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Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles [Hardcover]

Arne Bellstorf
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 8 2012
A fascinating, exhilarating portrait of the Beatles in their early years.

Meet the Beatles . . . right at the beginning of their careers. This gorgeous, high-energy graphic novel is an intimate peek into the early years of the world’s greatest rock band.

The heart of Baby’s In Black is a love story. The “fifth Beatle,” Stuart Sutcliffe, falls in love with the beautiful Astrid Kirchherr when she recruits the Beatles for a sensational (and famous) photography session during their time in Hamburg. When the band returns to the UK, Sutcliffe quits, becomes engaged to Kirchherr, and stays in Hamburg. A year later, his meteoric career as a modern artist is cut short when he dies unexpectedly.

The book ends as it begins, with Astrid, alone and adrift; but with a note of hope: her life is incomparably richer and more directed thanks to her friendship with the Beatles and her love affair with Sutcliffe. This tender story is rendered in lush, romantic black-and-white artwork.

Baby’s In Black is based on a true story.


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Product Description

About the Author

Arne Bellstorf was born in Dannenberg, Germany in 1979. Since 2006 he has been writing and illustrating a monthly comic page for a German newspaper, Der Tagesspiegel. Baby’s In Black garnered unprecedented success in the German market, finding fans from all walks of life. Arne Bellstorf lives in Hamburg, Germany.

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Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Love me tender Jan. 7 2013
Format:Hardcover
Reviewing someone's life should be considered a crime against humanity.

Think about it. We all have ups and downs, is it just to have someone who's never met us decide if those moments were entertaining???

I'll be the first to admit that Bellstorf did an amazing job drawing the pictures (the cover is totally bookylicious). Just that alone inspires me to read several more graphic novels. The problem isn't the illustrations but that he didn't dig deep enough.

Girl meets The Beatles, falls for a member of the band, who instantly falls for her. Yes, instant attraction happens. But not a single fight or disagreement -- c'mon! She enrolls him in painting classes without even asking him and all he can say is "Should I bring my portfolio?" No relationship is that peaceful. By not letting us see any of the characters on a bad day, it made the story a lot less emotional.

I kept asking myself ''Who was Stuart Sutcliffe?'', feeling like the odd one out while two friends spoke in code.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant Story of the "Fifth" Beatle Aug. 4 2012
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Reason for Reading: I love this publisher. I love graphic biographies. I love The Beatles.

The publisher's summary does a more than adequate job of describing what this book accomplishes, even to the point of telling you how it ends. Of course, this is a true story and many will know the ending before they start to read anyway, but it would be nice for them to have left that off for the few of us new to this part of The Beatles' history. I knew about Pete Best and was vaguely aware of there being a friend of John's in the group at the beginning but had no idea of the Stuart Sutcliffe story. This was an interesting tidbit for me to add to my Beatles trivia. The story is bittersweet, sad and lovely all at the same time. Stuart seems to have been a very nice guy. The Beatles may have been quite a different group if Stuart hadn't decided to follow his dream to be a painter, but then time was against him from the start and we will never now what he may have accomplished.

This book is very much about Stuart, his love Astrid and the German friend Krauss. The Beatles themselves are background characters and used for there place within the tragic romance of Stuart and Astrid. Hardly a John and Yoko affair, everyone was happy for the young couple and wished them the best. The group was just hitting the ground running at the time Stuart left not leaving any time for sadness, regrets or bad feelings. This book will not really tell you much more about The Beatles than you already knew but it will open up a small hardly known touching story that shaped the lives of The Beatles in their very young beginning days (George is only 17 at this time).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great & Tragic Love Story of the Unknown Beatle Aug. 1 2012
By Nicola Mansfield - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Reason for Reading: I love this publisher. I love graphic biographies. I love The Beatles.

The publisher's summary does a more than adequate job of describing what this book accomplishes, even to the point of telling you how it ends. Of course, this is a true story and many will know the ending before they start to read anyway, but it would be nice for them to have left that off for the few of us new to this part of The Beatles' history. I knew about Pete Best and was vaguely aware of there being a friend of John's in the group at the beginning but had no idea of the Stuart Sutcliffe story. This was an interesting tidbit for me to add to my Beatles trivia. The story is bittersweet, sad and lovely all at the same time. Stuart seems to have been a very nice guy. The Beatles may have been quite a different group if Stuart hadn't decided to follow his dream to be a painter, but then time was against him from the start and we will never now what he may have accomplished.

