by Gavin Johnston on February 14, 2018

Writer: Angus Allan
Artist: Arthur Ranson
Publisher: Rebellion



Look-in was a British children’s magazine which ran from the early 70s through to the mid 90s. Along side articles and interviews, short comics stories were featured based on popular television shows, films and musicians – everything from Knightrider, to Bill & Ted, to Worzel Gummidge had a comic strip in Look-in. The Beatles Story, a biography of the world’s most famous boy-band, ran in the pages of Look-in 1981.


The plot, which follows the band from childhood to break up, rockets through the highlights of the decade long course from obscurity performing in German clubs to global stardom. The focus is on the band’s early days, finding their way from the clubs of Hamburg, through the early changes in line-up, up until Beatlemania and breaking America.


Originally published in only two page episodes, the story moves at breakneck speed, taking almost no time to cap previous events. Its a breathless torrent of trivia, at first providing a raft of unnecessary details but then building speed and spending almost no time on the psychedelia of Sargent Pepper, or the tensions of Abbey Road. Jane Asher and Maharishi Yogi are given about as much page space as George Harrison’s old boss when he was training as an electrician.


The uneven pacing, which artist Arthur Ranson suggested in a recent interview was likely an editorial decision rather than a creative one, is the comic’s biggest weakness. There’s a real feeling that writer Angus Allan conducted a ridiculous amount of research into the Beatles’ history and it is slowly fed to the reader in bite sized, entertaining chunks. Simply in terms of raw facts, there’s something here for almost everyone – most readers will be aware that Lennon and McCartney originally performed as the Quarrymen, but how many will be familiar with Johnny and the Moondogs, or Ringo’s time with the stage smashing Rory Storm and the Hurricanes?


Arthur Ranson’s inimitable lifelike style captures familiar faces and locations, with many of the panels clearly drawn from photographs and recordings of the time - a feat considerably more impressive pre-internet that it might now appear. The artist produced several strips for the magazine, with subjects ranging from musical biographies or Elvis or Abba, to the sci-fi of Logan’s Run. The art here is lovingly adapted, with the original logos carefully removed, and most of the artists signatures – creators at the time weren’t given credits, and artists only occassionally allowed to sign their work – tidied away.


The Beatles Story was obviously a huge volume of work from both writer and artist. Whilst it provides a somewhat comprehensive, if rushed, history of the events, being initially targeted at a younger audience it barely breaks the surface of the experience of being a Beatles, or provides any examination of the Fab Four’s characters. Its a real curio – it may well appeal to Beatles fans who might not be surprised by its contents, but will enjoy it as an artifact, or simply to those interested in the format and the artistry involved in producing such a high quality strip within such a condensed timeframe. It’s not going to be for everyone, but the Beatles Story sets out to do something and it does it phenomenally well.

Our Score:


A Look Inside