This upcoming graphic novel from First Second Publishing provides an alternative look at the early days of The Beatles. Told mostly through the experiences of photographer Astrid Kirchherr and her love affair with the so-called “fifth Beatle” Stuart Sutcliffe, Baby’s in Black by Arne Bellstorf brings us into the club scene of Germany where the future pop stars of the world would begin to hone their skills. Sutcliffe came on as a bass player at the invitation of his friend, John Lennon, but he really wanted to be an artist.
Kirchherr would help him find his muse in the time before his early death, which was probably due to some brain hemorrhage (the exact cause was never fully determined). Strains of the cover songs that The Beatles were playing filter in and out of this love story, told entirely in black and white graphic illustrations. There’s a sort of melancholy feel to the story, as Sutcliffe is tired of playing music, drawn into his love for Kirchherr (a photographer who tastes fame herself with her images of the band), and ragged from an unknown illness that eventually takes his life.
Most of us music fans know parts of this story from the Lore of The Beatles, but Bellstorf does a nice job of keeping the graphic novel lens on Kirchherr, and we see German youth through her interactions with her friends, one of whom is a diehard fan of The Beatles who drags as many friends as he can to the bars to see them play.
I have a friend my band who is a crazy Beatles fan. I’ve passed this one along to him and he was very interested. He even knew who he was going to pass along to once he was done with ut. (It looks like the graphic novel gets published sometime in May, by the way.)
Peace (in the music),