Return to Beanworld!
In a time of chaotic logistics and late books at Image, the founders turned to Larry Marder for help stabilize their company in late 1993. As Image’s Executive Director, Marder brought professionalism and order when he assumed all responsibilities of the company’s publishing. He provided direction, mandates, guidelines, business & editorial advice and an open ear to hear grievances for the Image founders, comics distributors and retailers. Prior to Image, Marder worked in an advertising agency, created the alternative comic “Beanworld,” and served as the marketing director for Moondogs, a pop culture store chain. From 1999 to 2007, Larry was the president of McFarlane Toys during a period of great growth for the company. This year, Marder is coming back to comics and bringing back his old friends.
How has life been treating you since stepping down as President of McFarlane Toys? Has there been much readjusting to being an artist again?
Life has been treating me just swell. I jumped back into the swing of things very quickly. It really has been like the classic example of hopping back on a bicycle after many years — I had a few wobbly moments and then it all came back astoundingly fast. I thought the biggest adjustment was going to be working alone and not immersed in the collegiality of an office situation. But in this day and age of instant messaging, that hasn’t been true at all. I “gossip” with my friends and colleagues, all over the world, all day long!
Was coming back and rebuilding “Beanworld” your first priority?
Have you been observing how the comics marketplace has changed since you stepped down as Image’s executive director? What are the positives and negatives that you see?
The biggest change has been the focus away from the 32 page plus cover so-called comic book pamphlet towards the graphic novel/trade paperback package. Comic book stores thrive on selling habitual entertainment; their lifeblood has been the comic book junkie, who has to make weekly trips to the local store to follow the exploits of his favorite characters. The trend towards collecting story arcs into trades has softened the urges of the casual comics collector, who increasingly waits for the trade to be issued. This has been a great trend for finding new readers in the book stores, but it has slowed down predictable business forecasting for the comics shops.
Do you have any concerns about how your book might perform in today’s comics industry? If you’ll find new readers and bring back some of your old fans?
I’d be nuts if I didn’t fret over that, but anecdotal evidence indicates that a large proportion of my original fans are very interested in new “Beanworld” work. Plus, it seems that the ideas presented in “Beanworld” imprint on young readers imaginations even more immediately and deeply than it did a generation ago. When “Beanworld” first came out, people in the business said “’Beanworld’ is 20 years ahead of its time.” Well, that was in 1985, by my reckoning, I’m coming back a few years late!
When will you be bringing back to print your early “Beanworld” material?
As soon as possible, in a format and price that seems reasonable. I’m not just reprinting previous “Beanworld” work for its nostalgic value but as a re-booting of “Beanworld” for a contemporary audience. The old work is the launching pad for the new work.
For those unfamiliar newbies, how would you describe your art? Did you ever really stop drawing?
No, I never stopped drawing. I am a compulsive doodler and I spent many long hours in meetings in North America, Hong Kong and China and I was gathering all sorts of bits and shards of ideas. I just had difficulty making stories for a long time.
My artwork is kinda like “Krazy Kat” but not; kinda like “Mutts” but not; kinda like Dr Seuss but not; kinda like decorations on Native American pottery and winter hides but not. It’s easier to look at than to explain.
What are the stories that you have left to tell? How far are you from telling the ending of your “Beanworld” saga?
My next story, a graphic novel, is clocking in at about 250 pages, I think, and it more or less wraps up “Beanworld’s Springtime Tales.” The next story enters the “Summer Saga.” The story ends after “Autumn” with the onset of “Winter.”
I have lots of stories left to tell. And I believe I’ve arrived at the time in my life that telling these stories is my prime priority in life.
Do you remain as devoted to your creation as the day, in the summer 1975, you vowed to “delineate the make-believe Beanworld ecoc-system?”
In those days it was more of a vision of a vision of a vision. Now it’s a mission.
Are we all still living in a “Beanworld?”
I am! The joyful process of discovering the Beanworld on daily basis is a gift that I treasure.
Early today, Larry Marder had an exciting “Beanworld” update for visitors of his blog:
“Steve Duin of the Oregonian reported: ‘Dark Horse plans to republish the first 21 issues of ‘Tales of the Beanworld,’ possibly in deluxe hardcover editions, then deliver Marder’s new adventures sometime in early 2009. Diana Schutz will edit.’