Artist and Letterer: Jim Mahfood
Script: Joe Casey
Published by Image Comics
Well, you hate to say something obvious about “Marijuanaman” by Ziggy Marley like: was he high when he wrote it or was Image high when they bought and decided to promote the property but your mind does dwell on those questions when reading this comic. I suppose if I had never read a comic I might find this barely entertaining. But if you’ve read several thousand or more comics since the 70s then you’re probably not going to be that impressed.
It’s hard to begin with what’s wrong with this comic on the writing side because there are just so many many things wrong on the writing side. I have reviewed some really fine science fiction comics during my tenure here at Comics Forge. Aldebaran’s Leo gives us this great portrait of alien worlds and alien intelligences. Nonplayer gives us this very detailed portrait of futuristic virtual worlds. Spacemen gives us another well thought out futuristic world. And then there’s this. I suppose it could be considered a very good comic if it was written by a 14 year old but not a fully grown adult. Plus, he does the very corny thing of using the names of his songs and his family as chapter headings. I think its an attempt at cross promotion but it just feels tacky.
I mean, when people put down comics as being cliched and badly written you know for certain that they’re talking about comics like “Marijuanaman”. Nothing is well executed on the writing side. I’ll give you an example of one of the little things that annoys me about the “science fiction” in this comic book. Here’s an exchange:
No I don’t dig. There actually are theories of life that’s not carbon based and that could be based on something else. There’s a nice outline of what this debate is all about and there’s a theory that instead of carbon based lifeforms perhaps it could be based on silicon or arsenic. There was a big debate over this particular NASA study for example where there was a claim that a kind of arsenic based life form was discovered. This is in dispute this way. I am completely certain that Ziggy knows nothing of this because he just strikes me as not being knowledgeable. That might not be a requirement for reggae singers but it kind of helps if you’re writing science fiction, even for comics. It would be more accurate to describe DNA as the genetic blueprint for all living things. They’re not just “molecules”. In other words, THC has its own DNA. It’s like someone who doesn’t know the difference between the universe and galaxies within the universe. Or thinking parsecs is a measurement of time as opposed to distance, true that was Star Wars but still…
The other annoying factor about this is that even though I am pro marijuana legalization and pro hemp I’m just not sure if this is the kind of thing that I would want kids to read. Not because it extols marijuana use, but because it seems to approve of it in kind of a dim witted comic book kind of way. Remember 8-Man the Japanese superhero of the sixties who got his power from smoking cigarettes? Well, here’s a money shot that you won’t believe.
What’s also worse, and perhaps this is because I’m African American, is that if you’re a black writer, who happens to be the son of a legend who I always thought was a black nationalist at the very least, can’t you create a lead hero who is African American? This is your hero? True, there are supporting characters that are black including Ziggy (sigh) but still…
Two stars. The only reason I didn’t give it one star is that the art is actually pretty good. Some of the panels are beautiful and the artist reminds me of a sketchier Simon Bisley. So one star for the writing and three stars for the art. And yes Image is a business and they do have a right to make some money off of pimping Ziggy Marley’s name in order to sell a few books but that doesn’t mean the comic has to be incomprehensibly bad. There are black writers of science fiction that have done work that you could adapt and they would make great comics. Hey, I’ll do the adaptations if you can’t find anybody. I would adapt stories for comics by the likes of Steven Barnes (Charisma and Lion’s Blood not to mention his earlier cyberpunk efforts…) the legendary Samuel Delany (Driftglass would be nice.) and just about anything by the late Octavia Butler. If you want someone who’s from the islands and writes science fiction you could try Nalo Hopkinson, whose work I haven’t read but who I’m pretty sure is a better fiction writer than Ziggy. I mean, they’re not the kids of rock stars but they’re damn fine writers, if that matters anymore these days in Big Time comics publishing.
Correction: In a earlier version I gave the entire credit or blame for the writing to Ziggy Marley. However, after checking the credits once more it turns out that this was created by Ziggy Marley and written by Joe Casey. Apologies. Oddly enough, the fact that he didn’t do the writing reflects better on Ziggy Marley.