George Jung may not be a name you’re instantly familiar with. Jung was a major importer of cocaine into the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s, a man who many believe is directly responsible for cocaine’s wild growth in popularity during that period. Working with his Columbian connection, Pablo Escobar and the notorious Medellin Cartel, Jung imported thousands of kilos of the white powder every month into the United States. At one time it was believed 85-90% of the cocaine in America came through Jung’s business dealings.
Jung didn’t fit the mold of what most people considered to be a drug smuggler. Hailing originally from Massachusetts, Boston George, as he became to be known, was smart, charming and had serious guts, willing to take great risks to get where he wanted to be. But the life eventually caught up with him. In 1994, after having left the world of cocaine smuggling for a number of years, Jung reconnected with some old smuggling partners and was arrested with 500 pounds of Mexican weed. He is currently incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, MA and is scheduled for release on November 27th, 2014 at the age of 72.
You might think his life story is perfectly suited for film. Hollywood agreed and in 2001, Jung’s story was brought to life by Johnny Depp in the feature film “Blow.” The film is now something of a cult hit, inspiring theme nights at college parties and clubs, particularly in the Boston area where the film has truly taken on cult status.
Hollywood filmmakers aren’t the only ones who’ve taken an interest in Jung’s life. This January, Montreal based Garcia Publishing will publish the first of a planned 40 full color comics chronicling Jung’s life in “The Adventures of George Jung.” Francois Garcia and Michael Lewin will adapt stories from a biography Jung wrote while in prison, with art by Nathan Srigley, while Jung approves every page for accuracy. The first issue also includes a CD with a recorded story by Jung called “Once in Mexico.” CBR News spoke with Francois Garcia to learn more about how this project came to be and how he and Jung became fast friends.
“‘The Adventures of George Jung’ is a graphic novel based on a true story, filled with so much action, risk and surreal adventure that anyone not familiar with the story would easily assume the book is fiction,” Garcia said. “Each issue will follow the chronological order of his biography (first issue represents about 25 pages of the biography) and the story is told as it happened – no fiction is added.”
The story begins when Jung moves from Botson to California, where he plans to get a degree in advertising, but plans quickly change as Boston George makes his first foray into drug dealing and smuggling by selling Marijuana. As the series continues, the plan is to tell stories from Jung’s life up to the present day, including stories of his life behind bars.
Garcia, a Canadian entrepreneur who works primarily in film and television as a producer, director and magazine publisher, was introduced to Jung through a mutual friend and decided to visit Jung in prison to discuss a potential television project. “In no time, and several visits later, I got to know the real man behind the legend portrayed in ‘Blow,’ one of the most likeable, intelligent, loyal, charismatic and cultured people I’ve meet. Today I can say I’m honored to have George as a friend and someone who has allowed me to tell his life in a non-usual way.
“One visit led to another, one idea to another, and at some point between ideas, visits and cut outs from magazines and news papers (George reads everything, and when he finds a potential idea, interesting story, or simply a picture of the house he would like to move in when released in 2014, he mails them to me), in this case he sends me a letter dated January 15 2007 that says:
Son, you’re fucking glorious!
I love that you do that voodoo that we do so well.
“One is our number, two our one”
Your future is Infinite.
Divine reality is immemorial and universal!
“Attached there was Page B4 from the ‘Wall Street Journal’ (January 2, 2007) with the story ‘Holy Heroes of Indian Lore, Batman!’ about Virgin Comics, where George wrote:
Francois, why not smuggler comics?
From that point, plans to bring Jung’s life to comics were put in motion. It was the surrealism of Jung’s life that appealed to Garcia and ultimately got him to agree to spearhead the project. “Over the years, George has accumulated a very large fan base from all age groups, continents and walks of life, ranging from celebrities, law enforcement officials, teachers, rich and poor, even fans that don’t support his past actions, but support what he represents today, (we’ve received many letters from parents saying that thanks to him, their kids managed to stay away from drugs or others that found inspiration in him and managed to clean up their act). After all, its not just a story about drugs or smuggling – it’s a story about daring, love and life choices (he always says, ‘Choice with no consequence is no choice at all.’). Everyone can relate to something in George’s life in one way or another.”
Garcia hopes that with “The Adventures of George Jung” they’re able to entertain readers, but also to share some of Jung’s wisdom accumulated over the years. “We do not approve or glorify drugs in any way, but we believe that learning from mistakes can be a great form of education,” said Garcia. “We are simply telling a story that has the merits to make it entertaining, (George always says, ‘Teachers are heroes, not drug smugglers.’)”
The first issue of “The Adventures of George Jung” includes a CD entitled “Once In Mexico, a story narrated by Jung in which he tells one of the many crazy adventures that took place while in Mexico. “Future issues will not include a CD, but other CD’s will be available on his Web site,” said Garcia. “The idea behind the CD is to allow readers to put a voice to the image, the way he speaks and how he tells a story, which will bring more realism to the reading.”
Garcia publishing has chosen to forego traditional distribution venues, choosing to self-distribute books themselves and selling direct to interested retailers at wholesale. The book will also be made available on Jung’s site and his MySpace page. Concerns about low sales due to a lack of distributor don’t seem to phase Garcia, who said Jung’s large fan base inundates the Web site with 300-400 e-mails a day. “Most of the buyers find us due to the large George Jung and Johnny Depp fan base, but we are working on several advertising campaigns and will have a presence at comic book shows to reach the collectors audience and comic book fans not familiar with George Jung.
“While in the process of making this comic book, we did look into a few established distributors. Some of them didn’t show interest, underestimating the market, and others I simply didn’t like what they had to offer. I didn’t like the excessive percentages they wanted, didn’t like the estimates of units they said they could sell in a best case scenario (we sold over their best case scenario estimates in pre-orders to fans already, without any advertising or promotion), so I believe in the Indie way, ‘Jamais mieux servie que par soi meme’ — French for you will never be served best than by your self.”
Since Jung is currently incarcerated, the former drug smuggler can not profit from his story per federal law. “[The only way George profits is by] having his story told in different formats to fans who are interested in knowing more about his life,” said Garcia. “He honored me and the team involved in this by sharing and trusting us with his life story with written material he would send us by mail. Since George cant profit from this momentarily, we will be donating $2.00 per issue sold to D.A.R.E. [Drug Abuse Resistance Education] in George’s name.”
“The Adventures of George Jung” will be available for purchase from Garcia Publishing on January 15th, 2008. Pre-orders are currently being accepted.
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