Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Word Balloon: Bone
March's entry in the field of great graphic novel reads is Jeff Smith's magnum opus, Bone. Released at the rebirth of independent comics in 1991 it ran an irregular shipping rate ending with issue 55 in 2004. Bone is a story about 3 cousins who leave their home and get lost in a great desert, eventually ending up in a valley full of terrible and exciting creatures. The Bone cousins are short white "cartoon" characters who meet with the inhabitants of the Valley, a mixture of humans, talking animals and evil Rat Creatures.
The three cousins are Fone Bone, the most level headed of the group, who is in love with a young woman who he befriended in the Valley after being separated from his cousins. The second is Phoney Bone, a money hungry Bone whose greedy nature often gets ahead of his better judgement, though he has a deep affection for his cousins that he is loathe to admit. The third cousin is Smiley Bone, a lovable goof with out much brains but bursting with heart. The other principal characters are Thorn, the girl who Fone Bone first meets in the Valley and her Grandmother Rose Ben who raises her on a small farm. Lucius is a friend of Grandma Ben and runs the local tavern. There is also a Great Red Dragon who offers advice and villains in the Rat Creatures, their leader Kingdok, and The Hooded One.
It may sound a bit silly but Bone is truly an all ages tale. It's basically a 3 act story, with the first 21 issues or so setting the stage and providing a lighthearted and fun backdrop. The middle arc sets up a far greater picture hearken to the Disney classics that warmed you with laughter but made the realize that there are darker things ahead. The final chapter is out and out adventure as the Bones and their friends face the Hooded One and it's master to save the world. Combining elements of humor, slapstick, mysticism, romance, adventure, chases, fantasy, magic, it has it all, culminating in a final battle that parallels the Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia.
Bone is one part classic Disney adventure, one part Walt Kelley's comic strip Pogo, a bit of Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge Duck Tales, and a great helping of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It's epic in scope and a pleasure for grown adults, or young children first reading. A perfect blend of adventure, action and humor in a diversity of styles and story tones. I've read the complete series 3 or 4 times and it is still compelling and fun, and it is possibly one of my favorite books of all time.
Recently Bone was optioned as a film by Warner Bros. I really would love to see this film as a trilogy. Like the Harry Potter series it can grow and evolve as the viewers get older, light and airy to begin, but more dark and dramatic as the tale unfolds. Jeff Smith cemented his place in comics history with his series and was awards 10 Eisner's and 11 Harvey awards, about as prestigious as you can get. Check out the first 2 volumes Out of Boneville and The Great Cow Race. Or man up and get the omnibus for $40.00, collecting the complete series in one phonebook size volume. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Bone by Jeff Smith, and publisher Cartoon Books.
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