Originally published 2010
A concept album is a beautiful thing. When done right, a band can create a lasting piece of work that transcends time, musical genres, and probably even space. Earlier this week, Vertigo Comics released
Neil Young’s Greendale,
a graphic novel counterpart to Young’s 2003 album of the same name (read our
review of Neil Young’s Greendale
Joshua Dysart and Cliff Chiang take the themes and storyline created in the
Greendale album and film and develop them into a full fledged comic book experience. As a lover of both music and comics, I obviously got to thinking what other concept albums would I be willing to buy as a comic book?
And well, the results of my brain storm are right here for you to degrade.
10 Concept Albums We Want As Comic Books
10. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis)
Genesis' last album to feature Peter Gabriel was
The Lamb Dies Down on Broadway, the premise of which is remarkably suited for a comic book containing adventure, horror, satire, and even mythology. The story sees a young Puerto Rican trouble maker who is drawn into the bowels of New York City to battle terrifying creatures in an effort to save his brother.
It sounds like more of a comic book than an album anyway, doesn't it? If the writer of such a project was really daring, they could even break down some dimensional walls and somehow tie it all into the building conflicts between Gabriel and the other members of the band. Epic.
9. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles)
While I realize there is much debate about whether or not
Sgt. Peppers is actually a concept album, for my purposes here, it's going to be. An adaptation of Sgt. Peppers to comics would be less a literal representation of the "story" and more about adapting the ideas behind it.
When The Beatles stopped performing live and essentially became shut-in musicians in the wake of Beatlemania, the idea of creating the alter egos present in
Sgt. Peppers came about; that's what the comic should tackle. The biggest band of all time trying to find a balance between art and fame, and how their (arguably) most iconic work was the result.
8. American Idiot (Green Day)
This is one entry simply to appease you damn kids out there. Though I do enjoy
American Idiot and think it's certainly Green Day's best record, the young faux-punk go getters that once came to mind in 1994 have been replaced by aging rockers with a tween fanbase that don't know the difference between The Clash and The Cult. Regardless, the concept behind American Idiot that follows a character named Jesus of Suburbia could potentially prove to be a solid comic book tale.
Oddly, it might even be similar to
Greendale in that it features small town characters struggling to find their place in a society they don't feel suits them. Replace the ethereal trips of Greendale with eyeliner, quirk, maybe interiors from Jock, and you've got a good sense of American Idiot the comic book.
Plus, it's now a broadway musical, so you could go that route as well.
7. Blood Mountain (Mastodon)
Blood Mountain could be one of the scariest comic books of all time, if it was done right. Blood Mountain tells the story of a man trying to achieve the next step of human evolution, and so he sets off on a journey of isolation, hallucinations and fear. A Blood Mountain comic in the right hands could turn out to be a horrifying trip through the bowels of the human psyche, between the bizarre twist of trying to make oneself evolve and the insanity inherent in being completely alone in the wild.
6. Radio K.A.O.S. (Roger Waters)
Roger Waters solo work = pretty much garbage. Let's be honest.
Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking is terrible and Radio K.A.O.S., the followup, is no different. However, Radio K.A.O.S. has something that is key to a great comic book, and that's an interesting plot. Following a young disabled man named Billy who can hear radio waves in his head, and uses his abilities to share his family's troubled history with a radio station. Ultimately, he feigns a nuclear attack on the world a la WarGames, and Waters delivers a commentary on mass media and their corruption of society.
While the album has little-to-no sentimental value to anyone aside from Waters, the concept of the album is strong enough, I think, to be transformed into a highly effective graphic novel.
5. 2112 (Rush)
I know, I know, relax Rush-fanatics. Technically
2112 is not a concept album, as the whole second side was completely unrelated to the 20 minute epic suite that is "2112" the song. A popular theme with musicians is often the ban of free thought and creation of art, and that's exactly what 2112 is all about.
When music is outlawed in a futuristic regime, a young man discovers a guitar in a cave and infuriates the authorities when he learns to play. Obviously a comic book based on this idea has potential to be strong political commentary, and would be a hit even to those who think Neil Peart is a pretentious douche.
4. Quadrophenia (The Who)
Surprise! I'm sure most were expecting The Who's
Tommy to be their entry on this list, but guess again. While in my opinion Tommy is the better record musically, Quadrophenia has a better setup to become one hell of a comic book.
Quadrophenia is about a young man named Jimmy who becomes disillusioned with the Mod culture of the 1960s he's so fully embraced, and begins to question everything about himself, including friends and family. Essentially, this could be a period coming-of-age story, and if done correctly could be one of the most effective coming-of-age stories since Blankets. Too bad it's a long shot.
3. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (David Bowie)
Though David Lapham's
Young Liars sort of touched on this story in a twisted way, Ziggy Stardust is born to be a comic book. Everything from the look of Bowie's character to the space operatic imagery of the lyrics screams to be adapted into the world's greatest storytelling format.
A martian rock star, rock and roll, sex, drugs;
Ziggy Stardust has it all. Let's just hope that whoever is brave enough to tackle this classic record makes it absolutely nothing like Velvet Goldmine. And by that, I mean not a complete piece of ridiculous trippy garbage.
2. Year Zero (Nine Inch Nails)
Year Zero, Trent Reznor took the concept album to an entirely new level, thanks to the new digital age. Alternate reality games, guerrilla concerts raided by future military, hidden images in the god damn frequencies. Telling a cynical tale of the world and its art from multiple perspectives some years in the future, Year Zero redefined not only Nine Inch Nails, but the concept album as a whole.
Since its 2007 release, there's been talk of making
Year Zero a movie or television show, but an ongoing series in comic book form would be spectacular. Each issue could be a stand alone tale of some different aspect of Trent's grim future, all of which tie back around into one another.
Trent Reznor, I love you.
1. The Wall (Pink Floyd)
The Wall. My favorite record of all time. My desert island #1. And the movie, when I was a youngin', was showed to me by my teenage sister when she was babysitting me, in an attempt to apparently scar me for life. In the end, it turned out alright, as I now appreciate everything that happened at that young age to start building up my appreciation for Pink Floyd's masterpiece.
The wall is equal parts horribly depressing and hopeful, using the terrible things that have happened in one man's lifetime to slowly build up a fictional wall, inside of which he is free to do and think as he pleases without the risk of emotional harm. Of course, once successful, life inside the wall is terribly lonely. It's a story of contradiction and alienation, and would be remarkable to see adapted into a comic, especially if the creators kept in tune with the work of cartoonist Gerald Scarge, who did much of the original artwork of
The Wall album and film.
And then, I could simultaneous watch the film, listen to the album and read the comic before I hang myself! In all seriousness though, I f*cking love
The Wall. If Roger Waters doesn't hire someone to make it a comic book, I'm doing it myself.
You heard it here first.