Tag Archives: Bob Dylan comic books

Bob Dylan comic books: three little-known rarities

Bob Dylan comic books

Bob Dylan comic books: Rock N’ Roll Comics #50 © Revolutionary Comics 1992

The three Bob Dylan comic books published in the Rock N’ Roll Comics series in 1992 are pretty rare.  And they are little-known: I stumbled across them for the first time a month ago – nearly a quarter of a century after they were published.

Bob Dylan comic books are a growing niche, increasingly popular among Dylan collectors. Most of the recent titles are best described as graphic biographies. They are modern, hardback, long-form books, rather than the traditional thin, paper bound magazines like Rock N’ Roll Comics.

Rock N’ Roll Comics pioneered a cartoon approach to their biographies of musicians, including their three on Bob Dylan.  They were an imprint of Revolutionary Comics (slogan: “Unauthorized and proud of it”) of San Diego, California. The company also published comic book series on pop music and sport, notably baseball. Sadly, it went out of business in 1994.

As a collector of Dylan books, I bought the three Bob Dylan comic books because I was intrigued to find out whether mixing genres – applying the avowedly lowbrow Batman-type treatment to a serious subject like Dylan – would work.  It does.

These three comic books are rare – and little-known – certainly to this English collector. They are delightful artefacts – collectable Bob Dylan art at a cut-down price.

All three Bob Dylan comic books in the series were written by Jay Allen Sanford and illustrated by Blackwell. Scott Pentzer painted the cover of #50; it’s not clear who did the other two covers.

Bob Dylan comic books #1: Kingdom Come (1961-1965)

Bob Dylan, Part One: Kingdom Come (1961-1965), Rock N’ Roll Comics #50, August 1992 tells the story well of peak period Dylan.  And it has the most striking cover (above) of the three.

Bob Dylan comic books #2: The Jester’s Thorny Crown (1966-1976)

Bob Dylan comic books

Bob Dylan comic books: Rock N’ Roll Comics #51 © Revolutionary Comics 1992

Bob Dylan, Part Two: The Jester’s Thorny Crown (1966-1976), Rock N’ Roll Comics #51, Sept 1992 handles a complex decade of Dylan’s development with assurance. To my eyes, its cover is the weakest of the three.

Bob Dylan comic books #3: Hard Rain A Comin’

Bob Dylan, Part Three: Hard Rain A Comin’, Rock N’ Roll Comics #52, Oct 1992, the concluding part of the Bob Dylan comic books trilogy, is my least favourite.  But it’s still good enough to make you wish for a sequel to bring the story up to date.

The cover of #52 has a wistful, middle-aged Bob, looking perplexed, staring into the distance. You’ll probably know where it originated.

Bob Dylan comic books

Bob Dylan comic books: Rock N’ Roll Comics #52, © Revolutionary Comics 1992

Bob Dylan comic books: overview

These three comic books are worthwhile additions to any Bob Dylan art library: as a collector, I’m pleased to have acquired them.

The Rock N’ Roll Comics concept – comics for grown-up music fans – is both ambitious and compelling. It elevates the art of the comic book above the pulp level aimed at children or poor adult readers. The comic books tackle serious subjects, give them context and present them in a format which will satisfy even the demanding reader.

You could take the view that, judged against the best books on the musician, these Bob Dylan comic books are relatively weak – presenting a slightly juvenile, dumbed-down version of the Dylan story.  But judged on their own terms, as cheap pulp non-fiction extolling a cult figure revered by a cult audience, they work well.

Bob Dylan comic books: the words

The comics’ texts give you a reasonable summary of a (then) 30-year career, covering many key aspects of the musician’s life and achievements.

The device of inserting “Chronolog” sidebars on each page enriches the Dylan narrative – they contextualise his creativity through a (US-centric) diary of what else was happening at the time.

The text of the comic books isn’t the strongest, however.  The dialogue doesn’t always flow like natural speech. And there’s the odd factual error – Dylan’s 1962 trip to London to record Madhouse on Castle Street was for a BBC TV show (not a radio show, as claimed).

Spelling errors occasionally pop out – “wierd”, “recieved”, “disguarded”, “course-ground”… .

Bob Dylan comic books: the pictures

The best illustrations in the three books are impressive. I enjoyed the quartet of startled folkies realising that they’d stumbled into a rock show at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Overall, though, the illustrations are a mixed bag. Bob Dylan can often seem like a different person from page to page. And you occasionally need the text to work out that you’re looking at The Beatles… Mick Jagger… The Band… .

The art doesn’t match the excellence of the three comic books reviewed here a few weeks ago.

But comic books in general have moved on since 1992. Series like Rock N’ Roll Comics were necessarily produced at a great lick, to tight deadlines.  More modern comic book creators can lavish more attention and take longer over their work.  Hence, the books cost more to produce.  And are more expensive.

