I did this awhile ago with Bob Dylan characters, but a mention of Warren Zevon by reader Marc Laferriere made me think Zevon would be a great choice for this, too!
So enjoy the top five Warren Zevon characters who would make for good comic books (check here to see an archive of all the top five lists featured so far)!
NOTE: More so than Bob Dylan, heck, more so than most songwriters period, Warren Zevon had a lot of songs that were stories that followed characters around, including some of his most famous songs/characters. The problem with this is that while a lot of these songs are awesome, they don't exactly lend themselves to a long form narrative, which you need to have for a good comic book. So while you could certainly disagree and think Song X would work well as a comic, just rest assured that if I don't mention a song, it's not because I didn't think of it, but it is because I didn't think said character was a good pick.
SECOND NOTE: A few Zevon songs are about actual people, like Frank and Jesse James. I'm not going to count those as "Zevon characters," because he didn't create them.
On to the list!
The Excitable Boy from "Excitable Boy"
One of Zevon's most notable characters, I don't think the Excitable Boy character really works on his own, but damned if he wouldn't make a great character in a Garth Ennis comic book!
He took little Suzie to the Junior PromExcitable boy, they all saidAnd he raped her and killed her, then he took her homeExcitable boy, they all saidWell, he's just an excitable boyAfter ten long years they let him out of the homeExcitable boy, they all saidAnd he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bonesExcitable boy, they all saidWell, he's just an excitable boy
The Mercenaries of "Jungle Work"
The mercenaries Zevon writes about in "Jungle Work" are fairly non-descript mercenary characters, so they'd work well for any basic mercenary comic book (which are plentiful), but they're basically blank slates as far as characterization goes:
Where the pay is goodAnd the risk is highIt's understoodWe'll do or dieSten gun in handWhere the gun is lawFrom OvambolandTo Nicaragua
The Narrator of "Renegade"
The story of "Renegade" sounds a lot like Brian Azzarello's neat Vertigo series Loveless, so I think it would work nicely in that vein.
Some prayers never reach the skySome wars never endSome dreams refuse to dieNext time I would rather break than bend
I am a renegadeI've been a rebel all my daysI am a renegadeI've been a rebel all my days
But while the character is intriguing, Zevon does not spend THAT much time developing the character, beyond the basics.
The Narrator of "Piano Fighter"
I could easily see an interesting Vertigo series following around the exploits of a gifted freelance piano player drifting through America (or even the whole world, if you liked) playing in all sorts of different places with different new characters introduced each arc.
Someone called Piano FighterI'm a holy roller, I'm a real lowriderHold me tight, honey, hold me tightThen let me go, Piano FighterLet me go, Piano Fighter
Maybe I'll go to RenoNobody knows my nameI'll play Claie de Lune in a quiet saloonSteady work for a changeAin't going down that long, lonsome roadAin't going down that long, lonsome road
I'd follow that character.
The Werewolves of "Werewolves of London"
Clearly Zevon's most famous song, but I dunno, is there really much here to do a series about that wouldn't require just inventing personalities for the werewolves out of whole cloth?
Still, the song is cool enough to make it perhaps worth it!
He's the hairy, hairy gent, who ran amok in Kent.Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair.You better stay away from him, he'll rip your lungs out Jim.Huh, I'd like to meet his tailor.
Aaahoo, werewolves of LondonAaahoo, werewolves of London
The Narrator of "Carmelita"
He's certainly intriguing on his own, but his story does not really seem to have a massive amount of room to go, does it?
Well, I pawned my Smith CoronaAnd I went to meet my manHe hangs out down on Alvarado StreetBy the Pioneer chicken stand
Carmelita hold me tighterI think I'm sinking downAnd I'm all strung out on heroinOn the outskirts of town
I guess you could do a study of the town as a whole?
The cast of "Things to do in Denver When You're Dead"
It's a GREAT hook, but really, as great as the hook of the song is, Zevon does not really go into much detail, and while you could certainly do a good comic with the PREMISE, I dunno if the characters stand out enough on their own.
I called up my friend LeRoy on the phoneI said, Buddy, I'm afraid to be alone'Cause I got some weird ideas in my headAbout things to do in Denver when you're dead
I was working on a steak the other dayAnd I saw Waddy in the Rattlesnake CafeDressed in black, tossing back a shot of ryeFinding things to do in Denver when you die
You won't need a cab to find a priestMaybe you should find a place to staySome place where they never change the sheetsAnd you just roll around Denver all day
Here's the toughest omission!!
The Narrator from "Jeannie Needs a Shooter"
This song, co-written with Bruce Springsteen, works as a limited series/graphic novel really well. The only thing keeping it off the top five is the fact that the story is a BIT familiar. I mean, heck, it's basically Body Heat, right?
