J. O'Barr's The Crow:
"Borrowings" from Catholic Boy
Updated 25 August 2009
J. O'Barr's 1981 graphic novel, The Crow, which was made into a film starring Brandon
Lee, alludes to (or "plagiarizes," depending upon your
point of view) several lines from songs on The Jim Carroll Band's
1980 album Catholic Boy -- without acknowledging their source.
The Carroll lines are unique in The Crow in that other "borrowed"
materials are credited. For example, O'Barr quotes poems
by Arthur Rimbaud, Lois Weakley McKay, and Rose Fyleman; lyrics
by Robert Smith (The Cure), Joy Division, and Robyn Hitchcock; and
a few lines from Voltaire. All of these artists are credited.
Jim Carroll and Emily Dickinson aren't!
Carroll says he's a little flattered, and at most he would like a credit
in the book.
Cover photo of Carroll from 1978 edition of The Basketball
Diaries (left) and J. O'Barr's character "Fun Boy"
from The Crow (right)
remarked that, even though Fun Boy is a murderer and a rapist, at
least he is a fairly sympathetic character whose death is relatively
nonviolent and painless . . .
The "Borrowed" Lines from Catholic Boy
Keep in mind three things. First, note that O'Barr's drawing of
"Fun Boy," above, was drawn using Carroll's portrait
as a model. I don't think anyone can dispute this. Second, the lyrics
to the songs on Carroll's album Catholic Boy were not printed on
the sleeve, and Carroll's enunciation of the lyrics (given his unique, Inwood NYC
accent) leaves some room for translation. Third, although some of
the "borrowed" lines may seem to be generic, note how
much stuff O'Barr gets from Carroll. Although a line by O'Barr
such as, "Like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane," may
seem commonplace, please note that O'Barr obviously was looking
at Carroll's work while writing The Crow. Page numbers for The Crow are "guestimated" because the book's pages are not numbered.
O'Barr writes: "when the city drops into the night, things
so very wrong seem oh so right" (26).
Because when the city drops into the night
Before the darkness there's one moment of light
When everything seems clear
And the other side it seems so near
What seemed wrong . . . ?
I think it's gonna be just about right
O'Barr writes: "Go from this place, Sandy, before he sucks all
the light from your eyes" (95).
They wait in shadows and steal the light from your eyes
To them, vision's just a costly infection
O'Barr writes: "I've allies in heaven, Jack, I've comrades in
hell . . ." (42).
I made allies in heaven
I made comrades in Hell
O'Barr writes: "Like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane"
I understand the fate of all my enemies
Just like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane
O'Barr writes: "Are the bones of your sins sharp enough to cut
through your own excuses?" (94).
I want the angel
Whose bones are so sharp
They can break through their old excuses