In this feature, I ask comic creators that I like a lot to recommend a great comic that they'd like to see spotlighted. They pick the comic and then I write a review of the comic (of course, this runs the risk of them picking a comic that I don't like, but there's so many great comics out there to pick from that I find it hard to believe that that will ever actually happen).
Today's creator is Russell Dauterman. Coming to comics after working as both a children's book illustrator and as costume design illustrator for films like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Captain America: The First Avenger, Dauterman drew both volumes of Grace Randolph's Supurbia series and after short stints on Nightwing and Cyclops, his stunning artwork is getting a great showcase in the current Thor series with writer Jason Aaron. He's very quickly become one of Marvel's star artists. The book Russell chose for me to spotlight this week is The Fifth Beatle by Vivek Tiwary and Andrew Robinson (with one segment drawn by Kyle Baker).
IF you're a longtime reader of this blog, you might have seen me mention a number of times how much I love Andrew Robinson's artwork. His sense of design is almost unlike any other artist working in comics today. In addition, his particular approach to painted work is unusual but very striking - it's almost like there are two artists present, the way that, say, Doug Braithwaite looks when Ales Ross paints over his pencils, but in Robinson's case, it is just him alone achieving the effect through digital artistry - it is more like mixed media than anything else. It reminds me a lot of the creative energy of Jack Kirby (everyone knows of Kirby's love for collage - imagine if Kirby had PHOTOSHOP?!? Holy crap!). Plus, when I mention design, I mostly meant character design, but Robinson has a key eye for PAGE design, as well - his layouts are striking. He is one of the top artists out there when it comes to the use of space. His sequentials are good, also. The one problem I have always had as an Andrew Robinson fan is that there is never enough Andrew Robinson for me to read! As he will gladly tell you himself, he is not the fastest artist, which is why he is mostly a cover artist. So when he drew a 120 plus page graphic novel (Kyle Baker drew roughly 6 or 7 pages of the 128 page book), I was pumped.
Robinson does not disappoint in this great examination of the life of the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein. Vivek Tiwary heavily researched the fascinating life of Epstein, who had to deal with a multitude of personal demons like depression as well as alcohol and drug addiction, all on top of living the double whammy of being both gay and Jewish in 1960s Britain (where homosexuality was a crime until a month AFTER Epstein passed away at the age of 32 from a deadly combination of sleeping pills and alcohol).
Tiwary plotted the story out wonderfully, as he treats it more like a long dream than anything, which is especially nice because it allows Robinson to cut loose on designing the book. This allows Tiwary to hit all the factual aspects of Epstein's life, which, as I noted before, are quite fascinating but without having to stick to some strict interpretation (like he doesn't go into strict details about the various Beatle contracts or even the departure of Pete Best - this is a general look at how Epstein viewed his life, not a blow-by-blow accounting of his life).
Here is how they depict Epstein first seeing the Beatles perform...
The matador theme is repeated throughout the book.
This is a fun example of what apparently was really how the Beatles first met with Epstein to discuss him being their manager. Apparently those were the actual jokes they made at the time...
Check out how Epstein had to try to medically deal with being gay...so messed up...
When you see how Epstein medicated himself and his mental issues, it is awful to think about how an even slightly more tolerant society would have likely literally SAVED THIS MAN'S LIFE. So sad.
One thing I was a bit less enthused with was all the knowing winks and nods throughout the book by Tiwary. In small doses, they can be clever, but there seemed to be an awful lot of them and some of them were more than a bit much (like Lennon making a comment after Ringo suggests that it might be dangerous for them in America after President Kennedy was assassinated, "We're not the person with the bombs and the guns! We're just a band. Worlds don't turn on what we do or say.").
There are times when you would think that the book might get eye strain from all the winks.
But good golly, Miss Molly, does Robinson draw the hell out of this book...
The life of Brian Epstein is well worth reading about and Tiwary covers his life and his tragedies well and, of course, the art is just outstanding (Kyle Baker's segment of the book is on the Beatles' disastrous trip to the Philippines - it is typical Baker awesomeness). If you're either interested in the Beatles, the treatment of gay people in the 1960s or looking at great artwork, this book is for you.