One of the lazy things I started doing while writing “Palmer’s Picks” was repeating the same opening line. It actually started last issue:
One of the more original and exciting new artists to emerge in the past few years is Mike Allred.
And you can compare that to the beginning of this column for Wizard #22:
One of the more interesting and distinctive comics to be published in the last few years is Larry Marder‘s Tales of the Beanworld, from Eclipse Comics.
Next issue saw a slight variation on the theme:
Paul Chadwick is one of the most respected and talented creators in comics today.
Think it ends there? Spoiler alert: Nope.
One of the original and most respected “alternative” comic books is Love and Rockets.
But wait, there’s more! From Wizard #25:
One of the more popular methods for a struggling cartoonist to get his comics into public view is to publish his work as mini-comics, an eight-page comic “booklet” formed by folding an 8 1/2″ X 11″ Xerox copy into quarters.
Thankfully, Wizard #26 would be the last of these clunkers:
One of the growing problems in the comic industry is the lateness of many of the books that come out.
Aside from the clichéd opener, the writing on this issue’s “Palmer’s Picks” isn’t as awkward as last time. Since Tales of the Beanworld is a little difficult to explain, I wisely decided to start out with a rundown of what the comic is about, and didn’t devote too much space to explaining its publishing history. There’s really not much to say about Beanworld; it’s one of those comics that you have to try for yourself to decide if it’s something you’re into. It’s billed as “A most peculiar comic book experience” on the cover of every issue for good reason.
Also of note this time around is that this is the first “Palmer’s Picks” to brandish a title. There are quite a few things that I really don’t like doing, and coming up with titles is probably at the top of the list. So, it’s a good thing that Wizard editorial decided to handle it instead! Someone at the magazine also decided it would be a good idea to rename the sidebar to “Palmer’s Recommendations” for this issue, so their judgment can’t be completely trusted. Thankfully, the name would return to the usual “Recommended Reading” with the next column.
In case reading this old profile of Tales of the Beanworld actually does it’s job and makes you want to read the comic, you’re in luck. After spending many years behind the scenes in the comics biz—and mostly away from the drawing table—Larry Marder returned to Beanworld in 2009 with a series of reprint volumes from Dark Horse followed by all-new material. Five books have been published so far, with more hopefully to come.
Beanworld Sprouts an Interesting Tale
by Tom Palmer Jr.
One of the more interesting and distinctive comics to be published in the last few years is Larry Marder’s Tales of the Beanworld, from Eclipse Comics. The story basically concerns the adventures of a colony of Beans led by Mr. Spook, Professor Garbanzo, and Beanish who live in the Beanworld, a fully-functioning fantasy world that is controlled by a set of rules and laws. It is a comic that operates on many levels, from a simple ecological fable to a complex conglomeration of Marder’s perceptions on how people relate and function with each other.
According to Marder, the Beanworld began simply, with several unrelated sketches and doodles of cartoon bean characters. Eventually, he began to create a world for these bean characters to function in. This fictional world revolved around Gran’Ma’Pa, the spiritual center of the Beanworld and the source of Sprout-Butts. The Sprout-Butts are refined by the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd (the natural adversaries of the Beans) into Chow, which the Beans consume and the Hoi-Polloi gamble with. The Beans and the Hoi-Polloi are separated by the Four Realities, a sea of four distinctly different shapes that are used by the Beans to make tools and weapons designed by Professor Garbanzo. Most of the Beans are part of the Chow Sol’jer Army, led by Mr. Spook, which raids the Hoi-Polloi and steals Chow from the herd. In their spare time, the Beans are entertained by Beanish, an artist, and the Boom’r Band.
Marder’s style perfectly suits the stories he tells in Tales of the Beanworld. At first glance, his artwork appears simple and primitive. But a closer examination shows that his art is meticulously planned out and rendered and his characters are surprisingly expressive. His stories are easily accessible to young children, who are able to cross-reference all of the locations and characters in a map and glossary printed in every issue. More sophisticated readers are able to read their own personal interpretations into the Beanworld and the assortment of characters that inhabit it.
