Marvel Super Special #4, 1978 (click image for the whole cover)
Seemingly a labour of love for writer/editor/packager David Anthony Kraft, this issue of Marvel’s fancy format magazine features the biography of The Beatles. The story of those loveable mop-tops, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, from their humble beginnings in Liverpool to their ultimate disintegration at the height of their fame, is depicted by a couple of future superstar artists: George Perez and Klaus Janson.
According to his introductory essay, Kraft spent a good six month researching and writing the book. He went through four complete drafts of the script before he was happy. Indeed, so content was he with the finished result that he actually asks readers to write in if they find any major mistakes in the text. And, from all the responses received, one would be rewarded with photostats of the complete pencil art! Not a bad prize that—certainly better than an empty envelope No-Prize.
Speaking as a long-time fan of the Fab Four, the script—given the constraints of the format—gives as good an overview of the main highlights of the band’s career as you’re likely to find. There’s not a lot of depth or narrative drive, but then you couldn’t really expect that from a project of this nature. A little bit of drama is provided by the internal monologue given to The Beatles’ doomed manager Brian Epstein. Although, even then, the reality of his demise is glossed over. On the downside, Kraft’s occasional attempts at British colloquialisms are painful. “I just wonder, George, if Hamburg has any bacon and butties?” is not a question John Lennon, nor any other Brit, is likely to have uttered.
Perez acquits himself well on the pencil front, though things seem to get a bit rushed towards the end, presumably as deadlines loomed. His likenesses of real people can be very good, but those images sourced from well-known photos stand out. Janson provides his usual high standard inks, and isn’t afraid to use the zip-a-tone when needed. Nice full page splashes are given over to each of the Beatle films, and Sgt Pepper gets one too. The beautiful wraparound cover painting is by Tom Palmer, from a Perez layout.
A couple of perfunctory articles looking at The Beatles’ film and television career, and a photographic pull-out poster round out the package. In addition, there is a bizarre discography that makes no distinction between original albums and compilations, and has everything in the wrong order!
Overall, then, a good, solid read. If you know much about the band’s history you’re unlikely to learn anything new, but Kraft, Perez and Janson celebrate them in style—Marvel-style!
A few years after this British tv-themed weekly comic-cum-magazine Look-In began serializing its own version of the Beatles story in comics form. This was in order to capitalize on the intense media interest surrounding the twentieth anniversary of the band’s first single. We’ll be looking at this version in the near future.
Images ©2012 Marvel Comics, Inc