Rebellion’s Treasury of British Comics imprint continues its publication of rare stories with Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson’s The Beatles Story. It was originally serialised in Look-In, a junior version of the British TV Times television listings magazines that included a range serials based on popular TV programmes and music of the time. Despite debuting some 11 years after the Beatles broke-up, its an early indication of how their image and presence had begun to generate a following and tradition beyond the usual limited life span of pop music.
This serial seems set apart from other contemporary stories that would seem more locked into their time period now. One can’t imagine a similar publication reprinting Ranson’s work on Haircut 100, for example. Perhaps the iconic nature of The Beatles, alongside other acts that got the Look-In treatment like Elvis and the Sex Pistols, are more appealing to the reprint audience of today, for whom The Beatles’ place in history is monolithic and inescapable.
A mere decade or so since the break up, and before the wealth of books, films and studies undertaken of The Beatles’ impact in the four decades that followed, Allan’s story hits the main beats of the narrative remarkably well in the limited number of pages afforded to this serialization. The early years of the group in Liverpool and Hamburg lead into the first flush of Beatlemania, feature films and early experimentation, progressing through Sgt Pepper, Yellow Submarine and culminating in Abbey Road, their final album together.
Some dialogue is odd: the school-aged Paul and George referring to each other as “McCartney” and “Harrison” is more suited to public schoolboys than working class lads. Despite such lapses, this is a good primer for any Beatles neophyte and and accurate summary for any Beatles expert.
Ranson’s art is stunning. It is arguably the apex of comic book photo-realism, and is as assured as any of his later, and more famous, work for 2000 AD, particularly Button Man (written by John Wagner) and Judge Anderson: Psi-Division (written by Alan Grant). He perfectly catches all four Beatles during their many stylistic incarnations: rockers, moptops, Pepper band members and more. It’s clear that he has used an extensive number of photographs of the band as reference material, but his work rarely feels like its a secondary copy, as his confident lines and crisp inks recreate famous Beatles photographs as art, and seamlessly incorporates them into the sequential narrative itself.
This is a solid account of The Beatles’ story, elevated to a level of sublime perfection by Ranson’s art. Highly recommended.
56 page black and white hardcover graphic novel
21.6 x 1.3 x 27.7 cm