KC Carlson

KC Carlson

A KC COLUMN by KC Carlson

I first heard the song Yellow Submarine on a school bus driving to some museum or zoo or some other thing that got us out of the classroom for a few hours. Everybody on the school bus was singing the song. Except me. I had no idea what was going on. I had never heard it before.

The Beatles: Yellow Submarine

The Beatles: Yellow Submarine

The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film first played in theaters in 1968, but I didn’t see it then. I was 12 years old and not really into music yet. I did learn a little bit about the Beatles, however, due to regular visits to see my cousin Margaret, who is close to my age. Margaret (and her two older sisters) were pretty Beatles-crazy around that time, and they played me a lot of their records when we met — especially during holiday visits. At the time, I thought they (the Beatles) were sort of interesting, but not as interesting as playing baseball at least three times a day during summer vacations from school…

Eventually, I saw Yellow Submarine on TV somewhere (don’t recall when) and really found it interesting, especially as I had started studying animation for my own amusement as I grew older. I think I got to see it again a couple of times (on TV?) before I got into college. While at college, I joined a film club that chose the films that the University Center would run on the weekends, and part of the fun was being able to choose what (second-run) films we would bring to campus. The film I championed was Yellow Submarine, and surprisingly, it made the final cut, although there were a few more “serious” film people who thought it was a frivolous choice and predicted that it would never do well. In reality, it sold out many of that weekend’s showings, and many people asked when it might be shown again.

Because of the exposure to Yellow Submarine (and also multiple showings of both A Hard Day’s Night and Help! on TV), I ended up being a huge Beatles fan — owning all their records (in multiple formats), films, and dozens and dozens of books that either told (or retold) their history in multiple accounts, or (my preference) even more books that sought to interpret all their various works (or, in Lennon’s case, trying to explain what he was actually talking about most of the time). It’s a weird entry point because it’s not really a Beatles movie. Although their music is used throughout, and they approved the project, the band’s voices are done by imitators.

Jeremy and The Beatles explore the Sea of Holes in The Beatles: Yellow Submarine.

Jeremy and The Beatles explore the Sea of Holes in The Beatles: Yellow Submarine.

Which finally brings me to the recent publication of a graphic novel based on Yellow Submarine by Bill Morrison, who adapted the story based on the original screenplay by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelson, and Erich Segal (the Love Story guy!), with thanks to Roger McGough. Morrison also adapted the artwork from the design and art of Heinz Edelmann, from the original film. Also a part of the graphic novel creative team are inkers Andrew Pepoy with Tone Rodriguez (pages 25-96), colors by Nathan Kane, and lettering by Aditya Bidikar.

Published by Titan Books, The Beatles: Yellow Submarine is an impressive package and quite faithful to the original film. (Although notably lacking the actual appearance by the Beatles from the end of the original film. Which, of course, would be pretty impossible to do today.) It feels like the whole film in comic form.

Also, due only to the limitations of the printed page, the book is, of course, missing the wonderful music from the film — both the Beatles’ tunes (It’s All Too Much is my personal favorite) and the original score composed and arranged by producer George Martin. The score music is often my “wind-down” music after stressful days. Although if you decide to seek it out, keep in mind that Martin’s score for Yellow Submarine is only on the original soundtrack CD. The 1999 Yellow Submarine Songtrack CD features only Beatles songs — and not any of Martin’s score.

Amazingly, while reading the graphic novel, my brain was frequently playing Martin’s score in my head — because that’s how ingrained this music is to me now. But it was the strength of the art and storytelling of the graphic novel that was bringing the music out from the depths of my brain, making for an amazing reading experience.

I’m pretty sure that this isn’t going to be one of those graphic novels that I read once and put it on the shelf and never look at it again. One of the things I plan to do to make sure this doesn’t happen is to shelve the book with my other books about music — specifically with those about the Beatles and Martin. It’s a worthy companion.

Meet the baddies, The Blue Meanies, in The Beatles: The Yellow Submarine.

Meet the baddies, The Blue Meanies, in The Beatles: The Yellow Submarine.

Back to the book: if you love the film, the graphic novel will constantly remind you of the sly (and occasionally unfathomable) jokes that slip by simply because there are far to many of them to grasp at first. Morrison has done an excellent job presenting this with what seems like dozens and dozens of panels that will reward those who linger over them for a special extra moment. (There’s also a nine-page Concept Art and Sketches section in the back of the book if you want to study Morrison’s raw artwork!) I can almost guarantee that you will see new things with each re-reading — especially if you’re reading it with your kids —which I highly recommend! The book is wonderful for kids of all ages!

And some might say that It’s All Too Much!

KC CARLSON: Obviously, I need to pull out my Yellow Submarine Blu-ray and watch it again. I wholeheartedly recommend it in this format, because not only does it look amazing, it’s got lots and lots of Special Features, including simulated cells, stickers, and a thick booklet with many pictures and people talking about the film! I think I’ll get me some tea and cake and turn it on, since it’s raining like crazy today, and I can’t goanywhere anyway.

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. Yes, I’ll stop talking about cake now… mmmmm…cake….


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  1. The Beatles: Yellow Submarine – Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] told that it’s a faithful reproduction of the movie — KC liked it, for example — which I believe, although I think I’ve only seen the film once or twice. […]