Paul Kirchner’s “Dope Rider” comic strip ran in the pages of High Times magazine from 1975 through 1986. Kirchner, who was also a regular contributor to Heavy Metal (his “the bus” ran for seven years), is not only a very skilled comics illustrator, influenced by Jim Steranko and the Surrealist movement; he’s also fond of pushing the boundaries of the narrative. Within the space of a few Dope Rider pages, readers were treated to a half-sensical journey with the protagonist, a skeleton cowboy on the run from the law or other outlaws—whomever wants his stash. The Dope Rider seems unbound by the usual rules of space, time and dimension, and sometimes what seems to be a life-or-death struggle turns out to be little more than a hallucination or pun. You can’t try to control it, man—just roll along with it and everything will be alright.
Suddenly, the internet has discovered Kirchner’s blog (thedoperider.blogspot.com)—well, his nub of a blog. A blog in the larval state. See, in June 2011, due to popular demand, Kirchner began posting some of his brilliant pages with the stated goal of presenting the entire Dope Rider oeuvre. That effort lasted approximately two days, then the blog remained un-updated for three years. But the sudden discovery seems to have inspired Kirchner to pick up posting Dope Rider pages; after both Gawker and Dangerous Minds wrote about it, Kirchner is giving it another go, and has posted two recent Dope Rider strips (yes, he’s drawing them for High Times again, which is also good news).
Let’s hope he sticks with it. This is fantastic stuff, and deserves to be seen by a new audience. Here are a few of the pages Kirchner has shared; the first is a new one-pager from the January issue of High Times, the other two are much older.