Beanworld, Larry Marder and Me. A Formal Complaint.
A reader asked me if anything came of this piece that MarkAndrew wrote a little over a year ago, and the answer (as far as I know) was no, but I figured it was an interesting enough piece to share with you folks on the current blog, and, well, who knows who might see it (perhaps, dare we hope, even a certain Mr. M?). – Brian
I’ve been good. I eat my vegetables, do my homework every night, am kind to old people and small animals. Sure, there’ve been a few lapses; But, hey, those nuns TOTALLY had it coming.
Therefore, I think I deserve new Beanworld.
Or at least an explanation.
And, come to think of it, so do you:
The Part Where I Explain What Th’ Hell I’m Talking About
Tales of the Beanworld was a twenty-one issue comic book series published by Eclipse comics in the mid-eighties through early nineties. Lettered, drawn, inked, lettered, and, far as I know, individually hand stapled by a dude named Larry Marder.
The Comic itself is about…
Well, it’s tough to explain. There’s really nothing else like it, in comics or anywhere.
One contributor to the Beanworld fanzine (Indexed HERE) called it “A Two Dimensional Stick Figure World with it’s own self consistent laws of nature” which is about as close as you can get in a one sentence description. Amazon calls it an “Ecological Fable” which just makes it sound doofy, like……Captain Planet
More’n anything else, I’d say that Beanworld is a way of looking at the world. It’s about the subtle, and not so subtle, interconnections that tie the world together. The inhabitants of the Beanworld, (You can see one above) are engaged in a kinda symbiotic relationship based on gathering food and taking it to the critters who live in the lake below them for “processing.”
(I’m glossing over the core concepts of the book a LOT here. It’s quite a bit more complex and more interesting than I make it sound.
But this post isn’t about Beanworld.
It’s about me complaining.)
However, the Beanworld critters can also be affected by forces from the “outside” world, or the “worlds” surrounding their environment that they have no access too. Ferinstance, in Beanworld # 2, A bunch of insects creep up from underground, smack the beans around with their (relatively) advanced technology, eat all the beans food, then lay eggs before taking off again. The eggs are then used as tools by the beans an integrated into the Beanworld’s technological development. The insects and the beans, working at completely different goals from completely different points of view irrevocably affect each others environment in ways that neither of them could predict. In Beanworld, there are obvious interconnections and subtle interconnections…. And interconnections we don’t understand yet because Larry Marder’s quit working on the Beanworld…
The idea of a universe where everything ties into everything else was, actually, pretty important to my intellectual development. We plod through life leaving ripples, affecting the world around us in ways we can be unaware of….
That just felt RIGHT to me. The idea really changed me. Like, now, I always try to look at the world…. Not so much trying to figure out how stuff ties together, but with an awareness that it does.
Yeah. Smart stuff, this book. Important stuff. Stuff that can actually change people’s lives.
At least mine.
And, from reading various interviews with and essays by Larry Marder, I felt that HE thought he was doing important work as well. There was a genuine commitment to his creation….
I didn’t create Beanworld for fame and fortune. I work on Beabwirkd because of a personal vow I took two decades ago…. My lifelong relationship with Beanworld was initiated by an intense obsession compelling me to make it come alive. Beanworld is my personal myth. I can see it from beginning to end. Parts of it are crystal clear, other are fuzzy, and new ideas pop up all the time.
I will work on Beanworld for the rest of my life.
“I Can See It Through From Beginning to End.”
“I Will Work On Beanworld for the Rest of My Life. “
Let’s look at the facts.
The last issue of Beanworld was published twelve years ago. The last chapter of the Beanworld serial in the Rob Liefeld “Asylum” comic came out nine years ago.
In terms of reprinted material, Beanworld Volume 4 was published in 1999, leaving five issues five mini-comics and the Asylum strips never collected.
“Rest of My Life?”
I’m not seeing it.
