Category Archives: pop culture

PULP POWER: The Shadow, Doc Savage and the Art of the Street and Smith Universe review

Pulp Power: The Shadow, Doc Savage and the Art of the Street and Smith Universe. Neil McGinness. Abrams. New York. 2022. Fully illustrated, hardcover. 352pp. $58.50

Walter Gibson was the writer behind the masked hero, The Shadow. Writing under the pen name, Maxwell Grant, he developed a character that seemed to emerge on its own, out of the confluence of pop culture media, circa 1930: pulp fiction and radio. The character was a strange mix of mystery and daring, part of something bigger, and a sign of things to come. The strangeness begins with the eerie voice warning that it sees all: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” followed by a shrill cackle. Such an otherworldly introduction to adventure was like mana from heaven for the millions of beleaguered radio listeners across the country confronting the dire reality of the Great Depression. Stranger still, at that point, there was only the weird voice to introduce the mystery hour–but the voice had become the star! Overnight, people wanted more. Who is The Shadow? Where do I get The Shadow magazine? This would lead to perhaps the greatest scramble ever to flesh out a popular character that did not yet exist!

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

The Shadow went on to become the leading product of the famous Fiction Factory, founded by Francis Street, a bookkeeper, and Francis Smith, an aspiring writer in the 1850s. Street and Smith bought the New York Dispatch, a newspaper focused on news, and turned it into the New York Weekly (1858–1910), a newspaper focused on fiction, the foundation of what was to become the Street and Smith publishing empire. It was when this publishing house decided to step into creating radio shows that The Shadow emerged out of the ether. Pulp Power covers this phenomenal enterprise providing the reader with an in depth look at the origins of America’s first pop culture icons: The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger, Justice Inc., the trailblazers that would inspire Batman, Superman, The Fantastic Four, even the whole ball of wax at Marvel and DC Comics. Thanks to this generously illustrated book, with engaging writing by Neil McGinness, the original glory days of American pop culture come to life for the reader in this unique collection showcasing dazzling covers from pulp fiction, comics and movies, along with assorted ephemera.

The Shadow magazine

Getting back to The Shadow, if there is just one character to represent the exuberant creative force at play in the early years, it has got to be this strange, yet beloved, fellow. It’s fascinating to consider how much this character is so much of its time, and defies being easily bounced around various media until it finally settles into what works. Ultimately, a lot is working; it’s just a matter of doing justice to the material. You won’t be seeing a major motion picture anytime soon, until maybe you do. What you can count on is The Shadow thriving in prose and in audio. Perhaps that’s simply because The Shadow is so much a creature of the night, a mysterious force not to be observed too closely. He also has his specificity. He’s a New Yorker, and don’t you forget it. Thankfully, Neil McGinness does take a close look for the sake of better understanding the attraction. Essentially, it comes down to quality storytelling, which can’t be faked; it involves so many factors coming into place; and runs best with one determined author.

The Shadow comics

The Shadow’s original author, Walter Gibson, followed a tried and true formula, a five-point plan that never failed: a main crime; a problem arising from the main crime; a secondary crime that serves to complicate matters; an attempted third crime to thwart the investigation which is foiled by the hero; and the climax which reveals the villain, the trick, the true nature of the crime. It is a ticket to endless variations and served Gibson well as he went on to write nearly 300 Shadow novels. Not only that, Gibson was sensitive to literary refinements. In fact, The Shadow is closely based upon Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This is a hero but a dark hero. A crime fighter as grim and merciless as the worst criminal. This is a complicated character shrouded under layer upon layer of ambiguity. . .while, at the same time, just a fun thrill.

