Beanworld Breaks Out!
The newly released Beanworld collection, A Gift Comes! marks the coming together of all of the original Beanworld story that Marder originally wrote in the late 80s and early 90s. Before this book, most of the original Beanworld issues were collected in four trade paperbacks published by both Beanworld Press and later Eclipse Books, but several issues were left to be acquired by careful whitebox-hunting or breaking-down and finding them on Ebay or other internet retailers.
The availability to these "lost" issues means that this new collection answers many of the questions that us new-ish Beanworld readers had when we spoke with Marder last December, but in proper Beanworld fashion, has left us with a GAZILLION new ones.
The first thing newbies to the Beans tend to hear when they ask what it's all about is "It's not a product-- it's a process!" There are numerous bits of information and ideas that a reader absorbs through their own reading of Beanworld and it creates the big picture (or the Big-Big Picture, but we're getting to that...) Everyone has their own pacing and means of understanding what the Beanworld is all about.
If you haven't read the contents of this book, or aren't familiar with any pieces of the known Beanworld, this post might not make a whole lot of sense to you. But that may be the best way for some to enter the Beanworld, with too much information right from the start (Hey, it's a process!). The least I can do is entice you to start from the beginning and figure out what Beanworld is all about for youself, but I must warn, if you're a fan who hasn't finished this second release, some of what I'm going to discuss can be a pretty big spoiler if you're not ready for the Big-Big Picture.
In this new collection of old Beaworld issues, we (who had previously only read the four TPBs) are finally introduced to Heyhoka, a bean who's breakout leads us to discover some of the wonders of the world outside of Beanworld. We are also privy as readers to the inner workings of the Goofy industries (or whatever you'd called this vast organization of beings) which span WAY beyond the boundaries of the known Beanworld.
Though, as was known by some and seen by fewer, Beanworld enjoyed a couple of adventures outside of the known world and into entirely different worlds even, before more was discovered about the outer reaches of Marder's created Big-Big Picture. I'm talking about the appearance of the beans in Scout issue #17, which is not a physical appearance of the beans, but rather a vision of Mr. Spook and the Chow Sol'jers aiding Scout in the defeat of his inner demons (and yeah, that is totally as cool as it sounds) and the Total Eclipse event, which tells what happens during the time Beanish is taken away by this weird robot after seeing Dreamishness all angry and speaking gibberish during one of their midday meetings.
In this issue, Scout visits his uncle while on the lamb because he believes he's been poisoned by a "white doctor," so he uses his dead aunt's old Apache things to preform a sweat lodge ceremony. He's confronted by a beast that represents his guilt over the men he's killed, which tells him some gnarly stuff about living in a world of monsters, so Scout gives him the finger. This pisses the demon off (as you can see in the upper left corner of the two page spread) but Mr. Spook and the Sol'jers show up to give Scout some physical and mental support.
I think it's great how Mr. Spook attacks in a way consistent with his strategy for the Hoi-Polloi--using his fork to open up the weak spot (the mouth), while the Fling'n-Flank'rs move in to help get the job done. What isn't very consistent, and I found pretty odd, is the way that Mr. Spook speaks to Scout. In the Beanworld, Mr. Spook is a man of absolutes. He is the hero, he knows how to listen to Gran'Ma'Pa, and he knows the Mystery Pods are evil. He also lacks the ability to comprehend Beanish's Look-See Shows because he can't get past looking at the "pictures" as the physical shapes they're made of--the way he speaks to Scout, he is an enlightened bean.
The advice Mr. Spook gives him, speaking about the harmony of alternate worlds, and "Stop fighting yourself! Look inward-- Open your heart!" is something that Mr. Spook of Beanworld would certainly benefit from hearing. The reason this still works is that this isn't the REAL Mr. Spook. It's just a vision of a hero, who although a little confused and underdeveloped, is trustworthy and strong-- certainly the kind of dude you'd want helping you to tackle some dreamed-up, scary wolf-man.
While Mr. Spook himself is a little out of character in his vision state, the use of him in a vision is actually not. Visions play a huge part in the education of the beans, as we learn in this book, from Mr. Spook dealing with his messy past, to Proffy discovering what the four realities are all about. Dreams and visions are forces of the Big-Big-Picture presenting the beans with the information they need to grow as beans and as a society. It's only right that the Beanworld should spread some of that cosmic knowledge throughout the Eclipse comic universe. This is also in many ways a first hint at the idea that the Beanworld could exist in an area separate, but still connected to a larger, more complex world than under the loving arms of Gran'Ma'Pa.
