400th Episode (Marvel Super Special #7: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)
May 30, 2016
Comic Book Quickies 6
Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man
The 400th episode is here! This time, let's have some fun...
(Open on Linkara standing against a black screen as he performs his version of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life")
- I read this book today, oh, boy,
- Adapted from an awful musical
- And though the film was rather bad,
- Well, I just had to laugh
- A fitting epitaph
- But then a comic came to be
- George Perez handled all the art, you see
- But when the film became a bomb,
- Not to be published here,
- Because the book was latent 'cause the film reduced us all to tears
- The book was printed though, indeed,
- In French and Dutch and maybe Japanese
- Rock opera turned to printed page
- Well, I just have to look,
- At this comic book
- And now it's translating...
(spoken) In 1977, producer Robert Stigwood sought to adapt a stage play of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band into a film musical. Despite an incredible soundtrack of Beatles songs redone by the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, and a host of other musical talents, it was a box office bomb, yet was still adapted into an issue of the comic series, Marvel Super Special.
(sung) Welcome to the show
Instead of Sonic 4, or devil deals,
or racist spiels, we're doing something fun
I'm in my coat, in my hat
Made a bunch of cyber masks
Done the show so long, and here I am,
singing to that cam, time to dig into this thing
(spoken) The book was a nightmare to work on, with no support from the studio and its script that changed every day. It ran late, not that it mattered anyway, because the movie tanked so hard, that it was decided to not release it in America. Strangely, instead of making the next Super Special, an adaptation of the pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica into issue 7, the numbering persisted, and so in America, it jumps from issue 6 to issue 8. But, yes, this book was in fact published in non-English speaking countries.
(sung) Music in comic books, oh boy
4000 books like this, they never learn
No sound and plotholes big or small,
I couldn't count them all
Now let's dig into this book and see just how they dropped the ball
Because it's translating...
(spoken) Hello and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. This is the 400th episode. Let's dig into Marvel Super Special #7: Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band!
(The song finishes playing, and after the show intro and title card, we see Douwe Egbert (possibly related to the coffee brand of the same name) playing the opening bars of "Come Together" on an acoustic guitar.)
Douwe Egbert: Hello, I'm George Burns. (beat) Just roll with it. I'm here to serve as your narrator through the events of Atop the Fourth Wall's 400th episode. You see, given the source material, Linkara decided he needed to do this as a rock opera, so he'll be singing all his lines. You'll need me to navigate you through the jokes properly.
(An off-screen person hands Douwe a piece of paper.)
Douwe Egbert: It seems Linkara couldn't afford the budget to do the whole episode singing, so there will be musical moments throughout the review. I am, therefore, superfluous. But I still get paid, so either way, I win. Our story begins on a familiar futon, where everyone was wondering just how Linkara would open the episode.
(Fade to Linkara on his futon without his jacket on.)
Linkara: 400 episodes... eight years. And with such a long time between the start of this show and this current point, it's easy to forget our roots. Most of the reviewers who started around the same time I did were inspired by the Angry Video Game Nerd. And so, in his honor, I must ask this: WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!
(Cut to the cover for the "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" comic.)
Linkara: (voiceover) So we've got an album of songs by the Beatles, turned into a musical, turned into a movie, turned into a friggin' comic book!
Linkara: You know, at least when they adapted Street Fighter: The Movie into a comic book, the transformation from source material to end product involved some similar elements. We've gone from an auditory medium to one completely bereft of audio!
Linkara: (voiceover) It's totally understandable why this thing ended up being a disaster on almost every level. How did nobody at Marvel realize what a mistake this would be? They were knee-deep before anyone stopped and said, "Oh god, what are we even doing?" But what's more baffling is that despite all that work and money they already spent on it, they decided not to release it in the USA!
Linkara: I mean, you did the work already. Sure, it wasn't going to make that much money, but you coulda serialized it as a backup story for other Marvel Super Special issues, or even released it as a double feature with something else! There were other solutions than, "Hope nobody notices that there is no issue 7!"
