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Comic Review: The Beatles Yellow Submarine By Bill Morrison
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The Beatles Yellow Submarine graphic novel banner

The Beatles Yellow Submarine
Hardcover | Kindle
Written and illustrated by Bill Morrison
Inks by Andrew Pepoy
Colors by Nathan Kane
Lettering by Aditya Bidikar
Titan Comics
Release date: August 28, 2018

Yellow Submarine, the animated, trippy, visually eclectic and highly memorable film which starred The Beatles and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has been given the graphic novel treatment, and it’s a fun and colorful whimsical ride on paper as much its film counterpart.

Written and illustrated by Bill Morrison, founder of Bongo Comics, well known for its Simpsons adaptations, The Beatles Yellow Submarine takes the best elements of the original cinematic release and adds a vibrancy and clearly long-rooted passion for the intrinsic subject matter.

Upon its 1968 release, Yellow Submarine was originally considered a sort of contractual obligation, as The Beatles owed United Artists one more film. They had already sufficed the deal with the live-action releases A Hard Day’s Night and Help. For the third release, it was agreed upon to make an animated feature, which took the psychedelic milieu that was prevalent during the Beatles’ tenure at that time, which began with the albums Revolver and crystallized with Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour. Faith in the animated feature was relatively low; Al Brodax, who was instrumental in bringing The Beatles to Saturday Morning TV during the mid 1960s, was also brought on to helm Yellow Submarine. The Beatles themselves regrettably underestimated the power and value of the theatrical animated project and didn’t even lend their voices to the production, instead using soundalikes, (some of whom voiced their characters on the ABC Saturday morning cartoon) and only relegated themselves to a memorable albeit short live-action appearance at the very end of the film.

In the years and decades that followed, the Yellow Submarine film has become a steadily important benchmark in the Fab Four’s career, and is definitely a high level signpost in their storied history. Currently in the 21st century, there has been scores of pop cultural minutiae released for consumers, everything from t-shirts and hats, stationery and posters, even a semi-recently released LEGO set, all adorning the colorful patchwork of the characters and the narrative that made up Yellow Submarine.

And now, there is this authorized release, a graphic novel from publisher Titan Comics, written and illustrated by Mr. Morrison, which serves a few purposes right off the outset to the die-hard faithful Beatlephiles, but also provides a nice introduction to the film itself for many latest generational Beatles newbies. Taking the best visuals and storyboards from the film, but integrating it into a highly readable and visually choice comic book style, the beauty of the adaptation lies in the fact that there is (like the film itself) more to see than to absorb. Arguably, the story itself has always taken a backseat to the visual presentment and that’s not to take away from the wonderful narrative, in which The Beatles find themselves attempting to rescue the metaphorically and literally imprisoned residents of Pepperland from The Blue Meanies, using and utilizing many surreal facets and characters to aid them during their journey, spearheaded by their travels in the yellow submarine. Of course, there are loads of messages within that one can glean from, whether intentional or not, dealing with being adverse to authority figures, government intervention, and absolute autonomy and hierarchy, even commenting on the then-current Vietnam War. Most of the messages in today’s 2018 world ring loud and clear, if not truer than ever.

Along with inker Andrew Pepoy, colorist Nathan Kane, and letterer by Aditya Bidikar, Morrison weaves a wondrous mélange of color and staging throughout, taking the cues set forth by the film’s designer, the late Heinz Edelmann, who pretty much pioneered the late ’60s/early ’70s design style in pop culture, something that artist Peter Max would take on full aplomb in the wake of the film in 1968, so much to the point that even to this day, most people wrongly assume that it was Max’s style which permeated Yellow Submarine. Mr. Morrison applies all these artistic facets and the result is an incredible, although static due to the comic book medium, first-rate adaptation. Panels are stuffed with so much rainbow-laden ebullience, you almost wish most graphic novels would get out of the “dark” tones already and follow this example. And even though there is the obvious limitation of having no music to guide the reader as the film did so brilliantly, one still hears the music in a sense whilst reading the story, as if visual takes on aural in a new sense. The biggest concern for all must have been knowing that when this project was undertaken, there would be the deficiency of music, but somehow, through the surefooted sensibility of Mr. Morrison’s truly organic and sincere approach to this material and a third eye sense of knowing how to satisfy the reader, regardless of their passion for The Beatles and their music, the end result is laurels all around, a truly rousing, coruscating success.

Now a perfect companion piece to the half-century-old film, The Beatles Yellow Submarine is a knock out of the park in many ways. There’s a reason why this graphic novel was such a sensation at this year’s Comic Con. Don’t be a Blue Meanie, go to your local comic shop or order your copy as soon as you can. Get your friends all aboard too, and full speed ahead!

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine comes this fully authorized graphic novel adaptation.

The Beatles are recruited by the Captain of the Yellow Submarine to help him free Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the world of Pepperland from the music-hating Blue Meanies.

The music-loving, underwater paradise of Pepperland has been overrun by the music-hating Blue Meanies and their leader, Chief Blue Meanie. They turn the people of Pepperland into living statues by dropping apples on them and imprison the Pepperland’s guardians, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band inside a soundproof blue glass globe, before confiscating all the music instruments in the land. Pepperland’s mayor sends aging sailor, Young Fred out in the fabled Yellow Submarine to find help. He travels to our world where he stumbles across the Beatles and begs them to help him free his world. They agree and head back to Pepperland, teaming up with Jeremy The Nowhere Man along the way to help overthrow the evil Blue Meanies through the power of music and love.

Cover

The Beatles Yellow Submarine cover graphic novel

Trailer

The Beatles Yellow Submarine Graphic Novel trailer

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine song trailer

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