Written by Vivek J. Tiwary
Art by Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker
I've never been a big Beatles fan, largely because to me, it's the music of commercials and montages in comedy movies. That said, I'm always interested in serious graphic novels that examine periods of history, and so I thought it would be good to check The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story out.
Brian Epstein was the Beatles' manager, 'discovering' them in a small bar in Liverpool, and using his industry connections (he managed a large music store) to get them started on the road to superstardom. This book is his story, mostly focusing on how he balanced his ambition, his hidden homosexuality, and his abuse of prescription medication.
Vivek Tiwary, the writer of this book, is incredibly knowledgeable about the Beatles, and does a great job of keeping Epstein squarely in the middle of this story, resisting the urge to make it be about the members of the band, who largely remain interchangeable and lost in the background, aside from Paul McCartney, who seems to have had a stronger connection with Epstein than the rest did.
Andrew Robinson is one of those artists who I always feel deserve a lot more renown than they get. He excels at this kind of character-driven story, while also evoking the era beautifully. The Kyle Baker segment is a cartoonish look at the band's adventures in the Philippines while on tour, and I felt that it kind of disrupted the flow of the whole story.
As a whole, this is a very sensitive and understanding look at the life of a man whose work is remembered much more than his name, and who had to live secretly and unhappily in order to achieve his goals. It's sad, but also triumphant.