumb & Purple Haze come to you? Was this an idea you had for a while before acting on it?
OB: Actually, I thought of the concept around 1999 while on the road. It really was not much more than a synopsis and a bunch of character names. I’ve always loved superheroes and was really surprised that I had never heard of any that were derived from Cannabis. I was sitting in my kitchen with my wife Jess and brother Kofi after moving back to Atlanta, and Kofi and I were reminiscing about the idea, and my wife really encouraged me to resurrect it and try to put it out there.
Oteil, you’ve been playing with The Allman Brothers over a decade, and the first issue of this comic was released just this past January 2014. Was finding the time to balance the two projects challenging?
OB: I never have found the time! It only took 15 years to finally come out! Plants bloom when they bloom though, and not one second before. Everything happens in its season. That’s one of the themes of the story.
Has the motivation behind the comic always been to contribute to cannabis activism?
OB: It kind of has to be because you take a certain amount of risk putting something like this out. They still won’t leave Willie Nelson alone! With all the recent NSA revelations that we “conspiracy theorists” have been talking about for a long time, we can’t help but be concerned. Of course the tide is turning as well so it’s a little easier now. It really makes you realize how brave Willie, Cheech and Chong, Marley and many others were [for] standing up in a really backward time.
LC: I think Oteil and I both knew this comic could be a great rallying point for people to talk about marijuana legalization. Sometimes the truth works better as fiction. Hopefully people will be able to see marijuana is here to help, and have some fun along the way!
What inspired you to get involved in cannabis activism, and what message do you hope the comic sends about prohibition and legalization?
OB: I guess my intention originally was not to be a marijuana activist… the original idea was to entertain and educate. LeVar’s art work blew my mind. He also has a beautiful mind. Now with the internet, activism can happen on an exponential level. It’s great to see the tide turning against this insane campaign against [cannabis, which] is such a gift to us. When you think about how many positive uses there are for this plant, it’s infuriating to witness the magnitude of the war upon it, and all of us who have benefited from it. I think it qualifies as evil.
LC: Cannabis [and hemp have] been demonized by the War on Drugs, when it brings nothing but gifts to the table. I have been investigating its myriad [of] applications since I was 16 and first discovered it for myself. To be able to co-create a comic about weed superheroes, for them to be voices and stand-ins for the plant, is perhaps the greatest application of my skills as an artist and lover of comics right now. If this comic can be a talking point for cannabis legalization, and a platform to show the industrial, medical, nutritive and spiritual gifts she has to offer, perhaps some good will have been done.
The comic has a very unique art style with an originality to it not often seen in the comic book world today. It’s visually stunning. Can you tell us a little more about the art style and how you developed this look for the comic? Where did you study art?
LC: Many thanks. Yes, there is a bit of multi-media art going on here. I have used computer-drawn line work and colors in addition to photography to create the pages. I have been an artist since childhood, and studied illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia.
For The Adventures of The Green Thumb & Purple Haze, I wanted to create very rich visuals, something you could smoke a joint and then just really get into! Influenced by film and high end animation, I used solid outlines for the figures and no outlines for backgrounds. I love textures and really wanted each page to be a visual feast, so the use of photography in a collage sense with the Wacom-rendered art was a fun solution.
Oteil, how much detail did you have worked out when you initially brought this idea to LeVar?
OB: Just the names and storyline of how they got their superhero powers. It has all morphed since LeVar came on board. He is a true comic book enthusiast. He has great powers of synthesis. LeVar is really knowledgeable about a lot of things; art, growing his own food, cooking, yoga, religions, meditation, nutrition and probably some things I don’t even know about yet.
We’re dealing with so many different strains of thought and reality, and he sees their interconnectedness. It’s so great to just pow-wow about the subject, because we resonate on the same frequency. We live where science and mysticism are happily married. Music is math but it also conveys emotion. LeVar deals with form in his drawings, but the forms that he renders can also inspire. This story can tell history but also give people courage or make them laugh.
The villain in this story is named Paraquat. Would you tell us a little more about that?
OB: [Paraquat] was a chemical, a weed killer that the gov’t sprayed on “illegal” weed farms in the 1970’s. God knows what toxic side effects it has. His first in command is named Tordon, which is another such chemical.
How did the character design come about? Was there a concept in mind before pen went to paper?
LC: Oteil had a strong concept for the look of The Green Thumb and Purple Haze, and for Mary Jane’s human form, but beyond that, it was a free-for-all for me to just have fun. I got a sketchbook out and just started penciling. I’d send the sketches to Oteil and Jess and we’d hash things out a bit. I initially thought Paraquat and Tordon should look very different, more young and attractive, but they thought we should go for something else, which actually drove their designs into more interesting forms. So it was a process, even ongoing really, as the art is created.
Who writes the script for the comics, and how many issues are currently available? Is the comic available in print?
LC: Oteil and I develop the storyline, and then I write the script. I would love to see hemp-paper prints one of these days, or at least recycled-paper, but for now, digital will suffice. Currently, only issue #1 has been released, as issue #2 is still being created! When we can get a fan base established, I will be able to devote more attention to illustrating, and people can expect the adventures to keep coming! So buy your copy of issue #1, get your friends to do it too, and then I will strap myself to my computer and just crank them out!
Issue #1 begins with the back story of The Green Thumb and Purple Haze and ends on a compelling cliff hanger. What can readers expect to see as the story progresses?
OB: The sky is the limit as far as what the future holds. We are obviously into telling the history of prohibition, but we also really want to delve into Cannabis’ many blessings. You can’t help but wonder if it’s simply a battle of good and evil in real life when a plant that can do so many incredible, positive things, is such a massive target for people seeking control through economic, corporate, military, legislative, judicial or executive means.
These people hate Mother Nature. Look how they treat her at every turn. Sucking the blood out of her like a vampire, clear cutting her like a cancer, poisoning her air and water with toxic waste, driving all her species, ourselves included, to extinction. It’s so sad. What better subject for a superhero story? We can also explore the spiritual, mystical and scientific themes that are related to not only the plant, but the war against it.
Readers are going to see a wide range of realities and possibilities explored in this story.
LC: Yes, the first issue ends with a lot of questions left unanswered, and all I can say without spoiling too much, is that the twins, Herb and Mary Jane, will be learning a lot about how they are to proceed from here, who their allies and adversaries will be, and how that may change over time. The themes of family and spirituality that were touched on in issue #1 will continue to be a focus of the story, and the twins have so much to explore, and we will be right there sharing in their adventures.