hyaroo: (Default)
[personal profile] hyaroo posting in [community profile] scans_daily
I noticed that there are almost no posts here for Jeff Smith's brilliant BONE. There were a few on the old scans_daily, but on the new one, there's only been one post so far ( Here it is). Well, we can't leave it at just that, because BONE is seriously one of the best comics ever. and deserves lots and lots and lots of exposure.

For those of you who don't already know, BONE is/was an independent comic, first published as a black-and-white bi-monthly comic, later on collected in several trades -- both black-and-white and colorized. Despite the somewhat dirty-sounding name, it's an all-ages book... It's been described as "Bugs Bunny meets Lord of the Rings," though the influences of Carl Barks and Walt Kelly (especially Walt Kelly) are extremely noticeable as well.

I'm going to be posting scans from the original black-and-white comic. The color editions are absolutely gorgeous and well worth checking out as well, but the black-and-white was where it all began. So I've posted select pages from the first trade, Out From Boneville, which collects the first six issues and introduces most of the main characters.

Don't worry, mods, the post may seem large, but I stay well within the page limits for this.

The comic opens with the three Bone cousins: Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone, who have all been chased out of their hometown because... well, here are the first four pages of the first issue; that should introduce the three cousins and their predicament well enough.

I always admired Jeff Smith's ability for characterization. Four pages in, and you know who these three guys are: The good, the bad and the stupid. Well, their characters turn out to be a little more nuanced than that, but it's a very good use of archetypes.

The Bone cousins don't have much time to ponder their predicament, because they're soon attacked by a huge swarm of locusts(!) and are separated from each other. One by one, they make their way into... the Valley.

We all know this valley, it's the one where strange and wonderful creatures are found and adventure lurks around every corner. It's been featured in countless fantasy stories, maybe under different names and seen with different eyes, but it's basically the same.

In Smith's version, the valley is semi-terrorized (on a small scale at this point in the story, but it's going to get worse) by the Rat Creatures, big hairy monsters who -- when you meet them in ones or twos -- are less scary than they may seem, because they're incredibly stupid.

Case in point.

Two of the Rat Creatures take an interest in Fone Bone -- and by "interest," I mean "appetite." They can't quite decide whether to eat him raw, shop him up and make a stew, or bake him into a light and fluffy quiche (real Rat Creatures do eat quiche!), but they're such phenomenal screw-ups that the two alone don't make much of a threat...

...at least not when you have a Great Red Dragon on your side.

The Red Dragon is a mysterious character who seems to have appointed himself as Fone Bone's guardian; at least he does tend to show up as a Deus Ex Machina and save the day whenever things get too rough.

But the Rat Creatures have some powerful and mysterious figures on their side, too -- meet their leader Kingdok, and his subordinate, the mysterious Hooded One:

The Hooded one is obviously our Darth Vader for the story; a dark and mysterious figure who commands troops of Rat Creature warriors -- and while Rat Creatures may be comical and stupid when you meet them in small group, large armies of them are actually quite terrifying and a genuine threat.

For yet undisclosed reasons, the Hooded one is looking for "The one who bears the star," which can only be Phoney Bone... and is prepared to kill, burn and plunder in great numbers in order to get to him.

Luckily, the Bones do find other friends and allies in the valley as well. Most important is Thorn, a beautiful young human girl who lives in a small farm with her grandmother. (Originally, she was the titular character; the first draft of the story, some of which was published as funny newspaper strips in college paper The Lantern, was called Thorn.) Fone Bone first spots her, by chance, as she's about to take a bath in a hot spring, and...

...well, he's definitely, um, turned on.

As you can see, Fone Bone immediately develops a huge crush on Thorn, and like so many protagonists, he can't quite spit it out. They do, however, quickly become friends, and she promises to help him find his lost cousins.

Little do they know that Phoney Bone, blissfully unaware that the Hooded one and Rat Creatures are out searching for him, has already met up with Thorn's grandmother (and a curious little bug called Ted, who dislikes being told that he looks like a leaf)... and hasn't exactly made a good first impression:

Rose Ben -- Gran'ma Ben to you and me -- is an impressive old lady with the strength of ten elephants, and who can run faster than any cow in the valley. And since horses seem to be unknown in this valley, people use cows as beasts of burden and riding animals... and racing animals. As you might have guessed, Gran'ma breeds racing cows -- but her real claim to fame is that no matter how fast the cow, she can outrace it.

In fact, Gran'ma is the only non-cow contestant in the annual Great Cow Race, and the hands-on favorite to win, every year. (Keep this in mind, it'll be important later.)

Despite some false starts, Fone and Phoney are eventually allowed to temporarily stay with Gran'ma and Thorn, until they find Smiley and can get back home to Boneville -- in exchange for helping out on the farm. Naturally, Phoney is not thrilled:

...but when he finds out about the Cow Race, he immediately sees the opportunity for a big profit if he can get the job as the bookmaker (and maybe fix the race so that he'll end up with all the winnings himself). A stroke of luck presents itself when he visits the village of Barrelhaven, enters the local tavern and discovers that the bartender is someone he knows:

(The "Lamaze and bungee-jumping" line was cut in later editions; maybe people found it too disturbing. I dunno.)

Of course, not everything can always go according to plan, and a serious hindrance for Phoney's scheming now enters the story, in the form of Lucius Down, the owner of the bar (and the last major character to be introduced in this trade), who's about to introduce Mr. Bone from Boneville to the local currency:

And there's also the disturbing, lurking threat of the Hooded One, who is looming around and waiting for an opportunity...