(Cut to a random comic page containing a musical number, a cover for the "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie" comic, and various clips from the "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" film.)
Linkara: (voiceover) The great thing about doing this as the 400th episode is that it covers two topics we've talked about at length in this show, combined together to highlight the follies of each: the aforementioned singing and music part in a comic, plus a movie adaptation! But then we have a whole new problem on top of those! It's a movie where 90% of the dialogue isn't dialogue! It's song lyrics! Song lyrics that don't necessarily match up with what's happening in this story because they were written under entirely different circumstances and context.
Linkara: And one song, Come Together is, by John Lennon's own words, gobbledygook! As in, it's utter nonsense! And thus, I must ask that question that started this: WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!
(Cut to various pages from a Superman and Beatles comic George Perez worked on, as well as more footage from the "Sergeant Pepper" movie.)
Linkara: (voiceover) While this was still early in George Perez's career, he was the best pic for a project like this, since he's one of those artists who works best when he's dealing with a cast of hundreds with great, dynamic action scenes, distinctive characters, and awesome facial expressions. He had already done Marvel Super Special #4, which was a biography about the Beatles, where he emphasized design and imagery to try and talk about the Beatles' music, since of course they couldn't actually put any music in the thing. Doing the Beatles comic is what landed him the Sergeant Pepper adaptation, but according to an interview, the book was a disaster from start to finish. They got no assistance from the Robert Stigwood company, and the movie script was still being changed during filming. So when elements from the comic were getting dropped or when new stuff was being added, he even said that he was happy it never got released in English.
Linkara: Fortunately for me, one of my wonderful fans took up the task and not only translated it, but altered the artwork of the scans to be in English, so the majority of you out there can follow what's happening. Thanks, Sheila!
(Cut to the famous "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album cover, and then once again to the film it based.)
Linkara: (voiceover) Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was an album conceived up by Paul McCartney. The idea was that the album would be as if it had been made by a fictional band going by that name. This would allow the songs to be highly experimental with shifting tones, as well as new sound work and types of instrumentation utilized in it. It was definitely something the band needed, thanks to the exhaustive tour schedule they had been going through. Blasphemous as it is to say, though, I actually prefer the movie versions of these songs to the original Beatles ones. As said, they were experimental, and as a result, they sound experimental, like a rough draft or something. Some of them are still great, of course, but I just feel that for some, the Bee Gees perfected them.
Linkara: Then again, what the hell do I know? 400 episodes, and I'm still never gonna be as popular as the Bee Gees. (holds up the titular comic) So let's finally read this sucker, and see how the hell they pulled this off!
(Cut back to the comic cover as Linkara gives an in-depth analysis on it.)
Linkara: (voiceover) The cover is... bizarre. It's a photo cover, combining various bits of promotional artwork in one image, but the problem is that that means we have multiple copies of the titular band appearing on it, even in the same outfits. Hell, they actually copied and pasted the shot of them with their arms outstretched from the middle into the lower right of the page. And here we see George Burns applauding the clones while he's sitting inside of a cheeseburger, like he was some bizarre, fast food-themed Davros. And can I just ask? What the hell is going on with the shots of Barry Gibb? Up top, he's OK, but in the middle shots, he looks like his head has been squished a bit. How could they do that to him?!
Cut to a random clip of Barry Gibb.)
Barry Gibb: I'm Barry effing Gibb!
Linkara: (voiceover) Welcome to Sergeant Pepper and his Lonely Hearts clone saga! Look, there's even an oversized George Burns terrorizing the people down there! We open with George Burns narrating to us. (as Mr. Kite) "Bombs! Guns! Death at any moment!"
Linkara: Ah, Black Friday at Walmart. (voiceover, as Mr. Kite) "Destruction everywhere."
Linkara: Never mind, it's Warner Brothers' corporate headquarters after the release of Batman v. Superman. (voiceover, as Mr. Kite) "It's World War One."
