In Confessions of a College Kingpin, an autobiographical comic, long-time Fix contributor Seth Ferranti recounts the events leading up to his conviction as one of the biggest dealers of LSD to East Coast colleges. Without the burden of romanticism and looking at his life through the cold lens of naked truth, Ferranti leads the reader step-by-step through the mental process of rationalizations, where dangerous doors are opened wide. Although the story is just beginning in the first book—now available online—and the perils still seem far away, once the reader realizes the eventual destination of federal prison for this young kid, every casual choice and every blasé move is impacted with the weight of the hardcore consequences to come.
Luckily, unlike so many in similarly sinking boats, Ferranti managed to find the life jacket of self-expression while in prison. Spending over two decades in prison, Ferranti earned a master’s degree, got married, became a noted journalist, published several books, and founded a publishing house. Not bad for a white boy from the suburbs who distributed more than 100,000 doses of LSD across the South during his time as a drug kingpin, leading to a bevy of bad trips and wild rides.
In 2014, after getting time off for completing drug rehab and good behavior, Ferranti walked into the light of freedom, becoming a true example of successful and creative recovery.
Author Seth Ferranti when he was serving time in federal prison
Confessions of a College Kingpin is a cautionary tale to the extreme, where one stupid kid recklessly throws his life away, dumping on the opportunities offered by both friends and family. What’s so amazing about the book is the slow build-up that allows you to get inside the skin of the main character. You experience the Beastie Boys-inspired stupidity firsthand, where the right to party is all that matters in a twisted world. Not backing off from the visceral reality of what really happened, Ferranti allows us to inhabit these experiences in comic book form.
As a writer and now a fan, the first person is demanded because I can’t wait to see what happens in the next issue. As I was reading, I really wanted to slap the kid in the head and tell him to wake up and make different choices. The book made me angry because it reminded me of the **** I did and the mistakes I made.
When asked why he made those choices, Ferranti told me, “As a young man, I was totally mesmerized by the outlaw lifestyle. I found it very romantic. My motto was ‘Have drugs, will travel.’ I justified what I was doing by telling myself that I was giving people what they wanted. With this book, though, I played a lot of stuff down because I didn’t want to glorify it… I think kids fall into the partying and drug lifestyle because it’s about experimentation and being accepted by your peers and having fun. But if you dive into it headfirst like I did and take it to the extreme, it can be detrimental to your future on all accounts.”
From Confessions of a College Kingpin (via Seth Ferranti)
The true achievement of the comic book is that it does not give in to the temptations of letting the words be overwhelmed by the impressive art. Although the graphic images often have a hallucinogenic feel, the words always remain rooted in the firmament of the past. When asked what he hoped to achieve with this miniseries of comic books that will eventually become a Confessions of a College Kingpin graphic novel, Ferranti said:
“I want people to walk away with the real story. Instead of glamorizing or going with the myth or legend about my case and escapades, I wanted to show in this book how fucked up and confused and lost I really was. On the outside, it appeared that I was living the lifestyle and had everything in control, but on the inside I was a wreck. So I’m trying to show both sides. This is a cautionary tale about drugs, selling drugs and the war and drugs. Everybody thinks it won’t happen to them, but it will. I really hope kids can learn from my experiences. Yeah, the outlaw lifestyle and dealing drugs does seem cool for a while, until you end up dead or in a jail cell. And that is exactly where you will end up. I needed to communicate that truth.”