Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesday's Tantalizing Teaser!

Why is one of
Unca Xaspa's nephews
biting the t
ail of
a Goofy Surveillance Jerk?

On left: First appearance of Unca Xaspa and his Nephews
from Tales of the Beanworld #6...well, sort of.

Next: Like it or not--the History of the Beanworld Action Figure continues!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Auctioning Two More Beanworld Orphans This Week!

Black marker and white pencil on white paper in a hand decorated colored mat.

Black marker and colored pencil on exclusive CBLDF convention shetchcard stock.

Two more Orphans from 2006--
which seems like a long time ago!

The funds raised in this auction help support the First Amendment legal work
the CBLDF performs on behalf of the comics community.

Proceeds from this auction will directly benefit the ongoing defense of Gordon Lee in Rome, GA.
There are lots of other great things up for auction too--check 'em all out here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Corn, Its Wizard, Omnivore's Dilemma, and Beanworld!

Francis Childs, a third-generation farmer who studied, schemed and tramped his fields with a spade to become the most productive corn grower ever, died on Jan. 9 in Marshall County, Iowa. He was 68.

I suspect that it's not much of a secret that I spend a lot of time pondering Zea mays in addition to legumes. Corn critters played a role in my first published comic book, Tales of the Beanworld #1.

The character of the Mossy Mirthful Mammoth and his beloved Little Clone Son and the legion of popping corn critters had more to do with my fascination for the Jolly Green Giant and my admiration for my advertising hero, Leo Burnett. (I'm not sure, have I ever written about the origin of those characters before? If not, tell me, and I shall.)

Everyone has almost universally agreed that the corn oriented characters in #1 seemed very un-Beanworld like and the most throw-away concepts ever introduced into the Beanworld story line.

No one agreed with that assessment more than me.
Until 2006.
I picked up a copy of Michael Pollan's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma" in the Phoenix airport to read on the long flight to the east coast for business. I cracked the covers and proceeded to read. You can read the introduction and first chapter of the book here.

The book is funny, wry, ironic, and informative.

Sentences like: "Ecology also teaches that all life on earth can be viewed as a competition
among species for the solar energy captured by green plants and stored in the form of complex carbon molecules"
resonated deeply within the part of me where Beanworld stories take root and grow.

But when I read :"Corn is the hero of its own story, and though we humans played a crucial supporting role in its rise to world domination, it would be wrong to suggest we have been calling the shots, or acting always in our own best interests. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that corn has succeeded in domesticating us."

Pollan also observed: "By evolving certain traits we happen to regard as useful, these species got themselves noticed by the one mammal in a position not only to spread their genes around the world, but to remake vast swathes of that world in the image of the plants’ preferred habitat."

"(T)he plant’s dependence on the Americans had become total. Had maize failed to find favor among the conquerors it risked extinction, because without humans to plant it every spring, corn would disappear from the earth in a matter of a few years. The novel cob-and-husk arrangement that makes corn such a convenient grain for us renders the plant utterly dependent for its survival on an animal in possession of the opposable thumb needed to remove the husk, separate the seeds, and plant them."

Corn domesticated mankind?
Humans have reinvented the landscape to make it more comfortable for corn?
Corn has passed the point-of-no-return as a plant that could sustain its own reproduction?

My interest was truly piqued. I had never really considered the fact that in modern times corn can no longer reproduce itself. It is 100% dependent on man's attentions. And man is increasingly dependent on corn.

"For to prosper in the industrial food chain to the extent it has corn had to acquire several improbable new tricks. It had to adapt itself not just to humans but to their machines, which it did by learning to grow as upright, stiff-stalked, and uniform as soldiers. It had to multiply its yield by an order of magnitude, which it did by learning to grow shoulder to shoulder with other corn plants, as many as thirty thousand to the acre. It had to develop an appetite for fossil fuel (in the form of petrochemical fertilizer) and a tolerance for various synthetic chemicals. But even before it could master these tricks and make a place for itself in the bright sunshine of capitalism, corn first had to turn itself into something never before seen in the plant world: a form of intellectual property."

