Imagine you are 7-years-old, lying in a hospital bed about to go into surgery because you where born with a broken heart, literally. Stephan Lapin doesn’t have to imagine this, it happened to him. He went through two heart transplants one at 7 and another at 15. His second heart became diseased and decided to give up and die, the doctors having barely the time to save young Stephan. How would you react to these circumstances? How would you cope? Would you create a comic book, pull artist from around the world together to work on it and then give the profits away?
That is exactly what Stephan Lapin has done! In 2006, shortly after his second heart transplant, Stephan created Beanbag a 5th Dimensional character that travels through the multi-verses in an adventure that could only be captured by the best in the biz! Dave Gibbons, Neil and Josh Adams, Dave Sim and many, many more have joined in this charitable project to benefit the Boston Children’s Hospital in appreciation of their care for him while a patient there.
The day I found out about this kid I shot an email to him and a week later had him on the phone to pick his brain. Who is he? How did this project come to be? How, seriously, how did he get so many talented and well know artist to work on it? What is a 5th Dimensional being? Well, sit down, take a load off and discover the answers to these and many more questions as I chat with Stephan Lapin:
W/IC: Who is Stephan Lapin?
LAPIN: A cartoonist.
W/IC: How old are you?
W/IC: So, you are still a Senior in High School?
LAPIN: Currently, until I move on to a college.
W/IC: You’ve had two heart transplants; may I ask why you needed them?
LAPIN: When I was about 7, I believe, my real heart, the one I was born with had holes in it so I needed a heart transplant so the one I got eventually got a disease… it was wearing down a lot so I had to get a second one. Bear in mind I was asleep when this happened, when they opened me up my heart died then and there. I was pretty lucky to get a new one that day!
W/IC: Everything good now?
LAPIN: Ya, everything is good with this one. Yeah, it’s fine.
W/IC: What was the draw to comics for you?
LAPIN: I like comics because I found artwork, stories, and ideas that are looked down at. I mean when I was little, I must have liked comics because it's sort of a "boy thing" but now that I am getting older, I enjoy them on a deeper level, like the craft that is put into these comics and characters. It’s also an escape.
W/IC: What was your first comic book?
LAPIN: Before I was really, really into comics I had hand me down comics if you will. My aunt actually went to a comic store near here and bought comics and gave them to me. Comics like, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Archie), The Tick, Spider-man and I really liked Venom and tried to get any books with Venom in it. I think maybe he’s a little over-rated now.
W/IC: What is your favorite comic book?
LAPIN: I wouldn’t know. I’m 18 I haven’t read enough yet. I haven’t been a collector that long. I really like Alan Moore. Have you read his run on Supreme?
WIC: uh… sadly, no or rather, not yet.
LAPIN: The whole concept was really original!
W/IC: What are you reading now?
LAPIN: I really like Kick-Ass. It’s a great comic! Irredeemable is really good but for new comics that is really good. I like to look at stuff from the past. I’m someone who likes Will Eisner, I like the story… those stories are good.
W/IC: You speak highly of Alan Moore, is he the writer who has had the most influence on you?
LAPIN: No, I could never write as good as him. My friend Toby actually, his humor has really influenced [Beanbag]. It’s really off the wall and I have to tame it down. Mine is wittier. A lot of local people have had and inspire me.
W/IC: What about artists, who has had the most influence on your art?
LAPIN: Todd McFarlene…
Influence says you try to emulate and I don’t really do that. I had a friend that pushed me to do a more American style. Everyone at the time was really into Manga and they were really bad at it, including me. The Beanbag, when I first drew him, he was a very Manga looking character. It wasn’t until more recently I tried to make a style of my own.
W/IC: One more inane question before we get back to Beanbag, who is your favorite superhero?
LAPIN: Marvel or DC?
LAPIN: Okay, Marvel: Daredevil. DC: Batman & Superman…um, there are so many characters… I tend to follow the creators. Like I’m reading Daredevil: Visionaries Frank Miller right now cause I love the creator so I love Daredevil.
W/IC: Do you have a favorite creator?
LAPIN: Frank Miller… I have multiple favorites.
W/IC: (Laughs) don’t we all. K, now back to the topic of this blog…
How did Beanbag come to be?
