Cool Beans

Professor Garbanzo, the Boom'r Band, and Mr. Spook

The first of two hardcovers collecting Larry Marder’s Beanworld was released
last week by Dark Horse at $19.95. It reprints Tales of the Beanworld #1-9, is titled Wahoolazuma!, and contains 270 pages of pure delight — mostly comics, naturally, but a new preface from Marder too, Scott McCloud’s introduction to the first Beanworld collection in 1989, a glossary, and a key to the highly stratified titular locale. You can sample a few pages of Wahoolazuma! at the Dark Horse website.

Mr. Spook undertaking errands for the Professor / 'First stop: The slat reality!'
Pg. 11 of Tales of the Beanworld #1 © 1985 Larry Marder. [enlarge]

Beanworld is a self-contained fantasy ecosystem, rich in allegory but devoid of any mundane or hackneyed parallels to “real life”. The land is populated largely with anthropomorphic beans, including the inquisitive Professor Garbanzo, the musical Boom’r Band, and the artistic everybean Beanish. There’s also Mr. Spook, whose duty it is to protect the beans and lead the Chow Sol’jer Army through the Four Realities to steal chow from the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd. These seeming enemies are utterly interdependent: Gran’Ma’Pa, a giant tree that is the parent and spiritual guardian of Beanworld, drops sprouts which Mr. Spook carries down to the Ring Herd during raids; only the Hoi-Polloi can turn sprouts into chow, which they guard jealously but which the Sol’jers must bring back to the surface to nourish the bean population.

Beanworld characters dancing among colorful beans with cartoon skull, giant unhappy fish, and bizarre bean in the blue sky
Cover to Beanworld Vol. 1: Wahoolazuma! © 2009 and characters,
logo, and other elements of Beanworld
TM/® Larry Marder.

I’ve been reminded in perusing the totality of the published Beanworld just how personal a creation it is as well as how singular. When the new Beanworld Holiday Special arrived this past December, in color no less, reading it was a highly refreshing change from the rest of my stack; Beanworld truly is, as its tagline has long proclaimed, A Most Peculiar Comic-Book Experience. The announcement of the new Beanworld collections and the fact that they’ll be followed by an original graphic novel (Remember Here When You Are There!) was even more welcome.

Professor Garbanzo emerging onto the Sandy Beach with stars in his hand greeting a Boom'r Bean / 'That's quite a selection of twinks y'got there!'
Pg. 6 of Tales of the Beanworld #2 © 1985 Larry Marder. [enlarge]

I have the aforementioned 1989 collection, plus the next two, yet gladly shelled out for the new hardcover. My old Book One softcover is pretty beat up, so now I have a sturdy, handsome volume with crisp white pages that’s perfect for loaning out. Wahoolazuma! collects well into the old Book Three, and I don’t have all the original issues or the old Book Four, so I’ll definitely be picking up the second hardcover (A Gift Comes!, reprinting #10-21) when it’s released in July. Much of it will be new to me — literally, but also because Beanworld is one of those works of narrative art that reveal themselves differently each time they’re taken in. My only complaint about the new volumes is that they don’t reprint the doodles, commentary, and early concept sketches shared in the earlier collections, although you can find archival material online at The BeanWeb. [Update: Larry’s put text pages from the earlier Book One in a Flickr photostream, as linked to from his blog.]

Beanworld map showing the environs of Gran'Ma' on land, below which are the layers of the Four Realities of slats, hoops, twinks, and chips, the Bone Zone, and finally the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd

There’s an interactive Map of the Known Beanworld at BeanWeb, which is no longer updated due to the creation of an unofficial Beanworld wiki guide that provides background on the series’ characters and concepts. It’s an inescapable truth, however, that with many of life’s finest things explanation is a poor substitute for experience — most especially the most peculiar comic-book experience that is Beanworld.

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