Orson Welles portrait by Irving Penn, for Vogue, 1945

The Shadow radio show ran for 17 years, from 1937 to 1954. Orson Welles, then only 22 years-old, served as the first voice of the character in 1937. Welles was quite busy with his own Mercury Theater and would do the show with no rehearsals. He just did it and he proved to be one of the best of the actors to take on the role. This was around the time that Welles was at his hottest: a year later, he would make history with his War of the Worlds broadcast of 1938. It’s a nice touch to see included here in this book a photo of Welles at the height of his success, a portrait by Irving Penn, for Vogue in 1945. It’s a masterwork of a photograph, complete with all of Penn’s still life magic–and a fitting companion piece to the magic and mystery that is The Shadow.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Comics, pop culture, Pulp Fiction, The Shadow

William F. Nolan Dead at 93; New ‘Logan’s Run’ Remains a Mystery

From Henry Chamberlain’s graphic novel, George’s Run

William F. Nolan was one of the grand old men from the golden age of science fiction and horror spanning pulp fiction, television and the movies. Starting out as an illustrator in Kansas City, Nolan ultimately made his way to Hollywood and became part of a group of writers within the orbit of Ray Bradbury, and subsequently Charles Beaumont, all trying to break into television. As part of the inner circle of writers, casually known as, “The Group,” little by little, Nolan gained some ground.

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Filed under George Clayton Johnson, Logan's Run, Obituaries, pop culture, William F. Nolan

Bitch Media Needs Your Help: At Halfway Point to Reach Goal by Sep 25

Bitch magazine

BITCH MEDIA celebrates over 20 years of award-winning, nonprofit, feminist response to pop culture. Due to COVID-19 and the economic downturn, Bitch Media is in danger of ceasing operation. Help Bitch Media keep up the good fight with a donation by joining its campaign that closes on September 25, 2020. Donate, join, or subscribe today.

Bitch Media

Press release follows:

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Filed under Feminism, Magazines, pop culture, Social Justice

The Gaming Industry Has Its Own #MeToo Movement

Image: Ubisoft

The Gaming Industry has its own #MeToo movement. Reports and allegations against men in gaming have become more prevalent over the last two weeks. While this type of harassment,  misconduct, and twisted culture is not news for many in various industries, including the comics industry, a perfect storm of facts have emerged. The leading gaming site, Kotaku, part of G/O Media, is leading the investigation into some of these claims. Amid all these allegations, one company is right in the thick of the firestorm: Ubisoft.

“The past two weeks have been filled with accounts, some anonymous, some with names attached, as people, mostly women, take the risk of speaking out on social media about harassment, abuse, and assault, mostly against men in gaming. And while abuse allegations have rocked Twitch and other corners of the gaming world, no one company has seen as many reports leveled by and against its own people as Ubisoft, the multinational video game publisher behind Assassin’s CreedFar Cry, and Rainbow Six Siege.

In an interview with Kotaku, the woman who says one of Ubisoft’s co-founders, Maxime Béland, “jokingly” put his hands around her neck at a party shared not just an account of a disturbing incident but of a structure and culture that she said made her hesitate to report it. “You’re conditioned to feel like you’re lucky to be there,” she said of her time at Ubisoft”… continue reading article, here.

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Are We Ready to Say Goodbye to MAD Magazine?

Boris Johnson as Alfred E. Neuman.

Without any prompting, as natural as can be, Der Spiegel has instantly compared Boris Johnson to Alfred E. Neuman! Europe remains supportive and hip to MAD Magazine. But what about the United States, where Alfred was born? The lights will soon go out on the print run of MAD Magazine as we’ve known it since 1952. No more ongoing original work after that. Everything is being shuttered, closed down. The only thing left will be a perpetual showcase of archived items left to fill the void. Presumably, the archived edition will sputter out in print after a while. Although the official line goes like this: DC Comics, which publishes the magazine, told ABC News in a statement: “After issue #10 this fall there will no longer be new content – except for the end of year specials which will always be new. So starting with issue #11, the magazine will feature classic, best of and nostalgic content from the last 67 years.” That’s something but it pales in comparison. In the long run, perhaps the end result will be back issues living on forever on the web gathering virtual dust. Of course, MAD Magazine will live on in the memories of its devoted fans. What a sad, sad, sad state of affairs. Does Warner Bros. have such little regard and respect for such a time-honored satirical publication? Well, it doesn’t quite fit into someone’s bottom line. It’s a shame to think that Alfred E. Neuman will gradually fade away as a pop culture icon. Perhaps there’s a chance for MAD Magazine to be saved. It happened with Newsweek. Anyway, the Boris Johnson cover of Der Spiegel speaks volumes.

