Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Beatles (Gold Key) #1

Originally uploaded by waffyjon.
Gold Key played it smart -- they didn't let the Beatles license go, and apparently they had no problem getting the license to produce a comic based on the animated series that was on ABC-TV.

This also opened the way for their Beatles one-shot based on "The Yellow Submarine," I suspect!

Unlike the animated series -- which was basically an animated music video, with some short sequences before and after each song (and the plot was also based on the song -- one of these days, these will be available on DVD, and I'll be getting it and watching it immediately!) -- the comic book version had more plots, and no songs at all (apparently, there was a problem with
the rights to use lyrics, so aside from some generic "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" stuff happening when they performed, there was little plot with them actually performing music).

The cover-featured story may have been an unused Gold Key plot, just because of the idea being the Beatles go somewhere to perform a concert, and get involved with something funky happening that they have to solve.

"The Phantom of the Eiffel Tower" opens with the Beatles arriving in Paris, naturally, and we're treated to a few panels of the Fab Four doing a bit of sightseeing on their way to the hotel. (Their taxi driver apparently was padding the fare some... They pass the Arc D'Triomphe in one panel, which Paul identifies by name, and a few panels later, they pass it again, causing John to remark, "And there's the sequel to the Arc D'Triomphe, Let's D'Triomphe Again!"

The Beatles are to perform a concert at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, naturally, and just as naturally, the Phantom appears to disrupt things during their rehearsal (just before the Phantom appears, George says, "Great radio antenna -- they must get great reception!"). The Phantom, strangely enough, is dressed like Mickey Mouse's old foe, the Phantom Blot! The Phantom sends some lights crashing down on stage (Ringo: "He nearly got my rings with those things!"), and then yells out that there will be no rock and roll at the Eiffel Tower!

Naturally, the boys have to investigate, and eventually, discover that the Phantom was a Frank Sinatra-type singer who had just signed a record contract, all set to be a teen sensation, until the Beatles came out, driving his record off the charts so fast his own label doesn't remember him
anymore). Paul is sympathetic to the Phantom's plight, and offers to help him "update his style for the times" -- with the last panel of the story being the Phantom, now sporting a Beatles haircut, and wearing clothing like the Beatles (except in green), with the Beatles performing as his back-up band!

A one-page story called "Ring-a-Ding Ringo" follows, which is similar to many of the Archie comics one-page gags (this one involving Ringo trying to answer phones for his girlfriend, a receptionist, while she gets a cup of coffee -- by the time she returns, Ringo's all tangled up in phone lines, letting her deliver the punch line when George calls, "Ringo can't come to
the phone right now, he's all tied up!").

The second story in this issue isn't quite as entertaining as the first -- and one I think was adapted from one of the cartoons, but I could be wrong! "King Klong, Jungle Gorilla" escapes from a circus, and naturally, he's very dangerous unless he hears music. Of course, he runs into John, Paul, George and Ringo, and they accidentally discover that King Klong will only calm
down when he hears music -- so we're treated to several pages of reaction gags as the Beatles lead the gorilla back to the circus while singing and playing their instruments (Ringo can't carry his drums, naturally, so he plays whatever he can find along the way). Lots of visual gags here, such as people becoming so scared they jump to the top of a telephone pole, someone having an accident with their car and trying to explain they crashed because they saw a gorilla following four Beatles, etc.

Apparently, at least two other issues were produced, but I never found them anywhere!


The Beatles in Help!

Originally uploaded by waffyjon.

Yep... Dell's not following up their Beatles license let Gold Key produce this adaptation of the Beatles' second movie, and it was just at the right time, as they needed some high-profile stuff on the market.

Just as a side note: Dell apparently never forgot that they made a mistake letting the Beatles property go, and when the Monkees came out, they published about 16 or so issues of a book based on the Monkees!

I'm thinking Dan Spiegel did the artwork for this comic book, but it's kind of hard to say -- apparently he didn't ink it, someone else did, but in a few panels, it definitely looks like his stuff (however, other comics history scholars point out this book would've been done by the East Coast GK staff, while Spiegel was West Coast staff, so it must've been someone else).

More stills must've been available for this one, as there are a large number of panels that are exact matches for photos I've seen from this movie. Ã…s with the "Hard Day's Night" Dell comic, when a song was happening, the lyrics would be on the top of a full page panel, except that these panels were sort of collages in a way -- "Help!" had more plot happening with the songs than the previous movie did, after all!


The Beatles #1

Originally uploaded by waffyjon.
The Beatles #1

Flush with the success of their adaptation of "A Hard Day's Night," Dell produced this follow-up issue about a year later.

