Flipping through the pages of the Disney Adventures magazine, I hunted for the one thing that could satiate my excitement. Nestled between an interview with Cindy Crawford and the latest Bonkers D. Bobcat strip was Jeff Smith’s Bone. I was eager to learn the fates of Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone as they attempted to help the people of the Valley and make their way back home. Where comic books were mostly populated with superheroes and their struggles with the villain of the week, Bone offered something different.
The illustrations were a mix of cartoonistic expression and soulful characterization. The fantasyland of the Valley and its inhabitants, such as Granny, the Great Red Dragon, and Thorn had history and depth. Also for my young mind on the cusp of “manhood” Thorn represented the girl of my dreams, my first crush. Strong, beautiful, and not afraid to fight an army of rat creatures.
I am getting ahead of myself though. For those of you new to the world of comic books and Bone in general, Bone opens with our three intrepid heroes, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone, on the run after Phoney Bone’s latest failed money making scheme. The group is soon separated by a swarm of locusts, which leaves Fone Bone alone and struggling to survive in a strange land.
Our heroes will eventually unite, but not before we are introduced to the Valley and the strange creatures and warm characters living within. Bone captures many of the highlights of the hero’s journey, but without ever placing the role of the hero solely on the shoulders of Fone Bone. Each character feels complete and with an air of mystery.
Along with a great story, one mixed with fantasy elements, Bone is defined by the humorous dialogue exchanges. For example, and without spoiling too much, Fone Bone is being chased by a pair of rat creates when he jumps from a waterfall and manages to find safe purchase on a thin branch. Fone Bone exclaims, “Those rat creatures would have to be pretty stupid to follow me on this frail, little branch!” Cut to the next panel where an angry Fone Bone, now joined by the rat creatures yells, “Stupid, stupid rat creatures!!” The humor of the book is a mixture of satire, sarcastic wit, and innocent flair, similar in some cases to Hellboy and Goon. However, the humor never overtakes the story and always manages to add character instead of undercutting the serious plot points of the story.
Winner of 10 Eisner Awards and 11 Harvey Awards, Bone is one of the few books that, in my opinion, has rightly earned the awards it has received. Some of you might have passed the large tome, Bone (One Volume Edition), sitting on the shelf at your local Barnes & Noble, surrounded by a plethora of DC and Marvel books. Next time you stumble upon Jeff Smith’s Bone I invite you to pick it up, crack the spine, and dive in. If you are worried about the price tag of the large book, then I recommend that you check online at Amazon for a reduced cover price. Though the art is black and white, Jeff Smith has also released separate color versions of his popular work as well.
I could go on and on about Jeff Smith’s Bone, but I think what defines the book for me is how it has stayed relevant in my life. Some stories captivate us as kids, but lose something as we become adults. However, Bone, like Lord of the Rings or Ghostbusters (1984), has managed to stay consistent. At the same time, in this often strange and difficult world of ours, Bone offers a chance to recapture the youth of childhood, but without sacrificing the lessons of adulthood. Once my son comes of age I plan on introducing him to the adventures of Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone just so I can relive the adventures through his eyes.
Sound off in the comments with your own thoughts about Jeff Smith’s Bone. I would also love to read about what books and graphic novels have a special place in your heart!
Guest Article By Joseph Fridley (@brother_fridley)