That was it for me.
I knew that my next story, after the current graphic novel I'm working on, will be about corn.

I started to think about all the potential plot threads I left in hanging in TOTB #1. The back story for something corn related start to tumble of my pencil tip. I started assembling notes and sketches. I've even hinted at it a little from time to time. And I will confess to you that this week's teaser is also from that future story.

All of this sorta hit home again this week when I read the obituary for Mr. Childs, aka The Iowa Corn King and/or Wizard. I looked around the internet and found that he had quite an odd career.

The most interesting piece I found was a reprinting of an article from 2000 entitled "King of Corn Wins Yield Prizes, But His Methods Are Criticized."

Keeping in mind the thoughts I've been digesting since learning them in "Ominvore's Dilemma"
I found myself thinking about the notion of corn's domestication of man when I read things like:
"What Mr. Childs has done is raise people's notions of just how much corn can be coaxed from an acre of ground. The average farmer in Iowa grows around 150 bushels an acre, and although many do a little better, many scientists have long felt that the theoretical maximum, under ideal conditions, would be 400 bushels."

"No farmer ever came close to that until last October, when a small crowd gathered here to watch Mr. Childs harvest an acre that was so thick with vegetation that his combine had to move at a crawl. Then came the weigh-in at the grain elevator, and the posting of the number: 394 bushels, smashing a 14-year-old record. "It was exciting, like watching Mach I almost being broken," says an Agriculture Department official who was present. "

By the time he passed away, Mr. Childs had pushed the record to an astounding 442 bushels per acre.

The final irony of all this was revealed inthe reporter's observations that:
"Instead of any financial incentive, though, what seems to drive Mr. Childs is the challenge. 'I like corn," he says. "I like to push it.' "

But really who was pushing who?

Was Mr. Childs pushing the corn?
Or was the corn pushing Mr. Childs?

And don't forget.
When land gets over farmed--legumes put the nitrogen back in the soil!

Hoo-Hoo-HA & a Hoka-Hoka HEY!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More From The Beanworld Archives!

A Beanworld Study in Bat Aesthetics
11" x 14"
Colored pencils, markers, and ink on bristol board
This study is from the late '70s in my "Bat Period."
I think this was a variation on a Bat-Mite theme.
I had it up next to my drawing board in my home studio for many years.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday Tantalizing Teaser!

Who can identify what is going on here?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The History of the Beanworld Action Figure

Chapter Six

In TOTB #11, this blurb appeared:

I blacked out the address number to protect the innocent folks living at that address nowadays.
We haven't lived there since 1992.
The "Dept. AF" was a bit of an inside joke--thumbing my nose at direct marketing.

I can't recall how many requests came in, but it was like being hit by a tsunami of self-addressed stamped envelopes.

Small envelopes.
Big envelopes.
Huge envelopes.

And boxes.

Little boxes.
Big boxes.
Huge boxes.

Often with jaw-dropping amounts of postage attached.

It honestly never occurred to Cory and me that anyone really thought we were giving away a free full-sized action figure like a He-Man or GI Joe. But the size of the return packages and the amount of postage included indicated that at least some folks thought we might be--and they weren't taking any chances!

Mikedaimon sent along the above scan of a paper insert he received from me in 1988. No matter the size of the package sent to us, we wrapped up the three little beans in this paper insert and popped it in the mail.

Now, the sheet looks like an ancient relic from another age--a simple photocopy of a hand-drawn pencil layout.
And in a way it was.
1988 was several years before I got my first computer aand started creating all Beanworld advertising and marketing materials in QuarkXpress. Even though I had access to slick typeset materials through my advertising career, I'm pretty sure I wanted the sheet to reflect the spirit of the individually handcrafted Beanworld Action Figures.

The envelopes with requests actually continued to come for many years as people collected back issues of Beanworld. We always honored every request.

Friday, January 18, 2008

This where I'm gonna be on Saturday night!

