One of the joys of this blog is re-reading favorite stories — as research, you know. What I’ve be re-reading most recently is Bone, the comic series by Jeff Smith.
Bone is that rarity, a high fantasy comic book that tells a novel-length story with epic sweep and outrageous humor at the same time. It shows influences from Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, and the comic strip Pogo. The three main characters are Bones — a white-skinned, hairless race similar in appearance to Casper the Friendly Ghost, but with bigger noses. It sounds weird, I know, but it works!
Fone Bone is a good and noble soul, the opposite of venal, scheming Phoney Bone. The two of them are kept together by silly but sweet Smiley Bone. These three are cousins who have been chased out of Boneville after one of Phoney’s crazy schemes went out of control. They wander through the desert until they get separated by a swarm of malevolent locusts.
Lost and alone, Fone Bone encounters the Great Red Dragon. He’s terrified and runs from the huge beast, which calmly ambles after him. Eventually Fone Bone realizes the dragon isn’t chasing him to eat him, but instead saving him from rat creatures and other dangers. Helped by magical beings, including a tiny bug named Ted, Fone Bone makes his way to the farm of Gran’ma Ben, where he instantly falls in love with a pretty girl named Thorn.
Much to his indignation, no one believes in dragons. Except that Thorn has recurring dreams where she is sheltered by dragons in the midst of a war. And Gran’ma Ben might know more about it than she wants to let on. That’s only the beginning of a delightful and complicated tale, full of quirky characters, slapstick humor, thrills, chills and pathos.
Smith wrote and illustrated the quarterly comic, which he self-published starting in 1991. The series was well enough received that he struck a deal with Image Comics to publish issues for two years, starting in 1995. After that, Smith resumed self-publishing for the duration of the series, which ran 55 issues total and wrapped up in 2004. Later, Scholastic Books collected and colored the comics and released them as graphic novels. This is the form in which I read them.
Though the dragons aren’t always at center stage, they are a presence throughout the Bone saga. On Saturday I’ll talk more about the two main dragons, Great Red and his mother, Queen Mim.