New to our graphic books hardcover best-seller list this week, at No. 7, is “Baby’s In Black,” which chronicles the relationship between the artist Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bass player of The Beatles, who met in Hamburg during the earliest days of the band. The graphic novel, by the cartoonist Arne Bellstorf, is already a success in Germany, and does a wonderful job of capturing the small moments of everyday life. It feels authentic, no doubt thanks to the extensive input from Ms. Kirchherr. The illustrations, in black and white with sketchy gray tones, are, for the most part, warm and inviting. “Baby’s In Black” has a couple of drawbacks: all of Mr. Bellstorf’s faces have small swirls of gray on their cheeks. It’s easy enough to get used to, I suppose, but this graphic tic often makes the characters look dirty (is that a smudge?) or surprised (are they blushing?). For those who know their Beatles history, the ending will be a foregone conclusion, but the story was new to me and I found the handling of Mr. Sutcliffe’s death quite abrupt.
Another hardcover of note, which came out earlier this month, is “Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics,” featuring interviews by Christopher Irving alongside portraits by Seth Kushner. The book contains more than 50 short profiles of various comic book creators. It’s a great survey of many of the talented men and women behind the characters. “Short” and “survey” are the key words. For someone wanting to learn about the comic book industry, this is a great introduction, particularly the final pages devoted to the digital generation. As someone more familiar with these names, I wanted more: details about the earliest days of the industry, idiosyncrasies of the creative process, the pluses and minuses of work-for-hire assignments vs. blazing one’s own path.
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