The PopCult Bookshelf
The Beatles: All Our Yesterdays is a graphic novel retelling of the very early days of The Beatles, told in graphic novel form and aimed at young adults. It’s a little too accurate in its depiction of drugs and sex to make it appropriate for young children. If it were a movie, it’d probably be rated PG-13.
The book begins with a full page of disclaimers and acknowledgements that explain that the events depicted in the book are dramatisations, and that list the source material, which includes a nod to the ultimate chronicler of all things Beatles, Mark Lewisohn. That is a very good sign.
Quinn has done a great job of capturing the pre-fame lives of John, Paul and George. Ringo seems to get the short shrift here, but that’s because he officially joined the group on August 22, 1962, and the story ends about six weeks later.
We do get a glimpse at the childhood years of the group, and then pick up as they meet as teens and become the group that went on to dominate the music world. Some of these stories will be old hat to folks who’ve spent more than four decades reading books about The Beatles, but for younger readers, this is a great introduction. The lack of glaring errors is a nice surprise, given the scant research that goes into many books about the Beatles these days. This is a well-researched account of what really happened.
All the pre-fame important points are here: The formation of the band; the acquisition of Pete Best as their drummer; the death of Stu Sutcliffe; John’s marriage to Cynthia; the trips to Hamburg; dumping Allan Williams, their first manager; meeting Brian Epstein and eventually releasing their first single.
It is the release of “Love Me Do,” that brings this book to a close, though there is a four-page epilogue that doesn’t really add much more than a cursory condensation of fifty-five years of their history after they started releasing records.
Quinn’s script whisks us from one important scene to another without bogging down or getting repeititive. He does a great job of translating the docu-drama format into comic book form.
Sharma’s art serves Quinn’s script well, with intelligent layouts that move the story forward while keeping the narrative clear. He does his best to incorporate photographic reference into his normal artistic style and mostly he succeeds. Jagdish Kumar is credited as the inker, but the rendering is wildly inconsistent. At times it looks like different artists worked on different pages or segments. The early pages look like the work of Klaus Janson, who inked Marvel Comics’ Beatles bio comic book in the late 1970s. Other segments of the book have a much slicker, more polished look, and some others almost have a Manga feel to them.
While the variances in the art are noticeable, they do not distract from the story. The Beatles: All Their Yesterdays is a very good graphic novel take on the pre-fame story of The Beatles. It’s admirably “warts and all” and does not attempt to whitewash history. The book does offer some good insight into how four lad from Liverpool became the most powerful musical force in the world in the twentieth century.