The artwork seems to be by the same unknown artist who adapted the movie the previous year.

Note that the cover doesn't refer to any specific story within this issue -- My guess is that the covers for this projected series would've stayed pretty generic, so they could put whatever stories in the books they wanted.

There were two stories in this issue. The first one, "The Beatles Visit Las Vegas," was really bizarre in many ways -- we're all familiar with how DC Comics would pun on names of real-life places and people? Well, this was very much the case here -- all the casino names were either puns on existing casino names, or alluded to them somehow (for example, instead of the
Aladdin, it's the Sinbad, keeping with the Arabian Nights idea).

The story itself? The Beatles are to perform a concert in Las Vegas (something I don't believe they ever did for real), and shortly after arriving, they are mistaken by police for a group of four criminals who are doing their own variation on "Ocean's 11" (the criminals also look a little
like the Beatles, except that, naturally, their hair isn't in a Beatle cut, and they don't speak with a British accent!). In order to make it to their concert on time, the Beatles have to first talk their way out of being held by the police, and then find and capture the bad guys who look like them!

The funniest bit for me in this story was the name of the criminal who looked like Ringo... this guy was the leader of the group, and was named "Big-Nose Starkey" (which was evidence to me that the writer was at least familiar with the Beatles history). "Big-Nose" received his nickname not only because he had a big nose, but also that he liked to claim he could smell a good crime from miles away! He was also in the habit of buying and wearing an additional ring after each crime succeeded!

The second story was a bit more prosaic... "The Beatles Out West," which almost sounds like a Beatlesque version of the Marx Brothers movie, but which is a bit different. In this take, the Beatles are taking a brief break between concerts, and decide to spend a week at a dude ranch out in the middle of nowhere to relax. (As an aside, another sign the writer was somewhat familiar with the Beatles history pops up here, as in the sequence when the Beatles decide to take a break, John picks up a phone and calls "Brian" (apparently Brian Epstein) to tell him they're changing their travel plans.

The dude ranch is one of those typical dude ranches that crop up in stories like this... they're barely making ends meet, the bank's getting ready to repossess the property because they can't pay their loans, etc. The Beatles decide they need to help save the dude ranch, which they do by the logical means of...

... you thought I was going to say hold a benefit concert? Perish the thought! This is comics, after all! (Besides, their instruments were already on the way to the next concert site, which isn't mentioned). The Fabs decide that since the dude ranch needs $10,000 to pay their loan
off, and since the local rodeo is offering a prize of that exact same amount to the winner of the rodeo, that one of them has to train for a week and win the rodeo.

Anyone want to guess which of the four gets chosen to become a cowboy? Ringo, naturally -- who gets trained by the sexy rancher's daughter (there's always a sexy rancher's daughter -- Paul initially makes a play for her, but she admires Ringo's stick-to-itiveness when it comes to learning how to ride a bucking bronco, and so forth).

Naturally, Ringo does manage to win the rodeo, thanks to some "fancy trick riding" (which naturally, means that Ringo was hanging on for dear life and accidentally doing all the trick riding).

You haven't lived until you've seen Ringo all duded up, with 10-gallon hat, vest, chaps, etc... but still wearing his Beatle boots!

Apparently, sales weren't quite so good on this issue, although rumors persist that a second issue was indeed created and printed, but was only sold overseas.


The Beatles in "A Hard Day's Night"

Originally uploaded by waffyjon.
Been a bit since I've posted anything here, so I figured I'd post a few more of these!

Someone at Dell Comics knew a good thing when they found it!

One of Dell's biggest-selling comic books for this year was their comic book adaptation of the Beatles movie "A Hard Day's Night."

I'm not sure who did the artwork on it... but whoever it was, they captured the look of John, Paul, George and Ringo very well... probably working from photos of the Fab Four taken both before and while the movie was in production. However, the other characters (i.e. Shake, Paul's Grandfather, etc.) don't bear much resemblance to their movie counterparts!

This is kind of surprising, considering there was a paperback book based on the movie, with loads of photos (been a while since I've seen a copy, but I seem to recall it was kind of fumetti style).

The movie is adapted faithfully... although whenever the Fab Four broke into song, instead of breaking it up into panels, the lucky reader was treated to a single full-page panel (these must have been drawn from stills taken during filming -- the cover image of the Beatles performing on TV is almost exactly duplicated in the drawn interiors), with the lyrics to the song being printed (yes, printed -- all typeset nice and everything) above the illustration.

Some bits of the movie were more or less dropped... i.e. John Lennon's visual pun on snorting Coke (Coca-Cola, to be exact), but overall, a very fine presentation of the movie in comics form!