Baby's in Black

 

The Beatles were the One Direction of their day, or to put it correctly, One Direction are The Beatles of today. Few bands have been so loved for so long as the boys from Liverpool. My mother spent her teenage years listening to The Beatles. It’s a love that hasn’t faded, and it’s a love she passed on to me. I remember playing her albums (in the days before CDs and downloads to your IPod), singing along to the songs.
 
So, what’s the point of my reminiscing, you ask? Well, I’ve just finished a new graphic novel called Baby’s in Black. It’s about the early days of The Beatles, when the Fab Four was the Fab Five and they were playing small clubs in Germany, and had yet to make their big debut in America. At its core is the blossoming relationship between Stuart Sutcliffe (the fifth Beatle) and Astrid Kirchherr, a German photographer. It tells of their first meeting and their instant attraction for one another. It details the early struggles the group had trying to make a living in Germany; of Sutcliffe’s renewed interest in painting; and his eventual departure from the group. It also tells of his growing headaches and fatigue, followed by his untimely death at age 21. Subtly alluded to at first, his condition is always acknowledged, but downplayed as merely working too hard.
 
The book is drawn in lovely black and white, and while the artwork may be simple by design, it is no less effective in the story it tells. Arne Bellstorf, who wrote and illustrated the book, does a fine job conveying a sweet love story between Stuart and Astrid, which is the real heart of the book. It’s actually a rather nice surprise to see it from Astrid’s point of view. John, Paul, George, Stuart and Pete (Ringo Starr was not a part of the group at this time) are just teens who really want to play music. There is only a hint of the fame that is to come.

The characters are distinct enough to know who’s who, and the drawing is charming. At 196 pages, it certainly can’t go into massive detail about the events but it does a nice job of giving you enough of the story to know what’s going on. It’s a pleasant, nostalgic look at The Beatles before they were The Beatles.

Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess