By Leroy Douresseaux
November 17, 2009 - 20:30
|Bob Dylan Revisited cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.|
Bob Dylan, the American singer-songwriter and musician, probably exists in many people’s minds as a folk musician, although he has played blues, country, gospel, and rock music. As a songwriter, he is a poet, and his potent songs have captured listeners’ imaginations and have been inspirational for the better part of 50 years. Even his singing voice is a national treasure.
A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Dylan has won more than 10 Grammy Awards and also won a “Best Original Song” Academy Award for “Things Have Changed” (from the 2000 film, Wonder Boys). Dylan’s songs have even traveled into the realm of comics and illustration. In 2008, Delcourt, the French publisher which specializes in comics and manga, published Bob Dylan revisited, an anthology featuring 13 graphic interpretations of Bob Dylan’s songs. W.W. Norton & Company has produced an American edition, Bob Dylan Revisited.
Describing Bob Dylan Revisited as an anthology of graphic interpretations of Dylan songs is more accurate than describing all these stories as comics. Some are comics, sequential art, graphic narratives, etc. such as Lorenzo Mattotti’s Fantastic Planet-like interpretation of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (from the album, The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan). Nicolas Nemiri’s “I Want You” (from Blonde on Blonde) fleshes out American painter Edward Hopper’s painting, Nighthawks, into a short comics narrative that looks like a storyboard for Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” video.
Other entries are graphic interpretations of Dylan songs that resemble comics visually and/or structurally, like Thierry Murat’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” (The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan), which is the opening story of the book. One entry, Zep’s take on “Not Dark Yet” (Time out of Mind), looks like a poster project.
The volume does have a few works that can be described as anywhere from stand out to stellar. Dave McKean’s mixed media, comics form collage “Desolation Row” (Highway 61 Revisited) is Dave McKean and Bob Dylan; need I say more? Bramanti’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid) is a small masterpiece of beauty and heartbreak.
My favorite entry is by Gradimir Smudja, who also provides this book’s front cover. Smudja’s take on “Hurricane” (Desire), about the plight of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, is mesmerizing, and I’d call it merely brilliant if Smudja was an American. However, for this Serbian born cartoonist and painter to encapsulate the United States' long, deep history of racism against and oppression of African-Americans visually, with such precision and candor, is mind-boggling.
I can’t say that Dylan fans will automatically want this book (although I did). I can say that the people who look at some comic book artists as fine artists and illustrators will find at least one piece here that makes Bob Dylan Revisited worth owning.