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!

1 comment:

jasonturner said...

That is fun and funny. A good conversation starter.

It is a challenge to catch people's eye at conventions. Something that I am going to be struggling with this year!