The Fifth Beatle: Brian Epstein Story

By Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, Kyle Baker & various (M-Press/Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-835-2

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Picture Story that truly Sings… 10/10

Graphic biographies are all the rage at the moment and this one – multi-award winning and originally released in 2013 – is probably one of the best and the most likely to reach a large mainstream audience. It certainly deserves to…

Written by Broadway Producer and author Vivek J. Tiwary and playfully illustrated by Andrew C. Robinson (Dr Blink: Super Hero Shrink, Dusty Star, JLA) – with additional material by Kyle Baker – it traces the meteoric rise of impresario Brian Epstein, who pretty much invented the role and function of modern management as he steered The Beatles from scruffy oiks playing dingy clubs and caverns to fabulous wealth and global mega-stardom in less than a decade.

The story is a pretty tragic one as Gay, Jewish record shop manager Epstein steered a trailblazing course for his charges at a time when his religion still provoked derision and prejudice and his sex life got him beaten up and threatened with prison.

In a deliciously light, enthusiastically joyous and smoothly welcoming manner this tale follows the Fab Four’s rise, as orchestrated by a man who dressed them and schooled them; sorting out tours and merchandise, toys and cartoon shows at a time when such crucial ephemera had never been seen before. He especially ensured that they got most of the money they earned…

Epstein was no one-trick wonder, but managed other star acts such as Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer (who provides loving Introduction ‘When I Got a Call From Brian, That’s When I Grew Wings’) and genuinely cared that his boys were left alone to make the music he loved…

If you know your history you know this tale is a proper injustice-laced tear-jerker without a happy ending, but Tiwary and Robinson – with Kyle Baker lending a superb animation-style meta-reality to the Beatles catastrophic visit to the Philippines – keep the spirits high without losing any of the edge, impact or inherent tragedies and indignities Epstein endured to succeed.

Brian Samuel Epstein first saw the Beatles perform in 1961 and by the time he died in August 1967 – of an overdose of sleeping pills – had seen them conquer the world in terms of sales and change the nature of music with the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. He was 32.

How the world and the music industry have gradually made amends and returned him to the history he has for so long been excised from is covered in the author’s thought-provoking Afterword ‘This Feeling That Remains…’, and reiterated by pioneering cartoonist Howard Cruse in a feature on LGBTQ advocacy organisation Freedom for All Americans.

Also adding to the massive enjoyment is copious sketch and commentary section ‘With a Little Help from my Sketchbook: a Ticket to Ride to Selected Drawings, Preliminaries, Designs, and More’ by Robinson. offering insights and creative commentary plus more of the same from Kyle Baker in ‘The Places I Remember’.

Wrapping up festivities are a batch of features by Tiwary: ‘The Birth of the Beatles and Impossible Dreams’, ‘The Curtain Rising: Brian Epstein’s Induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’ and a memorabilia fan’s dream as ‘The Past Was Yours, But the Future’s Mine’ shares ticket stubs, posters, greetings card and other unique snippets of pop history.

This is an astoundingly readable and beautifully rendered treasure for comics and music fans alike: one that will resonate for all the right reasons with anybody who loves to listen and look.
Text and illustrations of The Fifth Beatle: Brian Epstein Story Expanded Edition © 2013, 2016 Tiwary Entertainment Group Ltd. All rights reserved.