Attention, WonderCon, Ziggy is missing. Repeat, we are missing Ziggy Marley. But only for a second – turns out the “Love is My Religion” star had only wandered away from the Image Comics booth into the dizzying panorama of the comics convention for a moment to snag his son some of the new Green Lantern toys. “He's into it,” he tells me, smiling as his fixers and Image staff scramble to set up the seats for our interview.
But to be clear about what exactly we're doing here: Ziggy Marley is releasing a comic book on 4/20. It's called Marijuana Man, obviously.
It's about a hero (a white guy!) named Sedona, a being from the planet Yelram – like, read it backwards -- on Exodus, where the for-real (a.k.a., the weed smoking, freedom-fighting, down) Earthlings are trying their best to defeat the evil, environment-ruining, pill-pushing Pharma-Con. Sample Pharma-Con line: “I want to get this over with so we can get back to the business of selling people chemicals they don't need.” Hiss.
“There's quality in the textures,” Marley tells me (still smiling, he's always smiling because love is his religion). “It's a collector's edition.” Some characters' speak with a smoker's patois, a lushly-proportioned-yet-badass guerilla named MJ – like, think about it – bonds with Sedona in a ecstatic, abstract sex session also patronized by the Lion of Judah and the crashing wave from Katsushika Hokusai's 36 Views of Mt. Fuji series. And there's whizzing, crashing battles between Sedona and a Pharma-Con mercenary on a motorcycle that leaps and murders.
The Marijuana Man gang
But. Ziggy Marley, you have never once made a comic book before. I had doubts, doubts as to whether this book, with its “Ziggy Marley's” inscribed over its title, was indeed the work of the genial reggae star in front of me. I put it to him: Ziggy, was Marijuana Man really your idea?
He says: yes. Ziggy uses the royal “we,” which is fine because Bob Marley is his dad.
“We had the idea to create a superhero who gets his powers from a plant.” It seems that royal Ziggy, or team Ziggy (this last probably includes Snoopy, his genial bodyguard who takes photos of Ziggy bonding with childrens in Brazil and later bemoaned to me the fact that Shakira got a helicopter to airlift her to a concert in Argentina that the two headlined, while team Love = My Religion had to proceed on a congested road, which I agree isn't right) were ready for a superhero that got righteous not through the ingestion of toxic chemicals, or prosthetics, or capitalism, but rather natural medicine.
So Marley had the original idea for the comic, but then chose a crack team of comic professionals to make it come to fruition. “Jim and Joe [Casey, another big deal-guy who wrote the book] would do their thing, and every once in awhile I'd say 'what about this.'”
Basically, there's a cause involved here, and not least because Marley plans to make Marijuana Man's 4/20 release an annual occurrence. “Sedona's a metaphor for the plant itself. We believe the plant is special, if used properly,” he says, admitting that Marijuana Man carries an additional message. To wit: “to get rid of the stigma and the demonization of the plant.”
“I have a vivid imagination,” he smiiiiles. There is nothing more that I want to do with my day past hang out with this happy, sun-shiney man and his comic book dreams, so I start asking him what comic books he likes.
He likes Jonah Hex, “the weirdest Western hero” who was born to a prostitute mother and a father who sells him to the Apaches, whose respect he earns and then loses at the hands of a jealous chief's son, who messes up his face with a hot tomahawk. Hex becomes a bounty hunter anti-hero. At some point, Hex is catapulted into 2050. When he dies (card game) his body is stolen, stuffed, and unfairly displayed by a touring circus. I think he is later resurrected, and takes to fighting for and against crime again with the Black Lantern Corps.
“Jonah Hex, he's a bad good guy, he's a good bad guy,” Ziggy says. I wish I could walk around WonderCon all weekend with Ziggy Marley and talk about this, but his next interview is already waiting for him and then he has a big stack of Marijuana Man posters to sign for fans.
“The thing about comic books, it's a deep thing. They're not frivolous, they have meaning,” he tells me. “Music fans who love our philosophies and ideas, I think they can relate to that. They're art. They're not just about drawing people, hands, and feet.”
That man, I swear, love him. To celebrate your holiday with Marijuana Man, here's a website that'll point you to the nearest comic book store.