Knockabout Comics recently released Beatles With An ‘A’ by Mauri Kunnas, which is a wonderful re-telling the first beats of the Beatles’ career as only this legendary Finnish rock cartoonist could tell them. The book is filled with hilarious moments and details that even dedicated fans won’t remember having heard before, all told with Kunnas’s characteristically raucous humour and virtuosic drawing skills.
The riotous tale of the first hesitant steps of the world’s most famous band, Beatles With An ‘A’ charts their story from rocking-horse to the recording studio in Abbey Road, where the first singles were laid down. It is a story told thousands of times over, but never in quite such a wacky screwball manner as this.
Just to illustrate: the cover of the book depicts John, Paul, George and Ringo crossing the street Abbey Road style – but the street’s actually in Hamburg’s seedy Reeperbahn red-light district! Flip the book over and you’ll see two more characters in the procession: former band members Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe.
Kunnas chronicles the band from Ringo’s birth (against a backdrop of the Luftwaffe shelling Liverpool) through the release of their hit, “Please Please Me” / “Ask Me Why.” In the penultimate frame, George Martin speaks via intercom from the control room into the studio: “Congratulations, fellas! You have just recorded your first chart-topper!” And indeed they had.
Focusing on the band’s pre-fame days in a sly and irreverent style (and not shying away from Brian Epstein‘s fixation on on John), it’s a far cry from other comic adaptations of “The Beatles Story”, including the well known British comics version by Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson, first published in Look-In, which has been re-released as a digital audio comic by ROK Comics for iPad and iPhone. Kunnas makes liberal use of corny in-jokes and hokey wordplay, but it’s all done in good fun and if you’re a Beatles fan you should track this down in your local bookshop.
At present, Mauri Kunnas is undoubtedly Finland’s most successful author of children’s books. To date, way over 40 books of his have been published, in 32 languages in 35 countries – including Finnish and Finland –, for a total of almost seven million copies.
His books for children have aroused enormous interest around the world. The best-known internationally is Santa Claus. It has already been translated into twenty-six languages.
Mauri Kunnas offers the reader an unparalleled joy of discovery: his brilliantly coloured illustrations are filled with rich and humorous details and he has an unrivalled gift for taking history and casting it in a new and hilarious way, as well as for giving old stories and legends his own delightful twist. And his books always exude an atmosphere which is contagiously warm and happy.
Mauri Kunnas’s first picture book was published in 1975, marking the start of his spectacular career. In his spare time, Mauri Kunnas enjoys the Beatles, which surely prompted Beatles With an ‘A’, playing the guitar, films and history – as well as watching thunderstorms.
• Beatles with an A is also available on the SEQUENTIAL App for iPad along with other Knockabout titles (more info on the SEQUENTIAL version here on their web site)