Legit Animation Blog – Bone (comics)

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L-L-Legit! You are now reading “The Legit Animation Blog: Rendering Thru Reviews Edition“.

This is the first post of the Rendering Thru Reviews edition for the Legit Animation Blog. In this special blog, I’m going to review Jeff Smith’s most recognizable comic book series from the 90s, Bone.

When I was in the Legit Animation Podcast with Gexup, we had thoughts to do a review of the Bone comics for a future episode. Since Gexup recently announced that he’s leaving reviewing things on itstailtime.net due to personal reasons, we unfortunately never got the chance to review the Bone comics together on the Legit Animation Podcast.

But to be fair, I think Gexup expressed enough of his honest thoughts on one of his favourite comic book/ graphic novel series. Now it is my turn to share my thoughts on the Bone comics, which easily became one of my favourite and most must recommendations for graphic novels.

The Story

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The story in the original Bone begins with three Bone cousins named Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone. These strange looking beings ran out of their hometown from Boneville due to Phoney Bone’s carelessly greedy ways of running for mayor, which caused a major riot to the whole  Boneville community.

Fone Bone, Phoney and Smiley end up in a desert looking for close by shelter, where things becomes pretty strange for our main trio such as an unusual map that Smiley found and a swarm of locusts that separates the Bone cousins. Each of the Bone cousins end up entering in a place with deep valleys and mass forest areas inhabited by fascinating creatures like a red dragon, plant hopping bugs and the terrifying rat creatures. The Bone cousins later enters a small farm town call Barrelhaven, where the three of them starts tagging along with a teenage girl name Thorn and her grandmother Gran’ma Ben. As the Bone cousins take it easy in Barrelhaven for a while, they don’t realize that a dark force is after them. The Bone cousins will lead the three to many surprises during this epic adventure, especially knowing more about Thorn’s legacy.

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Readers would receive a charmingly fun story starring the three Bone cousins from Boneville at first, but I find it really intriguing that there’s more to the story than just a tale about Fone Bone, Smiley Bone and Phoney Bone. In fact, I feel like the story focuses more on Thorn and Fone Bone the most. I wouldn’t mention why it focuses on those two characters because it contain a lot of major spoilers if I do.

There are also supportive characters in Bone that become connected to this adventurous tale and literally becomes like a Lord of the Rings story as you read the later chapters. There is surprisingly some content in Bone that is suitable for an older crowd like drinking and smoking references, mild language and even violence that will literally blow the reader’s mind away.

Even if it feels pretty inspired by Lord of the Rings, but in all honesty… I prefer Bone over The Lord of the Rings any day. I guess I couldn’t stand the overhype people were giving Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films when the trilogy were first released in theatres. Plus my younger cousins had a thing in watching the Lord of the Rings films all the time when they came over to my place at a very young age. They always wanted to see Gollum on screen to the point that I didn’t give a damn about the films.

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“My ass is more precious than you, Smeagol!”

But moving on. I believe that the more people read the original Bone story, the more they will be highly invested in the plot and the series itself. In fact, reading the Bone comics last year got me to come back writing original scripts again, which was very hard for me to do when I was in my early college years studying art.

Speaking of scripts, the dialogue in Bone is really well written. Its fun and witty dialogue will literally make the readers both smile and chuckle.  I think the Bone comics is something that the ages of 9 and older should read, even with the content that is more targeted to an older crowd. If Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, said that he loved Bone and it is a great comic series, then I’m sure a full grown person will be satisfied in reading this epic tale and charming characters.

The Characters

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Speaking of characters, there were a lot of great characters in Bone. While there were many good ones in the series, I’m only going to mention ones that are important to the story without giving away too many spoilers.

Fone Bone

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Fone Bone is your leading main character of the story, who kind of reminds me of Mickey Mouse in a way…but with a lot of personality. He is the likeable protagonist that you’re always rooting and feeling more sympathetic for. He’s the character that people take advantage of (especially Phoney Bone), though he does have a kind and brave manner to help anyone that he’s close to like Thorn or his cousins (even if Phoney Bone sometime annoys Fone Bone).

In the story, Fone Bone is the courageous one out of the Bone cousins, who has a passionate interest for the book “Moby Dick” and even develops a somewhat love relationship with Thorn throughout the story. I do admit that Bone’s crush with Thorn is adorably cute, though at the same time it’s a tad bit weird that this Bone creature falls in love with a human teenage girl. The explicit fan art I see online of the pairing doesn’t help either.