LAPIN: Before I was skilled at drawing I came up with this little character.
I created him about six years ago in a Staples store… Okay, there have been about five or four projects that I have started and then they never get finished… It is because the Beanbag starts getting exciting again so I stop those other projects and move back to Beanbag. (This was all before it became a book for charity.)
W/IC: I’d like to discuss the science behind Beanbag. You said in your blog there is a theory, which states our whole universe is curved and condensed. What did you study to devise your dimensional ideas for the book?
LAPIN: Um… I… my biggest enemy is Mr. Mxyzptlk. I hate that character. I always feel this is going to happen, I think people are going to think [Beanbag] is Mr. Mxyzptlk. So, I’m making everything in Beanbag possible through science. Everything he does is carefully researched. I try to research some of these ideas myself, keep in mind none of this shows in the book but it’s like background details. Like in a movie, all the research they do.
We are friends with a nice Jewish couple, the man is a physicist… he kinda explained the idea of dimensions. He was quite helpful but my two friends from college are very helpful too... If you really get into the character of Beanbag he is omnipotent because he is 5th dimensional, he can take anything anywhere by bending space and time.
W/IC: So he’s kinda dangerous?
LAPIN: I play him up not like a wise deity but a character that is looking at us like we are animals. He is only playing around. The only reason to go through all this research is in order to explain something other than to just say its comics. I want to explain things… It is scientifically mind boggling that sci-fi uses “dimension” instead of “multi-verse.” Apparently sci-fi writers think it’s a place but it’s really not.
W/IC: What is the Beanbag story about?
LAPIN: Beanbag is sent through dimensions, he is very fascinated with 3rddimensional life so he gets sent to study [it].
In the beginning I thought it was best if instead of an artist doing five page mini stories… the artist [could do] one page, which turned out easier to ask an artist for one page. The stories are now like one-shot stories, each kinda on their own.
W/IC: How does the script work then?
LAPIN: When someone agrees to do a page I ask if they have a character Beanbag could meet. Sometimes they say yes but if they don’t, then I have to come up with a script that is funny and witty enough for the book.
W/IC: How many pages will the completed book be?
LAPIN: Forty-four pages.
W/IC: Have all the artists done the pencils and inks?
LAPIN: There is one person who mailed to me the page to ink. Then two others I opted to ink for them. Because of technical difficulties they lost the pages. So they may not be in the book. One artist actually drew it on the computer I asked for 600dpi and he said no, I'd have to redraw it.
W/IC: How many hard copies do you have?
LAPIN: It's like comic law that the artist keeps the original, but I have the originals of 3 pages including Dave Gibbons. They usually just give ‘em a scan.
W/IC: How many are left to finish and will it be in color or B&W?
LAPIN: Black & White. It would be great if we had color but it would be way to expensive… leaving the artwork in B&W is equally cool. Someone drawing really raw, seeing it in B&W before the color is slobbered on… It’s cool to see Dave Gibbons line work untouched.
W/IC: Speaking of Dave Gibbons, how did you get him to work on this book?
LAPIN: I met Mr. Gibbons at the New York Comic Con and talked to him personally about the project. In fact, the whole reason I was at the NYCC was to give out fliers and ask artist to join. What was on the flyer was basic contact info. I gave my schpeal… and left him a flyer.
W/IC: Did he agree on the spot?
LAPIN: I waited for a reply until I sent off a letter to his publisher that was forwarded to him, another month later I got an email. We talked back and forth about the project, he asked for a script and a couple months later he sent the full page, hard copy, to me!
I asked him what his favorite genre was to draw. He told me science fiction. So, I had several friends write up scripts and [I wrote] my own and he choose mine out of all those.
W/IC: What is it like when you get a “yes” from some of these big names?
LAPIN: I usually have to re-assure myself, like, “Wow! They are actually doing this?”
I think it depends on how you communicate it with them. Dave Gibbons, I had to ask him personally and I was a nervous wreck. Meeting with him was very nerve wracking but on the Internet it’s easier. I just say, with a smile, “wow, this is cool.”
I can’t share this with people like my parents or teachers. I can tell my friends and they will say, “that’s awesome,” but then it dies down until more exciting things happen.
