RETRO REVIEW: The Fifth Beatle

Happy New Year everyone!  I’m back with a new RETRO REVIEW!  And it’s a little different this time.  What’s that?  Well, my review isn’t really a comic book and it’s not that retro (i.e. old)!  But I still feel it qualifies, so there!  I first discovered this book, or if you’d rather call it a graphic novel, then so be it, in November of last year (i.e. 2013), when it was newly published by M Press, a division of Dark Horse Comics!  And it combines two of my all time favorite things; comic books and the Beatles!  So I quickly scooped up the hardcover book and gladly paid over my hard earned cash.  And here’s my review:

The Fifth Beatle, The Brian Epstein Story

The book is lovingly written by author, Vivek J. Tiwary.  The beautiful artwork is supplied by artist, Andrew C. Robinson, with a little help on a small sequence provided by Kyle Baker.  Tiwary has researched the life of Brian Epstein and has brought his story to all of us within these pages.  And the artwork is truly wonderful illustrated by Misters Robinson and Baker!

Most everyone knows the story of the Beatles, or at least part of their story, even if you’re not a big fan.  But a lot of you may not be aware of the story of their manager, Brian Epstein!  Well, here’s your chance and one you don’t want to miss!  Brian Epstein was the man who guided the Beatles to stardom!  Simple as that!  Would they have got there anyway?  Maybe?  But then again, maybe not!

He took four rough and tumble Liverpool lads and cleaned up their act and brought them to the public’s eye, all across the world! And soon they became superstars, in the music business and they made their mark, not only on England, but the whole world! Under his leadership, Beatlemania was born!  And “his lads” became beloved across the globe!

But his is a tragic story, as well.  A man, like any other man, with his own set of problems.  He was gay when it was not popular, or even safe, to be gay.  In a Country were just being gay, was considered illegal!  Yet that fact did not define him, though it certainly played a part in his happiness/unhappiness and may have even led to his death from an accidental drug overdose.

Many people have been called the fifth Beatle; Pete Best, their original drummer for example, and Murray the K, an American Disc Jockey who sang the Beatles early praises.  But I agree totally with Vivek Tiwary, Brian Epstein was the true fifth Beatle! Here’s the striking cover:

The Fifth Beatle Front Cover


The full wrap-around image is very striking, so I’m also providing that, as well:

Fifth Beatle Wrap-around Cover

Retro Review

The book opens in a monochromatic color scheme.  It shows a little what Brian Epstein’s private life is like and also gives us a look at his job, managing the family’s NEMS record store.  And it’s there that kids start asking for a record by some group called the Beatles, that he’s never heard of.  Actually it’s “My Bonnie” by Tony Sheridan, with the Beatles backing him!  He says it’s the store’s policy to “locate any record for any customer”, so he requests his employee, Moxie, to order the record.

It’s also Moxie, who explains who the Beatles are to Brian and suggests he go see them in person.  So he does and upon seeing them, his monochromatic world explodes into technicolor!  The way Robinson handles this reminds me of Dorothy’s black and white world turning to color in the wonderful Wizard Of Oz movie!  It’s a striking change and very effective!

Tiwary shows us Epsteins sophistication versus the individual Beatles down to earthness.  But he promises them success if they adapt to his suggestions and direction.  And though hesitant, they agree and four leather clad “hoodlums are transformed to a well dressed, matching suit wearing band.  And with this simple change they become acceptable to adults, as well as, the teenagers who already adore them and their music!

Tiwary also gives us a glimpse into the darker side of Epstein and his use of prescription drugs, by showing scenes from his past, alongside scenes from his and the Beatles’s present!  The book celebrates Epstein’s, and the Beatles’ successes, but then brings the readers back down to earth with the sadness of Epstein’s death and the effect it had on the Beatles, “his lads”!

Like life, it’s a rollercoaster ride, and one I highly recommend!  If you love the comic book medium and you love the Beatles, then you must own this book!  Tiwary has done his homework and tells a compelling story.  Sure it’s about Brian Epstein, not the Beatles, but they are lovely depicted throughout by Robinson and the situation in the Philippines is handled in Baker’s cartoony style, that works very well.

You won’t be sorry that you spent your hard earned cash on this book!  I haven’t given any numerical numbers on any of my recent reviews, but I would definitely give this five out of five guitars. or stars, or whatever!  You need to own this book!

Brian Epstein & The Beatles

And since the book is about Brian Epstein and the Beatles I think it only fair to leave you with a couple of pictures of said gentlemen:

Brian Epstein

Brian Epstein

And here’s a picture of Brian and “his lads”, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon:

Brian Epstein & the Beatles

Brian Epstein & the Beatles




About Greg Turner

Greg Turner (@gregturner16) is Back to the Past’s archivist and an auctioneer. He writes the columns “Fabulous Finds” and “Retro Reviews” on alternating weeks for the website and spins classic 45′s each week for Vinyl Tuesdays.

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