One of music’s most popular conspiracy theories comes to life with Paolo Baron and Ernesto Carbonetti’s new Image Comics’ graphic novel Paul is Dead.
Rumor has it has it that the original Paul McCartney died in a 1966 car accident, and not to distract from the Beatles’ fame, they replaced Paul with a look-alike. The rumors continued after fans found supposed clues through their music of the band mourning his death. This included songs played backwards, symbolism used in their tracks, and Paul walking barefoot on the cover of Abbey Road, representing his passing.
Due out April 22, Paul is Dead is a love letter to the Beatles that spins a 'What if?' tale about George Harrison, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr becoming detectives to uncover the truth of their friend’s death - all while they mourn his passing in the spotlight.
Newsarama had the chance to talk to Paul is Dead writer Paolo Baron about his love for the Beatles as people and musicians, the inspiration for the title, and if he actually believes that Paul is dead.
Newsarama: Paolo, what inspired you to tell Paul is Dead?
Paolo Baron: The love I feel for the Beatles. They were kind of heroes in my childhood. I was excited to play movie director with John, Paul, George, and Ringo as my actors, giving them a script to act out, a script that looks like a detective story.
Nrama: What kind of research went into creating a graphic novel like this?
Baron: I’ve been looking for newspapers, books, documentaries and interviews about the P.I.D. conspiracy for months, just like an investigation on a “cold case” from 50 years ago. Of course, 90% of the “clues” I’ve found were hard to believe.
Nrama: How and why do you feel this conspiracy caught fire back in the day and is still talked about?
Baron: I think it caught fire just as a joke, but later, thousands of fans fed the fire because the legend of McCartney’s death and his lookalike really was captivated. It’s very hard to say who started the fire and why.
Nrama: I feel like every music lover has their own Beatles origin story. Do you remember the first time you heard a song by them, how you became a fan?
Baron: I don’t remember the first time or the first song, I was 7-8 years old, but I remember very well that my mother used to play their records. At first, those records were like toys for me, then the Beatles became my favorite band.
Nrama: Fifty years later, why do you think Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road are still considered so important in the history of music? Why do you think the Beatles have been able to stand the test of time?
Baron: The Beatles started everything in modern music. Their songwriting, the sound research in the studio, the relationships with music business. They were pioneers, and last but not least: they wrote some of the best songs ever.
Nrama: There are a few things that went into creating the conspiracy behind “Paul is Dead." The image from Abbey Road with Paul walking barefoot alongside his bandmates, and people believe they can hear John sing about Paul’s death when they listen to certain songs backwards. Including their infamous “Revolution 9,” which is a song that still has my head spinning, putting aside the conspiracies. Are these things you put into your text?
Baron: No, not at all. I’ve never believed in those clues. They’re just a bunch of random coincidences discovered by overheated fans. My book is about a strong friendship and four young men coming together and suddenly losing one of their friends…
Nrama: As a fellow Beatles fan, I know this is a tough question, but I have to ask it. What’s your favorite Beatles song?
Baron: I can’t say.
Nrama: Favorite album?
Baron: Really, I can’t say, sorry.
Nrama: You’ve done other musically-driven narratives like Punk is Undead with your art collaborator Ernesto Carbonetti. What is your fascination with telling stories about music in the comic book medium?
Baron: We’re both musicians. I’ve been in a band for 20 years. We listen to a lot of genres and bands, we love and live music everyday. Plus, writing music narratives is a good way to bring our idols back to life.
Nrama: Are there any other musicians you’d like to do an alternate reality story for? I know there is a similar conspiracy theory about Avril Lavigne.
Baron: We just want to tell stories using rock stars as characters, asking “What if” or – as you rightly said – posing an “alternative reality” based on true facts.
Nrama: Why did you think this was a good fit for Image?
Baron: Image has always been interested in stories that open new scenarios in comics and that’s just what we’re trying to do with Paul is Dead and with our project of creating a collection of alternative storylines from rock music history.
Nrama: Why did you decide to make this a graphic novel instead of a limited series?
Baron: We first published it in Italy, it was immediately evident that it would be the perfect fit for a “narrative track” of that kind, and then there’s the astonishing quality Ernesto’s drawings.
Nrama: And finally, do you believe Paul is dead?
Baron: Paul is dead, “and I do not feel very well today!”