by Whitney Grace
We all know the how the Beatles were integral to defining rock and roll as well as sending groupies into waves of mass hysteria, but who was behind all that fame and fortune? His name was Brian Epstein. Paul McCartney called him The Fifth Beatle.
Epstein’s story begins when he sees the Beatles playing in a basement joint. He felt an instant connection and a desire to make them headliners. He didn’t have any experience as a business manager, but his family did own a successful records store and Epstein had connections in the industry. Epstein then began creating the Beatles empire by developing a brand and booking them bigger and better gigs. Slowly the Beatles’ fame grew around the world, but Epstein had to deal with his own problems. He was a homosexual living in a time when it was a criminal act and he was also addicted to pills.
The Fifth Beatle is literally the only biography that tells Epstein’s story. Vivek Tiwary has been interested in Epstein for years, finally putting his years of research into a graphic novel biography. Epstein takes center stage with the Beatles as supporting characters as he slowly makes his way to the top of the music industry. Tiwary, Andrew Robinson, and Kyle Baker do an excellent job of portraying Epstein’s inner feelings as he dealt with his personal issues. Epstein is always shown happy and positive, but he wanders through the graphic novel alone and constantly searching for his missing piece. The semi-realistic art has a 1960s grade photo stock. It makes the pictures feel like you’re glimpsing into Epstein’s past or rather a dream of his life. Some story details are vague; such has the types of pills Epstein was taking, what he was trying to treat himself for, how much time passes between plot points, and more information to flesh out Epstein. This was probably done to concentrate more on his personal struggles as well as show how his life slips away–symbolism and such is used to get this across.
The graphic novel’s flaws are minimal and it adds a personal touch to one part of the Beatles’ legacy.