Saturday, January 19, 2008 - 7-11 pm
Alwun House, 1204 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 85006

Great art, entertainment and refreshments for a great cause.
Donation Admission: No Ticket Necessary

GLSEN Phoenix develops the awareness, policies and leadership necessary to ensure that K-12 schools are safe and supportive learning environments for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

GLSEN Phoenix is a registered 501(c)3. All donations are tax deductible. For more information, 602-705-9780 or info@glsenphoenix.org

This is the Beanworld Orphan that will be auctioned tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The History of the Beanworld Action Figure

Chapter Five
The Beanworld Action Figures were becoming a convention institution. I wrote about them in the letter column of TOTB #10. If you click on the photo above --it should enlarge and you can read about a typical convention cold encounter with an attendee and the subsequent conversion into a Beanworld fan.

For some deeply inexplicable reason, I never pre-made Beanworld Action Figures. I always liked to make them right at the show. So that they were "Made this morning. Fresh out of the bag!" I really liked being able to say that. First thing each and every morning at conventions, as I manned my station in Artists Alley and gulped down a hot cup of black coffee, I'd get out my trusty technical pens and start manufacturing Beanworld Action Figures.
By 1988 there were three faces. Somewhere along the line I added a "sleepy' bean. And continue the tongue-in-cheek silliness of the joke I gave them "trade names."
The original bean was now "Brite Eyes."
Angry bean became "Fightin' Mad."
The new sleepy bean was named "Snoozy."

The fact that these Beanworld Action Figures had absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with Tales of the Beanworld continuity (so far anyway) didn't seem to matter one iota to anyone--including me. They were quickly becoming a comic book convention institution and I began to have some trouble keeping up with the demand!
Three faces meant three times as many figures were needed. For the first year or so, one bag of beans from the grocery store would be plenty. Then it was two bags, then three bags. Now that folks were encouraged to "Collect all three" the little Tupperware dish seemed to need replenishing three times as fast.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Tantalizing Return of the Tuesday Teaser!

Some recent noodle-doodles for the sequence I'm currently laying out.
Tomorrow--the History of the Beanworld Action Figures returns!

Monday, January 14, 2008

In the Shadow of Mr Spook's Lost Fork?

Uh, no. I don't think so.

My apologies to Jeff Smith! But hey, the above image is a poster being offered as a premium in the 2008 CBLDF Retailer membership Drive.
Diamond Comic Distributors is making it easy to enroll as a retailer member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for 2008. Four membership options are being offered to retailers with the order form for January Previews, each of which includes special membership premiums for retailers as part of the Diamond campaign.
If you are a popular culture retailer, I firmly believe you owe it to yourself, and your store, to strongly consider membership in CBLDF as a retailer-- in addition to as an individual.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ants, Trees, Big Mammals and Mutualism!

"This ain't 'jes another funny animal comic book!

Heck no!

Beanworld is different.

It's a weird fantasy dimension that operates under its own rules and laws.
Beanworld is about the affinity of life.

All the characters, whether they are friends or adversaries,
understand that ultimately they depend on each other for survival.

It's not just a place, it's a process!"

That bit of prose is in every issue of Tales of the Beanworld starting with #1 in 1985.

I've always been fascinated by the theory of "mutual aid" and the phenomenon that scientists call "mutualism." Beanworld's basic premises are deeply rooted in these ideas.

So I was delighted to find the following story in today's LA Times. I found it a great read from a Beanworld-ish point of view and thought I'd share it with you.
"For thousands of years, thorny African acacia trees have provided food and shelter to aggressive biting ants, which protected the trees by attacking animals that try to eat the
acacia leaves. Called mutualism, it's a good deal for the trees and the ants.

Scientists studying the decline in large animals in Africa wondered what would happen if the animals no longer were eating the leaves. So they fenced off some of the acacias from elephants, giraffes and other animals.After a few years, the fenced-in trees began looking sickly and grew slower than their unfenced relatives. "

Other accounts can be found here and here!

