Deadwood And Deadman: Bob Dylan And Post-Modernism

by Larry Fyffe

Whether the Canadian-created crusader Superman, the Canadian-acted spaceman Captain Kirk, or the Spanish Cervantes horse-riding Don Quixote, Bob Dylan disguises himself as various members of The League Of Justice, and attempts to fix everybody’s problems ‘cept mine.

He beams down into the days of the Old West in America, where Alias James Kirk, he finds himself caught amidst religious strife, and, you guessed it,  once again violates “The Prime Directive”, thereby changing the preordained course of all human history.

Deadwood, Dakota Territory, on a hot afternoon, and the town’s got reason to be nervous.

In the local saloon, ‘Injun’ William Blake, sits at a table with black-hatted John Calvin, “the Puritan Cowboy”, who’s sitting beside a man in a long dusty coat. They’re playing high-stakes poker  with “Saint Auggie”, the town-sheriff, who’s also its stilt-walkin’ court-judge, coffin-sellin’ undertaker, and fire-breathing High Priest.

Not to mention, he’s the reincarnation of Paul Revere’s tired ‘river-horse’, an animal that God thought he’d call a Hippopotamus.

On the wall of the smoke-filled saloon hangs a poster that reads:

Wanted Dead Or Alive:

The ‘No-Doer Gang’, led  by the notorious religious outlaw John Calvin who claims salvation isn’t for everyone, but predestined for just a few; so it’s no use trying to save yourself with good works; faith, and faith alone, is all you’ve got.
Signed: Sheriff Augustine.

Captain Kirk, of course,  realizes that the Sheriff of Deadwood is loaded down with gold given to him by some Italian priest from the thirteenth century , and that the lawman is under direct orders to search out, stack the deck against, and then to lock up the ‘Predestination Gang’ in the fiery cells of Hell for all of Eternity:

“I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you of me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold”
(Bob Dylan: I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine)

The religious tension arises from the Holy Bible’s Romans 2:13.

“For not the hearers of the law are just before the Lord, but the doers of the law shall be justified”.

Thinking quickly, the captain of the “Enterprise”  dresses himself up as John Wesley Harding; knocks on the door of Auggie’s Office, and claims he’s an outlaw from Methodist County.

Tells Sheriff Augustine: “We don’t got no predestination, we don’t need no stinkin’ predestination”. Both gunmen agree that Cowboy Cal’s doctrine is bad for business, and that the outlaw gang has to be dealt with:

“Calvin, Blake, and Wilson
Gamble in the dark
None of them would ever live to tell of the disembark”
(Bob Dylan: Tempest)

‘Cole’ Wilson later reappears in the Post-Modern western movie ‘Deadman’; Johnny Depp stars as accountant William Blake.

In Deadwood, puritanical Cal catches the corrupt ‘saintly’ churchman cheating at cards, and, takes Augustine out onto Mainstreet, and drills him full of holes.

John Wesley, himself a religious outlaw, but a ‘doer’, swears he’ll hunt down the black-hearted, card-playing Cal, and bring the ‘dishonest, sheep-herding cowpoke’ back to Deadwod to face justice.

John Wesley Harding was a friend to
the poor
He travelled with a gun in every hand
All along this countryside
He opened many a door
But he was never known
To hurt an honest man
(Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding)

With a gun in every hand, Wesley discovers Calvin’s still in Deadwood.


“Down by the corral.”

“Well, tell him: ‘It’s not OK’ “.

Just then lightning thunders; it’a dark and stormy night, and a shot rings out.

Cal, ‘the dirty little coward’ hits the dirt, aces and eights go flying everywhere, and members of the audience near the back-door of movie house shout: “John Wayne is the bravest of them all.”

A little confused, Spaceman Wesley-Dylan flips open his communicator:

“This is your captain speaking!….Scotty, beam me up.”


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  1. Superman ain’t no canadian.

    Superman is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, high school students living in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1933. They sold Superman to Detective Comics, the future DC Comics, in 1938. Superman debuted in Action Comics #1 (cover-dated June 1938) and subsequently appeared in various radio serials, newspaper strips, television programs, films, and video games.

    It’s the Justice League of America.

    and man somebody sold you some bad stuff

  2. Lumpy: Shuster, like the inventor of basketball, was born in Canada; moved to US. It be you who should check out facts.

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