Jim Woodring interviewed by Peter Bebergal

Peter Bebergal, author of Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood, interviewed comic book artist Jim Woodring about psychedelics, hallucinations, hippies, and underground comics.

What do you see as the destruction wrought by hippie culture? Was it the naiveté?

The hippies were destructive for a number of reasons. For one thing they were parasites who could only live the way they did (correction: the way we did) because others were willing to work. Huge numbers of able-bodied Aquarian Agers were on welfare and receiving food stamps and getting their dose of clap fixed at the free clinics, all at public expense. That helped Reagan and like-minded anti-altruists persuade America that slashing social services was good for the country.

Many of them (us) also failed to become educated or worldly in a useful sense. They made what was good about the movement — a belief in peace, love, granola and so on — look stupid by association. They did some good, though. Since they usually had terrible terrible relationships with their parents they did their best to make sure they had good relationships with their own children, and they helped end the Vietnam War.

I noticed on your blog you mention Salvia as an “interest?” Can you describe its role in your life/art?

Salvia divinorum, as you may know, is a somewhat horrible and entirely heavy-duty hallucinogen. There are people who think it ought to be illegal, and it was recently illegalized in Florida. I don’t care. It’s so powerful in its concentrated form that I can see it doing real damage, even though the effects only last a few minutes. I haven’t had any in a few years but I still have what you could call flashbacks. The alien, distinctive feeling it produces comes over me spontaneously sometimes — not so powerfully that it’s dangerous, but still quite strong. It’s the only substance I’ve ingested that gave me an inkling what might be meant by shamanistic. It has a definite female personality and it can strip the cover off reality like nothing else I know. It’s deadly serious; no fun at all. I don’t recommend it. I made one picture under its influence called “Life After Man.” [Above]

Jim Woodring: “My plight is the plight of the aspirant who does not renounce.”

See a great many more Boing Boing posts about Jim Woodring


  1. The hippies were destructive for a number of reasons. For one thing they were parasites who could only live the way they did (correction: the way we did) because others were willing to work.

    I thought there was a lot of hippies who grew their own food and things?  It seems to me many of the people who weren’t hippies took far more from this earth than they “produced” through externalities, etc.  Just sounds like Woodring hung out with a lot of losers.

    1. in my copious (and i do mean copious) study of the back-to-the-land/commune movement(s) associated with the hippies, it is remarkable how many of the actual “hippy communes” relied on external wealth (of land, and for cash flow) to even exist.

      i think that its necessary to differentiate between the more public face of the hippie movement and the many individuals who were inspired by it to do things a bit differently from their parents. there were many couples (and singles) who got involved in some aspects of the back-to-the-land movement in ways that were entirely decoupled from the “i know a guy who has 150 acres up on a hillside in colorado/new mexico/california/vermont” phenomenon.

      its the individuals, by and large, who are still out there in some way, growing big vegetable gardens and more – the communes, with a few notable exceptions, had mostly folded by the early 1980s. i suspect woodring is thinking/talking mostly about the commune-centric side of the hippies, rather than the people who helped resettle some rural parts of the country and remain there today.

  2. I wonder if I’m the only one who immediately got a Boris Artzybasheff vibe from this picture.  Makes me wonder if ol’ Boris stuck to strictly legal mood alterers……

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