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Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles Hardcover – May 8, 2012
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“Bellstorf's ability to capture the famous faces with a few simple tweaks is remarkable, and his expressive charcoals fit the whole artsy scene well.” ―Booklist
“The Beatles' story forms a backdrop to the compelling tale of Astrid and Stu, and although readers will doubtless enjoy glimpses of "the lads" (distinguishable mainly by noses, eyebrows, and John's snarky attitude), it's doomed young love that carries the day. The march of tidily boxed black ink and pencil pictures, most of which feature characters in conversation, is relieved by unframed reveries of the lovers wandering in the woods to a soundtrack of Beatles lyrics, foreshadowing their coming loss. Bellstorf will connect with a wide readership, from photography buffs to romance readers to classic rockers.” ―BCCB
About the Author
Arne Bellstorf was born in Dannenberg, Germany in 1979. Since 2006 he has been writing and illustrating a monthly comic page for a German newspaper, Der Tagesspiegel. Baby's In Black garnered unprecedented success in the German market, finding fans from all walks of life. Arne Bellstorf lives in Hamburg, Germany.
Top Customer Reviews
Yes, pretty sad. Eighteen years later I am older, wiser and much more my own person, but there's still a special place in my heart for Astrid, Stu, Klaus, John and the gang.
I don't usually go for graphic novels but this was fun to read and really quite beautiful. The ending was a bit abrupt but in real life it probably was too. Apparently the book was written in close consultation with Astrid. Cool book about the world's coolest people.
Conveniently, it took place in the genesis of the Beatles. You've heard of them. And while I had heard that the early time in Hamburg was exciting and exhausting, it takes a graphic novel to really get the squalor (they had no bath and had to clean themselves as best they could in a public washroom) and the shear idiocy (George was only 17 and shouldn't have even been out past ten pm, much less working--and none of the band had work permits) of the emerging band. It is quite a lovely story, well told in most respects.
Drat it, though, there are problems. The beautiful, spare art is SO spare it is hard to keep the characters apart. (What is the difference between these two guys? Same outfit, same hairstyle, same eyes--oh, THERE it is! A subtle change in the bend in the nose.) It slows down the story when I don't know who is talking.
The German, while infrequently used, is not always translated, or is written sloppily: "Oh, Wie geht es ihn Mrs. Kirchher?" (MRS???)
But it is a beautiful tale, making me so sad for Stu's early death; whereas I had previously been sad he didn't stay with the band and live to be a Beatle, I now am sad for Astrid and because Stu did not live up to his enormous promise as an artist.
That is quite a lot for one little 200 page graphic novel to do.
"Baby's In Black: Astrid Kirchherr,
Stuart Sutcliffe, And The Beatles In Hamburg"
Written & Illustated by Arne Bellstorf
(First Second Books, 2012)
NOTE: mild spoilers below
For most of the world, the early days of the Beatles are a potent, happy creation myth, full of youth and exuberance, the triumph of pop culture and the giddy camraderie of the witty Liverpudlian lads whose music swept the world and made rock'n'roll into an artform that adults embraced as well as kids. The mythic prelude where they apprenticed in the rough nightclubs of Hamburg, Germany is a well-known legend, too, of how art student Klaus Voormann saw an early lineup of the Beatles playing live and became a rock'n'roll convert. He brought his friend Astrid Kirchherr to see them the next night, and soon she produced early photos of the band that helped shape their image, and gave them advice on how to dress and style their hair, creating the unique "mop top" look of the Beatlemania days.
There was a dark side to this story, though: Kirchherr quickly fell in love with the group's bassist, Stu Sutcliffe, who was also a talented visual artist, and who chose to leave the band and stay in Germany to pursue "serious" art, even as the band began its meteoric rise to uber-mega-celebrity. This elegant, graceful graphic novel centers in on the love affair of Kirchherr and Sutcliffe, which ended in tragedy when he died of a brain hemmorage, the result of a months-long illness that was misdiagnosed by a German doctor. This book brings that story down to its most human, heartbreaking level -- the joy and wonder of seeing the Fab Four take off is part of the tale, but the crushing sorrow of Kirchherr's loss forms the coda.
An excellent comicbook that also makes the sketchy outlines of the "Beatles started in Germany" narrative come alive, with textures and detail that help readers understand the cultural tone of postwar Europe, particularly from a youthful perspective. Great stuff, good for Beatles fans and comic fans alike. Highly recommended. (DJ Joe Sixpack, Slipcue book reviews)
The publisher's summary does a more than adequate job of describing what this book accomplishes, even to the point of telling you how it ends. Of course, this is a true story and many will know the ending before they start to read anyway, but it would be nice for them to have left that off for the few of us new to this part of The Beatles' history. I knew about Pete Best and was vaguely aware of there being a friend of John's in the group at the beginning but had no idea of the Stuart Sutcliffe story. This was an interesting tidbit for me to add to my Beatles trivia. The story is bittersweet, sad and lovely all at the same time. Stuart seems to have been a very nice guy. The Beatles may have been quite a different group if Stuart hadn't decided to follow his dream to be a painter, but then time was against him from the start and we will never now what he may have accomplished.
This book is very much about Stuart, his love Astrid and the German friend Krauss. The Beatles themselves are background characters and used for there place within the tragic romance of Stuart and Astrid. Hardly a John and Yoko affair, everyone was happy for the young couple and wished them the best. The group was just hitting the ground running at the time Stuart left not leaving any time for sadness, regrets or bad feelings. This book will not really tell you much more about The Beatles than you already knew but it will open up a small hardly known touching story that shaped the lives of The Beatles in their very young beginning days (George is only 17 at this time).