Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles in Hamburg

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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 ...

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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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Based on the biography of Stuart Sutcliffe, one of the original Beatles, and his relationship with German photographer Astrid Kirchherr, Bellstorf’s tragic love story offers insight into the time the Beatles spent performing together in Germany before they made it big. Astrid is a bohemian Francophile who is drawn to the incredible music of the Beatles, then playing in a dive bar in Hamburg. She is immediately attracted to bassist Sutcliffe, and despite their different languages and worlds, the pair fall into a happy, and seemingly easy, romance. But their happiness is short-lived: the Beatles are being forced to leave the country, and Stuart’s health is failing. The dialogue all rings true, and although both languages are portrayed in English, the confusion of the characters comes through without losing the audience. Thought the art style suits the story well, the facial features and hair of the male characters are similar enough that it is often difficult to identify which character is which. Fans of the Beatles will certainly be interested in this little-told tale of their early years. The end notes are particularly helpful in giving further perspective on Astrid’s continued relationship with the band. (May)
From the Publisher
"Bellstorf’s ability to capture the famous faces with a few simple tweaks is remarkable, and his expressive charcoals fit the whole artsy scene well." —Booklist

"The Beatles' story forms a backdrop to the compelling tale of Astrid and Stu, and although readers will doubtless enjoy glimpses of "the lads" (distinguishable mainly by noses, eyebrows, and John's snarky attitude), it's doomed young love that carries the day. The march of tidily boxed black ink and pencil pictures, most of which feature characters in conversation, is relieved by unframed reveries of the lovers wandering in the woods to a soundtrack of Beatles lyrics, foreshadowing their coming loss. Bellstorf will connect with a wide readership, from photography buffs to romance readers to classic rockers." —BCCB

Children's Literature - Michael Jung PhD
Fans of Beatles music and legends will enjoy this graphic novel about the little-known "fifth Beatle" Stuart Sutcliffe, who played with the Beatles in the early 1960s when the band was still a largely unknown group jamming in seedy German nightclubs. In truth, however, the story is as much about Astrid Kirchherr, a young German photographer and artist, who fell deeply in love with Sutcliffe and also played a pivotal role among the Beatles themselves by taking iconic photographs of them and creating their early hairstyles. Her love for Sutcliffe caused the musician to leave the band prior to their breakout success and concentrate on his dreams of becoming a painter and husband to Kirchherr—both of which were cut short within a few short years due to an unexpected tragedy. Originally published in Germany, this graphic novel might be best received by fans with a working knowledge of the Beatles' early history, as Bellstorf's narrative moves swiftly, causing readers less familiar with the Beatles to gloss over important points in the story. Atmospherically, on the other hand, the novel succeeds brilliantly as Bellstorf's black-and-white artwork of the chain-smoking young artists and musicians paints a perfect picture of the rebellious bohemian-type spirit of this time and space. Reviewer: Michael Jung, PhD
Library Journal
The Fab Four began as a hardscrabble rock 'n' roll fivesome, booked into Hamburg's seedy Kaiserkeller: John, Paul, George, Pete Best (later replaced by Ringo), and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. Thence came wannabe bohemians Klaus Voormann and the magnetic and lovely photographer Astrid Kirchherr. Astrid and Stuart connected instantly, and Astrid soon became the Beatles' confidant and supporter. She gave Stuart the haircut the others adopted, took iconic and often reproduced photographs, and assumed a professional role with the band that was unusual for a woman at the time. Tragically, both the Astrid-Stuart romance and Stuart's developing art career (he gave up guitar) were cut short when he died of a brain hemorrhage. VERDICT Bellstorf focuses on the romance, set in the smoky electricity of early 1960s Europe and played out in black-and-white art that's period-appropriate, poignant, and a touch cute. While all the characters, even Astrid, seem somewhat underdeveloped, Bellstorf compellingly captures a pivotal part of rock history through the eyes of an undersung supporter. Yet even here, Kirchherr's extensive input into the graphic novel is credited only in the end flaps. Teen and adult rock fans will be drawn to this.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596437715
  • Publisher: First Second
  • Publication date: 5/8/2012
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 499,085
  • Lexile: GN410L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet 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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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 27, 2013

    Anyone looking for more material to fire up their Beatle mania?

    Anyone looking for more material to fire up their Beatle mania?

    It’s 1960 in Hamburg, Germany and there aren’t many people who have heard of The Beatles yet. Astrid Kirchherr’s ex-boyfriend drags her to a seedy club just to see them. She’s immediately drawn to them, particularly Stuart. What follows is a melancholy love story. I’m sure this story is nothing new to well-researched Beatles fans. It’s just a new way of telling it. Bellstorf does a fantastic job weaving song lyrics throughout this book, and I did feel a connection to the Astrid and Stuart. The art, however, didn’t match up for me. It was mostly frames of black turtlenecks, dangling cigarettes, and broody stares. He’s certainly talented; I just wanted a little more variety. The art never felt like it was helping to tell the story.

    I would have preferred to read this novel in narrative form. Still, if you’re looking for some material on The Beatles in their early years, you might want to check this out.

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