Friday, May 30, 2008

And, speaking of donuts....

Descending Donut
8 1/2" x 11"
Marker on bond paper

Here is a drawing of one I found in the Beanworld Archives. No date on it but based on my style and tools it is from the late '70s.
Pretty sure I remember the subject matter too. Right around the corner from the ad agency I worked at, there was a restaurant named O'Connell's. By the time I was patronizing the place in the late '70s it was ancient and everything in it was cracked or chipped. It had an old-time menu full of stuff like liver and onions, meat loaf and mashed potatoes, and on Wednesday the special was olive burgers and the art department and production guys would go there a lot. The waitresses there were tough old ladies who never messed up and order and always called you "Doll" or "Honey."
I also popped in there every morning to purchase a donut at the grill. It was always the same waitress. She had on enough makeup to make Tammy Fae Baker jealous and a big beehive hairdo. I'd walk up and she'd say "Chok-lit, hun?"And I'd nod and she'd spear a chocolate donut on the cardboard tray and put it in a white paper bag.
I can't remember when O'Connell's closed. I do remember that in its space went an Abercrombie & Fitch store. Well, the whole block was demolished anyway, and now its full of big touristy stores.
But I'd recognize that "chok-lit" donut anywhere!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Saturday Nite Flier!

Here is the other flier I referred to in my last post. Looking at it today, within the context of what we know about Beanworld continuity, you might find it as odd as I do. I reprinted it in the trade paperback Larry Marder's Beanworld:Book One but really have never discussed it much before.
As you may recall, the purpose of this handbill was to pique retailer interest in a Beanworld comic that was (hopefully) coming through the distribution pipeline sometime in an ill-defined near future.
First oddity is the reference to "Saturday Nite." As we all know now, the Beans only have two designation of days--Sprout-Butt Day and Goof-Off Day. But at the time the potential reader had absolutely no idea of any of that!
Lead Guitar Boom'r is missing in action. I have no idea why. Maybe for the room.

Professor Garbanzo is there but not Mr. Spook. An odd choice because Mr. Spook always gets a lot of attention. Maybe I wasn't quite aware of that yet.
Beanish, however, is there...that's peculiar because he doesn't appear in Beanworld until issue 4!

And the joke. The lima bean with a TM next to it actually was my comic book trademark in 1984. At the time, I was a fairly well known letter hack to comic book letter columns. I always did two things: I signed all my mail with the signature Larry "Beanworld" Marder and I always adorned any and all correspondence with everyone in the comic book field with a hand drawn bean with a TM in the lower left hand corner like the one on the left here.
The joke itself--the transformation of a Bean into a bean--goes back a long way. I probably drew that the first time as early as 1973 or so. Now that I think about it, this might have actually been the last time I drew it.
It certainly prefigures Beanworld action figures and foreshadows the cover of Beanworld #1.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The forgotten do-nut?

The other day, someone asked about "Around like a do-nut." And Mark Irons correctly commented that it not only was published in Giant Size Mini Comics #1 (a book I edited for Eclipse Comics) but that an earlier, bean-less rectangular version was also printed in an interview in Comics Journal #201.
And then there is the one above.
It was one flier of two, that I printed up to hand out at (possibly) Petuniacon and (certainly) Chicago Comicon in 1984.
At that point in time, almost no one in the industry had any idea who I might be, beyond being a persistent letter hack and the author of a weird little fanzine.
I'm almost positive when I made the claim "Tales of the Beanworld coming soon to a shop near you" it was a combination of bluffing and wishful thinking. Because I had not yet reached the status of having my own table, I'm pretty sure all I did with the flier was make a circuit of the dealers' room and give one to every retailer or comics seller on the premises. My intent was to make a statement that there is this really weird and totally different kind of comic book coming down the pipeline. And when it comes time to place an order, perhaps the retailer might remember this handbill in some small fashion. Did it work? Who can say?
There was another flier that was given out at the same time. I'll post that one next.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Leo Burnett: When to take my name off the door.

I first read this speech well over two decades ago. I never thought I'd see a film record of it.