Fone Bone is simply a charming character who has his share of great, inspiring and funny moments. He isn’t a copy and paste of other iconic cartoon characters and has his own personality instead.  I especially like how Fone Bone gets easily annoyed when a character is feeling suspicious around him or just joking around with him. His reactions are always done at the right time when he gets annoyed by arrogant behaviour from others. He isn’t my all time favourite character in Bone, but he’s has an amusing charm overall.

Phoney Bone

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Phoncible P. Bone aka Phoney Bone is describe as the crabby one from the Bone cousins. He’s is responsible to get the whole town of Boneville to chase him, Smiley and Fone Bone down out of their homeland and ended up in uncharted places. Not only Phoney Bone is a bitter sounding character that doesn’t get along with many people, but he is easily described as very greedy with a charmingly comic relief vibe like other iconic greedy cartoon characters like Scrooge McDuck (Ducktales) or Mr.Krabbs (Spongebob Squarepants).

Phoney Bone gets himself into huge conflicts with everyone (like Fone Bone), and unfortunately would make selfish decisions just for his reputation. It is pretty surprising that he is the older member of the Bone cousins and somehow acts very cowardly, devious and even bad-tempered for an older family relative. However, deep down inside he does care about his cousins and would help them out, even though he wouldn’t show it on the outside.

Phoney Bone is perhaps one of my favourite characters in Bone. Sure he is a lazy, arrogant, greedy and blunt, but for cartoony drawn characters with these negative traits can provide the best comedy ever. The things he say had cracked me up a lot the first time I read Bone and I never get tired of his suspicious schemes. Phoney Bone reminds me of Donald Duck in some way (one of my favourite Disney characters) for his bad-temper and people picking on the character a lot. In other words, Phoney Bones personality easily became a favourite of mine from Bone.

Smiley Bone

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Smiley Bone is the silliest Bone from the Bone cousins. He is described as loving and care free character that barely gets mad and displays a positive attitude instead. Smiley Bone can drive people off the wall for his naive actions and attitude (especially towards Phoney Bone), but he only does it to make people happy, unless they need some time alone.

For a character that always curious and feeling optimistic, Smiley Bone have some stand out elements to his design, like his black vest, little blue top hat, and a cigar that he smokes. At first I found him to be okay because him smoking a cigar just felt odd to me. But when he smoked less and changed his appearance in later chapters, I began to appreciate Smiley Bone more.

I mentioned before that Fone Bone reminds me of Mickey Mouse while Phoney Bone is like Donald Duck in some way. Smiley Bone’s silly behaviour easily reminds me of Goofy, but once again provides a lot more personality to the table. At first I thought he was there just for comical purposes, but I like the fact that Smiley Bone also develops differently later in the adventurous story, especially when he makes friends with Bartleby the baby rat creature. Smiley Bone is also my favourite character from Bone just because he and I have some identical traits that we can relate to, except I don’t smoke and don’t like a “complete” fool like he does.

Thorn Harvestar

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Thorn Harvestar is the teenage girl from BarrelHaven that Fone Bone meets in the forest around the winter season. She is very sweet and innocent the first time readers meet her, though Thorn changes her emotions and personality once she finds out that she is an heir from a high royal town. There’s is actually more to her origins, though it does contain major spoilers.

Thorn builds a close bonding friendship with Fone Bone and truly cares about her grandmother Gran’ma Rose Ben. However, there is a moment in the comics where she doesn’t trust Gran’ma Ben and Fone Bone’s suspicious behaviour and convincing advices after she kept receiving the unusual nightmares in her dreams.

Thorn is perhaps the most well developed character in the story. I immediately love how she starts off as generous girl and then later develops as a wise, brave and bad ass heroine.  She is a female character that will literally surprise readers, especially when they read the later chapters of the story. My only criticism about Thorn is when she becomes completely stubborn when she doesn’t trust Fone Bone and Gran’ma Rose Ben at one point in the comic. Although, she does have a valid point to act like this towards those two characters. Thorn is not my all time favourite, but she is overall a really well written female lead.

Interesting Fact! – This was Jeff Smith’s hardest character to draw.

Gran’ma Rose Ben Harvestar

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Gran’ma Rose Ben Harvestar or Gran’ma Ben is Thorn’s hard working and tough as nails  grandmother that enjoys the farm life and running with the cows. She was once a former Queen of the Old Kingdom and Thorn’s mentor. Both her and Thorn escaped many years ago with their close ally Lucius Down to BarrelHaven and hid their identities for years. There is more to this old lady than just being a sweet and fun worker from the farm country.

