Earlier this year I had the good fortune to stumble upon the high-quality and criminally under-appreciated underground cartoons of Paul Kirchner, who had made his name in the 1970s and 1980s in primarily two ways. From 1975 to 1986 Kirchner produced a full-color, psychedelic comic strip set in the Old West called “Dope Rider” for High Times. Meanwhile, his strip “the bus” (the title is always set in lower case), a black-and-white comic strip about a municipal bus, appeared in Heavy Metal from 1979 to 1985.
For those who haven’t seen it, “the bus” is a gem of philosophical cartooning, a near-perfect blend of The Far Side, M.C. Escher, Jorge Luis Borges, and Rene Magritte.
Sometime in the 1980s, Kirchner abandoned the cartooning game in favor of a (much more lucrative) career in advertising, but to the joy of his fans the world over, Kirchner recently started doing “the bus” strips again.
On November 25 of this year, Éditions Tanibis released the bus 2, which collects the strips that make up Kirchner’s second run of “the bus” strips.
Here is a bit of the promotional copy that accompanies the book:
In 2013, Paul Kirchner surprised commuters when he decided to start working again on the bus. He fixed the old vehicle up, took it out of the garage and called its iconic passenger in the white overcoat back on duty, waiting to be taken on new, exotic adventures. The bus’ unpredictable personality causes him to mimic classic pop culture icons such as King Kong or Steve Martin while in turn analyzing or teleporting his passenger. And that’s only when it’s not cheating on him with other commuters. Kirchner’s new ideas are on par with the original strips, proving that his creativity didn’t end with the 80’s. The crazy cartoon logic of the original strips is still present, and wackiness is the norm. Some details, such as the so-called “smart” phones or the passengers’ looks, root the stories in the 21st century, but Paul Kirchner’s universe retains a timeless vintage aesthetic that blends eras, lending these new stories a hint of nostalgia. The bus 2 will be published in hardcover horizontal format identical to the previous collection published in 2012. Back in that twilight dimension he calls home, it is rumored that Paul Kirchner is at work on new material for his psychedelic western Dope Rider. After all it seems that the bus’ passenger is not the only one who gets caught occasionally in strange time warps… Parts of the bus 2 material have previously been published in magazines in north America and in Europe.
It’s a perfect Christmas present for the underground comix fan in your life—or you can give it to your favorite bus? I don’t know either, but it does seem like a Kirchner-y way of thinking about it.