For as long as I’ve read superhero comic books, I have less experience with non-Marvel/DC titles than I’d like. I recently listened to the excellent “The View from the Cheap Seats” audiobook, written and performed by Neil Gaiman, who is one of the most talented writers I’ve read, dead or alive. He is also a constant source of inspiration, and this non-fiction novel has inspired me to read comic books a lot more broadly. I thought to start off with Eisner award-winning comics and I what’s a better start than…Bone, a series that took the 90s by storm!
A bit of backstory on Bone. It came out between 1991 and 2004. The complete run is 55 issues, and, as you’ve probably reasoned by now, these issues were released irregularly over the 13-year period. Bone was both drawn and written by one man, Jeff Smith. The art is reminiscent of a Looney Tunes cartoon in the very best of ways.
The first volume presents us to our main cast of characters. First among our heroes if Fone Bone, a kind-hearted inhabitant of Bone Town who has the ill luck of being cousins with the most conniving man in town, Phoney Bone, a millionaire who’s been kicked out of town for the umpteenth time due to his constant scheming. This time, Phoney was kicked from Bone Town due to a scheme involving a statue of himself, a 50 ft. tall balloon, and bad prunes. To make up for Phoney Bone’s generally negative attitude, we’ve Smiley Bone, a tall, cigar-smoking empty-headed bone with a blissful smile permanently stuck on his face.
Those are our Bones. But…there’s more! Take the dragon below. He too is a smoker, in fact. He also seems either very bored most of the time, or generally droopy. He’s introduced pretty early on in the first volume but his reasons for protecting Fone Bone don’t come into play until much later.
All you need know is, the dragon is not to be trifled with.
One thing every colourful fairy-tale-leaning-towards-dark-fantasy comic book needs is a love interest! Enter Thorn.
Now, I may have called her a love interest but she is so much more than that. Thorn is the first human we come upon, a gentle teenage girl living with her kindly old grandmother in the woods.
Did I say kindly? I meant to describe her as a cow-racing badass gramma, who fought the rats back in the BIG war! The name’s Gran’ma Ben, better not forget it, or she’ll make you regret it! The rats, naturally, are our bad guy goons; fluffy but monstrous, just as good children’s villains should be.
And this is the perfect graphic novel for a kid — it will never talk down to anyone, nor will it underestimate children’s intelligence. You’ll gain a lot from reading it regardless of age. This first volume serves as a nice introduction to the colourful world of Bone, some very entertaining characters and a mystery that gets a lot darker in the subsequent two volumes. (I just finished the third volume recently; expect my Bone vol. 3 post to be a lot more specific, with a number of panels and thoughts on specific issues.)
P.S. This once again proves that Neil Gaiman has spectacular taste in literature.
Next up, in Bone Vol. 02: The Cow Race! In it, a grandma races cows, a Phoney Bone is phoney, and a Smiley Bone is the most charming fake cow you’ll ever meet. Also, a honey boy comes between Fone Bone and Thorn! Oh, the horror.