Smash Pages Q&A: Lin Visel and Joseph Bergin III

The creators of ‘How Do You Smoke a Weed?: A Comics Guide to a Responsible High’ discuss their approach to helping people learn to smoke.

Lin Visel and Joseph Bergin III, also known as Owlin, are the comics creators behind Mr. Invisible, SuperTwomp, Restless Princess and Welter Hitch, among others. Along with Lauren Keller, they are behind the new comic How Do You Smoke a Weed?: A Comics Guide to a Responsible High, which is out now from Iron Circus Comics.

The book tells the story of Sprout, who wants to smoke but has no idea where to begin, and meets a series of people who explain marijuana and various ways to ingest it. The book has a lot of information even for those how already smoke, and conveys it using entertaining characters. Visel and Bergin were kind enough to answer a few questions by email about the book.

So how did you come to comics?

Lin Visel: I grew up reading The Far Side, Garfield and Shojo manga in Santa Cruz, California. Eventually I started a webcomic called Effort Comics in 2009 as an experiment to see how many pages of a comic I could draw consecutively. That landed me a job drawing hardcore romance comics for the website Slipshine in 2011, where I continue to draw monthly comics, with occasional anthology work or coloring gigs.

Joseph Bergin III:  I have been drawing comics and doing art my whole life. I decided really early that I was going to do comics of some kind.

How do you describe How Do You Smoke a Weed?

Visel: Comic edutainment for the cannabis curious. A positive introduction to responsible smoking. 

Bergin: A fun guide to recreational cannabis featuring some adorable cartoon friends.

Where did the idea for the book begin?

Visel: It sprouted forth organically, something we passed back and forth on the couch. It started as an idea for a weekly weed review comic and morphed into an edutainment comic. We both wished there was a comic guide like this around when we started smoking. 

Bergin: I knew I wanted to do some kind of guide to rolling a joint. I smoked weed for a number of years, and every time I tried to roll a joint, it was a sad mess. My universe expanded greatly when some kindly Canadians taught me how to roll a proper J. The method I was taught that got me over that hump is in our book!

Once you had the idea of an instructional guide, what made you make the choices you did? Because it’s not a nonfiction account or explanation. What was the process and thinking of figuring out how to do this?

Visel: The book’s intention was largely about personal preference and the social aspects of weed. That influenced how the book was constructed because we wanted to showcase many different ways of smoking. We limited the book to information on smoking so we could focus on the basic need-to-knows. Vaping, edibles, legal history, etc. could have their own books. There are many different types of weed smokers, and we wanted to reflect that in our characters.  We wanted our main character to grow as they learned more about cannabis, so we applied that literally to Sprout. By the end of the book, she’s physically grown and is prepared to learn even more about the plant.

Bergin:  I have smoked with so many different types of people over the years; I wanted to see a wide range of smokers. I feel like we’ve all been where Sprout is to some degree, though some of us feel a little more like Mama Osita who smokes for arthritic relief, or the Weed Witch that loves a puff after a run.

Did you ever consider doing it all in rhyme, the way you do in some pages?

Visel: The thought occurred, but writing three songs for the book was enough for us. Dr. Seuss was a partial inspiration, though we wanted to stay away from children’s book formats.

Bergin: I doubt my mind could take on such a task.

What was the information that you felt was essential and needed to be included, either because it’s important, it’s misunderstood or for whatever reason?

Visel: Your internal chemistry plus weed will result differently for everyone. CBD is non-psychoactive and can be used in a variety of different ways.

Bergin: That there is not a “type of person” that likes cannabis. Recreational usage has a time and place for responsible users.

As you were working on the book, were you thinking about the audience and who might read the book?

Visel: Yes, we want people from all age ranges to read our book. It mainly focuses on new smokers, but we sprinkled in social activities to inspire long-time users. We made sure to make the comic a fun read, even if you don’t like smoking weed; you can use it to explain to your grandma what a terpene is. 

Bergin: I kept thinking of a younger version of myself. If I were just turning 21, and I’m able to visit my first recreational dispensary. This is the stuff I believe I would have liked to know.

Have you thought about or started to work on the next project? What are you interested in and thinking about after a book like this?

Visel: We have thought about How Do You Eat a Weed?, going into edibles and other aspects of consumption. I’d love to put out collections of my Slipshine stories and send out a pitch for my dungeon-crawling fantasy story.

Bergin: I really like the characters that came together for this book, so maybe a story about their weird, weedy-muppety lives?

I have to ask, are you a smoker? Do you have a favorite strain or way to smoke?

Visel: I have smoked a weed or two. I love the strains Bruce Banner, Jack Herer and Dutch Treat. Can’t go wrong with a nice clean bong and an ice cube inside!

Bergin: I like a well-rolled joint of something that tastes fruity and will make me giggle. Best while on a walk with a friend.

So final sales pitch. Why should folks pick up the book? Why should people be excited and what does it hold even for those who already know how to smoke a weed?

Visel: It’s a beautiful book, full of funny musical characters teaching you the basics of smoking cannabis. I’ve been smoking for several years and managed to learn a couple new things while researching this book. It’s a fun read while smoking weed!

Bergin: How Do You Smoke a Weed? is a fun comic with some colorful characters. Even if you already know how to smoke, it will maybe lead you to think about HOW you smoke and give you some ideas on how to make your sessions even better.

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