I remember reading an issue here and there when I was a kid about this little Snoopy-looking thing caught up in a battle against rat creatures and interacting with this cool red dragon. That comic was called Bone and now that I’m 30 years old I’ve started reading the story to my two kids who are four and five years old.
After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone are separated and lost in a vast uncharted desert. One by one they find their way into a deep forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures.
Winner of 11 Harvey Awards and 10 Eisner Awards including Best Cartoonist and Best Humor Publication, as well as being named Best Comic Book by the National Cartoonists Society. BONE has also won awards in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Finland and Norway.
I never ended up completing Jeff Smith’s epic Bone saga until it had been re-released in full colour via Scholastic. The series had previously been available in black and white as a massive ‘one-volume’ edition which is probably the best way to grab this if you were a fan back in the day or maybe you’d just dig a Lord of The Rings meets Calvin and Hobbes adventure story.
I own all nine volumes of Bone in their glorious new color format and my kids have always been curious about them because they aren’t terrifying like most of the zombie related stuff cluttering my office. I even have a plush Bone doll that I used to keep on my nightstand but the other week my daughter told my wife that it scared her so I came home one day to find it on the floor. I had to right this outrageous wrong and I decided to get my kids more familiar with this little guy so they wouldn’t be terrified of him. I mean — he is scary as hell to look at isn’t he?
Kids are so weird.
So I started with chapter 1 from the ‘Out From Boneville’ book and began to read what would be the first experience my children Luke (4 years old) and Alivia (5 years old) would have following along to a comic book. They’d both been familiar with comics and they enjoyed them, but it was a superficial “let’s look at the cool pictures and make up the story as we gaze at the panels sort of deal”.
I was worried that it would be difficult for them to follow along because they’d have to fill in the gaps movement-wise between panels. Would they understand that Bone just climbed up a mountain or would they wonder how he got there because I didn’t state that this character climbed up a cliff — it was a visual method of storytelling that I wasn’t sure my kids would care to follow along with.
I would point at the characters as I spoke what was in their speech balloons so my kids knew who was talking. I even tried to make a scary voice when the rat creatures were talking but I just came off doing my gravely Batman impersonation again. By the end of chapter 1 I still wasn’t sure if the kids got it – some of the dialog may have been a little over their heads but the story is still a family friendly adventure so I held my breath waiting for a response.
After a moment they started to recite back to me their favourite parts without being prompted by any specific details whatsoever. My daughter thought the rat creatures were funny and my son rattled off more than five story beats, starting off with how funny it was when Bone lit the match and the Red Dragon appeared out of the darkness. Not only did they get it — but they loved it. As a father who loves the medium of comics this was an extremely proud moment for me because now I get to share this epic tale all over again and witness it through the eyes of my children.
Thanks Mr. Jeff Smith for creating one of the greatest fantasy adventures of all time and for doing it in a way that adults and children can both enjoy all these years later.
For more info on Bone – check out the official website HERE.