I have been a fan of Bone by Jeff Smith since it came out. I remember being at one of the first Comic-Cons I went to, here in San Diego (when I still lived in Pittsburgh), and buying a bagged set of his first 8 issues and a separate copy of the new issue #9. Jeff had a table way back against the far wall of the Convention Center, and it was 10-12 people deep all weekend long. I finally got a chance to buy those books before he sold out.
Bone is one of a very few long-term self-publishing success stories in comics. Strangers In Paradise by Terry Moore would be another, of course. But Bone was always planned as one long story, with a beginning and end (I'm sure Terry has an end to SiP, too, but it's a story that lends itself to many smaller arcs). Bone is an epic adventure.
I'm not real big on fantasy literature. I've never read Lord of the Rings or any of the big, sweeping, epic sagas that are so popular. Bone is, when it's all said and done, just a comic book series, but it does have that big epic feel to it. Last year, Jeff finally reached the end of his story. He celebrated by producing a massive one-volume edition, containing all 55 issues in glorious black and white.
Black and white? A comic book in black and white? Yep. Glorious black and white. Smith's art is open and detailed, simple and complex, all at the same time. It was the perfect black and white comic. It didn't need graytones to give it depth or texture, Jeff did it all with smooth, simple linework and great spotting of blacks. Other than the covers, it was published as a black and white comic. And it stayed that way. Until now.
Scholastic Books has optioned Bone to be republished as a new set of graphic novels for their new imprint, titled "graphix." But rather than just reprint all 55 issues of Bone they're publishing them for the first time in COLOR. Yes. COLOR. That deserves to be capatilized.
I was one of those people that believed you couldn't--SHOULDN'T--color Bone. That it was tantamount to sacrilege. I was wrong. This isn't Ted Turner trying to milk an extra buck out of some old black and white movie. This is a total reimagining of this wonderful series. Think I'm lying. Look at this:
And that's just ONE panel. The color work, by Steve Hamaker is glorious. It's subtle, but vibrant; earthy, but not drab or dreary. It's perfectly suited for the art. And it makes the whole book seem brand new. The color is kept simple...not a lot of airbrushing. There's a lot of gradations, but they're very subtle, also. I first became aware of Hamaker's work when Jeff produced a cover for the Comic-Con International Souvenir Book in 2002. The piece was a truly frightening image of little Bone being chased in the woods by a rat-creature. Hamaker's coloring made the piece so much more menacing and powerful. Jeff had drawn a compelling piece of art, to be sure, but the coloring added that extra layer of malice and mayhem to it.
So Bone is back, again in 9 volumes, both hardbound and softbound available from Scholastic. Yes, those of us who own the comics, and/or the original collections, and/or the one-volume edition have a reason to be a tad surly, because this version of Bone does seem totally different and new. So suck it up and get yourself out there and start picking them up. The first volume is out now, and it's only $9.99 for the trade paperback (the hardbound with dust jacket and printed cover will set you back $18.95). I'm rereading it from scratch and enjoying every colorful second of it.
Bone in color. Who woulda thunk?