Jeff Smith truly has lived the American Dream...he found one thing he liked to do and he's done it for his entire life. OK, that may be simplifying things a bit. But even as a child, Smith knew he wanted to be a cartoonist. In fact, inside this fantastic book you'll get to see one of the very first Bone comics, drawn by Smith when he was just ten years old. The characters had yet to be refined in terms of their look and personalities, but the spirit is still there. Bone is really one of the great comics and one of the great comics success stories of the modern era. A wacky and wise-cracking strip that is one part Walt Kelly, one part J.R.R. Tolkien, and the rest all Smith. Smith took a chance on his creations, and self-published them. While most self-publishers fail quite quickly, Smith proved that talent rises to the top. Bone soon became a cult-hit on the part of Cerebus the Aardvark.
This volume from Dark Horse Books is chock full of 200 pages of rare Jeff Smith Bone art. Some of it unpublished, some of it pencil versions, alternate covers, etc. You get a little bit of everything in this book: Finished panel pages, completed, full color covers, unfinished panel sequences, rare sketches, pencil versions of completed covers, often side-by-side with the finished product, and so much more. The editors are along to provide captions to the art at the bottom of the page, often noting Smith's influences such as the valley scene from Bone #1 and its comparison to a similar scene from one of Joe Kubert's Tarzan pages. Not that it is a copy of the Kubert scene, but rather how smith uses perspective in the scene, dwarfing the characters by the sheer expanse of the area that Bone is looking over.
The book also reprints perhaps the seminal page in Bone's history. Bone is being chased by two of the fearsome Rat creatures that are ever after him. He leaps to a tiny branch thinking he is safe as the two large predators could not possibly fit on the same branch, and would be stupid to try. When they are both on the branch, Bone screams the immortal words, "Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures!" This phrase has even been included in Random House's Cyberspeak dictionary.
The book introduces the reader to all of the main characters including Fone Bone (the star), scheming Phoney Bone, dim-witted Smiley Bone, Thorn (bone's human love interest), Gran'ma Ben, and Lucius who runs the local tavern. With heroes you need villains and we can't leave them out...they include The Lord of the Locusts, The Hooded One, and Kingdok, who rules the Rat Creatures.
Bone is so rich in its story and scope that it really humbles comics that have been put out by the "larger companies". Even if you haven't read the comics you're sure to be dazzled by the art in this book. Smith is without a doubt one of the best cartoonists and best storytellers of the past twenty years. And if you are a Bone fan then the book will provide a lot of interesting anecdotes to many of the stories that you've enjoyed over the years. The good thing is that even though the series ended in 2004, Scholastic Books is reprinting the series in collected editions and in full color. This book gets my highest possible rating. Get it...NOW!
REVIEWED BY TIM JANSON