Last year I took a class called History of Superheroes with a one Ben Saunders (you don’t know him, so stop pretending you do). It was a class offered at the University of Oregon to us English majors, so I jumped at the opportunity to not read actual literature in lieu of something I genuinely cared about. But before the class I made one very important decision about the class: I wanted to be “That Guy.” You know who “That Guy” is. He’s the kid in class that raises his hand to every question and always has something to say about every topic, usually to mention something else that he knows but no one else does. Everyone hates “That Guy” because he’s annoying. I have always wanted to be “That Guy” in some class and I thought this was my chance to do it, so I spent the summer before my fall term reading over a hundred graphic novels to prepare. It was my Odyssey of sorts, and after all that you know what happened? I still wasn’t anywhere close to the level of “That Guyness” that half a dozen people in the course were at.
However, it wasn’t all that bad. I got myself devoted to the reading of graphic novels and the understanding of as much as possible for someone with a passion for comics but a lack of actual knowledge of the subject. I can now safely say that I’m well-versed enough to rank above the average reader of comics, but probably not anywhere near the ridiculous group of people that remind me of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons a bit too much. I told you all this so that I could tell you to go read Bone, a series by Jeff Smith. Yes, it all relates somehow.
On To The Book
I’m a big fan of comics that are both written and drawn by the same guy, and if the comic is good, hey, that’s awesome. Jeff Smith created his series all by himself, and for that you should be amazed because the series is nine volumes long, plus two bonus volumes that aren’t required for the plot but add good supplementary material. I’m ashamed to say that I had seen Bone in the library a ton of times but refused to read it because I thought it “Looked too kiddy.” Yes, the irony is not lost on me, the guy who defended the GameCube to the angriest of Halo fanboys. I checked out the first volume and added it to my stack o’ graphic novels, thinking I’ll get to it eventually. And after reading some great stuff (like Hellboy), and some terrible stuff (like Crisis on Infinite Earths), I got to Bone and felt like such an idiot for not starting there in the first place.
The plot around Bone is better left for you to read yourself. There are some characters that come from a place called “Boneville” and they look somewhat like bone people, I guess. The three Boneville characters have been banished from their home for some reason or another and somehow wander into a distant land where adventure hits them like student loan payments six months after graduation. You get to read about a great cast of characters in a really interesting story and that’s always a good thing.
I found myself utterly surprised by the writing here since something happened to me that doesn’t happen very frequently when I read something: I laughed out loud. No, not a chuckle or something, I mean I guffawed and kept laughing, wishing someone was around so I could show them what I just read. And here’s the exact sequence that got me the hardest:
If you’re really into comics you’ve probably heard that phrase a few times before. If you haven’t, well read Bone and you’ll learn to love it. Bone does such a great job of establishing likable characters to root for and evil villains to unroot for (I think that’s what you’d call the inverse of “rooting”).
I’ll make it a goal of mine not to talk about huge series if I can help it, but Bone is my main exception for two reasons. First, the series is one of the best a kid (or teen or adult) can read. It’s on par with Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia in terms of both story and how “adult” things get. Secondly, while the series is broken into nine volumes, you can get the Complete Bone in one ultimate volume, and as of now Amazon has it for the extremely kind price of under $20 assuming you don’t want it in hardcover (then you’re looking upwards of $50). Go out and get Bone for yourself or a loved one that happens to be into comics. It’s worth reading and it’s worth owning. What better time than now to start your own comics Odyssey?