Fifteen years ago, Larry Marder was appointed the executive director of the upstart comic publisher, Image. After a half-dozen years in that role, he joined up with Image co-founder Todd MacFarlane, as the president of the Spawn creator’s action figure company, MacFarlane Toys, a position he maintained until last year.
An artist in his own right, Marder’s most beloved creation, Tales From the Beanworld, largely languished as he busied himself with the task of helping run two international entertainment companies.
At this year’s Stumptown in Portland, however, Marder announced that he would be resurrecting his most popular creation, beginning with reissues of the long out-of-print books, arriving via Dark Horse, next year. Following a reissue of the book’s complete run, Dark Horse will release all new Beanworld material, written and drawn by Marder.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Marder at SPX in Maryland, a few weeks back, to discuss his return to alternative comics and the rebirth of Beanworld.
What’s coming out on Dark Horse?
The Beanworld Holiday Special is coming out—it’s 24 pages of new stuff, and it’s in the Diamond catalog, right now. It’s coming out December 17th. It will be followed by the first hardcover that’s re-presenting all of the old material. That’s coming out in February. The old material will be complete with the second hardcover volume, which will come out in the beginning of Summer. That will be followed in the Fall of 2009 with a 200+ page black and white graphic novel, which is what I’m working on, right now. It’s 250 pages, picking up exactly where the first two book leave off. It’s the original Beanworld continuity, which is being re-scanned and re-packaged for today’s audience.
These first two volumes have been out of print for a while.
A long time. Of all the 21 issues that I did of Beanworld, which was enough for five volumes, in the old format, I only actually published four. So the last five or six issues of Beanworld have never been re-printed, so they will be in the second volume. That will take care of everything that’s ever been done, except for some odds and ends, which will be collected at some point later. So it’s all going to be back in print again, after having been out of print for well over 10 years.
Have you been working on it for yourself consistently, since then?
Yeah. I’ve been shuffling around. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle or a mosaic. I’ve been connecting little pieces constantly, but didn’t really understand how to connect them all into this grand story.
Pieces like characters and storylines?
I’d be on a plane or have jetlag—I’d be in Hong Kong or China, when I was in the toy business—and I’d just have a flash of something, so I’d sit down and pencil it. Maybe it would be two frames, or maybe it would be three pages, and then that would be it. It would just be a little flash, and I didn’t understand how it would connect to any other of the pieces. And then, about two years ago, I just sort of collected all of the pieces, and I actually found, in my own archives, a bunch of story fragments that were clipped together in a certain order.
It was like I had done this, 10, 12 years ago, to say, “hey Larry, you’re going to forget about all of this, but some day in the future, you’re gonna find this. This is what you intended, but you’re about to forget,” and I did. And then, all of the sudden, I found all of that stuff, and the pieces that I had been doing sort of slotted in, and I just figured out what the proper order was. I used to say that I didn’t have a beginning and I didn’t have an end—I had nothing but endless middle. And then the beginning and the end came to me very quickly, and it became easy to fill in the gaps.
Is it a fluid story, throughout?
Yeah. It is a continuity that stands alone. I was always a big believer in the old-fashioned comic book rule, which I learned from Jim Shooter, but I think it actually came from Jules Schwartz, which is, “every issue is somebody’s first issue.” Which is why every couple of issues they would show Krypton blowing up and Kal-El going off on a rocket. I was always very influenced by that. What’s funny—and Jeff Smith observed this, a long time ago—is that, when they’re collected, there’s a rhythm to the story being retold again, and it almost has a refrain aspect to it, that I like. But it’s a free-standing continuity, and yet, it’s more like a soap opera, where I’m always adding something new, while reinforcing something that’s old.
The experience I had with Bone—and I’m sure a lot of people share this—was that it didn’t do much for me, when I sat down and read the first few issues. It didn’t really hit me, until I read the full collected volume. Do you think Beanworld is like that?
This is a build, absolutely. Well, actually, you know what, I’m the only person on the planet who will never have an idea what it’s like to read an issue of Beanworld, so I only know what people tell me, and what they tell me is that it tends to resonate and they think about it a lot, afterwards. Beanworld resonates and echoes with things in their own life. I suggest a lot of things, I throw out a lot of ideas, it operates on many levels, at the same time.
Like with [SPX], for example—I’ve run into a lot of people who are adults who started reading Beanworld when they were kids, and they have a completely different appreciation for it today than they did when they were 15. I think that that’s one of the peculiarities about Beanworld. Its tagline used to be ‘the most peculiar comic book experience,’ and I think that’s true, for most people. Beanworld is a comic book that can have a relationship with your entire life, like a Peanuts. I’m not trying to…
Compare yourself to Schulz…
Yeah, but the way that you react to it when you’re a kid is very different than the way you react to it, as an adult, and it really is very different. And the other thing I’ve noticed is that no one is indifferent to Beanworld. You either don’t like it or don’t get it, or you love it, so I tend to have very hardcore fans.
[Continued in Part Two.]