The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Twenty-Four.

§ December 11th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown § 8 Comments

Here we are, in the Final Four of the top vote-getters from my entirely unscientific poll held lo these many years ago. Behold, one of my personal favorites:

Tales of the Beanworld (Beanworld Press/Eclipse (1985-1993)

Under most circumstances the phrase “most unique” is, oof, a cringeworthy nonsensical usage. If something is already unique, then it’s by definition one of a kind and unusual, it can’t be more of that. It’s like something is “extra infinite.” However, occasionally exceptions must be allowed, and in this case, I believe referring to Tales of the Beanworld as “the most unique comic ever published” is an allowable description.

Where…hmm, where do I even start. There is a page you can look at to give you a general overview of just what Beanworld is (and the comic’s creator, Larry Marder, is pretty good about giving you the background you need to know in each issue and graphic novel. But in short:

The comic takes place primarily on what appears to be a small island, dominated by a large tree (or tree-like being) in its center. It is populated by “beans,” many of whom are identical though occasionally one (or several) will “break out” into a specific personality or type (such as an inventor). They are protected by the non-bean-like hero Mr. Spook, along with his trusty fork (seen in the pic above).

The beans and Mr. Spook live in a cyclic existence with the Hoi-Polloi, beings that live deep beneath the “water” (AKA “the Four Realities”). When the central tree (Gran’Ma’pa) occasionally drops off a piece of itself, the beans, headed by Mr. Spook, must take it to the Hoi-Polloi for them to crush and convert into smaller pellets that they use for gambling, but the beqns use for food. This is a dangerous endeavor that requires the beans to be armed with little spears and such.

This is the very, very basic setting for the comic, and the stories arise from some disruption or change to the status quo of the presented world. What happens with a spider invades the island? What happens when one of the beans “breaks out” and becomes an artist? What happens when new beans arrive? What happens when other things from outside Beanworld arrive (see again the cover above)? As strange as the book may appear, as outside the usual comic book experience as it may be, it is very easy to find yourself involved in the goings-on…

especially frustrating since the series ran only 21 issues originally, ending in 1993 with sporadic new material afterwards. And sometimes that new material spends a lot of time explaining how Beanworld works again. I know there have been life happenings for Mr. Marder that take precedence over this work, so I’m not complaining, honest. But the story does seem to have an ending in its future, with some tantalizing events hinted at by Marder, so I hope he gets the chance to wrap it up in the way he wishes.

New post-Eclipse material has shown up at Rob Liefeld’s Maximum Press (in the full-color Asylum anthology series), an issue of Myspace Dark Horse Presents, and a color special from Dark Horse. There are also some one-pagers presented in Giant-Size Mini-Comics #1 (Eclipse 1986), some feature beans, some may or may not be tied to Beanworld continuity. Also someone around here in my still-in-disarray comics collection I believe I had one of Marder’s mini-comics, starring the Big Fish, acquired from the man himself at an indie comics con I went to a couple of decades back.

Now, Beanword has been reprinted a few times, including four paperbacks from Eclipse Comics going up to issue #16. In the 2000s, Dark Horse published a series of five hardcovers, the first three reprinting previous Beanworld material, and the last two featuring all new stories. There were also two thick paperback omnibuses, also from Dark Horse, the first reprinting the original 21 issues, and the second containing the later material, including both of the new stories from the last two hardcovers. It may not surprise you to discover that only the volume 4 hardcover is currently available to order from Diamond, while Penguin Random House has both Omnibuses and that fourth hardcover. (Should note that the mini-comic stuff doesn’t appear to be reprinted in these books.)

As I’ve chronicles on this site in the past, the beans have made appearances in other books, with one of them being Totally Canon and part of that character’s development. First, the beans appear in Scout #17. And then, one of the beans, the artist Beanish, ends up part of the “Total Eclipse” crossover event, where he meets up with best pal Miracleman:


The greatest comics panel ever published? It’s certainly up there.

Should also note that there was a “Munden’s Bar” back-up in Grimjack #42 drawn by Marder (and written by John Ostrander and Del Close), but was not a tie-in, as I recall,

And that’s Tales of the Beanworld for you…certainly one of the best from the ’80s and an old fave of mine as well. But which 1980s title did I actually vote for in this event…hang in there and you’ll find out soon enough!

8 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Twenty-Four.”

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    There was a long interview (by internet standards, not classic Comics Journal standards) with Larry Marder in October over at tcj.com. Much of it was focused on his work at Image and MacFarlane Toys but a fair chunk was about Beanworld and its future prospects.

  • Thom H. says:

    Include me in the “loved Beanworld, frustrated when it abruptly ended” crowd. Such an innovative concept. If Marder ever consistently puts out more Beanworld stories, I’m there.

    @Michael Grabowski: Thanks for the heads up about the Comics Journal interview. Marder has had a really interesting career on the business side of comics, as well as some truly wild health problems. They don’t seem to have impacted his mental faculties or his sense of humor, though, which is a blessing.

  • John Platt says:

    Best…comic…ever!

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I’m guessing that panel with Miracleman flying while holding Beanish in his hand is an homage to a Golden Age Fawcett Comics panel of Captain Marvel flying while holding Mister Mind in his hand…

    Also, how many votes did Tales of the Beanworld get?

  • JohnJ says:

    I’ve still got my Beanworld action figures although I haven’t looked at them in years. It consisted of an envelope with a few beans with faces consistent with the comic art.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “New post-Eclipse material has shown up at Rob Liefeld’s Maximum Press”

    What an odd place for it to appear!

    “Golden Age Fawcett Comics panel of Captain Marvel flying while holding Mister Mind in his hand”

    Ohhhhh yeah probably!

  • Pal Cully says:

    I knew this title would show up here.

  • Randal says:

    I never read Total Eclipse, but I think I got the gist of it from how Beanish described it in the Beanworld title.

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