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The Beatles: Yellow Submarine by Bill Morrison - book review

The Beatles: Yellow Submarine by Bill Morrison
The Beatles: Yellow Submarine by Bill Morrison
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Fancy an eye-catching, mind-bending voyage under the sea to an unearthly paradise called Pepperland?

Then all aboard for a generation-spanning journey which originally set sail a staggering half a century ago. Yellow Submarine has been back in selected UK cinemas in recent weeks in special showings for the first time since its big screen release in 1968.

Now, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, comes this splendid graphic novel, a faithful adaptation of the animated feature length screenplay, which – although very much of its time – does not really feel dated at all.

Then, as now, you join the Fab Four – John, Paul, George and Ringo – recruited, or rather press ganged, by Young Fred, Pepperland's newly-appointed Lord Admiral, to travel in the Yellow Submarine in order to free this once-peaceful land from the evil rule of the music-hating Chief Blue Meanie and his army of Turtle-Turks, Apple-Bonkers and the much-feared Flying Glove.

Lifelong Beatles fan Bill Morrison has successfully sidestepped the obvious restrictions of having neither sound nor motion by immersing readers into more than 100 busy pages, bursting out to all four corners with vivid colours.

Each page is populated by friends and fiends alike but among the speech bubbles and other text en route to Pepperland, you won't find a single song lyric in this incredible mix – although there's nothing, assuming you have the music, to stop you cranking up the hi-fi and providing your own singalong soundtrack in the background as you travel through the book.

At times, Morrison has cleverly created the odd snatches of appropriate new dialogue so that the storyline flows where those well-known songs would have been.

An illustrator for Disney, creating promotional art for various titles, among them Bambi, Peter Pan and The Little Mermaid, he is the current executive editor of America's satirical MAD magazine so the world of the surreal is something with which he is more than familiar.

Morrison has incorporated design elements of Heinz Edelmann's original psychedelic art and characters and if you need proof of the attention to detail then look no further than than on the hands of those Blue Meanies – yes, all six fingers are there!

Without spoiling the plot, I think we probably all know there's a happy ending when Pepperland's enemies are taught the life lesson that all you really need is love, and even the Chief Blue Meanie admits that his cousin is the Bluebird of Happiness.

But, in this case, the story does not actually end there. The book's final nine pages showcase concept art and provide a valuable insight into Bill Morrison's own journey, sharing graphic novel pages in their early stages, plus pencil art for the cover and an alternative version that was considered, as well as pictures from his sketchbook.

(Titan Comics, hardback, £26.99)