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Filed under Europe, MAD magazine, Magazines, pop culture, Satire

4th of July: Top Ten List of What Has the Power to Unite the USA

Fireworks on July 4th, at Gasworks Park; People recording fireworks on cell phones; Space Needle in background, Seattle, Washington State, USA

Let’s start off with some music fun facts: Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” is one of the biggest songs of 2019, sitting on top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six straight weeks as of May 13. If you’re looking for an example of the power of pop culture and music, then this is it. The Billy Ray Cyrus-featuring remix also holds five of the top seven spots on Billboard’s list of the biggest streaming weeks in the publication’s history.

Don’t underestimate the power of that which can unite and that which we share in common. We all want family, friends and community, right? We all want good health. We all want to be inspired. So, here’s a list of that which can unite us and that which most, if not all of us, have in common one way or another as the USA celebrates the 4th of July in 2019:

  • Plants: Trending now in a big way are plants! Opening a boutique shop? Consider plants. Plants have become the new hot item to post on your Instagram.
  • Gardening: Right along with plants, think gardening. The farm to table movement has taken root all over by now!
  • Pets: Pets are beloved in the USA. Movies have been dedicated to pets. People carry them in baby carriages and dress them up in outfits. You can’t walk for long without spotting a dog and human strolling together.
  • Family: Blood is thicker than water, as they say, and there are all kinds of family. Office family. Step-family. Bi-racial family. Adopted family. You need your family!
  • Health and Fitness: Cross-Fit. Vegan. Carnivore. Weight Watchers. Noom. Fitbit. Paleo. Keto. Watch your step and buyer beware. But, whatever you do, stay active!
  • Pizza: Dominos. Grocery store bought. Wood-fired. But let’s get serious, you really want a New York slice!
  • Comics: Now, more than ever, comics has the power to entertain, to inform, to be inclusive and to inspire. Beyond the superhero genre, comics can take on any subject in a variety of formats and styles.
  • Movies: No doubt, we all have of favorites. Superhero movies are still going strong and, if the trend holds out, there is still much more to explore. The actual comics, ironically, are not nearly as popular.
  • Home Entertainment: Netflix. Hulu. Amazon. HBO. There’s a lifetime of new entertainment no further away than your couch and, in 2019, we’re still in a golden age.
  • Music: We round it out with perhaps the best way to unite people: the power of music! Yes, music can help create goodwill and send you soaring to new heights.

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Filed under Entertainment, Lists, Music, pop culture

Interview: Jonathan Hill and UNVERSED COMICS

Unversed Comics is absolutely a beautiful showcase of comics talent on the rise. It was an honor to get to chat with the leading force behind this anthology, cartoonist Jonathan Hill. Be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign in support of the third and final edition of Unversed Comics, which ends on June 7, 2019, right here.

Postscript is the third and final book in the Unversed series, following the success of the original book Unversed and its sequel, No Refunds. It is a two-color, softcover comics anthology featuring 12 new artists from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, as well as 27 new and returning contributors from within the Unversed community.

Visit Kickstarter before this campaign reaches its own postscript and ends on June 7th!

 

 

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Filed under Alt-Comics, Alternative Comics, Comics, Jonathan Hill, Kickstarter, Pacific Northwest College of Art, PNCA, pop culture, Portland, Unversed Comics

Emerald City Comic Con 2019: Dark Horse Comics Announces Schedule

Stranger Things #1 Convention Exclusive cover by Kyle Lambert

And we’re off and running with ECCC News! If you’re in Seattle and love comics, then you’ll be at Emerald City Comic Con, March 14-17, 2019. For all you Dark Horse Comics fans, have you heard….Dark Horse Comics Stranger Things #1 Convention Exclusive cover by Kyle Lambert is debuting at ECCC! Get your hands on one of these at the Dark Horse booth (#2208) or the Official ECCC Store while supplies last! Check out more ECCC Exclusives http://fal.cn/i92Q

