Westfield: Why did you decide to bring Beanworld back now?
Larry Marder: It just seemed like the right time. I'd run my course in the business world. I spent 15 years at Image Comics and McFarlane Toys, and three years before that at Moondog's Comicland as Marketing Director. I spent a long time managing other people's creativity and I decided it was time for me to come back and do my own work. Plus, I wasn't getting any younger. It just felt like the time was right.
Westfield: How did you hook up with Dark Horse?
Marder: I've been friends with everybody at Dark Horse for well over 20 years, particularly with Diana Schutz, who is my editor. Basically, I just asked Mike Richardson, "Hey! Can I come over here?" And he said, "Absolutely!" He answered my email within 20 minutes.
Westfield: For those who might not be familiar with Beanworld, what can you tell people about it?
Marder: It's a really tough one to explain. What I usually say is that it's a fantasy dimension that really is in a time and place other than our own world. It's a strange place. It operates under its own rules and laws. It comes with a map. It comes with a glossary. It's about a little tribe of characters that are beans, basically glorious stick figures. They believe that they live in the center of a perfect world. They interact with their neighbors, the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd, who are also their adversaries. Both groups, the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd and the Beans, are completely interdependent upon each other for their sustenance. In the case of the Beans, it's their food. In the case of the Hoi-Polloi, it's their money. It's the same substance for both groups - Chow. I can already see that I'm rambling. I always tell people that it's easier to read Beanworld than it is to explain it. Sometimes I think that's really true.
One thing about Beanworld, though, is that everybody that reads it discovers their own Beanworld. The other thing that has become very apparent to me this time around is that nobody ever really out grows Beanworld. People that read Beanworld 20 some years ago when they were just kids are just as excited about it coming back as anybody else. They still like it.
Westfield: Who are some of the major characters in the series?
Marder: The hero is Mr. Spook who's a bit of a mysterious character because he doesn't seem to quite be a bean. Professor Garbanzo is Beanworld's thinker, inventor, and tool maker. Beanish is the creator of the Fabulous Look-See Show and is Beanworld's artist. Also there's Beanish's secret friend, Dreamishness, who he visits every day and she seems to be a being of great power. The rest of the Beans are broken up into three groups. There's a trio of musicians called the Boom'r Band. There's the Chow Sol'jer Army, which is made up of two divisions; the Spear Fling'n Flank'rs and the Chow Pluk'rs. And the Pod'l'pool Cuties, which are the little baby beans. Those are the Beans. There is also a mysterious bean called Heyoka, who is upside down and backwards, and has left the Beanworld and gone somewhere else. She is one of the major characters in next year's graphic novel. Her coming back to Beanworld is a big part of that story.
Westfield: In addition to the collection, you're doing a new holiday special. What can you say about that?
Marder: It's called Every Cutie Deserves a Toy. It's about the origin of toys in the Beanworld. In the last issue of Beanworld that I did 15 years ago, they were playing with some toys which I called Beanworld Action Effigies. I decided to do the origin of how those toys came about. That gives it a vague holiday theme. [laughter] It's about kids and toys.
Westfield: From what you said before, there is going to be more Beanworld stories. You have a graphic novel on the way.
Marder: Yeah, I do. Next year, all 21 issues of Beanworld will be divided up into two hardcover trade books; one coming out in February and there will be a second one in the summer. That will put all of the original Beanworld material back in the marketplace. That will be followed in the fall by a graphic novel, which looks like it's going to be about 250 pages. It will be, more or less, the same size volume as the two reprint books. It's called Remember Here When You're There. It picks up as if no time has gone by whatsoever. It just picks up the story where it left off and keeps running forward as fast as it can.
Westfield: Since you haven't worked with these characters for a while, are you enjoying them? Was it tough getting back into them?
Marder: I'm beyond enjoying them. Even though I hadn't published anything in all those years, I was still collecting little bits and fragments. In the last 10 years or so I travelled a lot. I'd find myself on long plane rides. I'd find myself in Asia - Hong Kong and China - jetlagged. And I would get up in the middle of the night and I would scribble down a little fragment of something. Sometimes it would only be a drawing or two. Sometimes it would be a couple pages. I just filed them all away. I didn't know how any of them fit in with each other, but somewhere along the line about two years ago, it all started making sense. I decided it was time to start collating all that material. The fun part has been the eight-page Dark Horse Presents MySpace story that's online right now and the holiday special, because that's brand new stuff. Those were not things that I had collected any kind of fragments for. Everything that I had been working on was headed towards the graphic novel, Remember Here When You're There. These other two stories have just been a joy because I didn't have a single idea when I sat down to start writing them. I just let the characters tell me what they wanted to do. That's the real joy. I love it. I'm having the best time in my life right now. I'm having a better time now than I did 20 years ago. Maybe it's because I'm 20 years older. Maybe it's because the comic book business has changed so much. I was a bit of an outsider in those days. And since then, I have been as inside as you can get. I'm loving just being a cartoonist again.
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Marder: Beanworld's return is not an archival experience. This isn't about memorializing a work that's finished. This is a reboot. The material that's already existed is being shown to today's comic book community so everybody can catch up. Then it's all going to keep going. It is my intention to put out a graphic novel every 18 months or so for as long as I can, and do the occasional specials, like the holiday special, as Dark Horse sees fit.
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