COMICS: Exclusive Interview With The Man Responsible For The New Adaptation Of YELLOW SUBMARINE

COMICS: Exclusive Interview With The Man Responsible For The New Adaptation Of YELLOW SUBMARINE

COMICS: <font color=red>Exclusive</font> Interview With The Man Responsible For The New Adaptation Of YELLOW SUBMARINE

Music, comics & animation come together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine, & we've got an interview with cartoonist Bill Morrison about his work on the project right here.

The year is 1968, and Beatlemania is still in full swing. Though the band achieved its worldwide success five years earlier by coming to America, The Beatles’ popularity is still a cultural phenomenon, and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down—despite being a mere two years away from the group’s disbandment. However, the demise of (arguably) the world’s most important rock n roll band is unbeknownst to society at large, and the message of peace and love is still spreading through the music and the imagery associated with it.

And it is, again, in that imagery that we find ourselves in celebration of The Beatles once again, 50 years after the release of Yellow Submarine, the animated musical based on The Fab Four’s mix of psychedelic shuffles and experimental whimsy. This time, however, the images are still, unmoving and as eternal as the songs themselves, in a brand new comic book adaptation of Yellow Submarine, brought to us with love and admiration by cartoonist Bill Morrison.

While you may not know Morrison by name, you certainly know his work. He co-founded Bongo! Comics with Simpsons creator Matt Groening and has worked in designing characters for The Simpsons and Futurama. Perhaps most famous, though, is his promotional Disney artwork which has graced posters in children’s rooms, those signature VHS clamshell cases that every single person in the history of the entire world grew up admiring, and a slew of other Disney products. Currently, he’s working as editor of the recently relaunched MAD Magazine. In short, Morrison has indirectly influenced your life whether you’re aware of it or not.

And he’s hoping to do it again with his version of Yellow Submarine. Whether it’s brand new to your or you were able to watch it as it first aired, Yellow Submarine has become of staple of American animation. To celebrate its anniversary, Morrison and I got to discuss the project.  Let’s get into it and see what Bill had to say!

Image result for yellow submarine comic book 2018

Thanks so much for taking time to talk with us, Bill! Can you give our readers a little bit of background on yourself and your work?

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan and went to art school at the Center For Creative Studies. I began my career as a technical illustrator, but moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980’s where I illustrated movie posters and worked on other general advertising assignments.

In the early 90’s I started working on advertising, publishing, and merchandise aspects of the Simpsons. I drew the first Simpsons comic in the magazine Simpsons Illustrated and then went on to start Bongo Comics with Matt Groening and Steve and Cindy Vance. I was artist, writer, and art director, and eventually took over editing the comics. While at Bongo I also worked with Matt on development art for Futurama and went on to serve as Art Director of the show. After many years with Bongo I went to work with Matt on his new show, Disenchantment. I’m currently in the position of Executive Editor of MAD Magazine.

What’s your personal history with The Beatles? Have you always been a fan, or is that something that came later in life?

I grew up listening to the Beatles because my older brother and two older sisters were Beatles fans from the very beginning and had all their records. The first record album I owned was also a Beatles album of sorts. It was Alvin and the Chipmunks Sing The Beatles’ Hits. I remember seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, and going to a drive-in movie theater to see A Hard Day’s Night. So they were a huge part of my life growing up.

You’ve previously worked for Disney doing promotional art, you co-founded Bongo Comics with Matt Groening, and starting this year, you’re editing MAD Magazine. Have all of these endeavors informed your comics work, including Yellow Submarine?

Yes, I think so. I’ve spent most of my career drawing previously established animated characters “on model” and writing dialogue and stories in the style and voice that fans expect. So I’ve sort of developed an ability to bury my own style and mimic the look and feel of whatever project I’m adapting. So all that past experience made it easy for me to draw and write Yellow Submarine in a way that fans have told me is very faithful to the original film.

What was the process of adapting Yellow Submarine for comics? Was it intimidating to bring a beloved classic into a new medium for another generation?

It was a little daunting at first because I know how passionate and discriminating Beatles fans can be. I knew it had to be really excellent. But through most of the project I just tried to focus on hitting deadlines and keeping my creative energy high. My ultimate goal was to end up with a book that Beatles fans like myself would really love, so I figured if I please myself, my fellow fans will probably dig it.

Regarding the process of adaptation, I wanted to avoid creating a version of the film that fans would find inferior because of the lack of sound and animation, so I did things on the page utilizing graphic design that the film wasn’t able to do. The result is sort of like what if the Yellow Submarine film and a psychedelic poster had a baby.

With a story like this, you’re adhering to a style prescribed by the original animators, but what have you done to ensure your own creative contributions are present in the finished product?

I shifted my creative energy into the graphic storytelling and design of the pages. I feel that’s where my style comes through.

When was the first time you saw Yellow Submarine, and what sort of effect did it have on your personal or professional life?

The first time I saw it was in the 1970’s on TV. I thought it was cool and I loved the design and animation. I already knew the songs and I’d seen posters and merchandise from the film, so I was aware of the look of it. I don’t think it put me on a particular path toward a career of illustrating animated characters by itself, but it was a part of it. As a kid I was crazy about cartoons and comics, and MAD Magazine of course, and I was always interested in finding a way to do something related to my childhood obsessions.

Why do you think a film like Yellow Submarine has endured in popular culture for so long?

I think anything having to do with The Beatles is going to have a lot of longevity. But Yellow Submarine also has a fun story with a cool message, great animation, incredible design and color, and appealing characters. And the songs, of course. There is an awful lot to love about it.

Can you describe, if there is any, the relationship between music and comics?

There is fairly rich history of comics based on pop stars and bands. Some are straight biographies, while others put the stars in adventure-based stories. I think people love to read about their musical heroes, and in comic form it’s that much more fun.

Alright, it’s got to be asked: who’s your favorite Beatle, and why?

George is my favorite. I love his songs, and I like that he was very spiritual but also very funny and witty. He also seems like he was a very kind person. I think I identify with him for those reasons.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

It’s all MAD, all the time for me at the moment!

Hey, thanks, Bill! See you in the pages of MAD! Thanks for stopping by!

You can pick up Yellow Submarine, published by Titan Comics, at your local comic shop or online now!
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