Graphic Novel Review: Baby’s in Black by Arne Bellstorf

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Baby’s in Black by Arne Bellstorf
Series: N/A
Published by First Second on October 1, 2010
Genres: Graphic Novel, Music, Nonfiction
Pages: 208 : Hardcover edition
Source: Checked out from my local library
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A fascinating, exhilarating portrait of the Beatles in their early years.

Meet the Beatles . . . right at the beginning of their careers. This gorgeous, high-energy graphic novel is an intimate peek into the early years of the world’s greatest rock band.

The heart of Baby’s In Black is a love story. The “fifth Beatle,” Stuart Sutcliffe, falls in love with the beautiful Astrid Kirchherr when she recruits the Beatles for a sensational (and famous) photography session during their time in Hamburg. When the band returns to the UK, Sutcliffe quits, becomes engaged to Kirchherr, and stays in Hamburg. A year later, his meteoric career as a modern artist is cut short when he dies unexpectedly.

The book ends as it begins, with Astrid, alone and adrift; but with a note of hope: her life is incomparably richer and more directed thanks to her friendship with the Beatles and her love affair with Sutcliffe. This tender story is rendered in lush, romantic black-and-white artwork.

Baby’s In Black is based on a true story.

If you follow me on Tumblr or Twitter, or have had the misfortune of interacting with me on any social capacity, then you know I have an obsession with this little band called The Beatles (sorry by the way to all the people I’ve tried to push their music on).

Anyways, when I found this little graphic novel about Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe (he was the original Beatles bass player and Astrid was his fiancee/the one who inspired a lot of the Beatles’ early looks and a kick ass photographer) and nearly screamed. This graphic novel felt like a split between Persepolis and Maus, though obviously with a much less serious topic.

I really enjoy these types of graphic novels where the art is more sketch based with some ink in there for contrast/depth. They’re easy to read and especially for an era like this where all the photographs were in black and white it read as if I were diving into a photo from that time period and taking a peek at their lives.

The real question here is: should you read this if you’re not a Beatle fan? Maybe. If you’re a die-hard, overly obsessed Apple scruff like me, then absolutely pick this up. I finished it in about half an hour and was laughing and saying “aww” through the whole thing. Even if you’re a casual fan it’s a good read about the early “Teddy Boy” years when Ringo wasn’t even in the band and there were 5 “Silver Beetles”. But if you’re not a huge fan (what is wrong with you) then I’d say perhaps give this one a pass.

You know, despite having no artistic or musical inclinations, I often want to chop off all my hair like Astrid and wear dark eyeliner, and go to little clubs to listen to rock and roll bands. Sigh, guess that’s a by product of me not being born in the right time period. Darn it.

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