This is an incredible contemplation of the creative process. His Lonely Man sitting at the drawing board or the typewriter working all night, alone, reaching for the stars--is such a terrific image of what it means to be up against a deadline and still strive for excellence.

Some of the references he makes are explained in the post below.

Leo Burnett: The Logo & The Apples

When Leo Burnett started his advertising agency in Chicago, he set up shop under this distinctive shingle. It's an elegantly simple logo. Leo Burnett said that it represented his personal philosphy: "When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either. "

There are a lot of stories about Leo Burnett's apples. This one is pretty much encapsulates the way I heard it from Hank Bergst.

"One of his most important uses of internal corporate symbols were the red apples placed on every receptionist's desk. Any visitor or employee was free to take one. This stemmed from a prediction from a Chicago newspaper columnist that Leo would fail miserably in his agency launch in 1935, made in the depths of the Great Depression, and would soon be on the street selling apples instead. Upon reading those words, Leo vowed to give away apples instead."

Knowing these things will help you appreciate the post above.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rory Root RIP

Rory and I at WonderCon last February

Rory Root was a great human being. He was generous, funny, well informed, full of anecdotes.
And a visionary retailer. Way back when, he believed he understood the future of comic book retailing ,and he set out to make his ideas became reality. His Berkeley store, Comic Relief, was unlike any other.
He was a great friend to Beanworld and a good pal of mine.
His great silver coffee cup is now forever empty and will miss him as much as we will.

And speaking of ads....

I found this one today. The Quark Xpress slug (!) at the top is dated February 26, 1995. The red writing on the side says "Bone Ad Negative Film." So I have to assume that this was an ad intended for an Image Comics issue of Jeff Smith's Bone. Don't recall if it made the issue or not. Don't really remember if this ad ever actually ran anywhere at all.
But looking at it TODAY, I like its intent.

It seems that everyone who reads Beanworld finds something unique in it. Every reader creates his or her own story within the story I present on the page.

One of the things people have told me over and over is that Beanworld has aged very well along with them over the course of their lives. That it matures in the imagination like a fine wine.

It seems that no one really ever outgrows Beanworld.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Big ideas come out of big pencils!"

There were a lot of superior advertising folks in the 20th century. I've already written about Theodore McManus and Rosser Reeves. Others, who I'd include on a list of folks who's work (or often far more properly put, their agency's work) has had direct influence on how I think would include David Ogilvy, Raymond Rubicam, and Bill Burnbach.

But the most important person to me was Leo Burnett, the founder of the so-called "Chicago School of Advertising." Leo's shop created or/or shaped four of Advertisng Age's Top 10 Advertising Icons of the 20th Century: #1 Marlboro Man (not that I condone cigarette smoking in any way, I don't, but the power of this icon was undeniable), #3 Jolly Green Giant, #6 Pillsbury Doughboy, #9 Tony the Tiger. Now THAT is an impressive track record!

So what exactly IS the "Chicago School of Advertising?"

It was a way of thinking that valued finding the so called "inherent drama in the product" and creating an advertisement out of the "drama," rather than using mere cleverness-for-cleverness' sake.

Burnett deeply believed in the people of the Midwest states. What he called the "the heart and soul of the nation." He believed in pictures and symbolism over long winded claims of every feature of a client's product'. He believed in keeping the text copy in his ads short folksy, and friendly using down-to-earth language.

On August 5, 1935, Burnett founded the Leo Burnett Company, Inc., in Chicago with $50,000 and several creative employees. In The Mirror Makers, author Stephen Fox quoted Burnett as saying "My associates and I saw the opportunity to offer a creative service badly needed in the Middle West. I sold my house, hocked all my insurance and took a dive off the end of a springboard."

The Leo Burnett Company, Inc. was formed, and the company started with small clients. He never wandered from his steadfast ideas and beliefs as to how advertising should be created and products sold. From the get-go, a Leo Burnett ad was recognizably different that those from any other shops. A Burnett ad always was able a strong visual attention-getter. One the consumer's interest was challenged, a Burnett ad immediately started making a case for the product. A Burnett ad convinced the consumer that THIS product was so incredibly interesting or compelling that one really had to give it a chance! As Fox wrote in "The Mirror Makers," "Instead of the fashionable devices of contests, premiums, sex, tricks and cleverness, he urged, use the product itself, enhanced by good artwork, real information, recipes, and humor."

