Brian Epstein was in search of greatness. He found it with a ragtag band in a little basement club. These lads from Liverpool were not just any ragtag band. Brian Epstein was an expert on pop music and knew right away that The Beatles were special and could use his help. And so Brian embarks upon his true calling which is faithfully retold in the graphic novel, “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,” published by Dark Horse Comics, for their imprint, M Press.
To be a homosexual in England in the 1960s could land you in prison. And to be Jewish could put your life at risk during a time of great anti-Semitism. Brian was both and very much aware of the danger. However, he wasn’t someone to be pushed around with either. The script by Vivek J. Tiwary, a Broadway producer and avid Beatles fan, gives us a portrait of a determined young man who is very passionate about music and style. But it’s not just a passion, it’s a way of life: You can conquer the world if you look the part. This worldview is essential and part of what Brian will instill in The Beatles. Just like a well dressed matador wows the cheering crowds, so the well dressed image of The Beatles will wow the world.
The artwork by Andrew Robinson (Star Wars, Batman), with contributions by Kyle Baker (Plastic Man, Why I Hate Saturn), transports us back quite nicely to the good cheer and irreverence of the young band led by the young old soul Epstein. We see Epstein go from running the family business, the record store, Nems, to managing The Beatles. By sheer determination, Epstein continues on course believing in the band’s potential more than the band had ever dared dreamed themselves. Andrew Robinson has a deft touch with facial expression and body language. His engaging character development brings the lads and their magnificent manager to full life.
The challenge in writing such a book was starting out with a relatively small amount of information on the subject. Of course, any true Beatles fan or serious scholar of pop culture knows that Brian Epstein was The Beatles manager–but not much more. What Vivek does is pretty amazing. It’s not impossible, no doubt, but it’s an ambitious goal to take any compelling figure and tell their story. It has been a project that Vivek has been building up for some twenty years, beginning as a youth fascinated with the entertainment business and evolving as simply a love for the man himself. This tribute to Brian Epstein is spot on and will inspire.
Told in three parts, this story unfolds at a fast pace. Given the roller coaster of events, that rings true. In only six years, from 1961 to 1967, Epstein took a promising, but unknown, band and did as he vowed he’d do, made them bigger than Elvis. Along the way, we have time for some fascinating extended scenes that give us insights into what it was like for Epstein, both personal and professional. We come to see just how painfully lonely he was. And we see him navigating some unusual business dealings. The scenes with Colonel Parker and with Ed Sullivan are interesting. And to think it all came to an end for Brian Epstein at the age of 32. The Beatles would only last another couple of years after his death. But, that end was just one end. The music lives on. And, with this book, the story of Brian Epstein lives on in this compelling work.
“The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story” is a 144-page hardcover, priced at $19.99, and available as of November 19, 2013. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics here. And be sure to visit The Fifth Beatle website here.