Friday, January 11, 2008

The History of the Beanworld Action Figure

Chapter Four

The little action figures became a Beanworld institution. Every public appearance I made promoting Beanworld featured a bowl full of the beans with eyes.
Before I would board the plane to fly to a con, I would go to the grocery store and buy a one pound bag of Great Northern Lima Beans.

When I arrived at the show and set up, I spilled the beans onto my table, got out my technical pen, and began the simple process of transmuting a bit of dried food into "something-else" with two wee strokes of ink. Into the dish they went!

As convention attendees walked by, I'd say "Have a FREE Beanworld Action Figure!" The moment that followed such a greeting led to an immediate recognition of the joke or a complete blank stare. Fortunately for me--9 out of 10 people got the joke and took one.
The joke, of course, was that these non-articulated, non-posable action figures didn't actually do anything.

Ahhhh, but often they did.

Folks would put them in their pockets and if the weather was hot and humid and beans got warm and moist enough--they would sprout! Real LIVE action!

Even after it has been dried, bagged, transported hither and yon, add a bit of heat and humidity and Mother Nature kicked in and did her thing transforming the seed into the beginnings of a genuine leguminous plant! The pulse of life!

The other part of the joke, of course, was that as the 80's progressed, action figures began to permeate the atmosphere of the comics industry. Action figures were no longer about He-Man, GI Joe, and Star Wars. Playmate's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Toy Biz's Marvel action figures raised the bar.

Quite simply, the comic book world went merchandisingly mad.

My silly little Beanworld Action Figures seemed to make a satirical statement in direct opposition to the industry trends.

From 1985 to 1988 Beanworld Action Figures were my primary marketing tool. Somewhere along the line I extended the "line" to include an "angry" so that folks already owning an "original" would have something new to add to their "collection." Because most people misplaced their bean or it cracked in the low humidity of the wintertime--they would come seeking them out at conventions.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The History of the Beanworld Action Figure

Larry Marder and Paul Fricke sometime in the '80s
behind an early Beanworld Action Figure display and signage.

Chapter Three

The little-beans-with-eyes-that-are-for-thinking-not-eating were an immediate hit.
People really seemed to like them and I had them on my table for a mini-con or two.

Mike Gold, who was then the Edtor-In-Chief of First Comics, invited Cory and me to a holiday party at his place. A large contingent of the Chicagoland comic book community was there.
Hilary Barta said something to us like,"I saw your action figures. They are great."
I blinked and said, "Uhhhh, Hilary, you got me mixed up with someone else. Believe me,
I don't have any sort of action figure deal."
And he laughed and said, "Sure you do. I meant those little beans with eyes on them. Those are the Beanworld action figures."

I was floored by the absolute genius of this simple name for the little-beans-with-eyes-that-are-for-thinking-not-eating.

I said, "Oh. I gotta use that. Can I steal that?"

And Hilary laughed and said, "Of course you can. Just promise to give me credit for it."

I agreed and we probably shook on it.

And so, at the first possible opportunity, in TOTB #5, I kept my word.
They were now official FREE Beanworld Action Figures.

The picture of me and Paul Fricke at the top is probably from a Chicago mini-con.
The dish itself and the sign are pretty washed out--so I whipped up a little illustration to demonstrate, more or less, what the crude set-up looked like.
My signage got better when I got my first computer.

One small addendum to this story--years later, Hilary Barta confessed that he hadn't made up the name "Beanworld Action Figure" at all. Our mutual friend and fellow Chicagoan, Doug Rice had.

But my thanks always to Hillary and Doug for playing their part in the History of the Beanworld Action Figure!

My thank you to Hilary in TOTB #5

My thank you to Hilary in TOTB #5--close up.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The History of the Beanworld Action Figure

Chapter Two

After the publication of the first issue of Tales of the Beanworld in early 1985, I went out onto the convention circuit. I set up at Chicago ComiCon (I had attended every convention since its premiere in 1976) and all the monthly Chicago mini-cons.

