Bone: What am I not getting?

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Bone: What am I not getting?

Post by JGrubber » Fri Dec 19, 2008 7:26 pm

I got the whole set via scholastic as a lot of my grade 7-8 students (and 5-6 ones too) seem to love it.

I love graphic novels, and fantasy (in another life, i was a fantasy fiction (dragonlance) writer, before i started back into drawing).

Why can't I get through this series- I am stuck in the first book! What is the appeal? It is well drawn, but I find the character design on Bone and Co actually pretty weak- the other stuff is visually interesting, but i couldn't care less about the main characters.

It seems to alternate between epic cliche and just plain silly. Is it satire? Comedy? Am I too old for it? Is it for people with no knowledge of fantasy conventions?

I am not trolling, I admire Jeff Smiths work on this and others, but I just don't seem to get the story. Does it get a lot better in the other books?


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Post by TmDurn7 » Sat Dec 20, 2008 9:17 am

hi john,
i'm a huge admirer of Bone and Jeff Smith in general. i'll try and talk about why I love it to maybe hep you out, but it's entirely possible that it's just not your thing.

I love it because it is extremely well done, technically. You're connecting with it on that base, who wouldn't, and the series only gets better in that sense. More than just Jeff Smith's mastery of the ink/brush, I appreciate the shear richness of the epic story. Much like any other well written story, the further along you read the deeper you go through the multi-leveled story and the characters various struggles are more than just one-shot issues, but all of it stays together to weave a full narrative. Each sub-story reveals something about the world, the characters, or is necessary to further and deepen the plot.

You had a bit of an issue with trying to figure out if it was comedy, epic, etc. The story itself shifts moods constantly, like any good story, and more often than not I believe that the lighter moments between the large cast only help to emphasize the drama that takes place when things become darker and more serious. His main characters are generally good people who are pitted against a much older, darker, evil as well a host of carnivorous beast.

In regards to the character design, I'll go out on a limb here and expound on a theory i have (probably going to deep here), but the Boneville cast is basically our way to experience the adventure. They're sort of like blank vessels for the reader to slide into- much like us, they know about science, politics, advertising, etc in an almost medieval world. They're essential representative of the readers in the modern world, and that's why they're blank and the rest of the world is defined. Now, I do know the designs are based off of his college newspaper cartoon, but I asked the same question myself.

I hope this might illuminate at least a bit of the story and, again, maybe it's not your thing, but between the rich narrative and luscious drawings it's at the top of my graphic novel list. There is no part that is unnecessary and though it's a very long story, the whole thing holds together as a single epic.

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Post by Chris Schweizer » Sat Dec 20, 2008 9:34 am

I agree with TmDurn about the blank slate designs. Even when Sith was in college, he was very well-versed in comics; he went to OSU, after all, which has one of the best comic archives in the country, with tons of original art by folks like Caniff and Segar. Though the whole McCloudian universal icon idea hadn't come out at that time (a photorealistic drawing could be maybe ten people, a smiley face could be everyone), the principle behind it was there for astute folks like Jeff to pick up.

As for the lighthearted/epic quality, I think that plays to some established ideas as well - it's taking the madcap antics of things like the Carl Barks stories that are taking place within the framework of a larger adventure narrative and pushing them further, putting them in an epic setting rather than a short adventure story.

I say that if you don't like book 1, you probably won't like the others. For me, the first three trades are without question the strongest in the series. There's a lot of good to the rest, but those really work that interplay between comedy and foreshadowing nicely. I'm not a fan at ALL of the coloring in book 1 - it gets better with each subsequent book, but book one uses photoshop filters that look amateurish and strip the art of it's quality - fuzz brush snowflakes in front of everything, backgrounds blurred, things like that - so it's not the best book on which to judge the technical merits of the art. It does get better, though, and I really, really like the palette on the new books.

But it may just not be your cup of tea, and that's okay - there's a lot of stuff that I'm supposed to like that I find bleh.

I personally love Bone, and I think that the Bone cousins have the best character design of any comics in the last twenty years. But I've never cared for fantasy, with the exception of Arthurian lit, if that can be considered fantasy, and maybe an investment in the genre makes it harder to enjoy. Smith takes a lot from other places, which is fine by me - most of my favorite films and comics take a lot without being derivative - and if one is extremely familiar with those sources then it may make the enjoyment more difficult.

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Post by Stick » Sat Dec 20, 2008 2:02 pm

moved to the hotel. I would also like to say that I loved bone. It started sorta slow, but after getting past the 2nd book things really started to get more interesting. After a while, I couldn't put it down.

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Post by squirpy » Tue Dec 23, 2008 2:06 am

I'm not sure if you'll ever get into it - the whole series varies in tone so much, just like the first book.

However, I will say that by the end, I had connected to the story and characters in a way that I have never connected to another comic. I even wrote my college application essay about it back when I was applying for college!
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Post by Squiggly_P » Tue Dec 30, 2008 5:55 pm

I bought the whole series in one large volume a while back, and I picked it up a few times and read some of the opening. Never really got all that much into it, but I kept going with it. After I was about half-way through the series, tho, I started to get really hooked on it, and by the end I was totally glued to the book. I dunno if maybe he wasn't really going anywhere specific with it in the beginning so it's less compelling or something, but by the time you get to the last third or so of the book you know the characters so well and then he starts firing on all cylinders and the pace picks up a lot.

I liked it, but I don't know if I'd put it up in my top ten or anything. It's definitely a great book, tho, and worth getting past the first third or so of the series.

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