There are many comic books out there for many varied readers, bountiful stories, worlds and characters to discover in many differing genres. There are well known books and there are lesser known books. The well-known books allow the creators to flourish countless readers to enjoy them. The lesser known books unfortunately don’t receive the love they deserve, the creators don’t receive their earned credit and readers miss out on wonderful stories.
I want to highlight comics like Bone, that I feel are lesser known and in doing so I am hoping to introduce this work of art to a new audience.
The setting is medieval fantasy; there is no technology, travel is limited to horse and cart, there are dragons, swords and many other creatures throughout the course of the book. The story starts off very light hearted and centres around Fone Bone along with his two cousins “Phoney” Bone and Smiley Bone. Fone Bone is the hero of the story, “Phoney” Bone is the aggressive one who also has a habit of scamming people and Smiley Bone is the dim-witted one who likes to chain smoke. They are strange looking characters, drawn all white with bald heads and big noses. They come from a town called Boneville, a town they are chased away from at the start, incidentally by “Phoney” Bone’s antics involving the above mentioned habit.
Over time the cousins reunite and the tone of the book changes, as you learn more about the large rat creatures, The Hooded One and the Lord of the Locusts the tone becomes darker. The light hearted humour stays intact throughout the length of the book in perfect doses so as to not become too dark and overbearing, it works very well. The humour is in fact what initially forced me to keep reading Bone, Smith has a real knack for setting up 2-3 panel jokes whilst keeping the story moving at a steady pace. A lot of that humour is derived from the interactions between the cousins and also the two giant unintelligent rats that are constantly hot on their heels.
The art can be described as simple; Smith drew every issue in black and white due to time constraints, at one point he even asked his wife to leave her well paying job to take care of the business side of Bone. The style and humour would not look out of place in the Sunday newspaper “funnies” and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Over the years Smith’s art does become more intricate and detailed, there are many jaw dropping vistas and the rat creatures from the start always look frightening. Lighting and shadowing are always demonstrated well considering only two tones were used. Smith uses his text and speech bubbles to express many of the characters’ emotions or show how they may speak. When a character is angry the text will generally take up the majority of the panel due to them shouting. Another example is The Hooded Ones speech bubbles; they are drawn in a manner as if to show that his words are dribbling out of his mouth, the speech bubble tends to droop down and then back up.
By 1995 volumed collections started to be printed with 4-6 issues each, by 2006 coloured editions were printed with the help of Steve Hamaker and in 2004 and 2011 there were B&W and coloured complete editions released respectively at over 1300 pages. I feel that this book is up there with the greats like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings in terms of epic fantasy stories and maybe even surpasses them, if you have any interest in this series you should definitely check out Bone.