Friday, October 25, 2013

NYCC '13: Interview about The Fifth Beatle

While at New York Comic Con, I had the distinct honor of sitting down with writer Vivek J. Tiwary and artist Andrew C. Robinson to talk about their upcoming graphic novel, The Fifth Beatle.  The Fifth Beatle recounts the life of Beatles manager Brian Epstein, showing not just his successes with The Beatles but his struggles with his life in England, where homosexuality was illegal at the time. I was lucky enough to have read the book before meeting with them (it comes out on Nov. 19th), so I was already bubbling over with questions.

Tiwary has been actually working on The Fifth Beatle for over 6 years but his education of Epstein's life started over 21 years ago. He was particularly inspired by Epstein's life because of everything he had to overcome, i.e. being gay and Jewish in the 1960's was particularly hard.  Robinson was also excited to see an end to the project, since he has been painting it for over four years. They both almost seem like they don't believe their work has been accomplished. As Tiwary put it, most Beatles projects don't see fruition so this is a huge deal.

They both felt so much responsibility representing these huge icons. Since everyone knows the Beatles, Robinson put an excruciating amount of detail into each panel. His process is detailed in the back of the deluxe edition. The struggle of getting the faces right is hard because you have only so much time. With Epstein, they had more leeway because he was less known. Robinson didn't wan to trace the few photographs he had so he found his own image of Brian to make it work. He also struggled to avoid recreating famous scenes (Lennon press conference) by turning them around and making artistic choices to get the spirit of the moment across.

I would admit, I was intrigued by the potential of artistic license in the book. Tiwary confirmed that the scene in Epstein's office happened like that. Another scene at the death bed, it is unknown but it represented feelings that Epstein had conveyed. Tiwary did sorta confirmed that Paul McCartney may have been involved, so the scenes about Epstein and the Beatles are based in truth.

I did ask about the Kyle Baker pages and the need for another artist to shift the style. Those scenes dealt with the Beatles trip to the Philippines, which included them having to escape from the country. Since it was almost a cartoonish time, Tiwary wanted to show it as an actual cartoon. Baker used the Beatles cartoon show as inspiration for those pages.

With the important topic of gay rights being addressed in the world today, this novel will have more of an impact because of their recent partnership with Freedom to Marry.  Both Tiwary and Robinson are supporters of FtM.  As Tiwary put it, Epstein and the Beatles always shared a message of love.  He remarked how ironic it was that this "universal message of love was spread universally by a gay man who had to hide his own love away."  His honest wish is that this book helps people think more about marriage rights and inspiring people to get involved any way they can.  Robinson added we can all relate to Brian.  "I'm not managing a band, I'm not gay but I still felt really close to Brian.  I understood how sometimes you have to hide or be your true self.....  It's tragic how this guy was trying to bring so much love and trying to do for others and himself died alone."

In addition, The Fifth Beatle has been optioned for a film, with Bruce Cohen attached to produce.  You might recognize him from Milk, American Beauty, Silver Linings Playbook or most importantly, Hook.  While Tiwary was hesitant to give details this early on, it's safe to say this will be a great story to tell on film. 

The Fifth Beatle is out on November 19th from Dark Horse Comics.

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