German cartoonist Arne Bellstorf's latest book, Baby's in Black, is a graphic novel that tells the story of the courtship of the photographer Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bassist of the Beatles during their early period in Hamburg, Germany. The story may be familiar to hardcore Beatles fanatics, but Bellstorf's artwork is fresh and distinct, rendering the lovers and the youthful Beatles in a clean, dynamic style that mixes bold black ink lines with softer shading in black crayon.
Bellstorf was inspired to tell the story after discovering Kirchherr's own artwork. "I found Astrid's photos and I didn't know anything about both her relationship to the Beatles and Stuart," he told Rolling Stone. "The first thing I saw [of hers was a] famous self-portrait in front of a mirror. And I was just curious who this young pretty girl in Sixties Hamburg, my home town."
"I read a lot about her and Stuart, and learned that the Beatles began their career in Hamburg," says Bellstorf. "I wasn't aware of that, that was 2007. Now we have this Beatlemania museum right out on Reeperbahn and there are guided tours. But back then, we had nothing like that."
Bellstorf achieves wonderfully intuitive likenesses of Kirchherr and the Beatles in the book, but had to work to keep iconic images of the musicians out of his mind. "I wasn't a big Beatles fan, so I always had a picture of the late Beatles in my head, but it was interesting to learn that the Beatles started out as a rock & roll cover band in Hamburg," he says. "My drawing style is usually pretty linear-clear, very reduced and simple and not naturalistic at all, but I showed my first draft to Astrid and she just laughed and said it was very cute. She liked the noses and the funny hair, how I depicted their pretty boy look."
You can click through to check out an excerpt from Baby's in Black, which is in book stores now.
– By Matthew Perpetua