Tomorrow is 4//20 and fittingly, the onsale date for Cheech & Chong’s Chronicles: A Brief History of Weed, published by Z2. I’m here to say that I was the editor of this book, a job I took on as a freelance project. While I didn’t disclose this previously, (because my involvement with the book wasn’t formally announced) I did discuss it internally with the editorial team here and haven’t covered any Z2 stories for the Beat since I took on the job. Comics is a pretty small field and conflicts of interest are everywhere – hopefully, I’ve earned the trust of the community to separate my various jobs. We’ll continue to cover Z2 here, both with their many projects and on the business side of things, but I’ll be sure to make sure that my business relationship is clear and will recuse myself from anything that would be compromised by my involvement.
That said, I hadn’t edited any comics in a while, and taking on this job was…an absolute blast and the finished product is something I’m very proud of! To be honest, I was never a big Cheech & Chong fan (I don’t think many women are/were?) and I don’t use THC*, but I got to learn a lot about Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin while making the book and they are legends. It’s as simple as that. I got to meet them at Wondercon and it was a trip.
I took on the project because in the endless groundhog day of pandemic living, taking on a new endeavor was something I desperately needed as a change of pace. For those of you who don’t know my history, I edited comics for a living for a decade or so for Disney and later DC, and briefly Fox Atomic, and I’ve helped with projects here and there over the years. But taking on a full length anthology (the hardest type of comic to edit) was a lot of work – fortunately it turned out to be (mostly) fun! And what a joy to work with old friends again – Bob Fingerman and Rick Veitch – and with people who I know but never had a chance to work with – Noah van Sciver, Jim Mahfood, Ryan Dunlavey and Ellen Lindner – and then a whole bunch of new folks I didn’t know at all who were just wonderful to collaborate with: the writer Eliot Rahal, and artists Soo Lee, Chris Visions, Butch Mapa, Gideon Kendall, Patricio Delpeche and J. Gonzo, colorists Mark Rodrigues and Matt Harding and letterer AndWorld Design. And finally cover artists Erik Rodriguez & Steve Chanks.
Also working with the folks at Z2 was a joy as well. Z2’s sr vp and art director Josh Bernstein is another old pal from the good old days of Royal Flush magazine, and project manager/assistant editor Jasminne Saravia kept track of all the production details as well as bringing her own sensibilities to the project. She’s a rising star! And of course Z2’s co-owner Josh Frankel is someone I’ve watched grow up in the business. So basically it was kind of like a family picnic, only over Zoom.
I love writing about the world of comics and conventions, and looking under the hood of what makes the industry work, but returning to making comics was something I missed a lot. There’s nothing like digging in to the nitty gritty of solving storytelling problems, or page layouts or color palettes with people who love what they do. I keep using the word joy because that’s what it is. The reason I’m a lifer for comics is because of the vast and endless supply of creativity that is held in their pages, and the amazing people who get it done. Getting to be a part of that again reminded me why I’ve stuck with this medium through thick and thin.
Of course editing comics isn’t all beer and skittles. Deadlines, COVID, personal issues, new babies, paper shortages, shipping woes…these are all a reality of making the magic and we all have horror stories. I’m relieved that Cheech & Chong’s Chronicles had very few from my end…so the resulting memories are a happy haze for me – and not the kind you think!
So plug: Cheech & Chong’s Chronicles: A Brief History of Weed goes on sale tomorrow and it’s a wild journey through a psychedelic blur with a few stops for the political history of weed. It turns out that Cheech and Chong are perfect comics characters in their own right.
Oh one more plug: what a joy (sorry there it is again) to work with Noah van Sciver. I’ve always loved his work, but getting to collaborate just reinforced my belief that he’s an absolutely brilliant cartoonist. His magnum opus Joseph Smith and the Mormons comes out from Abrams this summer and it is a must read.
*But ask me about CBD.
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Cheech and Chong, who 50 years ago made using drugs sound like harmless fun, just like underground comics of the time did. How has that worked out? According to the CDC, drug overdpse deaths in America top 100,000 annually, but aren’t Cheech and Chong funny?
What’s worse is that 99,027 of those deaths are from legal marijuana overdoses.
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