*Beanworld — Recommended Series

There’s never been anything in comics like Larry Marder’s Beanworld, before or since, and although the last collection came out in 1999, it’s still very much missed.

Marder combined his original symbology with elements of Native American myth, the influence of Marcel Duchamp, and thoughts on ecology, community, and the nature of art. There wasn’t always a story so much as an exploration of some sort of philosophy, and much of it remains unexplained.

Beanworld Book One

Beanworld Book One

That might be why it’s still so fondly remembered. It was challenging and unique, and as such it spoke to many non-traditional comic readers.

I’d talk more about the characters and premises, but the BeanWeb site already has a wonderful illustrated introduction to the series. Start with their Glossary.

Here’s another explanation and remembrance of the series.

Was it a metaphor for a passionate environmentalist view of the world? Was it a political allegory for the way governments and their people interact? Was it an exploration of the human condition and an examination of the soul? It could have been all of those things and more. Certainly Tales of the Beanworld was Larry Marder’s labor of love

The special characters have individual looks and functions. Professor Garbanzo crafts tools. Beanish creates art. Mr. Spook leads the army. The Boom’r Band play music. Together, they explore their world and seek answers to mysteries and debate.

The beans work when they need to eat and dance and sleep otherwise. When too much of their Chow is available, they become lazy, demonstrating the need for honest work and a balanced ecology. The pages are more designed than drawn, using their black-and-white contrast to distinctive effect.

At the end of the first book, Marder explains why Beanworld doesn’t come out more frequently (at the time, he was the Executive Director of Image Comics, distracted by business affairs) and says “I will work on Beanworld for the rest of my life.” If that’s still true, I hope that he’ll share it with the rest of us sometime.

At Comics Should Be Good, Mark Andrew has a similar complaint, more forcefully expressed.


9 Responses to “*Beanworld — Recommended Series”

  1. Greg McElhatton Says:

    *sigh* I really miss Beanworld. A couple of years ago (maybe 2003?) Larry Marder had a new limited-edition Beanworld print for sale at the CBLDF table, which gives me hope that someday… someday…

    …maybe…

  2. Bill D. Says:

    Even if he never makes new Beanworld comics, they should at least finish collecting the existing ones already!

  3. Dan Says:

    I am definitely a member of the I miss Beanworld bandwagon. I used to follow it religiously, and when Larry was made head of Image publishing, I knew that would be the end. Maybe someday he’ll pull a Jim Lee and go back to focusing on his art, crafting a great story.

    …and Bill is absolutely right. You’d think it would be a natural idea fit for image to collect up the existing Beanworld issues. Maybe Larry doesn’t think there’s enough interest out there anymore.

  4. Ray Cornwall Says:

    Given that they were all black and white (except for the Rob Liefeld Extreme issues), why not put them out in an Essential-style edition? I’d buy that!

  5. Johanna Says:

    Releasing a new collection at this point would be difficult, since I’m not sure the previous are in print and available, and few stores want to carry a book five without knowing that books 1-4 can be acquired. But an Essential is a really neat idea!

  6. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    somehow, when the earlier collections were done, I got volumes 1, 2 and 4. I’ve never yet seen a copy of #3 to purchase. So I would argue that the first four would need to be put back in print first, before moving on to any new collections. And the fact that I never see the collections for sale is a good sign, really. it means that anyone who buys them, keeps them.

    one of my favorite con “gets” was from back in the late 80’s, when Larry made real-life Beanworld action figures by drawing faces on dry Navy beans for anyone who asked.

    an essential/showcase style collection of this book is long overdue — and it needs to be by a mainstream publisher so this gets out beyond the Diamond ghetto, kind of like how Greasemonkey got picked up by Tor.

  7. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] The ecological interactions reminded me of Beanworld in the way that an interdependent group of fanciful creatures form a self-fulfilling ecosystem. When talking about this book, I just want to make lists of “wasn’t it cute when they went to the library and Bumperboy turned Bumperpup’s pages for him?” and “I loved the way Bumperpup’s flying chair was like a sidecar” and “grums are adorable, even when attacking!” Those images are what makes the title special; they’ll stick with me as happy memories of the enjoyment I had reading this. [...]

  8. christian Says:

    i have the whole set of beanworld all in sleeves(#1-#21 i believe), in near mint condition, and all signed and some of them doodled in by larry marder. any one know how much these are worth?

  9. Johanna Says:

    Whatever anyone’s willing to pay for them. You can check completed sales on ebay to see if there’s any demand — with new collections coming out, readers may find it easier to get those books instead of old issues. On the other hand, some may appreciate the signatures. In general, though, the comic back issue market isn’t very healthy.

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