She came down from Knightstown with her hands hard from the lineFrom the first time I laid eyes on herI knew that she'd be mineHer father was a lawman, he swore he'd shoot me dead'Cause he knew I wanted Jeannie and I'd have her like I said
Jeannie needs a shooterShooter like meJeannie needs a shooterShooter on her sideJeannie needs a shooter
Still, great song.
5. THREE WAY TIE!The narrators of "Desperados Under the Eaves," "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" and "The French Inhaler"
All three songs are basically about the same thing, just with "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" having a more sardonic and less serious approach to life on the West Coast than the other two (you could probably add "Even a Dog Can Shake Hands" to these three, too).
I was sitting in the Hollywood Hawaiian HotelI was staring in my empty coffee cupI was thinking that the gypsy wasn't lyin'All the salty margaritas in Los AngelesI'm gonna drink 'em up
And if California slides into the oceanLike the mystics and statistics say it willI predict this motel will be standing until I pay my bill
From "Pitiful Me"....
Well, I met a girl in West HollywoodI ain't naming namesShe really worked me over goodShe was just like Jesse JamesShe really worked me over goodShe was a credit to her genderShe put me through some changes, LordSort of like a Waring blender
Poor, poor pitiful mePoor, poor pitiful meThese young girls won't let me beLord have mercy on meWoe is me
You said you were an actressYes, I believe you areI thought you'd be a starSo I drank up all the money,Yes, I drank up all the money,With these phonies in this Hollywood bar,These friends of mine in this Hollywood bar
Loneliness and frustrationWe both came down with an acute caseAnd when the lights came up at twoI caught a glimpse of youAnd your face looked like somethingDeath brought with him in his suitcase
Your pretty faceIt looked so wastedAnother pretty faceDevastated
From "Even a Dog" (which is more specifically about the unsavory side of the entertainment industry)...
All the worms and the gnomes are having lunch at Le DomeThey're all living off the fat of the landEverbody's trying to be a friend of mineEven a dog can shake hands
4. The Gorilla from "Gorilla, You're a Desperado"
If you can't get an interesting story surrounding a gorilla who escapes from the zoo and just takes up the life of a human, then you aren't trying hard enough!
Big gorilla at the L.A. ZooSnatched the glasses right off my faceTook the keys to my BMWLeft me here to take his place
I wish the ape a lot of successI'm sorry my apartment's a messMost of all I'm sorry if I made you blueI'm betting the gorilla will, too
They say Jesus will find you wherever you goBut when He'll come looking for you, they don't knowIn the mean time, keep your profile lowGorilla, you're a desperado
3. Mr. Bad Example from "Mr. Bad Example"
Any of the top three choices would be fine at #1, I think. Here, this sounds a lot like Jack of Fables, an incorrigible lout who is also charming and a lot of fun to hate.
I'm very well aquainted with the seven deadly sinsI keep a busy schedule trying to fit them inI'm proud to be a glutton, and I don't have time for slothI'm greedy, and I'm angry, and I don't care who I cross
I'm Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirtI like to have a good time, and I don't care who gets hurtI'm Mr. Bad Example, take a look at meI'll live to be a hundred, and go down in infamy
2. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner from "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"
The only way this doesn't reach #1 is that you really most likely have to come up with a separate lead to make the story worth, as Roland is, you know, headless. So you probably would have to come up with an Ichibod Crane type character to work with him.
Roland the headless Thompson gunnerNorway's bravest sonTime, time, timeFor another peaceful warBut time stands still for Roland'Til he evens up the scoreThey can still see his headless body stalking through the nightIn the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gunIn the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gun
Roland searched the continent for the man who'd done him inHe found him in Mombassa in a barroom drinking ginRoland aimed his Thompson gun - he didn't say a wordBut he blew Van Owen's body from there to Johannesburg
Roland the headless Thompson gunner...The eternal Thompson gunnerstill wandering through the nightNow it's ten years later but he still keeps up the fightIn Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and BerkeleyPatty Hearst heard the burst of Roland's Thompson gun and bought it
What a cool visual.
1. The Narrator from "Lawyers, Guns and Money"
Likely Zevon's second-most famous song, the narrator of "Lawyers, Guns and Money" is similar to Hunter S. Thompson in he just seems like a crazy fun guy to follow around on various misadventures.
I went home with the waitressThe way I always doHow was I to knowShe was with theRussians, too?
I was gambling in HavanaI took a little riskSend lawyers, guns and moneyDad, get me out of this
Okay, that's the list!
Agree? Disagree? Let me know!