Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles: John, Paul, George, Ringo, Brian! Wait? What?
Vivek J. Tiwari wants you to know there were actually five Beatles. Who is the Fifth Beatle?
“So I’m saying the fifth Beatle is Brian Epstein, the man who discovered the band when they were in small clubs, The Cavern Club, Brian saw in the band music that would inspire the whole world, their message of love and he said they would be bigger than Elvis.”
Brian was also gay and Jewish. In the 1960’s it was against the law in the United Kingdom to be gay. There was also a lot of anti-Semitism. Liverpool, England was a small working-class port town, so for a gay Jewish boy who finds a local band and he says they’re going to be bigger than Elvis it was laughable. But it was a dream he had. He managed the band to international stardom.
“He persevered and it is an incredibly inspiring story. He fulfilled his dream against all odds. But its also a tragic story; he never had a proper relationship so here is a man who brought this message of love to the world and yet he died a lonely man. It’s an incredibly inspiring story, a story that inspired me in my life. It’s a labor of love for me so I’m honored to be sharing it with the world now.”
Vivek is no stranger to the entertainment world. He was a producer for the revival of A Raisin in the Sun (yes, the one with P. Diddy) and co-producer on the Broadway productions of Green Day’s American Idiot and The Addams Family. His Broadway productions combined have 44 Tony nominations, winning 25 of them. So what drew him to Brian’s story?
“I first discovered this story 21 years ago when I was in business school,” That’s the Wharton School of Business, you slackers! Magna Cum Laude by the way. If you have aspirations to become an artist, you study the masters, Da Vinci, Picasso, Van Gogh so if you are studying to become an entertainment producer, you study the man who managed the most successful band in the history of ever, except he came across one problem. “There were and are no books about Brian Epstein in print. Literally when this comes out on November 19th this will be the first graphic novel or book out about Brian Epstein.”
Not only that, this was 21 years ago, before there was Wikipedia, Google or Internet (that was available to the public, at least) It was the stone age! So, how did Vivek continue his quest to learn more about Brian Epstein? “I got my hands on as many Beatles books that I could find and I slowly began to piece together a story. I read about the people in his life, his friends and I just started contacting them. I said I’m a young guy, trying to learn more about Brian Epstein, his story is inspiring me. At first they were a little wary, a lot of these people were very protective of him and because of his sexuality they learned to be guarded. Even when the laws were repealed it was socially unacceptable. I would say it was just in the last decade that its really opening up. They eventually got to see how genuine I was and I wound up with a lot of research, initially just for inspiration, I wasn’t looking to write a graphic novel or a film or anything like that.”
But here we are, 21 years later and we have a graphic novel out and a film about Brian Epstein in the works. How do we go from inspiration to novelization? “It was about seven years ago, I was producing A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway, I was thinking about my next project, what’s the next story I can tell, I realized it was the Brian Epstein story, a story that was so inspiring to me, that I have a huge amount of…and rare information.”
I wondered why this medium of sequential storytelling, why a graphic novel? “I though about how I would structure it. It starts off in 1961 Liverpool and ends in 1967 London, the years Brian spent with the Beatles. 1961 Liverpool is very dark, gray, industrial, I thought of that as very black & white. It ends in 1967 London, which is about the Summer of Love, the dawn of the psychedelic era, its very colorful, the way I thought of it. I thought of a lot of ways the story can go from black & white to color. You think about the visual forms of storytelling, television screens, graphic novels, film. So I set about to put together the film, the graphic novel took on a life of its own. Its not as though we made a graphic novel to make a film, we didn’t have that strategy that’s not the way we approached it although the projects are connected. I love comics, I grew up reading comics and I love film. So I wrote the screenplay and there are things that are restrictive to the mediums, the film is different from the book, there are aspects to it that work on the page that won’t work in the film and vice versa.”
Now I’m a big music lover but whenever I read a graphic novel or prose about anything that has to do with music or musicians, I find that I get stuck because of the medium. Films have a soundtrack that is played along with the story whereas a graphic novel doesn’t. But Vivek and artist Andrew C. Robinson found a way to convey that in the story. “The music is very emotional and even though I’m not a musician in my background I can talk for hours about how music makes you feel so Andrew and I would talk about that, what is the emotional thrust behind the moment. He was able to capture the emotion of the guys on stage.” Indeed he does, the graphic novel is gorgeously rendered, recalling the aesthetic and feel of the 60’s. The Beatles, more than any other band lend themselves to visual mediums, take a look at Sgt. Pepper, Yellow Submarine, this isn’t the Beatles first foray into comics. I can see how it appealed to Vivek and Andrew to create a graphic novel. But I digress, I shouldn’t read the book here, I’m interviewing Vivek right now. (Check out my review of The Fifth Beatle at whatchareading.com)
Now, obviously you just can’t make a graphic novel and film involving the Beatles without their blessing, so what kind of cooperation did Vivek receive from the surviving members of the Beatles? “I can’t really talk about that at this point but I will say one of the very first things I did when I started out on this project was to reach out to Paul, Ringo, Yoko and the widow of George Harrison through various agents and reps. I just said ‘I’m not asking for anything, but I jokingly said I will probably call one day and ask you for something but today I just want you to know I exist and I’m working on this project.’ They all got back to me and thanked me for letting them know about this. They do have to sign off on my script in order to get the music rights for the film, I’m very proud of that, we are the first and only film about the band to have ever gotten the music rights, we have to right to any song from the entire music catalog, I’m very proud of that.”
