Propaganda’s least objective review ever – Beanworld’s back
Beanworld Holiday Special
by Larry Marder
Dark Horse Comics
I’ve been a huge fan of Larry Marder’s Tales of the Beanworld since first picking up an issue back in the mid 80s. When the series stalled in the early 90s after Marder took up a position at first Image Comics and later Todd McFarlane’s toy emporium I began to despair that I’d never see another original Beanworld comic. But I should have had more faith in Marder. Because, some 14 years after the last issue came out, he’s finally back in the Beanworld with this Holiday Special from Dark Horse. And if you’re expecting any kind of un-biased viewpoint here, you’re going to be disappointed.
Beanworld has always been about more than just a quirky tale of strange little bean characters. It’s billing on the front cover as “a most peculiar comic book experience” really doesn’t do justice to the complexities of Marder’s story. Whenever I tried to introduce it to customers and friends there were two reactions after reading it; complete bemusement or complete adoration.
For Beanworld is not a simple thing. Just have a look at the map below to get an idea. It looks so simple, mapped out like that:
But Marder has created a complex reality within this simple framework, with a complete ecosystem. Every element, every character of the reality has an important role to play in Beanworld life. It’s a beautiful and complex allegory of the wonder of nature. Similarly his characters are all incredibly simple, highly iconic things. This means that the Holiday Beanworld doesn’t seem to feature characters over 20 years old, they look very fresh and modern.
So with the return of Beanworld Marder is obviously faced with the difficult decision of how to simply and effectively reintroduce his wonderful beans without completely bogging down the comic with backstory. Does Marder manage it? Of course he does.
The holiday special tells a tale of the Pod’l’pool Cuties (baby beans) and their reluctance to talk to each other. No big deal? Not in Beanworld. If the Cuties don’t talk to each other, how are they going to communicate when they grow up to be Chow Raiders? After all, once Gran’Ma’Pa offers it’s daily gift of the sprout-butt, skillfully caught by Mr Spook it needs a lot of communication to find just the right Hoi-Polloi Ring in the Ring Herd and get it back into the Chow pool for the Beans to grow.
And that last paragraph should give you a little idea of exactly how wonderfully complicated Beanworld is. And how delightful. But the way this Holiday Special is constructed walks a perfect line between enough background to make it understandable and enough mystery to hopefully have you as intrigued and adoring as I remember being after my first Beanworld experience. The Big*Big*Picture is something none of us readers have just yet, we’re waiting for at least some of the mysteries to be revealed in the new Beanworld graphic novel “Remember Here When You Are There!” appearing later in 2009. In the meantime we have this Holiday Special, neatly and cleverly bringing in all of the Beans and the wonderful, unique vision of the Beanworld.
After this, your next stop should be to pick up the first of two hardback collections of all the previously published Beanworld stories, coming from Dark Horse in Feb 2009 (Beanworld Book 1: Wahoolazuma).
Larry Marder’s Tales Of The Beanworld. There’s nothing like it in comics. There’s never been anything like it in comics. It’s unique, magical, wonderful.
Pick it up, but like it says on the back page ad: “Research indicates that thinking about Beanworld can be habit-forming”.
And it’s a marvellous habit to have.