The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story

Written by Vivek J. Tiwary
Art by Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker
Lettering by Steve Dutro

buy it HERE

Imagine living in a world...

... where the one thing you wanted to accomplish professionally succeeds beyond your wildest dreams. Your viewed as the champion, the winner of all time.

But then...

Everything about YOU -on a private, personal level- is considered lewd and perverted, even against the law if people found out.

Liverpool 1961.

Brian Epstein was the manager of The Beatles from its creaky start in dive bars in Liverpool and Hamburg Germany. Before they met him John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney pretty much imitated the leather jacket/white t-shirt 'cool' from James Dean or Marlon Brando (Ringo too with his 'rockabilly' look), which was okay if you wanted to imitate being an American Rock Star. Elvis Presley cornered the market on that, and everyone knew that kind of music would always be an American idiom.

And yet Mr. Epstein, not having any managerial experience, who only knew The Beatles were selling the few singles they made like hotcakes in his family's store (NEMS), plowed forward with his 'vision' of what they should look like. He told the four lads they should dress nice and have matching suits. Don't drink/smoke on stage and don't curse. Bow at the end of each performance.

How did it go?

It failed miserably at first.
No record producers wanted them. (DECCA: 'Rock groups are on their way out.') EMI reluctantly signed them on after rejecting them because one of their producers liked The Beatles' music and missed getting the memo (George Martin).

Even then, Brian had to pull strings and get friends/family to buy up huge lots of records here and there in the UK to push The Beatles up the charts. It was a struggle all the way.

And then Kennedy gets shot and America has this huge dark void in late 1963. That void gets filled 3 times on the Ed Sullivan show in early 1964.

The graphic novel draws an interesting parallel between Spanish Bull Fighters and The Beatles as teen idols: both involve performers in well-tailored suits who dance on the edge with raw, animal, dangerous forces (teenage sex drive in place of the Bull).

Just take a pill.

To any Beatle fan this story so far is well known and retold many times. It's what didn't get told that makes The Fifth Beatle such a fantastic story. Brian Epstein was gay. He was Jewish. 1960s Great Britain and USA still had a strong strain of Anti-Semitism running through it. Jews couldn't get into certain hotels or buy houses in certain neighborhoods. Homosexuality was against the law -at least in Britain. A lot of The Fifth Beatle dwells on Brian seeing his doctor and re-upping his medication, pills used to 'keep those urges in control.'

Here was a man who knew intimately many people in the music business. He watched them as they effortlessly and freely sought their own happiness -sexual or otherwise. All the while Brian Epstein had to keep his 'happy times' with other men strictly under wraps and in secret. Loneliness and Depression must have taken a huge toll on him.

This is one of the few comic stories I've read where I pretty much teared up at the end. I came away from the story understanding Brian Epstein a bit better.

The lonely heart.

He never was cynical or bitter. He never blamed anyone for his 'dark times'. He held his burdens up high on his shoulders, loneliness be damned.

In 1967 Brian Epstein died of an overdose of prescription pills at the age of 32. He lived long enough to see Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band get released.

Comic book review next Tuesday:

Forgotten Hymns Part 3

More on that cultish, X-Files like investigative mystery thriller by Andrew Guilde and Isaac Perez!


I mistakenly said the cover artist on my comic review for Truth & Consequence from last Tuesday was named Brad Cohen, when in fact he goes by Brad Green.


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