More than 50 years later, the Beatles are still relevant today. “Y’know I think its about that message of love, Brian saw it. It speaks to girls, boys, kids, parents, I got into the Beatles through my parents. I have a two year old and a five year old, I sing Beatles songs to my kids. My parents loved it, I love it and my kids love it, they are multi-generational and Brian saw that, and I believe that a large part of that, apart from writing great songs, is the message, this beautiful message. We announced the partnership with Freedom to Marry, for equality and the right to marry for same-sex couples and we are very proud of that partnership. It is a group I have a long history with. When my wife and I got married eight years ago, in lieu of wedding presents, we asked for donations to Freedom to Marry and I think Brian would be smiling and see equality, not everywhere, we still have a fight to fight. But I’m also hoping this book would draw attention to the cause and help spread the message of love and allow someone like Brian to night die alone.”
The standard hardcover edition will be available for $19.99 in an oversized library format. A collector’s-edition hardcover of this groundbreaking graphic novel will also be available, featuring a wraparound, textured cover and a section of bonus materials including Beatles and Brian Epstein memorabilia, artist sketches, and alternate covers, for $49.99.
The limited edition (1,500 copies) features a tip-in sheet signed by creators Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker, along with a twenty-four-page bonus section including rare Beatles and Brian Epstein memorabilia and behind-the-scenes sketches, a unique, textured cover, and a special slipcase, for $99.99.
ABOUT VIVEK J. TIWARY
Vivek J. Tiwary is an award-winning producer, writer, and financier for film, television, theater, music, and graphic novels. He is the producer and writer of “The Fifth Beatle,” a feature film and graphic novel based on the life of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. “The Fifth Beatle” has secured unprecedented access to Beatles’ music and is in development to shoot in 2013. In television, Vivek sold a sitcom pilot “Punk Rock Dad” to CBS, based on the bestselling memoir/parenting manual by Pennywise lead singer Jim Lindberg, and he is developing a number of additional series including “Ascension,” a historical fiction / thriller juxtaposing the history of astronomy with mankind’s future in the stars. On Broadway, Vivek’s productions have won a combined 25 Tony Awards from 44 Tony nominations—every single one of his shows have been decorated. They include “The Addams Family,” Green Day’s “American Idiot” (the groundbreaking adaptation of the superstar rock band’s multi-platinum album), Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” (the most Tony Awards ever) and “Young Frankenstein”, “A Raisin In The Sun” (starring Sean Combs), and “A Little Night Music” (starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury). Off-Broadway, Vivek produced a theatrical collaboration between electropop/performance artists Fischerspooner and avant-garde theatre collective The Wooster Group (founded by Willem Dafoe, Spalding Gray, and others) that launched the 2008 Sao Paulo Art Bienal. Vivek also serves on the Board of Directors for Valiant Entertainment (www.valiantentertainment.com), a multi-platform company that boasts the third largest and most-loved universe of comic book characters and has been hailed by the New York Times as “Marvel 2.0”. Prior to founding Tiwary Entertainment Group (www.tiwaryent.com) and online music education/empowerment company StarPolish, Vivek held a number of major label music-industry positions, including launching and heading the Alternative Marketing Department at Mercury/PolyGram Records, and managing Video Promotion for Mercury/PolyGram, where he worked closely with MTV and VH1. Vivek has worked with artists covering the entire musical spectrum including Bruce Springsteen, Shania Twain, Bon Jovi, Pearl Jam, Kiss, LL Cool J, John Mellencamp, Allen Ginsberg, Oasis, Hanson, 311 and The Mighty Mighty BossTones to name but a few. Among many charitable pursuits, Vivek is the Co-Founder of Musicians On Call (www.musiciansoncall), a nonprofit organization that uses music and entertainment to complement the healing process. He is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of both the Wharton School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania’s College of Arts and Sciences. Vivek also holds a filmmaking certificate from The New York Film Academy and is an acting student of Susan Batson/Black Nexxus Acting Studio.
ABOUT DARK HORSE COMICS
Founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics has proven to be a solid example of how integrity and innovation can help broaden a unique storytelling medium and establish a small, homegrown company as an industry giant. The company is known for the progressive and creator-friendly atmosphere it provides for writers and artists. In addition to publishing comics from top talent such as Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Neil Gaiman, Brian Wood, Gerard Way, Felicia Day, and Guillermo del Toro, and comics legends such as Will Eisner, Neal Adams, and Jim Steranko, Dark Horse has developed its own successful properties, including The Mask, Ghost, Timecop, and SpyBoy. Its successful line of comics and products based on popular properties includes Star Wars, Mass Effect, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, Conan, Emily the Strange, Tim Burton’s Tragic Toys for Girls and Boys, Serenity, and Domo. Today Dark Horse Comics is the largest independent comic book publisher in the US and is recognized as one of the world’s leading publishers of both creator-owned content and licensed comics material.
Juan Pineda is considered the 34,876th member of Nickelback, much to his embarrassment.
You can follow him on Twitter @JuanCPineda