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‘Fab4 Mania’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Carol Tyler
Published by Fantagraphics Books


In 2011, I posted my high school era journal from 1976 online as a daily blog, completely unedited, baring my most secret teenage thoughts and feelings to the public.

So yeah, I can really relate to Carol Tyler.

Carol has chosen to share with the world her Beatles diary from 1965, or an obviously heartfelt facsimile thereof.

It doesn’t take long before you find yourself with the uncomfortable feeling that you’re reading something that you shouldn’t, something private, secret, and just so incredibly personal. Something that was never meant to be read by anyone!

And yet here you are and you’re compelled to continue reading.

It’s one thing to see the old films of the teenage girls screaming and crying and talking a mile a minute about how much they love the Beatles. Let me assure you that it’s another thing entirely to be actually inside the head of one of these Eighth Grade girls and to “hear” her thoughts on not just the Beatles but her world at the time. School, nuns, family, friends, puberty, boys, babysitting, holidays, television, car trips, Juicyfruit wrapper chains, cheerleading, and a hundred other day to day thoughts, yet always encircled by the constant Beatles music playing nonstop on her internal jukebox.

And make no mistake about it. This book isn’t about the Beatles at all, in spite of their constant presence. No, this is Carol’s story, and in a sense the story of every other female Junior High student of the mid-60s.

Far more than a glorified comic book, Fab4 Mania is truly a graphic novel in the sense of using graphics to the fullest. It utilizes various forms of type and handwritten lettering, both printing and cursive, spot illustrations with and without word balloons, paste-ups, multiple coloring techniques, sketches, finished panels, charts, and a swinging ‘60s background.

The climax comes when Beatle-loyal Carol finally gets to catch the Fab 4 in concert—or at least the bizarre ritual that passed for one of their concerts. No one could be heard singing. The Lads themselves said that they weren’t often sure what songs they were singing at any given time! No, the point was to be in their presence. It was a raw, communal gathering of the teenage tribe, with girl-power showing its strength in numbers.

Carol’s work in recent years has won awards and been critically acclaimed. She just keeps getting better and better with this type of biographical or autobiographical graphic novel and Fab4 Mania shows her at her best. Before you realize it, you’re caught up in her awkward years with her Top 40 soundtrack playing through your head as well.

Booksteve recommends.



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