Comic Books and Cannabis Inspiration With Box Brown

Philadelphia native Box Brown was 16 years old when he was arrested for smoking pot. He was a direct victim of America’s long running campaign for weaponizing cannabis and using it as a instrument of oppression for its own citizens. “It sucked, it was dreadful,” he says of this incident. “I had to go to court, I had to see a probation officer every week, and I was criminalized. I thought, ‘this doesn’t look right to me,’ as a child … It was obvious to me as a non-adult that this was bullshit. ”

“Pretty much, from what I have discovered, is that 90% of cartoonists get high, and 1% mention it.”

Box Brown, Graphic Novelist

Decades later, Box Brown would go on to release the New York Times Bestselling graphic novel, André the Giant: Life and Legend, for First Second Books in 2014. Three decades before, Brown had won a 2011 Xeric Grant for his comic book, Love is a Peculiar sort of Thing, also kickstarted his own small publishing outfit, Retrofit Comics, that same year. He went on to write and illustrate two more biographical graphic novels for First Second, Tetris: The Games People Play and Is This Guy for Real? The Incredible Andy Kaufman, printed in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

Today, Brown works full-time as a cartoonist, splitting work between writing and drawing his own lengthy graphic novels, guest writing for comics of licensed properties such as Adventure Time, Rugrats and WWE, and spending time raising a child along with his wife. Not bad for a guy who decided to pick up cartooning after graduating college, and–by all technicality–was once considered a juvenile delinquent.  

And surely, for the best, the constant that became and has remained a source of inspiration for the cartoonist is the identical herb that gave Brown a new view of life as a teenager: cannabis.

It’s also the topic of his upcoming historical graphic novel, Cannabis: The Illegalization of Pot in America, due out April 2, 2019. The comic book aims to provide essential context to understanding America’s interest in banning cannabis and demonizing its users, touching on its historic cultivation in Mexico City by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, and shedding light on Harry J. Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics’ campaign against cannabis usage in the usa.

His comics are dense… But they’re playful, engaging, innocent, drawn in a fashion that’s almost cute. To put it differently, Brown is a true cartoonist.

It’s a narrative that Box Brown took deadly serious and spent painstakingly long hours exploring. He spoke on Nixon’s efforts and role in establishing a war on drugs, in addition to the effects of negative cannabis propaganda which still continues years after its legalization in several states. At one point, Brown remembered a moment where his editor told him to lighten up over his book’s subject matter. Brown was caught up in the “reefer madness,” and enraged with its potent history of lies.

“I probably worked on this book for 16 months or something like that, between the study, the drawing of it, and editing that stuff,” Brown recalled. “But in a way, I’ve been working on it my whole life, almost the identical way that I was working towards the Andre the Giant book since I was 10. I was so overwhelmed with the quantity of information that was out there. It’s just crazy. ”

Released at Fri, 13 Jul 2018 19:22:41 +0000

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