Linkara: George Burns is Rod Serling in the Twilight Zone: The Untold Story. (voiceover, as Mr. Kite) "And yet, in the midst of the battle's deafening chaos, a joyful music emerges."
(Cut to a clip of Olivia Newton-John performing "Xanadu".)
Linkara: (voiceover, as Mr. Kite) "And even the German soldiers stop to listen to... Sergeant Pepper!"
Linkara: (as Mr. Kite) Not realizing that Sergeant Pepper was known to lull his enemies into a state of euphoria with his music before a platoon then mowed them down. (voiceover) "You'll never believe what happens next."
Linkara: Oh, great. Even comics from the 70s had clickbait! (voiceover, as Mr. Kite) "A magical melody fills their hearts with peace and happiness. Suddenly, all combative thoughts vanish as the soldiers head towards the sound of the drum to march along with the orchestra, the Lonely Hearts Club Band!"
Linkara: So basically, Sergeant Pepper was a Pied Piper-style supervillain, who took over the world with mind control. (voiceover) May I ask what may be a dumb question? Why is it called the Lonely Hearts Club Band? Lonely hearts are basically singles hoping to find a date. While trying to look up info about this, it was suggested that the entire album was about alienation and loneliness; 'all the lonely people', as it were, that the band was the spokesband for such a club. If that's the case, why the hell are they all so damn jovial about it? Does that mean they're uniting the world in sorrow? And if all that is true about the name, does that mean that Sergeant Pepper was the original emo band?
Linkara: Crawling in my Skin? Bah! Get yourself some For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, dang it! (voiceover, as Mr. Kite) "It's not surprising that for having produced such a miraculous music, above and beyond the call of duty, the U.S. government provided Sergeant Pepper with its highest distinction, the Purple Staff."
Linkara: An imaginary medal for an imaginary band. (voiceover) Really, you ended World War 1 with this band, and yet all you get was a friggin' medal? I mean, can't we give them anything else?!
(Cut to a short clip from "The Price is Right".)
Drew Carey: (off-screen) A new car!
Linkara: (voiceover) It's a start, but I don't know. Maybe the Purple Staff grants you tax immunity or something. (as Mr. Kite) "Believe me, my friends, everyone loved the famous sergeant's music and listened to it."
Linkara: (as Mr. Kite) Everybody was pirating it! (voiceover) "During the Roaring Twenties, the band was playing, and all the young ladies were dancing the Charleston wildly." (normal voice) Well, some of them were dancing the Charleston, others were apparently doing the can-can. (as Mr. Kite) "Through the Great Depression, the band was playing, and people were dancing their troubles away."
Linkara: People were starving on the street, tuberculosis was rampant, but who cares? We get to dance to a jaunty tune! (voiceover) Jeez, I knew the Great Depression was bad, but I didn't realize women had to sell their bras and panties. Or maybe, this is just the Great Depression at a nudist colony. (as Mr. Kite) "During the economic recovery, the band was playing, and couples were gracefully waltzing around."
Linkara: (as Mr. Kite) But then they decided they actually liked being naked barrels more. (voiceover) "Even during World War 2, the band was playing still." (normal voice) You sure about that? Because it looks like they exploded in this panel.
Linkara: And I'm gonna agree with the Cinema Snob's review of this film, was this how the concentration camps were liberated?! Oh, speaking of, I should probably cut back to him since, you know, reviewer dibs and all.
(Linkara presses a button on a remote, and after a bit of static snow, we cut to Brad Jones A.K.A. the Cinema Snob wrapped in a blanket.)
Brad Jones: I have existed since the morning of the world, and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night! Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula...
Linkara: Sergeant Pepper comic.
Brad Jones: Oh. When the hell are you gonna do the Caligula comic?!
(Cut back to the comic.)