The next example we see of beans outside their usual environment is in the Total Eclipse event, which was released two years after Scout's vision of Mr. Spook and the Sol'jers.
This is the story of what's going on that leads Beanish to be taken from the Beanworld when he finds that Dreamishness is sick and what goes on in the time that he spends away from the Beanworld. We recently found three of the books which make up this series, so I'm still not totally sure what it's all about, but the basic idea is something is upsetting the balance of the universe, and an array of characters from the worlds of Eclipse Books have to help set things straight. Some of these dudes get lost and run into Beanish freaking out about Dreamishness, and decide to invite him to come along. Wanting to do anything to help his love, Beanish accepts.
The first thing that strikes me about this scene from the Total Eclipse point of view, looking at the Beanworld perspective while being removed from it, is how primitive and essentially, stupid Beanish looks and sounds. The scene in the above panels is depicted separately in both Beanworld and in the Total Eclipse book, with some minor but pretty important differences. In Beanworld, the ship that the other characters are in is shown as this sort of goofy robot guy with Mickey Mouse-like gloved hands. It's still pretty shocking that this new character shows up, but you're able to take it in appropriate stride. In Total Eclipse, as you can see, it's clearly a space ship of some kind with people inside, leaving Beanish to look a little clunky in comparison. His nearly ever-present visible perspiration seems overdone and merely cartoonish, while in the context of the rest of Beanworld , you'd never give this symbol of anxiety a second thought. You're just too busy wishing the dude could catch a break.
Like his appearance, Beanish's speech is equally as daunting when put up against a foreign, more realistic environment than Beanworld. Beanish's speech is mostly word for word in both scenes, but while the speech of the other character stays the same in ideas, the wording is more complex in Total Eclipse, leaving Beanish's simple answers sounding pitifully naive.
In Beanworld, the ship's address to Beanish reads, "There has been a great unbalancing far, far away. It could have something to do with your friend's problem. We're gonna try to fix it. Wanna come?" In this light, Beanish's answer seems optimistic and brave, which certainly it is. But with the way it reads in Total Eclipse, especially the last part, "We're going to try and fix it, and I guess you have the right to come along if you want," I get the feeling these new guys aren't totally thrilled at the potential they see in taking this talking bean with them to save the world, and Beanish certainly seems totally unaware, committed only to restoring Dreamishness' "inner light." The awkwardness in Beanish's voice is not only brought on by strangeness in comparison to a more conventional comic dialogue, but amplied by the fact that never before have I seen a bean speak without the use of Marder's handwriting. Even in Scout, Mr. Spook is narrated by Marder's hand and of course, it works.
Beanish accepts his mission to travel outside of the Big-Big Picture because he wants to help Dreamishness become "something more," like she asked, and he figures this is the way to do it. This makes Beanish an important factor in understanding how the beans work because as he notices, the way he feels for Dreamishness (which is physically represented by a surrounding of hearts) is only found in one other place: the process of turning Sprout-Butts into chow by the Hoi-Polloi. However, in this context, the hearts are more closely related to lust, something which Beanish feels but can't quite articulate because he has no basis on which to even call his feelings for Dreamishness love. Thus, the poor guy is left to sweat it out once more.
While Mr. Spook still has a lot of learning to do, and Beanish is on to some larger ideas but continues to struggle with what it all means, they are both privy to certain elements of the Big-Big pictures, such as where baby beans come from, and certain clues as to what lies beyond the known Beanworld. Though when it comes down to it, the majority of Beanworld is pretty clueless, though you can't blame them if you know the story of their creation. And this is where things start to get tough, because we the readers (after reading the whole first run of Beanworld) now know more than the beans about their world.
How can the beans teach the Cuties everything they need to know if they don't even know the whole story? What's going to happen when the season is over? What was the Beanworld like before Mr. Spook was delivered as reproductive propellant? Was it even a Beanworld? What happened with that first Sprout-Butt? Why does Mr. Spook look like a Hoi-Polloi? All the speculating and nerd talk in the world couldn't get through all the secrets left unanswered for the new Beanworld book, but hey, that's half the fun of it.