Monday, October 23, 2006

Beatles Comic Books

I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that despite them being the greatest musical group of all time... They're not? Ok, who said that?! I'd like to meet you outside...

Anyway, as I was saying, despite the respect they have, The Beatles have appeared in precious few comic books. I should know, I own them all except one. Granted, part of the appeal of The Beatles is their songs, and you can't hear a song on a printed page, but I am amazed at how few comic books were produced over the years.

I'm not talking about guest appearances in "Archie's Madhouse" or "Howard the Duck", I mean honest full-fledged comic books about the group. The first book (and the one I don't currently own) is Dell's "The Beatles Story". Issued in 1964, it talks about the group's then current meteoric rise to fame. I have seen this at conventions and prices vary widely. Overstreet currently clocks it in at $760 in mint, but I have seen it higher. I'm surprised no one has been able to secure the rights to reprint this volume. Anyway, the price alone has kept me from purchasing this book.

The next Beatles related comic book apart from a smattering of guest appearances is the Gold Key "Yellow Submarine" adaptation. Amazingly, there were no comic book adaptations for The Beatles' other films including "A Hard Day's Night", "Help!" and "Magical Mystery Tour". "Help!" especially would have made a fine comic book. Perhaps because Harvey Kurtzman was publishing a humor magazine with the same name at the time might have hindered an adaptation, but magazines like "16" and "Tiger Beat" had issues devoted to the film, so who knows?

Also, "The Beatles" Saturday morning cartoon show debuted on September 25, 1965 on American TV and no comic book tie-in was ever released during or after the show's original run. Even today it would be a fun comic book to have with those character designs, but now you have to go through Apple to secure the rights and McCartney, Starr, and the estates of Harrison and Lennon are probably not interested or are too cost prohibitive.

After "Yellow Submarine", the next foray into comic books was Marvel's "Marvel Comics Super Special" #4 from 1978, subtitled "The Beatles Story". This is probably the best comic book adaptation to date of The Beatles history through 1978. Somewhat dated now, it is a fine example of the hope we used to have of a Beatles reunion. Of course the events of 1980 and 2001 have ended that fantasy, but at the time, the possibilities were still there.

1991 saw Revolutionary Comics' eight issue "Beatles Experience" series. While good, it suffers from every Beatles comic book history, stilted dialogue and incorrect facts and ok artwork. As there has never been a comic book adaptation of The Beatles story since they did their "Anthology" series, a new comic book history seems to be in order, but this is the best we've got.

And that's it. In 1998, Dark Horse was to have issued a new adaptation of "Yellow Submarine" in comic book form that was supposed to be truer to the film than the Gold Key version, but it was George Harrison of all people who vetoed the idea. The was probably due to the comic book company issuing it being the same name as Harrison's longtime solo record label, in addition to him not liking the final result. In any case, this would be a fine book to issue, if the rights could be cleared.

As a footnote, there was an ongoing comic book series I found in Mexico once called "Quien Fue...John Lennon?" (or "Who Was...John Lennon?") It seemed to be telling The Beatles story in an endless almost soap opera like way. I bought a few issues back in the late 80s and have no idea if it's still being published. It's all in Spanish. 

It would be neat if someone could get the rights to publish a Beatles comic book series and draw it in the style of the 60s TV series or like "Yellow Submarine". McCartney is a huge comic book fan as witnessed by then-current DC comics on the easel of his electric organ in "Help!" and the fact that he issued a song called "Magneto and Titanium Man" in 1975. Lennon also was a fan evidenced by the "So Captain Marbles (sic) zapped him right between the eyes" line in "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" song from "The Beatles" (White Album). Starr has done numerous cartoon voices and narrations over the years, as has McCartney, and McCartney, Harrison and Starr all took individual turns voicing themselves on "The Simpsons" (something Lennon surely would have done as well, had he lived).

So anyone reading this, if you have the power to publish and get royalty clearances, I would definitely purchase a regularly-published Beatles comic book series! A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Regards,
MARK ARNOLD
Fun Ideas Productions - P. O. Box 2616 - Saratoga, CA 95070
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3 comments:

Luke said...

HI there, I collect Beatles comics too. My website is www.beatlescomics.com

You may be interested in seeing the comics I have in my collection at the moment. In particular you may be surprised to see that I have 2 different versions of marvel super special 7 which is not listed in Overstreet as it was withdrawn from US distribution. I have an audio link of George Perez saying that it is "The rarest piece of George Perez printed artwork you can find"
Feel free to contact me at lukeloop@gmail.com if you have any questions.

tamara said...

I have 17 quien fue... John Lennon comic books and am wondering if you know if they are worth anything?

Mark Arnold said...

I don't know. A few bucks, maybe.