The cover artwork of the three Bob Dylan comics is variable. The first cover of the trio (#50), head and shoulders of Dylan looking arrogant, smoking, with a background of him walking the streets, somewhat wistfully, is my favourite.  Number 51 is the weakest. Number 52 is an attractive reworking of the album cover of Under The Red Sky.

This rarely seen trio of Bob Dylan comic books is both desirable and collectable.

It’s complemented by issues in the series covering several key rock bands, notably The Rolling Stones (#6), Led Zeppelin (#13), The Doors (#26 and 27) and The Grateful Dead.

If you know of similar Bob Dylan comic books from other publishers, please share your expert knowledge with readers of ROCK ART EDITIONS – Leave a reply at the top of this post. Thanks in advance,

Copyright: Rock N’ Roll Comics covers #50, #51 and #52 © Revolutionary Comics 1992; photos © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015; text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan comic books: three must-buys

You could have almost predicted the arrival of Bob Dylan comic books: the growing popularity of Bob Dylan art and the boom in comic books made them virtually inevitable.

I’ve recently stumbled across – and snapped up – three must-buys.  All three of these Bob Dylan comic books are worth the serious attention of rock art fans.

Bob Dylan comic books #1: Bob Dylan 1961/1963, by Pablo

On a recent trip to Paris, I came across Bob Dylan 1961/1963, by Pablo, a strikingly beautiful little artefact. It has 15 of Pablo’s expressive charcoal sketches of Bob Dylan, all inspired by song titles, plus a couple of artist-enhanced colour photos.

Bob Dylan comic books: Pablo

Bob Dylan 1961/1963 © Pablo/BDMUSIC

The drawings are accompanied by a biographical text, in both French and English. And you get two CDs – the first two Bob Dylan albums, plus bonus extras: The Freewheelin’, for example, has six tracks from the well-known Cynthia Gooding radio show.

Pablo is a multi-faceted artist who has previously contributed similar work, on Mozart and Serge Gainsbourg, for publisher BDMUSIC, who have been publishing for a couple of decades in this attractive, innovative format – hardback comic book, plus CDs.  They usually cover jazz and blues musicians. This Bob Dylan comic book is the first title I’ve seen featuring a rock musician.

BDMUSIC’s Bob Dylan comic book, on sale last week in Gibert Joseph, my favourite Paris retailer, as well as FNAC, is priced at 20 euros.

Bob Dylan comic books #2: Dylan Faces Book, by Smudja

On a previous Paris trip, I happened across another little gem, Dylan Faces Book by Smudja, published by Zanpano (2009) in a limited edition of 1,000.

Not strictly speaking a Bob Dylan comic book, Dylan Faces Book by Smudja is a series of about 150 portraits of the ever-changing icon, reproductions of the artist’s moody water colours.

Bpb Dylan comic books: Smudja

Dylan Faces Book © Smudja/Zanpano

The copy of Dylan Faces Book that I bought at Librairie Paralleles, near les Halles, for 22 euros, is the only copy I’ve ever seen.

Bob Dylan comic books #3: Bob Dylan Revisited

Bob Dylan comic books: 13 artists

Bob Dylan Revisited © Guy Delcourt Productions 2008

Artist Smudja also contributed to the third of my must-buy Bob Dylan comic books, Bob Dylan Revisited: 13 Graphic Interpretations of Bob Dylan’s Songs (WW Norton, 2009).

Smudja’s drawing, evoking the celebrated Savoy Hotel (London) video, adorns the front cover. He also contributes the chapter interpreting the song Hurricane.

The thirteen artists contributing to Bob Dylan Revisited exhibit a remarkably varied range of visual styles in their evocation of Dylan songs, from Blowin’ In The Wind to Not Dark Yet.

Bob Dylan Revisited is the richest, most ambitious of these three Bob Dylan comic books. The thirteen different artists’ styles are consistently outstanding. If I were forced, at gunpoint, to choose a favourite, I’d probably plump for Francois Avril’s Girl From The North Country.

Bob Dylan Revisited is also the most widely available of these three Bob Dylan comic books, thanks to the distribution reach of its US publisher WW Norton, who created the work by adapting an earlier French version.

I’ve occasionally seen Bob Dylan Revisited heavily discounted – surprising, considering its high quality.  My photo, above, shows a window display copy at The Last Bookshop, the Oxford remainders outlet. When I visited – some time ago – they were selling from a big pile, at a giveaway £3 per copy.

The Pablo, Smudja and Norton books are all highly recommended.

Bob Dylan comic books?  Or graphic novels?  Or even bandes dessinees?

But I’m unsure of the best term to describe these types of book.  Comic books?  The most common, but these books aren’t comic!  Graphic novels?  Graphic certainly, but they’re hardly novels.

I’m comfortable with the French term, Bandes dessinees, but I’d welcome your guidance on the best English-language term to use to describe this desirable new category of Bob Dylan art.

Publisher links:
WW Norton


Copyrights: text – © Rock Art Editions 2015; book covers – as indicated in captions. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.