The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine Graphic Novel
Publisher: Titan Comics
Writer, Artist: Bill Morrison
Colorist: Nathan Kane
Review by Michael Farris, Jr.
50 years ago, the world was introduced to the animation and musical masterpiece that is The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film, Titan Comics has released the official graphic novel adaptation of Yellow Submarine, thanks to Bill Morrison.
The book tells the story of the Fab Four being recruited to help the Unearthly Paradise Pepperland against the Blue Meanies who restrict all music, fun, and love. On the journey in the fabled Yellow Submarine, John, Paul, George, and Ringo face age fluctuations, encounter strange beasts, meet a strange friend in Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph. D, and rescue Pepperland with their doppelgangers in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
When presented with this book, there are two questions that immediately come to mind: Why do we need a graphic novel adaptation of a movie in the first place, and what’s done about the music in the film?
To answer the first question, it turns out there are quite a lot of reasons. For one thing, the film’s animation and art spends lot of time sharing the stage with the music to the point where you might find yourself focusing on one aspect over the other. Here, we have a masterful tribute to Heinz Edelmann’s artwork from the film that allows you to appreciate the psychedelic pop art that’s half a century old. Having this in book form allows you to fully take in the art. Here, you can linger and discover new things you might not have before.
Speaking of discovering new things, the other part that makes this book a must-have for Beatles fans is that all of the puns, double entendres, and inside jokes in the film’s dialogue are all here and they are readable. It is far less likely that the clever figures of speech will go over your head. It made all the scriptwriting from the movie that much more enjoyable and easier to absorb.
As for the music that’s left behind at the expense of having the story in book-form, there is an answer to that too. Being a graphic novel, you have the art, but the art doesn’t move. This is where Bill Morrison shines. Morrison is a comic book artist, co-founder of Bongo Comics, has drawn promotional art for several Disney films and drawn artwork for The Simpsons, and recently he has added editor of MAD Magazine to that list of experience.
So how does he make a non-musical, non-motion picture work? I’d argue it’s the panel layouts. He is able to capture entire scenes on a page or two and the design of how the story flows is something to behold. The way the story moves from page to page almost makes it more enjoyable than the film itself. He presents a variety of boxes to wavy borders to lightning shaped gutters that make this graphic novel a trippy ride in a yellow submarine. At one point, Ringo even turns the page for you.
And honestly, if you’ve really got to have the music (like I did), you can play the album in the background and fully immerse yourself in the 50th anniversary of art and music history.
Verdict: Buy it.
Calling this a must-have item for Beatles fans is an understatement. While the groundbreaking artwork and animation extravaganza was given to us 50 years ago, The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine Graphic Novel allows you to pause, observe, and truly appreciate the cultural icon that is Yellow Submarine.