Minnesota Valley Canning Co., the canning outfit company that produced Jolly Green Giant products even changed their company name to Green Giant after the Giant’s successful adverting campaigns. Burnett’s company’s billings grew from zero to nearly $100 million in a decade.

I didn't even know who Leo Burnett was when I hit the advertising word in Chicago in 1977. Oh, I knew his ads and characters his shop had created for his clients plenty well, but I didn't know the name of the agency or the man. He had already passed away in six years before in 1971.

But I had the incredible good fortune of landing a job at a small advertising agency called Sander Allen Advertising as the new kid in the three person art department. The number two guy was Henry "Hank" Bergst. Hank was an incredible old fellow. I believe he was well over 70. He started working in advertising as a very young apprentice either before or during World War One. By the 1930s he was considered one of the very best hand lettering artists in Chicago.

Hank designed the first Betty Crocker and Kotex logos, he designed Kleenex boxes for a decade or so. And he was one of those first creative employees in the brand new Leo Burnett shop when it first opened its doors. He worked directly with Leo Burnett for many years. He was the head of the lettering department there until 1960 or so when the new technologies made letting artists obsolete. He became a paste-up artist (or "keyliner") as they were called in Chicago. He was still working well beyond the retirement age. Not because he had to, he was rather well-off. He worked because he loved advertising. He, and Lou Frosh--the head of the department, were filled with a treasure trove of stories and tales about the early years in the business.

But the stories I loved the most were about Leo Burnett. I learned one hell of a lot about how to THINK about advertising in the Burnett way from Hank. I recognize now, that I probably had as good as an education in "Thinking-like-Leo" as any kid my age who was working at the Leo Burnett agency in 1977. I had a mentor who place me in just two-degrees-of-separation from the man himself.
There are a lot of wise quotes attributed to Leo Burnett and here are a few of my favorites:
"Advertising says to people, 'Here's what we've got. Here's what it will do for you. Here's how to get it."

"Anyone who thinks that people can be fooled or pushed around has an inaccurate and pretty low estimate of people - and he won't do very well in advertising."

"I have learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one. "

"Creative ideas flourish best in a shop which preserves some spirit of fun. Nobody is in business for fun, but that does not mean there cannot be fun in business. "
And my absolute favorite:
"I like to imagine that Chicago copywriters spit on their hands before picking up the big black pencils."

I've never been comfortable working for any company on any product that didn't allow me to work in the Chicago style. I've done it, but I didn't like it.

My slogan for Beanworld: "A most peculiar comic book experience" in my mind is pure Chicago school.
I'm certain I will touch on Leo Burnett again in the future.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More From The Beanworld Archives

Wakinyan vs Unktehi
Early '80s
Aprox 16'' x 30"
Colored markers and ProWhite on Bienfang 360
I found this oddly shaped piece while looking for another one I have yet to find. I had almost forgotten about this drawing. It was all folded up and tucked into a file that had nothing to do with the subject matter at all. Oh well.
This drawing illustrates, in my own style, a favorite story of the Lakota people featuring two of my favorite spirit-beings found in published traditonal Lakota stories--Wakinyan (ThunderBeing or ThunderBird) and Unktehi (Water Monster).

Wakinyan is of the air and the source of thunderstorms, hail, tornados. Even though Wakinyan is a fierce entity, Wakinyan likes the Lakota because they are so respectful of its power.

Unktehi on the other hand is of the water. Lives in the rivers. Unktehi doesn't like the Lakota at all. Would just as soon see them all drown. At every river crossing there lurks the danger that Unktehi is lurking under the water like a giant crocodile and will drown you.

Wakinyan and Unktehi fight a lot. A variation of this myth (substituting an Eagle and Feathered Serpent) is found down south in MesoAmerica and in fact is smack dab in the middle of the national flag of Mexico.

