BEATLES PSYCH-TOON YELLOW SUBMARINE IS NOW A GRAPHIC NOVEL. NICK SETCHFIELD EXPLORES A SEA OF GREEN WITH WRITER BILL MORRISON
All aboard for Pepperland! The Beatles’ animated head-trip gets the graphic novel treatment. Full speed ahead, Mr Boatswain!
In 1968 the Beatles came to the big screen in animated form. not so much a movie as a head trip, Yellow Submarine put the Fab Four into a mind-expanding psychedelic adventure, on a quest to save Pepperland from the nefarious Blue meanies.
now there’s a new graphic novel adaptation by Bill morrison, former Disney illustrator and co-founder of Bongo comics with The
Simpsons’ matt Groening. “I’ve been a big Beatles fan since I was a kid,” says morrison. “this was really just a dream come true. It’s one of those things where you don’t hesitate. You just say yes.”
YOU’RE FAITHFUL TO THE LOOK OF THE FILM. WHAT IS IT ABOUT YELLOW SUBMARINE THAT STILL RESONATES, 50 YEARS ON?
It was unique. It fits rights in with the psychedelic look of the times. the character designs still work, they still look fresh. they just nailed it.
DID IT EVER WORRY YOU THAT THE SONGS WERE THE GLUE HOLDING THE WHOLE THING TOGETHER?
It was a challenge, because I couldn’t use any of the lyrics. some of the song sequences didn’t really move the story ahead but there were a couple that did, so I had to be a little creative in portraying those.
WHAT DID YOU NEED TO BRING TO THE PAGE TO COMPENSATE FOR THE LACK OF SOUND AND MOTION?
I really looked to graphic design, and psychedelic poster art from that period. that was the one thing I
could do on a static page that they really couldn’t do in a film. as creative and as fun and as psychedelic as Yellow Submarine is, it wouldn’t make sense for them to have a lot of poster design elements in a film. there’s no reason. But in a graphic novel there’s every reason. so I filled it up with that. I think that’s the one thing that makes you go, “oh, I’d love to look at this…” It’s bringing something different because otherwise why not just watch the film? [laughs]
ARE YOU FAITHFUL TO THE SCREENPLAY OR DID YOU HAVE ROOM TO RIFF?
I followed it very closely. sometimes I’d think, “oh, I need to write a line for Ringo here and move the story along,” but other than that I tried to be as faithful as possible.
WHICH BEATLE WAS YOUR FAVOURITE TO DRAW?
I’d say John. I love his costume. I love how his shirt billows out over his jacket. he’s got the shirt sleeves that come out, and it’s all very frilly. and the glasses and the way his hair works and the moustache, it’s really fun. and of all the caricatures in the film it’s maybe the one that looks the most like the actual person.
DOES IT FEEL MELANCHOLY REVISITING THE ERA OF LOVE AND PEACE, GIVEN THE WAY THE WORLD’S TURNED OUT?
I don’t know if it’s melancholy. there is a bit of nostalgia, I think. But it was also a turbulent time back then, with the Vietnam War and protests. I think the book really delivers a message that’ll be well received today, in the same way that it was received back then. a message of peace and love, love conquering hate, and also redemption, the redemption of evil. the evil-doers in the film are as bad as bad can be and you don’t think they can ever come over to the good side, but they do. You should put a spoiler warning there! [laughs]
The Beatles: Yellow Submarine is out now from Titan Comics.