Top Five Bob Dylan Song Characters Who Would Make For Great Comic Books
With the recent announcement that there is going to be a comic book based on the songs of Tori Amos, I figured it made some sense to revisit this top five, for those who missed it the first time around last year. – BC
Bob Dylan’s songs have tons of interesting characters in them, and here are the top five who would best make the transition from song form to their own comic book!
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum (from the song “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum”)
These guys remind me a lot of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Good Ol’ Boys, Jody and TC, from Preacher.
The problem being, of course, while they might make for good comic book CHARACTERS, they wouldn’t exactly be able to carry their own comic book.
Tweedle-dee Dum and Tweedle-dee Dee
They’re throwing knives into the tree
Two big bags of dead man’s bones
Got their noses to the grindstones
Tweedle-dee Dee is a lowdown, sorry old man
Tweedle-dee Dum, he’ll stab you where you stand
“I’ve had too much of your company,”
Says, Tweedle-dee Dum to Tweedle-dee Dee
That’s pretty badass.
The Narrator (from “She’s Your Lover Now”)
This one would be a very different than normal book, something I think Andi Watson could probably handle well.
Here, we have a guy who is broken up with his girlfriend, but her current boyfriend is coming to him for help – isn’t that an interesting set-up for a series?
A woman in trouble, her lover wants to help her, but he can’t, so he is forced to turn to the one man he would never want to go to – her former boyfriend, who meanwhile is forced into a strange position, he loves her enough to want to help her, but the pain is rough.
There could be many a heartfelt issue of a series exploring these characters’ interactions.
Just check out the first verse, and see how the narrator interacts with both the girlfriend (who he has a good deal of history with) and the new boyfriend…
The pawnbroker roared
Also, so, so did the landlord
The scene was so crazy, wasn’t it?
Both were so glad
To watch me destroy what I had
Pain sure brings out the best in people, doesn’t it?
Why didn’t you just leave me if you didn’t want to stay?
Why’d you have to treat me so bad?
Did it have to be that way?
Now you stand here expectin’ me to remember somethin’ you forgot to say
Yes, and you, I see you’re still with her, well
That’s fine ’cause she’s comin’ on so strange, can’t you tell?
Somebody had better explain
She’s got her iron chain
I’d do it, but I, I just can’t remember how
You talk to her
She’s your lover now.
That’s some drama right there!!
5. (tie) The Narrator (from “Up to Me”) and The Narrator (from “Tangled Up In Blue”)
In both cases, the narrators are resolute gentlemen who are willing to “keep on keepin’ on,” no matter how perilous the journey may be, while they differ slightly in the fact that the nomad of “Up To Me” does not seem to have the same definitive goal of the traveler of “Tangled Up In Blue,” who is determined to get back to the his red-haired girl.
In either event, each character seems like they could get a good Jonah Hex-esque book going, where they travel from town to town, getting into various and sundry bits of trouble.
I guess, if I had to choose, the fact that the “Tangled Up in Blue” guy has a more definitive goal, he probably would get the nod as the better idea for a book.
Still, look at some of the “Up To Me” guy’s story…
Oh, the Union Central is pullin’ out and the orchids are in bloom,
I’ve only got me one good shirt left and it smells of stale perfume.
In fourteen months I’ve only smiled once and I didn’t do it consciously,
Somebody’s got to find your trail,
I guess it must be up to me.
Now THAT’s a character, eh?
Still, the set-up for the “Tangled Up In Blue” plot IS pretty tight…
She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam, I guess,
But I used a little too much force.
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best.
She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin’ away
I heard her say over my shoulder,
“We’ll meet again someday on the avenue,”
Tangled up in blue.
Hard to match such a simple, yet forceful set-up.
4. The Narrator (from “When I Paint My Masterpiece”)
The Narrator from “When I Paint My Masterpiece” is a nomad, just like the fellows from the above ranking, but he is less of an obsessed nomad, and more of a guy just making his way around the world biding his time until he paints his masterpiece – and just having fun in the meantime.
It reminds me of Jack of Fables a lot.
Listen to this guy’s lot in life…
Oh, the hours I’ve spent inside the Coliseum,
Dodging lions and wastin’ time.
Oh, those mighty kings of the jungle, I could hardly stand to see ‘em,
Yes, it sure has been a long, hard climb.
Train wheels runnin’ through the back of my memory,
When I ran on the hilltop following a pack of wild geese.
Someday, everything is gonna be smooth like a rhapsody
When I paint my masterpiece.
Doesn’t that sound like a fun comic book?
3. The Narrator (from “Brownsville Girl”)
This song, Dylan co-wrote with the playwright Sam Shepard, so it should come as no surprise that it has a great narrative sense to it.
Set in Texas (duh, it IS Shepard he was working with!), the song is filled with a tale of corrupt backwater towns (“Even the swap meets around here are getting pretty corrupt.”), and a bunch of lowlifes finding each other. It is all wrapped up in a great framing device, the narrator keeps coming back to the Gregory Peck film, The Gunslinger.
Here’s some of the scenes where the narrator finds love…
Well, you saw my picture in the Corpus Christi Tribune. Underneath it, it said, “A man with no alibi.”
You went out on a limb to testify for me, you said I was with you.
Then when I saw you break down in front of the judge and cry real tears,
It was the best acting I saw anybody do.
Now I’ve always been the kind of person that doesn’t like to trespass but sometimes you just find yourself over the line.
Oh if there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now.
You know, I feel pretty good, but that ain’t sayin’ much. I could feel a whole lot better,
If you were just here by my side to show me how.
It reminds me a lot of Jason Aaron’s Scalped.
A lot of literary gold to be mined in the backroads of Texas.
2. The Denizens of Desolation Row (from “Desolation Row”)
Desolation Row is a lot like Fabletown, so I think you could easily make a good comic just exploring the depths of Desolation Row, all across the backdrop of the narrator of the song, who is trying to get his love to move to Desolation Row with him. Maybe that could be the start of the series? Her moving to Desolation Row, and trying to adjust to it.
Then again, with the last words we see him send to her in the song, maybe their love would be more interesting if they stayed apart?
Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the door knob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row
The Narrator would make for a great lead, wouldn’t he?
1. The Jack of Hearts (from “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts”)
This is almost a bit unfair, as even Dylan recognized that the Jack of Hearts was one of the best characters he ever created, at least in terms of adapting, as Dylan himself commissioned a screenplay featuring the character.
The Jack of Hearts is a con man and a thief in the Old West, and he gets caught up in a game of revenge by a diamond mine owner, his wife and his mistress.
It’s quite a fun song, and one of Dylan’s best story songs, and MAN, is Jack of Hearts cool.
After the Jack of Hearts enters the gambling room, stopping play for a moment…
He moved across the mirrored room, “Set it up for everyone,” he said,
Then everyone commenced to do what they were doin’ before he turned their heads.
Then he walked up to a stranger and he asked him with a grin,
“Could you kindly tell me, friend, what time the show begins?”
Then he moved into the corner, face down like the Jack of Hearts.
But the clincher is this verse…
Lily’s arms were locked around the man that she dearly loved to touch,
She forgot all about the man she couldn’t stand who hounded her so much.
“I’ve missed you so,” she said to him, and he felt she was sincere,
But just beyond the door he felt jealousy and fear.
Just another night in the life of the Jack of Hearts.
“Just another night in the life of the Jack of Hearts.”
If so, then that’s quite a life – and one I’d sure like to read a comic book about.
Okay, that’s my top five! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!