Bone by Jeff Smith
The series centers around the Bone cousins, white, bald cartoon caricatures. In the opening pages, the three Bone cousins—avaricious Phoncible P. “Phoney” Bone, goofy cigar-smoking Smiley Bone, and everyman character Fone Bone—are run out of their hometown of Boneville after Phoney decides to run for mayor and built a balloon on top the head of a statue of Boneville’s founder. A strong wind made the balloon break the head off of the statue and all the townspeople ran Phoncible, Smiley, and Fone out of town. After crossing a desert, the cousins are separated by a sea of locusts and individually ending up in the mysterious Valley and must make their way across the fantasy landscape pursued by rat creatures. They joyously reunite at a local village called Barrelhaven, where they are taken in by a mysterious girl named Thorn and her even more enigmatic grandmother. Fone Bone instantly develops a crush on Thorn when he meets her, and repeatedly attempts to prove his love through poetry. As they stay longer in the valley, they encounter humans and other creatures who are threatened by a decrepit dark lord, the Lord of the Locusts. The Bones are quickly drawn into the events around them, compelling them on a hero’s journey to help save the world.
It’s like Lord of the Rings….but funnier! And even better (I think).
Bone has become one of those book and graphic novels that has become like essential reading for that world. And I can see why. This book is epic! And I can’t picture the story being told in any other form. Unless it was a cartoon, but then it would have to be done really, really, really well, and not mess with the source material. If it wasn’t in visual format, I don’t know how someone would have been able to describe how Bones looked like. This one-volume edition comes in at a whopping 1,332 pages of black-and-white goodness. Scholastic actually put this series out in separate volumes, but with color. I might browse through them one day, but really, I don’t see how it could enhance the wonder that is Bone. It doesn’t need any color in my opinion. It is beautiful in its own way.
Except for the rat creatures. They’re not so beautiful. They’re pretty ferocious. Except for two of them. Who are scared of everything. And one of them likes quiche. A lot. Everytime that rat creature made mention of how he would turn one of the Bones or someone else into quiche, I couldn’t help laughing. Who would have thought that quiche was funny? But for some reason, here it is. And so was Fone Bone’s obsession with Moby Dick, his favorite story and how anyone would fall asleep when he would talk about it or read from it. I don’t know how to describe it. This stuff just worked here.
As for the Lord of the Rings comparison, well it is epic. The Bones are thrown inadvertently on a quest, where they come across enemies, new friends, a mountain lion who is neither for the side of good or evil (he’s on the side of himself), and a bug named Ted. And an old woman who races cows, whose granddaughter Thorn is the heir to a kingdom long gone. Oh man, give me Bone over LOTR any day!
One of the great things about Bone was that it wasn’t confusing. You knew who was who. At the same time, there was always a mystery to solve, so you were on this journey with the Bones, together, as you read the story.
Out of the three Bones, I think it was Smiley who grew the most. He went from some bumbling, cigar-smoking fool, to someone who knew when to stand up for what was right. And he was very loyal. Phoney was loyal in his own way. He might have been constantly scheming to get money one way or another, but at the heart of his scheming was making sure he and his cousins got out alive and made it back home. Fone became the hero he probably never expected to be.
And since it was Banned Books Week a few weeks ago, the ALA (which to be clear, is not the one doing the banning; they are the ones promoting BBW to begin with) also posted a list of top ten graphic novels that has faced removal or is threatened with removal, and it just so happens that Bone has made the list at #3. And what were it’s offenses? Sexually Explicit content, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs
In the words of the author: “Huh?!?”
Seriously, sexually explicit content? Of what sort? Of Bone trying to woo Thorn with his cheesy poetry? And drugs? What drugs? Unless you count Smiley’s cigars. What a head scratcher.
Either way, I think any age group would be delighted to read this. Personally, I felt like a kid while reading this.
I even had Josh read it. He was reading it at the same time we went to NYCC and he said that with all the new comics he bought, he would have to give Bone a break. I told him NO! He can’t do that. He had to finish Bone. So what happened after he finished reading it? He made quiche, and even made the dough from scratch. But he also really liked it.
Next year is the 20th anniversary of the start of Bone. I hope Mr. Jeff Smith makes it to NYCC, or somehow to this area.
And some amusement, courtesy of The Gutters Webcomic (be sure to click to enlarge it):