Monday, April 30, 2012

Baby's In Black

The Beatles are one of the most well known bands ever, with international hits that have been played now for  generations.This graphic novel chronicles a period between October, 1960 and April, 1962 when the band was in its formative years, playing shows in Hamburg, Germany and trying to establish themselves. Influenced by rock and rock artists, the lads from Liverpool went to Germany to cut their teeth in some pretty tough clubs. The band then consisted of singer John Lennon, 17-year-old guitarist George Harrison, guitarist Paul McCartney, drummer Pete Best, and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe.

The majority of this book focuses on Astrid Kirchherr, a German photographer who was responsible for shaping the band's early look and who went on to her own renown, and Sutcliffe, who ultimately left the band to pursue his art career. They have instant chemistry when they meet, and the ups and downs of the band's early career form the backdrop to their romance. This book seems an obvious labor of love, and there are copious historical footnotes in the back.

Appropriately, Baby's in Black gets its name from an early Beatles song. It was created by Arne Bellstorf, a German artist famous for his comic page for Der Tagesspiegel, a newspaper. He also co-edits an annual comics publication Orang. His homepage provides a link to many of his works. His career is relatively young, but Baby's in Black was a huge cross-over hit in Germany, attracting many readers who may not typically buy graphic novels.

Thus far, the reviews I have read about this book have been positive. The review at Publishers Weekly commented on how it was difficult to tell some of the characters apart but that "fans of the Beatles will certainly be interested in this little-told tale of their early years." Gavin Lees wrote that not only fans would like the book but that "it is obviously made with tremendous affection, but without ever becoming mawkish.  Even without the presence of The Beatles to give weight and import to its story, this is as touching and tragic a book as we’re likely to find this year." Gary Anderson called the art style "simple but evocative."

This edition was published in the US by First Second. Reviews and other links can be found here.

Thank you, Gina, for the review copy!

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