But in my mind, when I look at my drawing below with the comfortable distance of probably 25 years, what I see more than anything else is the drawing below by the incredible Bill Everett that was in the Steranko History of Comics. To me perpetual conflict between the Golden Age Human Torch and Sub-Mariner inhabits the exact same mythological space as Wakinyan and Unktehi. I'm sure I had this drawing in my mind exactly whenever it was that I drew it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Robert Rauschenberg Has Died At Age 82.

Erased de Kooning by Robert Raushenberg 1953
19" x 14 1/2"

Heidi did a wonderful retrospective/obituary of Rauschenberg over at The Beat and I don't think I can add much to her words beyond a few personal observations.

I became aware and influenced by the works of Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg at more or less the same time.

My favorite Rauchenberg piece has to be "Erased de Kooning." It most captures the many influences that Rauchenberg was channeling as a young and ambitious artist on the verge of a major Break-Out as we say in the Beanworld--even though the art world at large was ingnoring everything he was painting.

Somewhere along the line he became intrigued with the notion of erasing as the flip side of drawing. "I had been working for some time at erasing," he told art historian, Calvin Tomkins in The Bride and the Bachelors, "I wanted to create a work of art by that method."

Raushenburg recognized that erasing one of his own drawings did not have the impact or effect that he was seeking. "I realized that it had to be something by someone everyone agreed was great, and the most logical person for that was de Kooning."

So the eager young Unknown Artist went to the studio of the Older Famous Artist and pitched him his radical idea. De Kooning didn't toss him out on his ear, instead he not only "got it" but he chose a drawing that de Kooning said he" would miss."

De Kooning chose a drawing that Raushenberg would really have to work HARD at erasing. Raushenberg explains the history of this artwork over at YouTube and the clip is well worth watching. "He gave me something that had charcoal, oil paint, pencil, crayon, I spent a month erasing that little drawing."

Rauchenberg later told Tomkins, "It wasn't easy, by any means. The drawing was done with a hard line, and it was greasy too, so I had to work very hard on it, using every sort of eraser. But in the end it really worked. I liked the result. I felt it was a legitimate work of art, created by the technique of erasing."
As I was writing the above, I went out the door of my studio and snapped the pic below. It's the bottom shelf where I keep the big books that I've referred to the most over the years, which explains how tattered some of them have gotten over the decades. Rauchenburg is right next to Duchamp!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Larry Marder's Beanworld returns for a whole new generation!

So said the official email from Dark Horse. Here is a transcript of the PR release:

Dark Horse Comics proudly announces the arrival of a most peculiar graphic novel experience -- Larry Marder's Beanworld!

Beanworld has captivated readers from grade school to grad school since its first publication as a series of comic books in the 1980s. Starting in early 2009, Dark Horse will present Beanworld as a series of affordable graphic novels collecting all existing Beanworld stories, with new material to follow in the same format, beginning with the all new graphic novel Remember Here When You Are There! To whet the appetite of new and loyal fans alike, Dark Horse will also release an all new Beanworld webcomic this Fall, with a full color Beanworld comic book to follow in time for the holidays!

Series creator Larry Marder explains, "Beanworld is about the affinity of life. It's like A Bugs Life meets Mutts, as told by Dr. Seuss & Joseph Campbell. It's a weird fantasy dimension that operates under its own rules and laws, but also reflects deep truths about our world in doing so. All the characters, whether they are friends or adversaries, understand that ultimately they depend on each other for survival. Beanworld isn't a place, it's a process, and I can't wait to share that process with a new generation of readers!"

"I couldn't be happier to welcome Larry Marder's wonderful stories home here at Dark Horse! I've always felt this is where they belonged, and I'm thrilled to be bringing them to today's readers," says Dark Horse President, Mike Richardson.

"Wahoolazuma! Larry Marder's personal Look-See Show is back on the boards! Beanworld is simply a joyous experience," said editor Diana Schutz, "total eye-candy, and it's good for you, too!"

"When Beanworld was first published, many people said it was ahead of its time," Marder says. "Looking at today's world raised on Pixar, Cartoon Network, and manga, I think it's fair to say that Beanworld's time has come. I'm looking forward to working closely with the team at Dark Horse to introduce the Beanworld to this comics-literate world!"