If you wanted me to announce my favourite fictional grandmothers from cartoons and comics, Gran’ma Rose Ben would definitely be in my top 3. Her attitude and life in BarrelHaven reminds me of my grandmother when she was alive at the time. My grandmother was raised mostly in the farm country,where she worked hard throughout her life and her strong willed personality and lifestyle easily reminded me of Gran’ma Ben.

Gran’ma Ben even more fascinating about her past, especially the rivalry relationship between her and her sister Briar. There are many extraordinary elements that I want to say about Rose Harvestar (aka Gran’ma Ben), but it will lead to some pretty cool spoilers overall.

Rose Ben slowly acted too secretive to Thorn and Fone Bone in the earlier chapters about the Great Red Dragon and Thorn’s past, but in her defence, she only did these suspicious actions so she can protect her only granddaughter. Gran’ma Ben’s attitude and past easily became one of the coolest old ladies that I’ve seen in illustrated comics.

Lucius Down

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Lucius Down is a close friend to Rose Ben and Thorn Harvestar that owns his own bar in BarrelHaven. He is a brute, tough guy that doesn’t take crap from nobody and usually becomes foiled by Phoney and Smiley’s schemes in the Barrel Haven Tavern. Before his life in BarrelHaven, he was once a guard to Gran’ma Rose Ben and her sister back in Atheia.

I literally thought Lucius Down was going to be that typical muscular guy that easily gets mad at things by looney antics by Phoney and Smiley, until his backstory was shown with Gran’ma Ben and her sister before he moved to BarrelHaven. There is actually more to this character than just owning his own tavern, like how he sees his assistant Jonathan Oaks as the son that he never had. Just like Gran’ma Ben, he too has many interesting elements about his role in Atheia and being a really caring guy than just a burly type pouty man.

I personally think Lucius Down is a cool guy, though not one that comes out in mind immediately whenever I read the Bone comics. There’s still some amazing moments that happens to Lucius, but I would basically ruin the story for the readers if I do.

The Great Red Dragon

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The Great Red Dragon is a laid back red dragon that’s like a guardian to Fone Bone in the beginning of the series. For a dragon that experienced more than the other characters in this epic series, it is surprising that he can be a slight trickster, especially when he’s around with Fone Bone. There are moments where The Great Red Dragon shows up when Fone Bone is alone. Whenever Fone Bone tells anyone that he saw a dragon, they think that he’s nuts. That itself builds some good comedy overall.

I personally like how The Great Red Dragon isn’t the typical dragon that fights back and and is a more clever/less violent character. He isn’t a character that is taken seriously unless the scenes become dramatic, though The Great Red Dragon builds a great impact to the story with little appearances in the panels.

The Hooded One

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The Hooded One is the main antagonist of the Bone series. This ominous person is the servant of the Lord of the Locusts that is looking for the one that “bears the star on its chest” and holds a lot of mystery the more readers look through the original adventure of the Bone comic.

I could mention more about The Hooded One, but believe me, I’ll be mentioning too many good spoilers if I do, like the character’s true identity and some cool action sequences that will literally explode the reader’s mind. I specifically like how bone chilling this villain looks and how it keeps readers to question about The Hooded One . That’s all I’m going to say about The Hooded One since I hate to be a spoiler for those who haven’t read it yet.

The Two Rat Creatures

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These two specific Rat Creatures are the funny henchmen that follow the commands from their leader Kingdok. At first they chase after Fone Bone and wanted to eat him when they were ordered to find the one that “bears the star on its chest”. They provide such great comic relief that kept me laughing every time I saw them in the panels.

There is a running joke where one of the rat creatures wants to eat Fone Bone like a quiche or just have a  craving for quiche overall. This easily furiously annoys the other rat creatures, which makes these two one of my favourite henchmen in cartoons and comics.

There were a ton of other fascinating characters in Bone like Ted the bug, Roque Ja, Jonathan Oaks, Wendell, Bartleby, Kingdok and Miss Possum and her children, but they either hold little roles in the plot or don’t bring a strong impact like the other ones do. Plus there are other characters I don’t want to fully describe because…well, once again…don’t want to spoil the series for you all.

The Illustrations

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Jeff Smith’s illustration work for Bone is very inspirational. I really love the line work, the perspective and colour palette that Smith had produce for each panel and the book covers. His work really gives a lot of action to the characters and the way Smith combines old western cartoon styles with somewhat serious fantasy characters is easily intriguing to look through. It kind of reminds me of old animated films from the 30s and 40s, like something Disney would have produce back then.

