There is something about Jeff Smith’s comic, “Bone,” that appeals to both children and adults alike: having won dozens of awards, including 10 Eisner Awards and 11 Harvey Awards, (more than any other comic in history), being translated into 15 languages and Time magazine choosing it as one of the 10 best English language graphic novels ever written, just goes to show that “Bone” is no ordinary comic.
As a kid, I could never really get into comic books. That’s not to say that I didn’t own any; it was more the fact that I couldn’t really just jump into the story of any one character without being able to wrap my head around who they were exactly, why they were in the particular situation they were in, etc.
However, discovering “Bone” through an 8 page preview in Disney’s Adventures magazine, immediately drew me into the story through its sheer simplicity: my curiosity about this cute, simple creature, (Fone Bone), how he ended up in the middle of a forest alone, separated from his cousins, encountering talking a bug, a dragon and a cute girl was just the beginning. A whole world Fone Bone never knew existed began to unfold into a fantastic tale of with a rich with mystery and wonder that you discover with him in an epic 1,300 page story. Needless to say, I was hooked.
Being characters created in his youth, it is amazing and inspiring to find that Jeff has developed something he has been passionate about for along time into something so well received many years later. The lovable characters and fantastic landscapes are all a part in what makes “Bone” great, but it’s how all of those elements coalesce into the fantastic story that made “Bone” the 1st comic I picked up and read through its entirety since elementary school and still read to this day.
I had the pleasure of asking Jeff Smith about what went into creating “Bone” and some of his thoughts on storytelling and cultivating creativity. Here’s what he said:
On developing the “Bone” characters from an early age…
“I used to like to doodle on the margins of my school books, like most kids, just goofing off instead of paying attention. Sometimes Fone Bone would climb up the blue lines of a page of notebook paper, or make faces at the huge “F” the teacher wrote at the top of a quiz. I remember that when I was in the fourth grade, three Bone characters evolved, all with very distinct personalities: a good one, a greedy one and a dumb one. What was fun was the way they interacted with each other, often driving each other crazy. The Bone cousins stuck with me through high school, but only privately. It wasn’t until college that I took a real interest in comic strips and comic books as an art form, and I seriously began to develop the characters for stories.”
On appealing to both young and old with such mass appeal…
“‘Bone’ is a dream mash-up all my favorite cultural influences growing up. Things like comic strips, animated cartoons, films, and books. Everything from Bugs Bunny to The Lord of the Rings, Peanuts to Jaws, The Odyssey and Moby Dick. Most of these appeal to mass audiences, so all I was really doing was trying to copy the things I love.”
On where he draws inspiration from and advice for up and coming creatives…
“When I find a book or a movie that I like, I usually read it, or watch it several times, so I can go beyond the story and dig away at what makes it work. If someone wants to start up a comics project, they should do the same thing… dig away at it, analyze it, make sure your characters and story are right. Then don’t wait for anyone’s permission, and do the best damn work of your life.”