Over the years, We Want Comics has written about several music artists whose lives and work we’d like to see turned into graphic novels, including U2, whose first EP Three turned 40 this month. With several more major music events this month, including Adam Green’s dual graphic novel/album release “War and Paradise”/Engine of Paradise, here are several more artists who I know would also make great comic books.
“I’m headed straight for the castle, they wanna make me their queen: and there’s a old man sitting on the throne there saying that I probably shouldn’t be so mean” – “Castle” (2015)
New Jersey singer-songwriter Halsey (real name Ashley Nicolette Frangipane) has so far released two concept albums, Badlands and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, which respectively introduce the two titular worlds: the former is a dystopian city surrounded by a desert wasteland, while the latter is a purgatory-like realm which Halsey uses as a stage for the characters of Luna Aureum and Solis Angelus, who are her spin on Romeo and Juliet.
I can’t stop thinking about how great the “Blackbird” creative team of Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel would be on an adaptation of these albums, because of that book’s similar magical realism, but also because of how beautiful Bartel’s renderings of Halsey’s alter-egos would be. There’s also the tantalizing prospect of Halsey herself providing cover artwork for her own stories, because she is an incredibly talented artist in both senses of the word (as anyone who saw her paint and perform on Saturday Night Live can attest).
“Don’t wanna be an American idiot, one nation controlled by the media: information age of hysteria, it’s calling out to idiot America” – “American Idiot” (2004)
Green Day’s American Idiot turned 15 this month, and bittersweetly, it remains the quintessential millennial album: what once encapsulated our hatred of the Bush administration, also now perfectly reflects our discontent since the Great Recession and the arrival of Bush’s ideological successors in the Trump White House. The album has been adapted into a stage musical, but it’d be great for those of us at home (and the library) to get a better sense of the story of Jesus of Suburbia through a graphic novel.
Tegan and Sara:
“I’m not their hero but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t brave: I never walked the party line, doesn’t mean that I was never afraid” – “I’m Not Your Hero” (2012)
This week sees the release of Tegan and Sara Quin’s memoir High School and their new album Hey, I’m Just Like You. It’s a little surprising the Canadian twins didn’t go the graphic memoir route for their autobiography, given their collaborations with artists like Lisa Hanawalt and Ann Marie Fleming on projects like the video for “Hang on to the Night,” and the biographical short film Fleming directed (Sara also illustrated the lyric video for “I’ll Be Back Someday“). Still, there are always adaptations and other years of their lives to explore: there are many LGBT cartoonists who grew up listening to the openly gay duo, so the number who’d want to work with them would be chock-a-block.
“Ohhh, jump that 43, are you wild like me? Raised by wolves and other beasts” – “Bros” (2013)
North London rock band Wolf Alice composed what might be the best song of the decade: “Bros,” a stirring and poignant ode from lead singer Ellie Rowsell to her childhood friend (and former bandmate) Sadie Cleary. When I listen to it, I see myself reading an entire book about their friendship, partly because I’m also from London and around the same age, but also because it would be an incredibly moving memoir about growing up and moving apart – it’s definitely the type of story SelfMadeHero or Avery Hill would publish.Continued below
“I hunt the grounds for empathy, and hate the way it hides from me – with care and thirst I have become, you have a home in my Queendom” – “Queendom” (2018)
Aurora Aksnes is a Norwegian singer whose music is an ethereal mix of electronic, folk and pop, and who possesses an indelible stage presence that is somehow simultaneously sweet, fragile, strong, and utterly formidable. She’s like a delicate but invincible mythical creature from the most remote parts of Scandinavia, who’s come to save us from ourselves (or an alien, as she always seems to implying on social media). Suffice to say, she’s a perfect comic book protagonist. Imagine an artist as haunting as Tillie Walden on art as well: it could be a masterpiece.
Christine and the Queens:
“I’ve got it: I’m a man now, and I won’t let you steal it, I bought it for myself, I’m a man now” – “iT” (2014)
French artist Héloïse Letissier’s background is the stuff of a superhero origin: after being expelled from studying theater in Paris, she made a trip to London, where she befriended a group of drag musicians, who led her to her destiny as genderqueer singer Christine and the Queens! (Or Chris, as her second album was called.) I think the ideal artist would be someone like Kris Anka, whose uncanny ability to draw any body-type makes him perfect for Chris’s wiry physique and physicality.
<<"Oh damn dad, tell me where you’re hiding: I must’ve counted my fingers, at least a thousand times“>> – “Papaoutai” (2012)
Over in Belgium, dance artist Stromae (real name Paul Van Haver) recorded the country’s biggest single in 2013 with “Papaoutai,” which is an incredibly heartfelt cry for a missing father on top of being a thumping great tune. The song is a tribute to his father Pierre Rutare, who was murdered during the Rwandan genocide while visiting his family in 1994. It’d make for a powerful OGN about the power of music as a form of therapy, exactly the subject Franco-Belgian creators like Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin (“The Death of Stalin“) would want to explore.
“Forever we tried to make it right, but together we saw the end in sight, I’m tired of fighting the good fight, if you say the word, then I’ll say goodbye” – “Forever” (2012)
Este, Danielle and Alana Haim are a fantastic rock band, but did you know the older two sisters were members of a teen pop group called the Valli Girls? That could be the flashpoint for a biographical comic chronicling their early brush with stardom, which would be a perfect fit at BOOM! Studios’s young adult imprint BOOM! Box, with all the color and life the publisher’s colorists always bring to their teen-friendly comics. It would certainly make for a hilarious noughties throwback.
<<"Germany – your breath’s cold, so young, and yet so old: Germany!”>> – “Deutschland” (2019)
This year, German metal legends Rammstein released the epic song and accompanying music video “Deutschland,” a depiction of German history – warts and all – starring actress Ruby Commey as the nation’s national personification Germania. After hearing it, I couldn’t help but wonder about a whole comic book starring national personifications: like we see Germania as a Nazi during that terrible time, but what was France’s Marianne like during the same period?
“They say true love’s the greatest weapon to win the war caused by pain (pain), but every diamond has imperfections, but my love’s too pure to watch it chip away” – “All Night” (2016)
I don’t know what an official Beyoncé graphic novel should be about or who’d be best for it (Lemonade, for example, is perfect as it is): what I do know is that if Mrs. Knowles-Carter deigned to grace us with a comic book, she and the team she hires would pour themselves 110 percent into it, just as they have done on her last few albums, or her concert movie Homecoming. The same applies to other artists I love like Florence and the Machine, CHVRCHES, MUNA, “Weird Al” Yankovic (who has branched into picture books), or Janelle Monáe (whose work I previously explored here): all of these would be essential purchases.
As always, let us know if you have any thoughts in the comments below: we’re open to any and all suggestions for future columns, which will hopefully include even more diverse, and less recent, artists for music-inspired comics.