Look for Beanworld adventures, new and old, in the coming year!

So that is the news!

Beanworld is totally rebooting. It's not an archival project. It's being presented to a new generation in a modern format--a series of affordable graphic novels.

There is going to be a free online comic on MySpace Dark Horse Presents in the autumn.

And there is more!

A real live, full color Beanworld comic book in time for the holidays!

And in 2009--the graphic novel we've all been waiting for (yes me too!): Remember here when you are there!"

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

History of the Beanworld Action Figure

Chapter Ten
Battle Damaged!

With all the Stumptown hoopla I've recorded here: Dark Horse, Beanworld animation, and a bunch of photos--I totally forgot to mention something else of great Beanworld importance--the premiere of Battle Damaged FREE Beanworld Action Figures.

I wrote about The Return of the Beanworld Action Figure in an earlier post. But that wasn't the only thing worth recording that happened that Sunday at WonderCon.

Something really cool happened that day.
I was doing my normal pitch as folks strolled by:
"Have a FREE Beanworld Action Figure" I'd say.

And people would generally smile in recognition of the concept, and choose the face (or faces) that most pleased them.

But one kid came back. I don't think he was more than 12 or 13.

I recall he was wearing a dark knit cap.

Anyway, he said "My brother didn't like the one I gave him. He wants a battle-damaged figure like mine." And between thumb and forefinger he held up a Beanworld Action Figure with some of its skin flaked off.

The light bulb of IMMEDIATE recognition went off over my head. I can't begin to tell you how many meetings I was in at McFarlane Toys discussing battle damage on RoboCop figures and HALO and the like. My brain just said "Yeahhhhhhhh!"and I helped the kid dig through until he found one.
Out of the mouths of babes, huh?

For years, when a bean came out of the bag and its skin was cracked or chipped, I didn't use them. They seemed, quite frankly, less than "mint" and I figured they wouldn't be taken. And that was true. People always put the "chipped" ones back.

But that was then and this is now.

Putting "battle damage" on an REAL action figure is a relatively inexpensive way to stretch out the life of a specific pose. A few well placed cracks and bullet holes and the collectors go wild!

Battle Damaged FREE Beanworld Action Figures seemed like a natural line extension.
So now there are seven figures to collect.

A final very unscientific observation:
Adult males seemed to prefer the Original/Brite Eyes and Angry/Fightin' Mad.
Adult females seemed to prefer Sleepy/Snoozy and Happy/Tee hee.
Boys seemed to prefer Angry/Fightin' Mad and Battle Damaged.
Girls seemed to prefer Crazy and Dead.

When it comes to FREE Beanworld Action Figures--
there is something for everyone!

Monday, May 5, 2008

A find from 1999!

I just posted this archaeological discovery on Flickr.

As I wrote in the intro:

"Recently, while looking for something else, I found this transcript on the bottom of a pile of stuff that was stuffed in a box that had been in a file in my desk at McFarlane Toys.
I'm almost certain that the questioner was Roarin' Rick Veitch and it was intended for his column on
As a snapshot of my mindset, from a time I can't recall particularly well, I thought I'd post it for you before it got lost again."
I'm quite certain that it never ran. As far as I can tell, I just gave up editing it and never sent it in. I think some of the things I said at the time are quite solid and true and some of the stuff (particularly about Beanworld) sounds loony tunes to me now!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stumptown Badge Art

In a long post about a whole lotta stuff, that he accrued on his most recent travels, The Spurge featured a picture of his Stumptown badge as seen above.

In all the rush leading up to (and during Stumptown) I'm not sure I remembered to mention that I did the artwork for the badges.

Well, all I did was the line art. The colorwork and typography was all superbly rendered by Jenn Manley Lee.

I have absolutely zero idea of exactly where and when I first met Jenn and her husband, Kip. But it was a very long time ago and almost certainly through Ivy and Scott McCloud. They were part of Scott and Ivy's first group of "Kids" as Ivy recently wrote about.

And just so you can see how much elegance Jenn contributed to the embellishment of my simple drawing--here it is!