Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Although this is the 50th anniversary of Yellow Submarine – the animated film which premiered in July 1968, the album appearing in December of that year – there seems little more that the Beatles' company Apple can wring out of it.
The original soundtrack album (the second side George Martin's orchestral pieces from the feature) has long been reissued as remastered CD (mono and stereo) and vinyl (ditto), the film reappeared in a frame-by-frame restoration on DVD and Blu-Ray some years ago with a booklet of art reproductions and transparencies, and there was even the Yellow Submarine Songtrack album in '99 which was all the Beatles songs in the film without Martin's instrumentals.
And of course Lego got there with a Yellow Submarine set (very cool!) some time back.
Done and dusted then?
Almost, so the recently released Yellow Submarine seven inch picture disc looked a little desperate.
Not much more to be said . . . unless you want a comic perhaps?
But there's even already been one of them.
A comic with story adapted by Charlie Gardner appeared in 2004 and of course has been polished off again in a 50th Anniversary Edition this year.
But frankly it's not up to much.
The story imposes a descriptive narrative alongside the images based on Heinz Edelmann's original art direction.
Here's a sample:
“Captain Fred ran for his life as the crowd scattered. 'The Meanies are coming, the Meanies are coming!'
“Those who decided to stay were beaten blue and blue by the Glove or frozen like colourless statues. The Chief Blue Meanie gloated, 'If music be the food of Glove, play on!'
“And the air turned blue with his laughter”
And so on.
That coupled with flat images hardy captures the spirit of the darkness and humour in the story, let alone the Surrealist and Pop Art elements of the film.
But this new version by writer and artist Bill Morrison – co-founder of Bongo comics and current editor of Mad Magazine – really does come closer to matching the film in energy and wit.
The film will always be the touchstone and no home with kids under eight (or maybe 12) should be without a copy.
But for comic collectors and Beatle fans Morrison's vision is much more of a kindred spirit than Gardners.
As a comic artist he knows how to break the frame, have multi-layered and multi-perspective full page art, juxtapositions between square, rounded and frameless illustrations, and a real feel for the psychedelic heart of Edelmann's artistic ideas.
Morrison – who did a line of Simpsons' comics among others – knows his way around the genre. A selelction of his images follow at the end of the page)
Ironically he never saw the film in cinemas when it first came out but since seeing it on television in the Seventies he has always held it in high esteem and, despite not being allowed to use any Beatle lyrics in the comic, the edition transcends that limitation.
As he told Multiverse Comics, “I was trying to stay as faithful to the film as I could possibly get, so I had the film transcribed. Actually my wife and I transcribed a great deal of it and then I got some help from the people at Titan [Comics].
“They sent me just a script of dialogue from the film. Some of it was correct, but some of it I looked at it and I thought, 'That doesn’t seem to read the way I remember hearing the line.'
“I would go back and listen to it again and sometimes eventually decide that it was neither what I remembered or what they came up with. It was something completely different.
“I tried to stay really close, but in doing a translation from film to comic there were areas where I had to create dialogue just to keep the story moving and kind of fill in where the songs [would go]. “We were not able to use the song lyrics so the sequences where the songs take place are, for the most part, not in the graphic novel. In order to bridge those areas I had to create little bits of dialogue just to keep things going forward.
“For that I really, I sort of feel like for the film they did a really good job of picking up on the characters that the Beatles had established in those first two movies, A Hard Day’s Night and Help!. “They were doing the same kind of puns and tatter that the Beatles had in those movies. I was referencing those as well.
“Whenever I had to create dialogue I was thinking not only about Yellow Submarine but also about Help! and A Hard Day’s Night and how John would say something or what kind of a joke would Ringo make here, that kind of thing.”
So an imaginative but knowledgeable reconsideration of Yellow Submarine, in comic book form, then. And the final few pages are concept art and pencil drawings from his sketchbook
If you really do want a Yellow Submarine comic, Bill Morrison's version is the one.
Or you might be saving your money for the expanded box set of The Beatles' White Album due later this year. It's a big 'un!
For a lengthy interview with Morrison at Multiverse go here.
The hardcover edition of Morrison's Yellow Submarine is available at Amazon: NZ$30, but shipping brings it to approximately NZ$62