That store was The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach. Why? Because signing copies of “The Fifth Beatle” graphic novel there was the book’s artist Andrew C. Robinson.
“The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story” was released late last year. It’s a biography on Brian Epstein, the young Beatles manager responsible for guiding them from being a little-known local bar band from Liverpool to the international superstars he saw them as. I didn’t rush out to get it but it was always on my radar to pick up eventually. And holding off seems to have worked out fine because I picked it up today autographed by Mr. Robinson who also included an impressive quick little Beatle sketch to boot.
“If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian.”
– Paul McCarthy, 1999
The full story is told in three parts, with the first focusing on the birth of the Beatles on to their successful introduction to America and the world. Once that’s done, the rest of the story begins to weave Brian’s personal highs and lows in the short few years of his life that follow. As is natural for a Beatles story, there’s a fair amount of surreal storytelling going on, both graphically and in prose, at just the right events, and Beatles lyrics are used occasionally to flavor other scenes further. The dialogue is terrific, grounded with British terms, phrasing and spelling, and especially when young John, Paul, George and Ringo enter, who are characterized as witty, spirited, light-hearted poets when commenting on all the rules and changes Brian orders them to make on their way to stardom.
I wasn’t familiar at all with Andrew Robinson’s artwork coming into this. It’s very stylized. If you’re familiar with Bob Peak’s work, it’s similarly loose and whimsically flavored while featuring spot on likenesses of recognizable figures like The Beatles, President Kennedy, Colonel Tom Parker and Ed Sullivan. That's a big plus!! A short section of the book was illustrated by Kyle Baker; his work I’m more familiar with. His style is much looser and in this case, very cartoony, stylishly relating Brian and the band’s surreal experience touring in the Philippines.
In the afterward, the book’s author Vivek J. Twarty directly addresses any nitpickers of the facts in his story, saying the film version of his book (which he’s working on) might feature a disclaimer reading “…incidents, characters, and timelines have been changed for dramatic purposes.” He claims everything in the book “did happen” but he also makes clear he wanted to convey “…the essence of a man.” He, with Robinson and Baker’s help, succeeded. Not only that, there’s a lot of spirit, warmth, humanity, and, when the Beatles are around, whimsy in “The Fifth Beatle”. I found it a captivating and insightful read supported by beautiful, emotional artwork.
This collector's edition of this groundbreaking graphic novel features a textured cover and a section of bonus materials including unique Beatles and Brian Epstein memorabilia, artist sketches, and alternate covers.
This limited edition of this groundbreaking graphic novel features a signed tip-in sheet by creators Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker, along with a bonus section including unique Beatles and Brian Epstein memorabilia and behind-the-scenes sketches, a unique, textured cover, and a special slipcase. Limited to 1500 signed and numbered copies.
Not mentioned in the description above is that the book also includes a red ribbon bookmark. It plus the textured cover are classy added touches.