The first issue of Tales of the Beanworld premiered in 1984, but only 19 issues have appeared so far. Aside from the fact that Marder puts a lot of thought and energy into the Beanworld, the comic has never been widely distributed or heavily promoted. Marder has recently taken a position as the Marketing Director at Moondog’s, a chain of comic book shops in the Midwest. He intends to gain some first-hand knowledge of how the direct sales system works. By actually being behind the scenes he hopes to improve the methods of communication between creators and the retailers, something that in some ways is almost non-existent. Although he is not currently producing issues on a regular basis, Marder says that Beanworld is his life’s work and that he will continue creating stories of the Beanworld and its inhabitants.
Tales of the Beanworld #20 has been completed, but will not be available until late summer. Meanwhile, I’ll provide you with some comics that are currently on the stands that you should take notice of. First off is Duplex Planet Illustrated, a new comic published by Fantagraphics. All of the stories are written by David Greenberger and are based on his conversations with residents of the Duplex Nursing home where he works. The stories were originally published in Greenberger’s own Duplex Planet magazine as interviews and anecdotes, and are illustrated in the comic book by some well-known alternative artists. Some of the artists for the first two issues include J.R. Williams, Roberta Gregory, Wayno, Terry LaBan, Doug Allen, and Dan Clowes. The stories range from humorous self-contained one-pagers to more revealing longer stories.
Also form Fantagraphics is Hey Buddy!, the first collection of Peter Bagge‘s Hate!. This book collects the first five issues of the black and white comic that focuses on one of Bagge’s more popular creations, Buddy Bradley. The stories included chronicle Buddy’s life after Bagge’s first comic Neat Stuff ended, and are constantly funny. Aside from being amusing, Bagge’s stories are sharp and accurate observations on society and relationships. Bagge is one of the more significant, humorous and perceptive creators out there today, and his work should not be overlooked.
Last on the list of this month’s recommendations is Mothers and Daughters Book 1 by Dave Sim and Gerhard. This is the most recent of the Cerebus trade paperbacks, and it collects the first part of the most recent, and most successful, of the Cerebus storylines to date. The story features many revelations, and poses quite a few questions, about the main Cerebus story. Since this book is a first printing, it is signed by Dave Sim and Gerhad, so you should get your copy now while they are still available.
Next month I’ll feature Paul Chadwick and Concrete. In future months I’ll profile Los Bros Hernandez and Love and Rockets, as well as Tragedy Strikes Press, and Drawn and Quarterly. Keep writing with comments and suggestions so I can make this column the best that it can be. The address is: Palmer’s Picks, c/o Wizard Press,
100 Red Schoolhouse Road, Bldg. B1, Chestnut Ridge, N.Y. 10977.
Tales of the Beanworld – Nineteen issues have been published sporadically over the last few years, all in black and white. They are usually very hard to find, especially the older issues, so bug your local comic shop owner to stock them. Two trade paperbacks collecting the first seven issues have been published. Again, if you local store doesn’t carry the books, ask them to order some copies. If they refuse, you can still order directly from Eclipse Books,
P.O. Box 1099 Forestville, California 95436.
Duplex Planet Illustramed – Two issues have been published so far, with a special flexi-disc insert in the first issue. If you can’t find any copies locally, contact Fantagraphics Books, 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, Wash. 98115. Duplex Planet material has also appeared in the first few issues of Dan Clowes’ Eightball, an excellent comic also published by Fantagraphics. Ten issues have appeared so far, and the next issue (which should be out in a month or so) should be a good starting point for new readers since Clowes recently wrapped up “Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron,” the main feature in Eightball.
Mothers and Daughters – This hook collects the first part of the most
current Cerebus storyline. It reprints the first 12 installments, titled “Flight.” This is the first of the Cerebus “phone books” to be offered to the direct market for its first printing, so there should be no problem finding this book. All copies that are bought now should be signed and numbered by both Dave Sim and Gerhard. The first six reprint volumes should also be available at your local comic book store, but If you have trouble finding copies you can always order directly from Aardvark Vanaheim at Box
1614, Station C, Kitchener, Ontario N26 4I12, Canada.
Hey Buddy! – This is the first collection of Peter Bagge’s Hate! and it should be in comic stores right now. The book collects the first five issues of the comic, featuring Buddy Bradley, Stinky, Val, George Hamilton III, and the rest of the cast of Hate! Eleven issues of the regular comic have been published so far, as well as four Neat Stuff trade paperbacks (The Bradleys, Studs Kirby, Junior and other Losers, and Stupid Comics.) If you can’t find any of these books, write to Fantagraphics at the address above.