Linkara: (voiceover) Anyway, the band continues to play for another 40 years. Though, I've gotta say, for being such a war-stopping band, the fact that they have to keep stopping world conflict shows that they're not particularly effective at it. In the town of Heartland, a celebration is held to honor Sergeant Pepper, including a commemorative statue, or rather, as Mr. Kite points out, a Sergeant Pepper weather vane. (as Mr. Kite) "It shall always point the way to happiness."
Linkara: (as Mr. Kite) Strangely, it keeps pointing at the liquor stores. (voiceover, normal voice) Unfortunately, when the aged Sergeant Pepper raises his trumpet to play, he has a heart attack. (as Mr. Kite) "But then, suddenly... the music... faltered... weakened... and died!"
Linkara: (singing) So bye-bye, Mr. American guy... (voiceover) In his will, Sergeant Pepper left his daughter's family all his property, save for the magical instruments, which were donated to Heartland itself and stored at the city hall... where there are actual statues of the band instead of just the lame weather vane. Admittedly, probably waxwork dummies, but still better-looking. Admittedly, though, if I got a statue, I think I'd want it to actually look like me in my prime, and not how I looked right before a fatal heart attack. (as Mr. Kite) "These instruments have the power to make dreams come true."
Linkara: (as Mr. Kite) And they're all mine! All hail Emperor Kite! (voiceover) "But they must never leave Heartland, because without them, our days would be miserable."
Linkara: (as Mr. Kite) Let's face it, there's not a lot goin' on in this town without 'em. (voiceover) "Others would have the power. Others could have anything they want."
Linkara: (facing right) Hey, I'd like to use these all-powerful, dream fulfilling instruments to cure diseases and make people's lives better. (facing left, as another person) No, I'm sorry. If you did that, some Podunk town will be kinda bummed. (voiceover) Sergeant Pepper, apparently, also left his fakey medal with his other grandson, Billy Shears, even apparently leaving instructions for him to start a new band. Considering the last band ended two World Wars, you gotta love how it's now up to this kid, who may not want this life to now create a new version of it. Not to say it shouldn't happen, just that maybe you should get his input before thrusting the responsibility on him. But of course, he did indeed to form it, so look forward to Billy Shears and his Lonely Hearts Club Band, putting an end to the Vietnam War and then deal with Saddam Hussein. Mr. Kite is dragging out the waxwork statues, since Billy's new band will be ready to play once they see the exhibit. And, yeah, I guess we decided to let the single old guy drag out the massive statue instead of, like, hire people to help for this momentous day. Billy's brother, Dougie, who serves as the band's manager, introduces the new band to the super white town of Heartland. (as Dougie) A few years ago, four boys got together and formed a new band, as Sergeant Pepper's legacy. Today they will sing for us a legendary piece."
Linkara: *singing* Night fever, night fever... we know how to do it! (voiceover) No, of course they sing the title song. I'll give this comic credit: unlike stuff like Nightcat or Batman: Fortunate Son, since they're just singing Beatles songs and because this is just an adaptation of a film musical, we actually know what the songs sound like... at least I do. See, the other problem with doing this comic is that it was made for 1979, which requires the reader to actually have a copy of the soundtrack or to have seen the movie to know what these versions of the songs sound like. But if you have the soundtrack, why are you reading the abridged version of the lyrics instead of just listening to it? But anyway, yeah. Billy starts singing, (as Billy Shears) "What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?"
Linkara: Not for that, but I think I would for the huge "Billy" you have emblazoned on your overalls. Why do you need a nametag? (voiceover) Hell, all the band members have those. Even Dougie has one on his hat. Why? (as Mr. Kite) "Never since the original Sergeant Pepper stopped playing did children, young people, and elders feel so happy altogether."
Linkara: (as Mr. Kite) Although there was that one time we all became obsessed with the Beach Boys, but we don't talk about that. (voiceover) We're then introduced to Strawberry Fields, yes, seriously, as she's helping an old lady from the Heartland retirement home get a closer view of the band. (as Mr. Kite) "The old lady bobs her head joyfully. She's under the charm."
Linkara: (as Mr. Kite) She, too, has had her free will stripped from her and joined the hive mind.