There’s no other band in rock history that’s such a recurrent theme for conversation as the Beatles. Besides the musical contribution to mankind – which is beyond any doubt – the band has generated a series of controversies that helped build the myth and transform the four musician from Liverpool into an entity.
Also, there’s no other media that works so hard on the collective mind of humankind as comics. The narrative possibilities of a comic book are infinite, not restricted to the overinflated logistics of a motion picture and to the absence of images of a radio production or a book.
Considering both facts, we understand why the “Dead…Till Proven Alive” story, originally published on Batman 222 (June 22nd, 1970), is so remembered and cherished by both comics and The Beatles aficionados.
We can list many wondrous stories that involve Beatles’ lore: since “we’re bigger than God”, including smoking pot on Buckingham Palace, spiritual trips to India, playing on the roof of Abbey Road Studios, many stories have become part of rock n roll history itself. But perhaps the most intriguing and mythological story is the theory that say that Paul McCartney died in a car crash and was replaced by a look-alike.
As for Batman, he’s oe of the biggest comic book icons of all time, a pop symbol, as big and universal as the Fab Four, with over 60 years in comics and present in many other mediums, always with tremendous success.
Using the famous “Paul is dead” myth as a plot Frank Robbins (Batman writer at the time) created the story on issue 222.
Obviously, names and situations are (slightly) altered to avoid legal and other issues; instead of “The Beatles”, the band is called “Oliver Twists”, a nod to the book by Charles Dickens. The band has four members (you don’t say!), a pastiche of the true Beatles, wearing army coats – Sgt. Peppers style – and everything else. The duo of main songwriters for the Oliver Twists have interesting names: Glennan e Saul (Cartwright).
The cover for the comic book is highly suggestive: it is a adaptation of the Sgt. Pepper’s album back cover, with the same clues to Paul’s death:
1. Saul (or Paul) has his back to the camera, indicating he’s the impostor;
2. Saul appears to be in a higher position than the others, which would mean he was “ascending”.
The mistake on the comic book cover resides in the fact that “Glennan” (or Lennon, have it your way), joined by the other Twists which rise fro the grave, is barefoot. It’s not too much to remind that the inspiration for the barefoot detail comes from the cover for the Abbey Road album, and in that Paul is barefoot, not Lennon. Maybe it was a mistake, or maybe an indication of the story’s twist (wink, wink).
Not even the message hidden in a track played backwards has escaped from the comic book version: the Twists main hit “Summer Knights”, when played backwards, in a certain rotation, shows Glennan singing “it was really fun, Saul – too bad it’s over!”, a clear reference to the “turn me on, dead man” supposedly heard on Revolution #9, from the White Album.
Besides mentioning a “pink submarine”, Saul’s accident is credited to the fact that he didn’t want to go with the other Twists to India, to “uncover the mysteries of the Orient”. As those versed in Beatlemania may notice, this is a nod to the time the Beatles spent with the Maharishi in Rishikesh.
Anyway, the story’s great entertainment, with a surprise ending (and it’s not what you think it is!). To know how the story ends, download the comic from this link (let me know if it is down, I’ll upload it again).