Beanworld: Remember Here When You Are There!
Of all the comics I've read, few are as flawless as Larry Marder’s magnum opus, Beanworld. Dark Horse Books republished the hard to find classic earlier this year, splitting up the original twenty-one issues into two hardcover books. After fifteen years on hold, Marder returns to the Beanworld and brings us new stories, not in issue form, but as a new hardcover book, trade, "graphic novel" called Beanworld: Remember Here When You Are There!.
We here at comicsforserious.com are obviously obsessed with the series, but unfortunately for some comics readers it’s a hard sell. People work too hard at trying to “get” Beanworld and not simply observe the Beanworld. To enjoy what is truly the most immersive comics experience ever, you must begin like the still growing characters: Clueless, overwhelmed by the world around you.
The one caution offered in each book (“Please do not search for scientific or magical explanations; you won’t find any. Beanworld is a separate reality. It’s not just a place, it’s a process. It is what it is—and th-that’s all folks”") is the perfect, and only, way to introduce someone to the series. Beanworld only works when you allow yourself to be an observer, not a reader. You have to let it work out in front of you.
Although all us comics and science fiction readers avoid the idea that our little “hobby” is escapism, it’s the reality of comics. But the less discussed reality of comics is how that escapism actually allows us to consider and reflect on the "real world" in new ways. Most comics are based in the world we live in, New York City being the framework for almost every comic that takes place in a city, current political issues portrayed via space wars or superheroes . Non-sci-fi books like Lemire’s Essex County trilogy hit home because we can put ourselves into the work on an emotional level. That foundation in every day life is enhanced by the art and it's strange exaggerations or simplifications.
But the complete separation between Beanworld and our world allows you to "understand" the Beanworld much the same way we "understand" this world: In tiny, ever-evolving pieces of information and experience. You can’t make guesses as to what’s going to happen because the Beanworld isn’t even complete. Pieces of information about the sociological and biological structures and even about the physical structure of the world itself slowly reveal themselves. Think about it: These first three books have only been the “Spring” cycle of the Beanworld epic, presumably allowing for three more seasons to complete the journey of the beans. We as readers are as much in the dark as Mr. Spook and the rest of the beans, and because of this, each new piece of information benefits them as much as us.
A lot of the “black and white comics boom” classics and almost classics have in effect, been lost for some time now. The issues are harder to find, no one's talking about them, and there's not even a trade available. Stuff from well-known, oft-discussed legends and those white box heroes too. For awhile now, Beanworld was one of these, but it's been saved from this limbo and given a second life, first by Dark Horse reissues and now, by brand new work from the creator Larry Marder.