Meet Captain Cannabis, the First Weed Superhero

He first appeared in comics on 4/20 in 1977 and will live for infamy.
Meet Captain Cannabis, the First Weed Superhero
Image credit: Captain Cannabis Comics

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This article was originally published on El Planteo. Translation via Benzinga.

Captain Cannabis is the first cannabis superhero in history.

Legend has it that his first Captain Cannabis sketch dates back to 1975, and, apparently, there are no records of a cannabis hero before that.

"The government's copyright certificate is dated 4/20/1977, making it the first link between superheroes, comics, and the 420 worlds," says Canadian illustrator Verne Andru, who created Captain Cannabis.

Origin story

Captain Cannabis's creation can be traced back to the frozen prairies of Winnipeg, Canada.  “It was the '60s and '70s. Canadians like me, who live at the edge of the United States, were shaped by the events that happened south of the border. And the Yankee culture filtered through the news, TV, shopping, food, and fashion,” says Andru. "The truth is that I didn't have too many distractions other than creating a comic strip," Andru says.

Inspired by the lines of masters Robert Crumb (Zap Comix) and Gilbert Shelton (The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers), Verne ventured into the Canadian comic book underground.

“When I was a kid, I didn't buy into the mainstream superhero comics. It seemed to me that these stories were narrow and glorified violence. My view on comics changed when I saw a pile of underground comics in a headshop in the early '70s.”

At that time, these stores began to be regarded as the epicenter of the stoner culture—and counterculture in general.

"They were just a bunch of hippies fulfilling their dream of selling lava lamps and dyed T-shirts," he recalls.

The counterculture pushed the Canadian government to review drug prohibition in the country. In 1972 the Canadian Senate issued a report recommending the decriminalization of cannabis. The framework was set, inspiration was at hand. All this led to the creation of Captain Cannabis.

The first issue is published.

By 1975, subject to the buzz surrounding legalization and independent comics reaching their boiling point, Verne published the first issue of Captain Cannabis.

“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 says.

Related: The 7 Best Cannabis Documentaries to Watch Right Now

And how was Captain Cannabis received by the public?

"Everyone instantly loved him and his future seemed assured," Andru says. “We had a receptive audience and a distribution network in the headshops."

A plot twist

Around these years, US President Richard Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). 

When Pierre Trudeau was elected Canada’s Prime Minister, under the banner of decriminalization, the United States threatened to close the world's largest unprotected border. The progressive policy would therefore result in a hard blow to the trade between the two countries.

Later came Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs. Arrests and bans were at the door. "From the stores to High Times magazine," the artist says.

Verne was hunted down and under constant vigilance by his own government. "This, I discovered decades later through a freedom of information request," he says. “The Canadian government did what it does best: break the promises made to its citizens. Those were dark times,” Verne recalls with disgust. “It took Pierre's son 44 years to reach the Canadian government and fulfill that promise. Thank you, Justin Trudeau.”

What’s happening with Captain Cannabis today?

Andru has had decades of success in the animation world. He’s developed layouts (and a great number of technical details) for the film Rock & Rule (1983), and illustrations for the Captain Canuck comic.

Meanwhile, he regularly attends conventions and comic shows. "There I can see how people's faces light up when they get their first Captain Cannabis," he says.

But it hasn't always been easy. Before Canadian cannabis legalization in 2018, it was very difficult for him to find spaces in the conventions to exhibit his work. “There was a resounding change. Now I have people super excited about my work lining up at my stands and… they even ask for selfies! "

Verne Andru

Is a movie in the works?

After experimenting with a web series, the rumor of a Captain Cannabis movie began to take flight.

“There are several ideas in the works, but nothing has been launched yet. I finished the first script in 2005 and used it as a base for the 420 comic and web episodes,” he says.

On his YouTube channel, you can see some of the concept animations that could be present in a possible superhero movie.

"It’s a raw version that lasts a little over two hours, but it pushes the story forward and is an important step in pre-production," Andru says.

After rejecting some offers to make a low-budget film version, the author has reissued the two original Captain Cannabis stories: Roll Me Another One and Roll Me Another One Just Like The Other One.

He is also working on a Captain Cannabis #3 comic. "I finished the pencil drawings a few weeks ago and am about to dive into inking," he tells us. "I've lived so long with these characters that they tend to write themselves, so I have many more stories to tell," he adds.

Captain Cannabis's ideals

The Captain Cannabis story is about an intergalactic weed strain that transforms a loveable bum into a superhero who saves Earth. To achieve this mission, the Captain must prevent people from mistreating each other and being jerks.

“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 says.

“Captain Cannabis is the first superhero dedicated to peace, love, and understanding. He is the superhero that we all have inside of us. He’s a stoner created in the spirit of underground comics. Captain Cannabis is anything but a typical Marvel or DC Comics hero, ” he adds.

Overall, Andru is happy that, after so much struggle, after so much arguing, his books are available for sale around the world. "It was something impossible long ago," he says.

His material is available at http://www.captaincannabis.com

More cannabis content from El Planteo here.

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