www.examiner.com EXCLUSIVE: John Lennon's hidden years explored in unpublished graphic novel
Steve Marinucci, Beatles ExaminerNovember 22, 2011
Some years ago, Thom Donovan, an artist and a longtime Beatle fan living in Boston, had the inspiration for a project about John Lennon.
"About 6 years ago, I began what has become a huge project focusing on the private life of John Lennon in his last years," he said. "I had read 'The Last Days of John Lennon' by Fred Seaman, John's PA [1979-80], and many other books that contained personal anecdotes, travel routes, photos, art and music he produced during this period and other obscure details.
A panel from Thom Donovan's unpublished graphic novel about John Lennon.
Credits: Thom Donovan
"The project began," he said, "after I read about the little-known story of John learning to sail off the coast of Long Island, New York, in the Spring of 1980 and ended up sailing, as a cabin boy, with a small crew to Bermuda that June. After three days at sea, they hit a huge storm, the crew members all got sick and went below deck. Except for John, who faced 20 foot waves and 65 mph winds, and steered the sailboat, the Megan Jaye, through the storm and they landed safely in Bermuda. He said it was the most exciting time of his life." Donovan calls his project 'Lennon At Sea.'"
A preview of Thom Donovan's graphic novel on John Lennon
Donovan says he and Fred Seaman have met, and Seaman allowed him to use his book as the basis for the narrative. "He showed me his Lennon book as printed in a dozen international versions, called 'Borrowed Time,' some with colored photos. He also agreed to be interviewed on video." He said Seaman also planned to open his archives to him.
It was after the boating incident that Lennon began drawing up initial plans for a new album. According to Fred Seaman, however, it was also a rocky time for Lennon and Ono's marriage, and according to Seaman, they believed they were headed for divorce. Lennon also wanted to visit his relatives in the UK, though the trip never happened.
"I began writing a sort of patchwork narrative, all in chronological order, using hundreds of sources, until it got to be over 500 pages. Then I began drawing it all out in a multi-media comic/collage style, possibly creating a new genre, the rock history graphic novel," he says.
"My project draws on over 200 sources [audio interviews, rock bios, online reports, Bermuda press, published comments by crew members on the Bermuda trip, musicians' magazines, the half dozen major press interviews John gave in 1980, the infamous Esquire article in fall 1980 ("John Lennon, Where Are You?" by Laurence Shames, published in the Nov. 1980 issue), and many other sources I have listed as footnotes."
The project is not yet completed. "I am still drawing chapters to my cartoon project. I would say over 90% of this material is unknown to the general public, and the sailing story has never been portrayed anywhere but in Fred's book, now out of print in the U.S."
Donovan's hope is to get a book published -- and maybe more. "First, I wish for this to be published, likely in sections or sequels, as it is so big. And second, I intend for this to be a storyboard for a full-length film, possibly animated."
Where it will go from here, only time will tell. Anyone interested in contacting Donovan can email his publicist Jennifer Vanderslice at Moonglow PR at email@example.com.