Jason Sacks: What should I expect if I read Marijuanaman?
Ziggy Marley: I didn’t want it to be a pothead story. It’s done with seriousness. It’s not done as a farce or as a comedy. It’s done as a serious superhero who comes to the planet and is up against these forces. He’s trying to save his planet, but he has to fight to save the people here on Earth. I like that about it, and I like that the art has a message in it. And some of the pages, specifically — it’s like, Picasso.
Sacks: It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
Marley: There’s one page that was like a Picasso thing, you know? I dig that — that’s art, y’know? I love that.
Marley: No — I didn’t plan it. What we did with Jim [Mahfood] was that we gave a basic idea of the story. Joe [Casey] came in and they started doing their thing. And then, as they went along, I was like, “Yeah, I really like this.” So, the more I like it, the more they kept doing different, weirder stuff with it, ’cause I like that type of thing. I like message in art, and I like art, y’know? It’s not just drawing figures.
Sacks: There really is a definite message to the story.
Marley: There’s multiple messages in it. One of the messages is an environmental message. There’s also a message of — this plant has benefits beyond what we know, what the general public knows. And, in the series, we’re trying to expose that more and more. By creating a superhero, he actually represents the plant because we believe the plant is a superhero for us here. So, the message is to stop looking at this plant in that negative light that has been painted. Let’s start looking at this plant as a hero for the planet, y’know?
Sacks: He’s fighting the corporate interests that are trying to keep us polluting.
Marley: Trying to keep us polluting, trying to keep us buying drugs, trying to keep us hooked on those pharmaceutical things. Nature’s provided us – I mean, where I come from, when I get sick, I don’t run to the doctor. I run to the garden. That’s how we do it.
I tell people this story — when I got chicken pox, I didn’t go to a doctor. My mother told me what plants to pick. We boiled it, and I took baths in this plant. That’s all we did — nature is our medicine. Nature is our medicine. It does work.
Sacks: We’ve been talking about this at home. My wife had an auto accident, so she’s had a lot of back pain and stuff. And the pain relief has been so hard to get. She’s like, “How do I get it?” And here’s a message that speaks directly to my family’s story.
Marley: I had that experience — I had knee surgery. I tore my ACL. I had surgery and they gave me vicodin. A couple days after I’d take the vicodin I’d started having cold sweats and feeling just nasty. So I said, Doctor, give me something else. He gave me Percoset. I took that — I was like, “No.”
Then I said, y’know, for the first time in my life, I’m gonna smoke marijuana for the purpose of a medical — ’cause usually I don’t smoke it for medical reasons. I’m gonna see — I heard about this medical thing, I’m gonna try it. It actually relieved my pain without all the side effects of that other stuff. It worked for me.
Sacks: That’s a great message in the book. So you succeeded in being fun with great art and a fun story and still tell a good message. It must be very satisfying to see it.
Marley: Very satisfying, and this superhero is someone we want him to become — the next 30, 50 years from now – just like Superman, just like Spider-Man, just like any of those guys. This guy is not a fad. It’s a novelty now but it won’t be after a while. I want to establish him as a real hero just like any of those DC or Marvel guys, y’know?
Sacks: So you want a whole series of him, you hope?
Marley: Yeah, man.
Sacks: What was your part in helping to create the first storyline?
Marley: I worked on the idea of him coming from another planet and the general outline of the story, the treatment. We also worked with Jim and Joe on specific stuff within the book itself. But I didn’t want to be micromanaging, so Jim and Joe had a lot of freedom to do stuff and show me, and I’d say, that’s great, keep going. I mean, if there was something I didn’t like, I would say it. We’d kind of discuss it and argue about it for a little bit, and then I would say, “Okay” or they would say, “Okay,” and we’d just roll with it, y’know?
Sacks: But you were saying you love the work that they turned out.
Marley: Yeah, man! Great stuff. I mean, you find the right team, you don’t have to work that hard, y’know?
Sacks: That’s the same thing for anything. That’s the same for music, too.
Marley: Exactly! You don’t have to be telling the guys, “Play this, play that, play that.” They feel it, and they know it, and that’s the way it works best, y’know?
Sacks: Get in the groove, things just work. Yeah, I get that. So, how many more books are you hoping to do? Are you going to do a whole series?
Marley: I’m thinking about doing it once a year. Every year on 4/20, a new episode comes out.
Sacks: And that’s an important date?
Marley: Yeah. That is our date to celebrate the plant. Not just the smoking — I want to get away from the stereotypical idea of smoking it. Industrial uses, for plastics, for paper — I mean, the hemp plant — the paper we use. This stuff is made from oil by-products. It’s the plastics, it’s this type of paper that we use that is destroying the Earth. We’re tearing down the foundation of the Earth when we already have a plant that, if we use it to make this stuff
, it wouldn’t affect the Earth as much as what we’re doing now. Which is the direction we should be going in, y’know?
Sacks: We’re starting to make clothes and stuff out of hemp, at least that’s been around for a few years.
Marley: This shirt I’m wearing is made of it, y’know? This is what we’re coming with. It’s made out of hemp, but I think it’s and uphill struggle because the established industries are very powerful, very rich, and they have great lobbying power. And they will continue to lobby against this plant because it benefits them the most. They make more money if this plant is not part of the equation. Oil companies, the corn conglomerate, the cotton conglomerate — all of these guys. Everything has corn in it, everything is an oil by-product — but it’s not environmental. They’ll continue it because they have the power, but if the common people learn more about this plant, the truth, then maybe we’ll have a chance. That is why we chose a comic book, too, because this generation are the people that read comics. They need to know, y’know?
Sacks: Are you hoping to do more than comics, too? Animation or anything like that?
Marley: Hopefully, man. I wanna do everything, y’know? Music is my foundation, but I’m not limited to music. I want to do a lot.
Sacks: You definitely have a positive message, too. It’s not “This is the wrong way,” but “I have the right way.” All your work has a positive message.
Marley: That’s who we are, y’know? We try to tell people the truth. We’re trying to show people that, as my father said, not all that glitters is gold, y’know? Half the story has never been told, y’know what I mean? So, we’re just trying to tell the whole story and get people educated about things, y’know?
Sacks: But it’s not just about education. It’s the fun of the book, too.
Marley: Yeah. I mean, I’m a comic book reader. I don’t like reading boring — even movies. I like being educated, but I don’t like it to be boring. Maybe that’s why I didn’t like math so much in school, ’cause it was so boring, the teacher. Y’know, you give us something that excites us, I can learn. But if it doesn’t, I can’t learn that way. I need something to invigorate me to learn, and that’s what the comic book does. It entertains, but it teaches as well.
Sacks: And that’s what’s great about this comic, especially. It’s so bright and fun. You must have loved it when you saw it.
Marley: Love it! I love it!
Click here to read our interview with Jim Mahfood about Marijuanaman.