And here’s your Dark Horse schedule of ECCC events…

Press Release:

Visit Dark Horse Comics at Booth #2208 during Emerald City Comic Con to meet some of your favorite creators and get your hands on some free swag, such as comics, pins, posters, and more! Get colorin’ on our communal coloring wall! The wall will feature pages from the #DHColors Coloring Book line! Canvases will vary throughout the weekend but include pages from Steven Universe Coloring Book Volume 1, The Legend of Korra Coloring Book, Avatar: The Last Airbender Coloring Book, Jurassic Park Coloring Book, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Coloring Book.

Dark Horse Direct will have a display with exciting upcoming products in the Dark Horse booth. Check it out after your favorite signing!

Special appearance in the Dark Horse booth from our friends at Happymatic Photo Booth! Come by with your friends or in cosplay and get your picture taken as a souvenir – for FREE!

We’ll also have a variety of Dark Horse comics, graphic novels, art books, and collectibles for sale in our booth.

Check out our signings and panels, too!

DARK HORSE ECCC 2019 SIGNING SCHEDULE

All creators signing in our booth offer their autographs for FREE. FREE prints, comics, or posters are provided for most of our signings (while supplies last). You may purchase or bring items to be signed; however, we may restrict the type or number of items to be signed as necessary.

Lines may also be closed for some signings due to crowding or time restrictions.

All events are subject to change. Some restrictions apply. Please see Dark Horse Comics staff if you have questions.

THURSDAY, MARCH 14

11:00 AM-11:50 AM:

ALIENS VS PREDATOR, PREDATOR: Brian Albert Thies

12:00 PM-12:50 PM:

TOMB RAIDER, TOMB RAIDER: INFERNO: Phillip Sevy

1:00 PM-1:50 PM:

WILLIAM GIBSON’S ALIEN 3, ANGEL CATBIRD: Tamra Bonvillain

STARCRAFT: SOLDIERS: Andrew R. Robinson

2:00 PM-2:50 PM:

LIFEFORMED: CLEO MAKES CONTACT, EXTRAORDINARY: A STORY OF AN ORDINARY PRINCESS: Cassie Anderson

3:00 PM-3:50 PM:

EMPOWERED: Adam Warren

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: Todd Nauck

4:00 PM-4:50 PM:

PROS AND (COMIC) CONS, SECRET LOVES OF GEEKS, SECRET LOVES OF GEEK GIRLS: Hope Nicholson, Amanda Deibert, Megan Kearney, Tia Vasilou, Vita Ayala, Valentine de Landro

5:00 PM-5:50 PM:

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN: Benjamin Dewey

FRIDAY, MARCH 15

11:00 AM-11:50 AM:

CRIMSON LOTUS: Mindy Lee

JOE GOLEM: OCCULT DETECTIVE: Patric Reynolds

12:00 PM-12:50 PM:

ROCKET ROBINSON AND THE SECRET OF THE SAINT: Sean O’Neill

1:00 PM-1:50 PM:

GOD OF WAR: Tony Parker, Chris Roberson

HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D.: 1956: Chris Roberson

2:00 PM-2:50 PM:

CALAMITY KATE: Magdalene Visaggio, Corin Howell

THE GIRL IN THE BAY: Corin Howell

3:00 PM-3:50 PM:

MATA HARI: Ariela Kristantina

LAGUARDIA: Tana Ford

4:00 PM-4:50 PM:

BERSERKER UNBOUND: Mike Deodato

GRENDEL: Matt Wagner

5:00 PM-5:50 PM:

STRANGER THINGS, STARCRAFT, PROJECT TBA: Jody Houser

SATURDAY, MARCH 16

11:00 AM-5:00 PM:

FIGHT CLUB 3, BAIT: Chuck Palahniuk

5:30 PM-6:30 PM:

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION: Nick Filardi

SUNDAY, MARCH 17

11:00 AM-11:50 AM:

