SPOILER ALERT!

“If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian.”

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story - Vivek Tiwary, Philip Simon, Andrew C. Robinson, Kyle Baker

Paul McCartney said this of Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager who created their iconic look, helped to cement their working class but smart as a whip public persona, and secured the bookings and record deals that vaulted them to super stardom. But for Brian Epstein, that was never enough. The perfection he strived for in the Beatles’ first tailored outfits and haircuts is evident in his detail-oriented approach to shepherding them along the path to fame. He wanted to get them the right bookings in just the right ways, to handle their licensing deals in the most advantageous way, to make sure that the parties planned for the debuts of their albums allowed the correct people to mingle and discuss. Epstein would do anything for his boys—that was clear. Whether it was meeting with Elvis’ satanic manager to try to pick up hints he might have missed as an outsider to the business to putting up with the puppeteering antics of studio heads, Epstein put up with darn near anything to help the Beatles.

 

Epstein’s perfectionism, while helping to insure the success of the Beatles, probably contributed to his early demise. Brian Epstein was gay, and at the time being gay in England was not only unacceptable, it was illegal and was the source of much heartache and loneliness for him. Eventually, the way Epstein dealt with his sexuality lead to his being beaten and blackmailed. His doctor prescribed drugs, the overuse of which, combined with his anxiety and perfectionism, led to dependency and his early demise.

 

The artwork in this graphic novel is its greatest strength. The Beatles are easily distinguished from one another even when stylized a bit and the mod 60s are captured with spring and vigor. The excitement of the period and the nuances of the music are evident. One character, Moxie, Brian’s possibly fictitious personal assistant is particularly helpful in advancing the story, and in showing the reader the side of Brian Epstein that he himself fails to see—the creative, desirable, successful side.