Cory and I went to San Diego Comic Con, Motor City Con in Detroit, and the Dallas Bulldog Con. Like everyone else, I sat behind a skirted card table talking to fans about my book, handing out fliers and selling issues and sketching.

Here I am in the 80s at San Diego as Mr. Quagmire glares at the camera.

If I remember this correctly, at roughly the same time, Mike Friedrich's StarReach Productions was hosting a series of regional trade shows. These shows were for retailers only--theoretically no fans were allowed. Eclipse publisher, Dean Mullaney, and probably Beau Smith, were setting up at the Chicago stop of the trade show tour. I was invited to sit in and attempt to raise visibility of Beanworld to comic book retailers that weren't ordering my book.

Dean recommended that I find some sort of hook that would allow people to notice me as they meandered past my table. As I recall, he said something like "How about giving out little bags of jelly beans?"

A excellent suggestion I thought.
And I knew immediately what I was going to do.
I was going to make that cut-out magazine photo of the spoonful-of-beans-with-eyes picture become a real thing.

I went to the supermarket and surveyed the various bags of dried legumes. I decided that I liked the size and color of Great Northern lima beans the best and took a bag home. With my trusty Faber-Castell technical pens, I dotted some eyes on the beans exactly as I had a dozen years before with the magazine photo.

I went to the trade show and set up. I put the newly "eyed" lima beans in a little translucent plastic Tupperware hamburger dish with a sign that said something like:


It was a bit of a silly riff on Levi-Strauss' observation that in all cultures--some plants and animals are for eating and some are for thinking about --often being taboo.

The beans-with-eyes were a hit.
Retailers would look into the dish, pick up a bean and ask me what the deal was.
That allowed me to try to get them to "think" about Beanworld.

The first attempts looked like this--black ink on beans!

Friday, January 4, 2008

The History of the Beanworld Action Figure

Chapter One

Re-creation of the picture before

Sometime in 1973, when I was working at Lithographics, Inc. in Canton CT, I found a little picture in the recipe section of TV Guide of a white spoon containing a mound of kidney beans.
For reasons that are totally fogged in memory, I cut the photo out of the magazine, dotted some eyes onto the beans, took it to work and taped it to the wall by my work station.
I've mocked up these two rudimentary facsimiles to show, how simple a transformation it was. One moment it was a recipe illustration. The next it was a doorway into what would one day become part of the Beanworld.

Re-creation of the picture after

For almost the next twenty years, at whatever place I might be employed, the photo of the spoon of beans was always part of the decoration of my work space.

The photo above was taken somewhere in the early 1980's while I was an art director at Sander Allen Advertising in Chicago IL. The fellow on the left is Sal Garcia. We worked together for about 5 years, During that time, he was one of the only people who understood what I was attempting to do with Beanworld.

The guy on the right is me. Inside the circle that the arrow is pointing to--is the spoonful-of-beans-with-eyes picture. Also of note at about 1 o'clock--upper right from the circle is a PMT of the "Beware the Fog" drawing that was printed in Larry Marder's Beanworld Book One trade paperback.

Out of all the treasures housed in the Beanworld Archives--this little picture is the one artifact that hasn't surfaced since I left Illinois in the mid-1990's. I find it impossible to believe that I've actually lost it--but it is quite misplaced!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

State of the Beanworld 2008!

Let's do this the way all us old folks were taught in Civics class.
First the old business--which was Beanworld in 2007.
What a year it was.
The biggest Beanworld development in '07 was the launch of this blog in July.
I didn't really know why I started it...it just seemed like the thing to do that day--purely an instinctive decision, and one I'm quite glad I made.
The number of old friends and fans who "just showed up" has really been a terrific experience and I thank everyone who has read my posts and contributed responses.

