NBM Graphic Novels 2018
The route to the Toppermost of the Poppermost mapped out in pictorial way and sketched out in alluring detail.
After “Yellow Submarine” and an animated series, let alone the plethora of images anthologized by Alan Aldridge, there’s enough cartoonish pictures of the most famous Liverpudlians, so visualizing those musicians anew is an unenviable task, so kudos to the twenty-six illustrators who dared to offer their own vision in the form of comics. On the other hand, drawing the group can’t be too difficult because, thanks to the very nature of the quartet, each of its members had a distinct personality, which is why the artists didn’t need to necessarily go for a particular portrait semblance of their characters to a real Beatle, even though many did. Such contradiction is one of the things that make this graphic novel quite riveting: telling a familiar tale, the tome’s authors found a different means to keep both fans and the uninitiated focused despite the varying quality of panels.
Perhaps, it depends on how interesting a chapter’s contents are, and that’s why Martin Trystram applied an alluring palette to “Trip To India” and Victor Giménez handled the scenes from “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” in a typical ’60 European comedy fashion, whereas Joël Alessandra rendered Lennon and McCartney in “The Break-Up” closer to Cheech and Chong than to real John and Paul, and Virginie de Lambert decided to see everyone in the ensemble as left-handed in the piece on “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be” – yet it’s from this part’s preface a lot of readers will learn why a specific photo landed on the former LP’s cover. The NBM books usually intersperse comics with textual spreads to flesh out the subsequent strips, and THE BEATLES one follows the format but, while shots are rather unique and include rare documents, the actual stories around them add nothing to what’s about to be told, and illustrations per se would suffice here.
It’s the genuine gist of visual biographies, which tend to serve either as souvenirs or crash course for kids, and in the case of THE BEATLES, whose story is fragmentarily a part of collective consciousness, laying it out in words feels redundant. Still, stressing its various facets by separating them into individual segments of the account seems to be a nice method of engaging attention. The Fabs’ life has been enriched with mythology over the years, and “In Comics” dedicates a couple chapters to this aspect of it, “Paul Is Dead” detailing the most outrageously persistent rumor that followed the foursome, “John’s Opinion” delving into the “bigger than Jesus” scandal, and another piece trying to imagine what their rendezvous with Elvis looked like. And yet, imagination goes awry every now and again.
Given that the original tome was first published in French, some things were lost in translation which resulted in a few funny errors: a song titled “All I’m Losing”? Ringo living in Morocco, not in Monaco? George Martin vetoing the inclusion of certain figures on the “Sgt. Pepper’s” cover? Such inaccuracies, stretching beyond the band’s narrative into historical background can mar the impression for those in the know and distort the picture for youngsters who may inadvertently memorize wrong facts. But these gripes are minor, and approaching this book with an open mind and the records at the ready will help delving into its pages. Not essential, if nigh on arresting, effort.