This book is very much about Stuart, his love Astrid and the German friend Krauss. The Beatles themselves are background characters and used for there place within the tragic romance of Stuart and Astrid. Hardly a John and Yoko affair, everyone was happy for the young couple and wished them the best. The group was just hitting the ground running at the time Stuart left not leaving any time for sadness, regrets or bad feelings. This book will not really tell you much more about The Beatles than you already knew but it will open up a small hardly known touching story that shaped the lives of The Beatles in their very young beginning days (George is only 17 at this time).
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biographical graphic novel of the Fab Four's early years May 8 2012
By DJ Joe Sixpack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
--------------------------------------------------------------------
"Baby's In Black: Astrid Kirchherr,
Stuart Sutcliffe, And The Beatles In Hamburg"
Written & Illustated by Arne Bellstorf
(First Second Books, 2012)
--------------------------------------------------------------------
NOTE: mild spoilers below
--------------------------------------------------------------------
For most of the world, the early days of the Beatles are a potent, happy creation myth, full of youth and exuberance, the triumph of pop culture and the giddy camraderie of the witty Liverpudlian lads whose music swept the world and made rock'n'roll into an artform that adults embraced as well as kids. The mythic prelude where they apprenticed in the rough nightclubs of Hamburg, Germany is a well-known legend, too, of how art student Klaus Voormann saw an early lineup of the Beatles playing live and became a rock'n'roll convert. He brought his friend Astrid Kirchherr to see them the next night, and soon she produced early photos of the band that helped shape their image, and gave them advice on how to dress and style their hair, creating the unique "mop top" look of the Beatlemania days.

There was a dark side to this story, though: Kirchherr quickly fell in love with the group's bassist, Stu Sutcliffe, who was also a talented visual artist, and who chose to leave the band and stay in Germany to pursue "serious" art, even as the band began its meteoric rise to uber-mega-celebrity. This elegant, graceful graphic novel centers in on the love affair of Kirchherr and Sutcliffe, which ended in tragedy when he died of a brain hemmorage, the result of a months-long illness that was misdiagnosed by a German doctor. This book brings that story down to its most human, heartbreaking level -- the joy and wonder of seeing the Fab Four take off is part of the tale, but the crushing sorrow of Kirchherr's loss forms the coda.

An excellent comicbook that also makes the sketchy outlines of the "Beatles started in Germany" narrative come alive, with textures and detail that help readers understand the cultural tone of postwar Europe, particularly from a youthful perspective. Great stuff, good for Beatles fans and comic fans alike. Highly recommended. (DJ Joe Sixpack, Slipcue book reviews)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful story. Art needs something. Nov. 1 2012
By Maria Beadnell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The love story of Stuart (Sutcliffe) and Astrid Kirchherr is really one of the most beautiful I have ever read.

Conveniently, it took place in the genesis of the Beatles. You've heard of them. And while I had heard that the early time in Hamburg was exciting and exhausting, it takes a graphic novel to really get the squalor (they had no bath and had to clean themselves as best they could in a public washroom) and the shear idiocy (George was only 17 and shouldn't have even been out past ten pm, much less working--and none of the band had work permits) of the emerging band. It is quite a lovely story, well told in most respects.

Drat it, though, there are problems. The beautiful, spare art is SO spare it is hard to keep the characters apart. (What is the difference between these two guys? Same outfit, same hairstyle, same eyes--oh, THERE it is! A subtle change in the bend in the nose.) It slows down the story when I don't know who is talking.

The German, while infrequently used, is not always translated, or is written sloppily: "Oh, Wie geht es ihn Mrs. Kirchher?" (MRS???)

But it is a beautiful tale, making me so sad for Stu's early death; whereas I had previously been sad he didn't stay with the band and live to be a Beatle, I now am sad for Astrid and because Stu did not live up to his enormous promise as an artist.

That is quite a lot for one little 200 page graphic novel to do.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it June 16 2012
By WilloWill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When I was 21 I saw the movie Backbeat and became obsessed with the Stuart Sutcliffe story. I even moved to England because of it, cut my hair like Astrid's, copied her clothes and all, but I never made it to Hamburg and never found my version of Stuart.

Yes, pretty sad. Eighteen years later I am older, wiser and much more my own person, but there's still a special place in my heart for Astrid, Stu, Klaus, John and the gang.

I don't usually go for graphic novels but this was fun to read and really quite beautiful. The ending was a bit abrupt but in real life it probably was too. Apparently the book was written in close consultation with Astrid. Cool book about the world's coolest people.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Graphic telling of the Beatles in 1960 Hamburg Dec 8 2012
By Deborah Sandford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A rather interesting story about the Beatles' earliest years, which focuses on Stuart Sutcliff. Early fans know of this fifth Beatle who died before the lads hit their fame. The graphic depiction of these young British men trying to make it as a band in Hamburg, Germany is a bit passive, that is lots of talking, being together and smoking. Overall, this story of Stu and his love interest, Astrid Kirchherr, moves slowly and undramatically. In the caricatures, it is oten difficult to determine which Beatle is being portrayed, as they all look alike in black, with similar haircuts. This is fine as a young adult story, but only true Beatle Baby Boomer fans will get enwrapped.
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