BANDETTE: Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover

PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES: Paul Tobin, Ron Chan

THE WITCHER, COLDER: Paul Tobin

12:00 PM-12:50 PM:

MINECRAFT VOLUME ONE: Sarah Graley, Sfé R. Monster

1:00 PM-1:50 PM:

THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN: Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride

2:00 PM-2:50 PM:

DISNEY RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: CLICK START–A SELECT-YOUR-STORY ADVENTURE: Amy Mebberson

3:00 PM-3:50 PM:

MYSTICONS: Megan Levens

DARK HORSE ECCC 2019 PANEL SCHEDULE

Please join us at the panels below, brought to you by Dark Horse Comics and friends! Please visit this link for more panels featuring Dark Horse creators and guidelines for attending panels.

THURSDAY, MARCH 14

Artists Who Write: The Craft and Creation of Comics
12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
TCC L3-R3
Panelists: Tana Ford, Adam Warren, Matt Wagner, Cassie Anderson

Many comics creators possess a diverse skill set that they’ve used to carefully hone their craft of sequential storytelling. Join Dark Horse and a panel of creators as they discuss turning an idea into a full-fledged story, and how they continue to keep their art and writing fresh.

Marketing Your Own Comics Without Being a Nuisance
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
TCC L3-R1
Panelists: Melissa Meszaros, Cara O’Neil, D.J. Kirkland, Daniel Barnes, Sarah Graley, Paul Tobin, Greg Smith, Anne Smith

The key to success in comics is knowing you are the direct line to your fans—but how do you shamelessly promote your work without going overboard? Join marketing teams from Oni Press and Dark Horse Comics, with a handful of successful self-made comics creators to learn the best social media and marketing tactics for your self-published comics.

FRIDAY, MARCH 15

Peeling Back the Layers: The Process of Bringing a Comic to Life
11:15 AM – 12:15 PM
TCC L3-R4
Panelists: Tamra Bonvillain, Tony Parker, Magdalene Visaggio

It takes a team of talented individuals to bring a comic book to life. Join Dark Horse and a panel of writers, artists, colorists, and letterers whose creativity and hard work produce the best comics on the shelves. Dark Horse would like to peel back the layers on the work of comics’ unsung heroes and celebrate their contributions to our beloved art form.

SATURDAY, MARCH 16

Stranger Things Publishing
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
WSCC 611
Panelists: Elizabeth Schaefer, Spencer Cushing, Jody Houser, Ibrahim Moustafa

The story of Stranger Things continues in the official books and comics! Join editors from Dark Horse and Del Rey Books, along with author Gwenda Bond (Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds), writer Jody Houser (Stranger Things comics), and artist Ibrahim Moustafa (Stranger Things Free Comic Book Day comic) as they explore the further adventures of our favorite characters from Hawkins, IN.

Dark Horse Manga
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
TCC L3-R1
Panelist: Carl Horn

Dark Horse’s history with Japanese comics can be traced back to the company’s earliest years, with a legacy that includes such legendary series as Lone Wolf & Cub, Berserk, and many more! Now, Dark Horse continues to publish some of the industry’s best-selling titles, like Mob Psycho 100, Unofficial Hatsune Mix, I Am a Hero, Danganronpa, Blade of the Immortal, Cardcaptor Sakura, and many more! Join Dark Horse Editor Carl Horn for a look at the past, present, and future of manga at Dark Horse!

SUNDAY, MARCH 17

Growing Up With Comics: Introducing Younger Readers to Graphic Storytelling
10:45 AM – 11:45 AM
TCC L3-R1
Panelists: Sean O’Neill, Sfé Monster, Sarah Graley

Comics are a great way to get kids interested in art, reading, and storytelling—and, well, they’re fun! Join Dark Horse comics creators to discover and discuss the ever-growing library of incredible all-ages comics!

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Filed under Comics, Dark Horse Comics, ECCC, Emerald City Comic Con, Netflix, pop culture, Seattle, Stranger Things

GEORGE’S RUN: The Webcomic on George Clayton Johnson, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and Logan’s Run!