And so, we come to a close in the first of nine collected volumes of BONE, and all the establishing elements are in place:

- Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone (the good, the bad and the stupid) have been run out of their comfortable, modern home and find themselves in a medieval-type fantasy valley with dragons, monsters and racing cows.

- Said valley is threatened, though not many are yet aware of the full extent of the threat, by the mysterious Hooded One and a large army of stupid, but strong and brutal Rat Creatures, who for some reason are after Phoney Bone... and probably not to invite him to tea and a nice chitchat.

- Even so, Phoney is still trying to make money (somewhat hampered by the fact that the people in the valley don't seem to use money) and is getting Smiley along on some shady schemes. Fone Bone, meanwhile, is just trying to get along and not cause trouble... and he also has a huge crush on local girl Thorn.

- Gran'ma Ben is the toughest, strongest old lady ever.

Now the real story can begin.

I don't think I'll post any more summaries of the trades here... I might make more BONE posts, but they'll be more single moments and pages I found especially good/funny, highlighting characters and moments, and so forth.

Hope you enjoyed!

Date: 2011-03-06 09:47 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Thanks for posting this! Bone definitely needs more love on here. Really, I'm surprised it hasn't already gotten more - it's got strong heroes and heroines, creepy villains, monsters, comedy, tragedy, magic, swordplay, and cute li'l cartoon characters. What more could one ask for?
My personal favorite volume of the series is 'The Great Cow Race'. It's not as intense as some of the later ones, but it's definitely the comedic high point, and the race itself is a classic. I hope you'll post some bits from it if you're going to do a highlights post.

Date: 2011-03-06 11:02 am (UTC)
hivemindcomics: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hivemindcomics
Bone is IMO the pinicle of comic book story telling. Basically perfect.

Date: 2011-03-06 12:06 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
This is delightful. I've heard of Bone, and even had it recommended to me, but never gotten around to picking it up. Aside from the Walt Kelly, I'm also getting quite a Berke Breathed Bloom County vibe from it, especially in the dialogue (Fone's greeting to Rose is pure Opus IMHO)

Date: 2011-03-06 01:05 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
I advise you to do so - it's damn good stuff, and makes for gripping reading.

Date: 2011-03-06 01:25 pm (UTC)
xammax: (Default)
From: [personal profile] xammax
I love you Bone!

Date: 2011-03-06 01:27 pm (UTC)
espanolbot: (Default)
From: [personal profile] espanolbot
Awesome, awesome series. ^^ First came across it when I went to an art exhibition at Ohio State University which was dedicated to Jeff Smith's stuff, and included some of the Thorn semi-prequel stuff.

Date: 2011-03-06 01:33 pm (UTC)
punishermax: (Default)
From: [personal profile] punishermax
First comic I ever read right here.

Date: 2011-03-06 04:00 pm (UTC)
turtlefu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] turtlefu
One of the things I absolutely LOVE about Bones is how it starts out fairly mundane and then later on becomes a huge epic, but never loses its sense of humor.

Date: 2011-03-06 05:52 pm (UTC)
hivemindcomics: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hivemindcomics
Totally. Its all silly and fun at first and then it becomes this massive LOTR-esque fantasy epic, and if your like "where did this come from?!?!"
Its incredible. And so funny.
The rat creature's obsession with quiche is genius.

Date: 2011-03-06 05:38 pm (UTC)
jaybee3: Nguyen Lil Cass (Default)
From: [personal profile] jaybee3
Bone is brilliant, not only for the beautiful art, if only because what seem to be simple characters and a recycled plot turn out to be much more complicated and complex as the series goes on. Thanks for posting this.

Memories of Bone.

Date: 2011-03-06 08:54 pm (UTC)
nefrekeptah: (Ride)
From: [personal profile] nefrekeptah
I remember getting the massive collection from the library, and deicing to start reading in in the afternoon, before going to bed.

At around five in the morning, I finally put it down. Because I had finished it. I literally couldn't put it down until I had read the whole thing.

Also, having worked as a dishwasher for about two years now, I really feel Phony Bone's pain here; he's saying what I'm thinking.

Also also, maybe it's just me, but I found Thorn to be incredibly hot.

Re: Memories of Bone.

Date: 2011-03-07 10:00 pm (UTC)
halloweenjack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] halloweenjack
First rule of s_d: it's never just you.

Date: 2011-03-06 09:43 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] whitesycamore
1. They are all bones. That's unusual
2. The rat creatures are actually pretty cute.
3. How does a bone get a crush on a human girl anyway?

These are some interesting pages though, thanks!

Date: 2011-03-06 10:01 pm (UTC)
selke: (Default)
From: [personal profile] selke
I've been eying up this collection at my gamer store for months. Pay day come now, please!

Date: 2011-03-07 06:06 am (UTC)
silvercatmon: Kitty Pryde (Default)
From: [personal profile] silvercatmon
I started reading this at a library, but just finally decided I had to own it and bought the one volume edition. If they came out with a colored one volume edition, I would have to own it.

Have you read Digger I feel the author of Digger, Ursula Vernon, has the same touch of Jeff Smith. The ability to have interesting character, comedy and action, with a great story. Digger is going to end soon, I highly suggest reading it.

Date: 2011-03-07 11:06 am (UTC)
angelophile: (Toy Story Aliens - OOoooooooh!)
From: [personal profile] angelophile
So much love for Bone. It's just wonderful.

Date: 2011-03-09 02:58 am (UTC)
freddylloyd: (Default)
From: [personal profile] freddylloyd
Bone is definitely a masterwork, mass entertainment that also reflects an idiosyncratic individual vision, fine achievements in art, dialogue, and overall storytelling.

There's a great (if wordy) analysis of one action sequence excerpted above here at Consequential Art.


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