Comic Spotlight: The Fifth Beatle
In the first of our weekly comic spotlights articles, I felt the best way to begin would be to spotlight something that anyone could read. Especially those who have never read comics. The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek Tiwary, Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker is the perfect graphic novel for old and new readers alike.
The Fifth Beatle tells the story of Brian Epstein, the man who created The Beatles as we know them. He gave them their image, their publicity and was the biggest believer they ever had. Biographies and autobiographies tend to be done for more educational purposes and not for entertainment value. Anyone can get online and google the name of anyone. You’ll get their wikipedia page with all the biographical information you could ever want. The task of anyone who tries to do a biographical comic or movie is to make the reader or watcher care about this person. Keep them in the story. That is what The Fifth Beatle does.
As a huge Beatles fan myself, I knew a fair amount about Brian Epstein before reading this. I knew how important he was to the history of The Beatles but what made this book even better is the emotion that was here. Books like this are why I think comics are considered literature and should be taken more seriously by the mainstream and not just for making more mindless entertainment movies. I’m not knocking all comic book adaptations but a book like this compared to Iron Man are completely different. The Fifth Beatles hits the reader with a lot of emotions. You will feel sad, happy, excited, and a bit nostalgic even if you weren’t born in this time period.
This is not a review so let’s jump into why this comic was chosen to be the first spotlight comic.*SPOILERS WITHIN* Vivek Tiwary made me love Brian Epstein. I knew how his story ended but I was rooting for him the entire time. Epstein was a dreamer. A BIG dreamer. He had a nice cushy life. He wasn’t overly wealthy but he ran a successful business and as it was shown in the book, he was always aspiring for more. He served in the Army, he tried to be a dress designer and was 100% sure that The Beatles would be bigger than Elvis. He never had to get involved with The Beatles but he saw something no one else did and he chased that dream no matter what.
The story of Brian Epstein is a bit timely as well with so much in the news about LGBTQ rights. Brian Epstein was gay at a time when you could be thrown in jail for it. He never truly found full happiness. In the book it was hinted a little that he harbored a crush for John Lennon. They were close and he was even named godfather to Julian Lennon but nothing more was ever made of this. It is refreshing to find a book that can take place near 50 years ago but still remain so current.
Brian Epstein mentions bull fighting quite a few times in this story and what I thought was so interesting is that he himself was a bull fighter. The Fab Four were his bulls. It was a metaphor I had never thought of and it enhanced the story tremendously. Epstein took all this talent and created the most iconic band in the history of music. Just look at how much of an influence they had on pop music. Epstein wrangled in all the talent these four men had and created this band. He was their matador. Note that The Beatles broke up barely two years after Epstein tragically died.
There are multiple reasons to pick this comic up. The characterization of Epstein, which I’ve already mentioned and the art work. This book is an oversized hardcover on glossy paper. A lot of it looks as if it were done with watercolors and it makes for a beautiful page turner. A lot of work clearly went into this book. The way Epstein looks is consistent on each panel and The Beatles themselves look fantastic. They look like them without being complete copies.
If you are a music fan or a fan of good comics then you really should read this. It is an endearing story about a man who never gave up on a dream and created something wonderful. While The Beatles had the talent but Epstein had the intelligence to mold them into who they were meant to be. The Fifth Beatle is on sale now online at most local comic shops should have a copy of it. It’s worth the money if you want to read a good comic that is not anything like what’s on shelves now.