How does one summarize the history of a character who spans all of time and space, who embodies the very essence of essence, who fights to preserve everything cool, and looks good while doing it? How does one? Well, one doesn’t, so instead one will write a brief history of the seminal comic book documenting one little bit of the vast saga that is Dr. Zen Buddha.
It all began for me when I met a fellow named Ed during college. We had both gone on a Spring Break trip to a beach resort and were both bored and hanging out in the big main beach cabin. Someone had put out long rolls of paper on the tables and colored pens, to encourage the preschoolers, I mean college students, to exercise their creative urges. Ed was obviously a talented comic artist and began drawing some doodles. I couldn’t resist and started doodling back, letting loose a series of characters that he then drew responses to, and then I had to respond to his drawings. Somewhere in that long strip of paper with all our doodlings the first mention of Vartuk the Viscous and Dr. Zen Buddha were seen in this universe. Little did we know that we had unleashed something of vast import.
Later that school year I was on the editorial board of the college paper and had enough pull to get a comic strip published. I went to Ed with the idea and we put together a series of strips about Dr. Zen Buddha. I wrote them and he drew them. The strips were popular enough that Ed was able to get his own comic strip published called “Manfred McStoned”, a strip that was so popular it is what many people from college remember about him. Dr. Zen was well received, but most people found it a bit confusing.
A few years later both of us are out of college and at loose ends. Ed is on the East Coast and I am in Eugene. I start up a little zine (this is maybe 1989, 1990) and Ed contributes some of his artwork and comics to it. We collaborate on some fresh Dr. Zen strips to be included, as the concept of the zine is that Dr. Zen Buddha is the editor. The zine was called “Groink!”.
The zine project is a lot of fun, and after Ed moved back to Oregon we became excited to work on a dedicated comic book about the adventures of this character named Dr. Zen Buddha. I moved back to Portland where Ed and I worked at various part-time jobs while working together on the comic book. Eventually our baby was published and unleashed on the world. We put a lot of effort into getting the comic book out there, visiting stores, having booths at various venues selling T-shirts and stickers as well as the comic books, but it never really took off the way we had hoped.
Life moves on, and Dr. Zen went back into those other dimensions whence he came, but at least he left us with that one comic book.