cover image Dope Rider: A Fistful of Delirium

Dope Rider: A Fistful of Delirium

Paul Kirchner. Tanibis, $32 (132p) ISBN 978-2-84841-060-9

Wreathed in sativa fumes and always up for an adventure, the eponymous skeletal gunslinger rides through this high-spirited collection with an appealing optimism. These standalone one-page strips by Kirchner (Hieronymus & Bosch) originally ran in High Times, and the Jodorowsky-esque hippie Western framing is loosely defined, as Dope Rider drifts laconically through a series of exquisitely rendered backgrounds (vast Old West landscapes stocked with a welter of psychedelia from skeleton horses to Yellow Submarine riffs). The action is supremely low-stakes, with Dope Rider and his companions (a scantily clad showgirl, an old Native American named John Wayne, and a sarcastic armadillo) falling into screwball situations such as playing poker at “the last saloon on Earth” or being asked to take part in an “unreality show.” Many frames revolve around a sight gag or mystical imagery, which are tied off with a pointedly corny joke, as when Dope Rider takes out Wild Bill Hickok with a surrealist bullet and laughs, “Say Hello, Dali!” The aesthetic is peak Haight-Ashbury with a Kevin Smith mentality, with references ranging from a “Doobie Wan Kenobi” gag to Dope Rider being gawked at while attending Comic-Con (“If his head were on fire, I’d say Ghost Rider”). The puns, mind-expanding vistas, and Zen serenity make for a curiously addictive combination.[em] (July) [/em]