W/IC: Have you found a lot of artists cooperative?
LAPIN: David Lloyd illustrated V for Vendetta, I asked him to be a part of the project and he said he was to busy. That happens but there are so many people that have time and interest in this. The whole idea evolved immensely 4 years ago and I find it interesting I was still working on it when I was in the hospital for my second transplant. I could have died and that would be the end of it. The length of time helps with the quality of the project. Like maybe I wouldn’t be talking to you if it had been finished like two years ago.
W/IC: So, what do your parents think about all this?
LAPIN: My parents do care about the Beanbag and are very proud, on the inside; the just don’t talk about it often. I sometimes talk to them about it but they seem un-interested. But they do care about and consider it is a very nice thing for me, at my age, to do.
They kinda have mixed feelings, I don’t think they appreciate it like I do; they are more concerned with school and my social life. I should be drawing the Beanbag but I haven’t because of school. I get scolded about school and nagged to go outside.
They do take me to the hospital and of course the NYCC. But they don’t understand some things. It’s not every day you get to collaborate with Dave Gibbons! Like, I told them I was being interviewed for the Beanbag comic and they just nodded, “Yeah, that’s cool.”
W/IC: Had either of them ever been into comics?
LAPIN: No. They know I really like them and am educated in the field of comics but they wouldn’t know anything unless I broke it down for them.
W/IC: I’d like to touch on a negative rumor you had to address not to long ago. What were the scam rumors about?
LAPIN: Okay, yeah so, I was at the Granite State Comic Con in New Hampshire and I was sort of picking up the cards of the illustrators so when I’d get home I would send off my flyer.
I got a message that said, “I’ve been hearing that this is actually a scam… next time we see you at a comic con we’ll throw you out!”
Someone started this rumor, I don’t know who, so that is why I have the email of the Art Coordinator for references. (Ann.Rounseville@childrens.harvard.edu)
W/IC: Coming back to something you mentioned early in the interview, you said this wasn’t always going to be a charity. Could you elaborate on that?
LAPIN: The reason it wasn’t a charity at first is because it started as just a comic idea I wanted to be grand and original. After about two to three years of getting nothing done, it was brought to my attention I should make it a charity so that the guest artist get something out of contributing one page. I was talking to my uncle about my project, at my grandfather’s birthday; he mentioned he had a friend that ran the NYCC. So, I asked if he could help. To make this short, it occurred to my uncle that no one would join the project unless it was for a charity so my family suggested making it to benefit the children’s hospital.
W/IC: What is the hospital getting?
LAPIN: What the Boston Children’s Hospital is getting is the profits from the book.
Liberty Comics by Neil Gaimen is pretty adult but all the profits go toward the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. That’s sort of like what Beanbag is, I’m not sure if they would get how cool it was that someone like Dave Gibbons was in it but those that read comics will.
W/IC: What are you hopes for the book?
LAPIN: I hope it makes money for the hospital, I hope I grow in recognition, and I hope people like the little fellow himself so they will follow his adventures in books to come.
If the first one is well received
W/IC: What are your plans for printing?
LAPIN: Get a decent sample together and send it out to publishers and see if they will take the book, how can you say no? Worst-case scenario is I self-publish but that will be harder for national distribution.
W/IC: Have you considered putting up a website?
LAPIN: I would be open to that though I'm not sure how a website works.
W/IC: Do you have a guestimate for when Beanbag might see print? late 2010 or sometime in 2011?
LAPIN: Um, late 2010 or middle ground.
W/IC: Well it’s been awesome getting to know you and I wish you all the best, Stephan. Good luck, sir!
Check out some of the artists Lapin has been able to pull together for this project, including names from popular books to indie favorites: Dave Gibbons (Watchmen); Dave Sim (Cerebus); Rob Guillory (Chew); Josh Adams; Neal Adams (Astonishing X-men); Scott Ambruson; Edward Bickford; Bill Chiang; Andrew Fox; Oliver Simonsen; Isaak Lien; Nicholas Repenning; Nicole Davies; Marili Ramirez; Dave North; Brian Lopez; Trisha Cezair; Lewis Killin; Dan Larson!
And to read more about the Beanbag you may follow these links: