Let’s say it loud and clear: Captain Cannabis is the first cannabis superhero in history.
Could it be so?
“To the best of my knowledge, yes,” says Canadian illustrator Verne Andru, regarding his creation.
In fact, legend has it that his first Captain Cannabis sketch dates back to 1975 and, apparently, there are no records of a cannabis hero before that.
“The government’s copyright certificate is dated 4/20/1977, making it the first link between superheroes, comics and the 420 world,” says Andru.
In formal terms, Captain Cannabis is a product of his when and where.
“It was the ’60s and ’70s. Canadians like me, who live at the edge of the United States, were shaped by the events that happened south of the border. And the Yankee culture filtered through the news, TV, shopping, food and fashion.”
Zoom in to Winnipeg, in the prairies of western Canada, and its harsh -4°F winters: “The truth is that I didn’t have too many distractions other than creating a comic strip,” he acknowledges.
Inspired by the lines of masters Robert Crumb (Zap Comix) and Gilbert Shelton (The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers), Verne ventured into the Canadian comic book underground.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t buy into the mainstream superhero comics. It seemed to me that these stories were narrow and glorified violence. My view on comics changed when I saw a pile of underground comics in a headshop in the early ’70s.”
At that time, these stores began to be regarded as the epicenter of the stoner culture, and counterculture in general.
“They were just a bunch of hippies fulfilling their dream of selling lava lamps and dyed T-shirts,” he jokes.
Thus, counterculture pushed the Canadian government to review drug prohibition through the Senate. In 1972 the Canadian Senate issued a report recommending the decriminalization of cannabis. The framework was set, inspiration was at hand: this led to the creation of Captain Cannabis.
By 1975, subject to the buzz surrounding legalization and independent comics reaching its boiling point, Verne published the first issue of Captain Cannabis.