George Clayton Johnson’s Cafe Frankenstein

Twilight Zone. Star Trek. Logan’s Run. George Clayton Johnson was a big part of it all. This is his story. Welcome to GEORGE’S RUN, my tribute to the legendary storyteller.

I created a graphic novel all about George, his work, and his times. There was no clear destination in mind other than it needed to be done. I foresee a printed book in one form or another at some point. For now, I roll out a webcomic. A work of alternative comics such as this can definitely benefit from going through the webcomic process even if it receives little obvious fanfare in that state. This is a rather strange and quirky tale as much a story as a story about stories. These pages will further reward upon a second and third contextual reading, I believe, what with the observational bits, factoids, and unexpected detours. All the more reason to see this inevitably in a proper book format.

For those familiar with what I’ve been up to here at Comics Grinder, you’ll appreciate that this announcement is a pretty big deal. That graphic novel project I’ve been referring to all of you is finally making its way into the world as a webcomic. I have loaded up some pages to kick things off and will continue to update accordingly. I will do my best to keep to a weekly schedule. The plan is to update the site every Wednesday. You can find updates here at Comics Grinder as well as enjoy the distinctive webcomic experience at the George’s Run website right here.

It all began with my podcast interviews. You can check out some of my conversations with George over here and over here. I concluded that George’s life story had to be turned into a graphic novel and I’m just the guy to do it!

George Clayton Johnson

If you are a fan of pop culture in any form, this is for you. If you enjoy a fun and quirky tale, this is for you. The best thing is that no prior knowledge is required. You don’t have to know anything about science fiction or the golden age of television or how writers sometimes work together to spin tales like magical little elves.

Prepare to embark upon a journey with a wizard storyteller into the mysterious past and onward into the marvelous future.

George keeps on running!

Okay, that’s my pitch. I know many of you out there are cheering me on. Do drop by and visit the George’s Run webcomic and just say hello. As always, I will keep you posted on the progress of this very special project as it evolves as a webcomic and ultimately finds its way into print. You know, this is something of an open letter to anyone interested in seeing where we can go with a book. Any literary agent or publisher is welcome to contact me. That said, self-publishing has evolved to such great prominence and tangible clout. The bottom line is that, like a film, a novel, a poem, whatever it is, there’s something about being able to take in a work as a whole so I’m excited about seeing this through and ultimately having a book version. Thanks for your support and I’ll continue to do my best.

 

 

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Filed under Comics, George Clayton Johnson, graphic novels, Logan's Run, pop culture, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, Webcomics

Review: THE BEATLES IN COMICS, published by NBM Graphic Novels

THE BEATLES IN COMICS, published by NBM Graphic Novels

We all have our favorite Beatles story or moment. There are so many to choose from: Ed Sullivan, the Maharishi, Yoko Ono, and so on. The Beatles in Comics, a new anthology from NBM Graphic Novels, does a wonderful job of sorting out fact from fiction and proves to make a great Beatles keepsake. You can see it as an ultimate scrapbook as it’s everything a Beatles fan would want to include in a tribute and then some.

From “Scrambled Eggs” to “Yesterday”

There are so many iconic landmarks along the way. Take, for example, the story behind one Beatles pivotal song, “Yesterday.” Paul McCartney says that he had a dream that gave him the melody. It was only much later, about a year or so, that he finally gave it lyrics. Until then, it went by the name, “Scrambled Eggs.”

The Beatles meet the Maharishi

Another example is the famous trip to India to confer with the Maharishi. This portion of the book is a prime example of how each segment is built up: some introductory notes, some actual photos and reference material, and then the comics. Each section has a different cartoonist at the helm. The whole volume is utterly remarkable in how it seems to effortlessly manage to substantially cover everything from the band’s initial formation all the way to their inevitable breakup.

The Beatles in Comics is a 224-page full color hardcover published by NBM Graphic Novels.

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Filed under Comics, graphic novels, NBM Publishing, pop culture, The Beatles, The Sixties