As I said at the time "After so many years of overseeing the business endeavors of others, it's time for me to manage my own creative efforts."
I've spent the last several months teaching myself how to draw digitally on a Wacom Cintiq tablet. The "Hoka-Hoka Happy New Year" drawing was done completely on the tablet.
To me it looks more or less like the work I did before I got discouraged with inking supplies over a decade ago. (I will post on that one of these days.) I still learn something new every time I sit down at my digital drawing board, but I'm believe I'm quite ready to begin creating finished pages with this method.

Now onto the new business--2008.
My first essential task is to nail down a publishing deal.
I believe this will take place rather rapidly. It is my goal to get the previously published, but out of print, original Tales of the Beanworld material back in print as soon as humanly possible.
I have some 500 pages of Beanworld continuity that will be packaged in, perhaps, three volumes--each to be released, hopefully about a season apart--you know, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall--starting with whichever season happens to be scheduled first.
This will allow the Beanworld to re-establish its place within the world of publishing. The artwork will be reformatted to a slightly smaller page size, in keeping with today's publishing format trends.

Also, in the early part of 2008 I will launch a new, general interest Beanworld web site. There, I will be publishing color Beanworld web comics--short stand alone pieces perhaps 10 pages long or so. Leguminous interest stories--so to speak. More on par with things like "Proffy, The Snoopy Anthropologist" the back-up features from TOTB 3 and 5.

Back Issues.
I know a lot of you have holes in your Beanworld collections and have been inquiring about back issue availability.
I have a lot of back list comics in the Beanworld Archives.
I will make those available online.
The back list program will be tiered.
You will be able to purchase issues at the current market price.
Then there will be comics available at a premium that will include an original black and white sketch.
And topped by issues at an even higher premium including an original color sketch.
Of course, all issues will be signed.
As the program develops, I'll publish all the details here. But I plan to roll this out relatively soon.

Everyone is asking for Beanworld merchandise. I haven't licensed any Beanworld merchandise in years since my favorite licensee, Libby Barry of Planet Studios, passed away. As the year rolls along, I will start working on good, solid, logical, reasonably thought out licensed goods as the opportunities arise.
And not necessarily just the obvious items.
I'd really like to have your input as to the sort of things you wish you had in your house!

Also, I'm going to continue making more hand-crafted items like the Beanworld Action Figure Frame that was in the recent CBLDF Holiday Auction.

Oh yes, and I am going to continue my association with CBLDF's fund raising efforts through the entire year. I will be at CBLDF's table at WonderCon, SD08, and SPX. I'll be doing some new cool things with the Fund. Almost certainly a limited edition poster (in color?).
In April I will make my first appearance solely as the Beanworld guy since 1990 at Stumptown
Comics Fest in Portland, OR. (Every convention I've been at since then I was also juggling some sort of responsibility for someone else's business.) I will definitely be doing something extra special and fun for Stumptown.

And then....
:: drumroll ::
New work.

Yes, it started out as Tales of the Beanworld #22.
Then I started calling it "The Float Force."
Several fragments have been published in various ashcans.
Professor Garbanzo's Joy Ride.

But it is so much more than those little slivers.
When I sat down last spring and started juggling the fragments and shards of stories I'd been accumulating for years, it fell into eight segments.
It was roughly 150 pages long.
What I've been doing the past few months is seaming it all together and creating bridging sequences between the segments.
So far segments 1,2, and 3 are now together.
People that have read it can't tell which pieces I wrote and penciled 12 years ago from the pages I did 12 days ago.

I can't imagine this piece ending up lass than 200 pages or more than 300.
A LOT happens in the book.
Everyone is in it including Heyoka.
When it will launch will depend on who will be publishing it.
But I'll keep you all informed of developments as they unfold.
Including the title.
I thought up the title four years ago in Antarctica while sitting on a rock looking upon the frozen three color world of black, white, and purest cyan.

And then....the next book after that!
What is it about?
Beans and Corn.
Things set in motion in TOTB #1 will come home to roost.

Beanworld is as alive now as it has ever been.
I'm ready for a good long fun ride and I hope you are too!
Larry Marder

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Tomorrow--the state of the Beanworld 2008!