The Part Where I Take A Right Turn Off Topic ‘an Talk About Art and Responsibility
I’m not arguing IN GENERAL that artists are required to provide us with art. I’m not saying we should all head over to J.D. Sallinger’s house ‘an chain him to his desk till he writes another book, or that we threaten Bill Watterson with homicidal psycho jungle cats ’till he brings back Calvin and Hobbes. Marcel Duchamp finished out his life movin’ to New York to play chess.
More power to ‘em, sez I.
They don’t owe us anything. Great, honestly genius-type Artists, (‘an I’d argue that Larry Marder belongs in the company of the folks I listed above) should produce good work as long as they can, and stop when the strain gets too great. Sometimes the muse just leaves ‘em, and they figure it’s time to hang up. Sometimes, being the mercurial motherfuckers they are, they just can’t deal with the public or us fans any more. Sometimes they remember to take their meds and the great purple space frog from Andromeda seven stops bringing them story ideas when they sleep.
H-O-W-E-V-E-R, in THIS particular context:
We’ve got ourselves a couple of mitigating circumstances:
* Beanworld, unlike Calvin and Hobbes, is an unfinished work. There’s two vitally major plot points that have yet to be explained, and a good couple dozen other mini-mysteries that have yet to be explained.
* One of the most effective aspects of Beanworld was the way it used the serial nature of comic; Each month it gave us a new piece of the puzzle, one more crumb of understanding as to how the fictional world worked. (I’ll probably talk about this more in a later post.)
* Through the essays in the Tales of the Beanworld Trades has always tried to be open and honest with his audience regarding the nitty gritty of his personal creative process. It seemed as though he was in fairly close contact with the author of the Beanworld fanzine. Still, there have been, as far as I can tell, NO public announcements of any sort regarding Beanworld in the last five years.
* Marder is still involved in the industry, sorta. This doesn’t necassarilly Now an individual of low breeding would make some sarcastic comment about his comitement to making Kung Fu Grip Spawn with real! crotch grabbing action! over doing something creatively worthwhile. ** But I shall refrain. So it ain’t like he had a total mental breakdown and hid himself from the comix readin’ public forever.
* And, darmmit, he promised more Beanworld!
I don’t think Marder owes us any more Beanworld any more than Sallinger owes us Bride of the Return of Catcher in the Rye. But, from my perspective, he DOES owe us Beanworld fans the courtesy of a formal reiteration of his promise to work on Beanworld for the rest of his life, OR a formal “Fuck Off. I don’t DO that anymore.”
Beanworld’s important to me. More than any other comic published by anyone, and more than all but a handful of folks working in any artsy-type medium, Beanworld’s busted into my mental space kicked down some brain-walls, shifted around the brain-furniture so it’s more Fun Sooee and reupholstered the brain-kitchen. It changed the way I think about the world.
It changed the way I think about God.
If Marder’s going to leave us (ME!) with an unfinished symphony, I think it’s fair for the audience (ME!) to ask that the symphony is, indeed, gonna remain unfinished.
So. Here’s what I’m going to do.
At the Beanworld website, there’s an address for Beanworld publishing.
I’m going to transfer this here blog entry to word. I might clean up the part about the Asian Hookers. (I might not. ) And I’ll nicely ask “What the hell, dude!”
(Plus I need to order the last few issues of Beanworld I don’t have.
‘Cause I *know* I owe Larry Marder and Beanworld a debt for the affect they’ve had on my life.
Marder said he’d made a personal vow to work on this comic forever.
So I gotta ask to ask, as a fan, if he thinks he owes anything to his creation.
May the Circle, Be Unbroken, By an’ By Lord, By and By.
* This is my fanfiction idea. You can’t have it.
“And then Legolas, his crystal blue eyes almost encasing the stranger in their vast, mysterious depths, brought his bow to bear and proclaimed “Hold! Blue One! Why hast thou journeyed into the valley of the naked elves?!”
** No offense to fans of Kung Fu Grip Spawn. Or crotch grabbing action.
1 From “Hoo Hoo Has and A Hoka Hoka HEY,” the essay at the end of the second edition of the first Beanworld trade Paperback, first printing 1995.