The consistency of the panels is top notch and doesn’t feel like it was done by another artist. I would say that as you skim through the further chapters and panels, the quality of the line work does get better. The panels you read is filled with an engaging ambience that makes you feel like you’re entering in a fantasy dream, though I felt some panels in some scenes weren’t as ambient as others. I was expecting a bit more from those specific scenes, but I’m completely okay with how they look in the final.

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I don’t have the black and white Volume One Edition of the Bone comics like Gexup had shown in his comic book/ graphic novel collection video. I own the 9 volume Scholatic versions of Bone instead because its lighter on my body when I want to read something while commuting to school or other places. Many fans admire the black and white version of Bone, but I think it is fantastic to read the comic series in colour too.

It really depends on your preference in reading Bone, whether you prefer it in black and white or in colour. I personally like seeing Bone with colour rendering because the panels do stand out better and it definitely makes the series more whimsical with its characters and environments. I heard that the Scholatic 9 pack version took a couple of scenes out of the story due to some dark moments that were shown in the original. I would say that’s the only downfall about those versions of Bone, but it isn’t a huge disappointment.

My Favourite Moment(s) from the Bone Comics

There’s actually two that comes in mind. They are pretty funny moments in the original tale of the Bone comics.

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The first one is from Volume 5 – Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border. There is a scene where Fone Bone and Smiley Bone are together in the forest with Bartleby to take it back to the rat creatures. They get ambushed by the two rat creatures that have been chasing Fone Bone since the beginning of the adventure.

Fone Bone had his book of Moby Dick along for this part of the story, which gave Smiley Bone an idea to escape from the rat creatures. Smiley takes the book that Fone Bone was carrying and begins to read it to the rat creatures. Smiley tells Fone Bone to read the book further, which slowly causes the rat creatures to immediately pass out.

There is a running gag in Bone where Fone Bone reads Moby Dick to people and they easily fall asleep from  the story. From all the gags that involved Fone Bone reading Moby Dick to the characters, this one made me laugh the most.

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The second favourite moment is from Volume 8 – Treasure Hunters. Fone Bone and Phoney Bone are in disguises to keep a low profile in the city of Atheia. Fone Bone had a female bee following him and Phoney around in the marketplace and she begins to woo Fone Bone (its actually shown why this big bee is following him). Another big bee sees the girl bee (or his girlfriend) flirting with Fone Bone and he starts to pick a fight with him. Fone Bone tries to explain, but the male bee immediately starts stinging the living hell out of him.

I immediately love the way the panels were planned and drawn out for this scene. The moment became even funnier when Phoney Bone stops the fight by bashing the bee with a stick, though his whacking ends up hurting Fone Bone more than the bee. It is personally one of my favourite funny moments in the series.

My Favourite Book Volume from Bone

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Though the original Bone story got more exciting and epic as I read more of the chapters, but I do have to say that my favourite volume from Bone was Volume 1 – Out From Boneville. I personally like the introduction of these characters and the plot it showed. It certainly leaves the reader to question more about these characters and their main objectives in the story.

The illustrations displayed in this volume always reminded me of classic newspaper comics that I used to read every Saturday morning as a kid or other familiar comic book series like Calvin and Hobbes. Every time I read the plot where Fone Bone is inhabiting in the winter forest, it immediately makes me think of the fun childhood moments of the winter season. Come to think of it, both Calvin and Hobbes and the Bone series kinda give me those nostalgia memories…

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I wonder if the beady eyes from both comic series gives out the same ambience about childhood memories?    

My Final Thoughts

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The original Bone comic series is a near perfect story that will leave readers not disappointed. I loved every moment that was put into each panel with Jeff Smith’s charming illustrations, engagingly fun dialogue and the story getting intense as the characters developed maturely in this epic tale.

This was simply one of the best comic book/ graphic novel series that I ever read. It combines comedy and fantasy, taking some risks to make the story more suitable for a wider demographic. Bone officially became one of my inspirations in writing and drawing that made me write and draw more original stuff these days.

I’m surprised that Bone never gotten its own feature film or TV series yet because it would have been so fascinating to see the Bone characters  in motion when traditional animations were common in animation studios back then. There was a point and click game based on the first two volumes of Bone around the early 2000s, though they aren’t as mesmerizing as the storytelling and visuals in the graphic novel version.

Bone is a great graphic novel series and I can’t wait to get around checking out the Bone spin-offs or Smith’s other comic book series someday, though it will not be too soon.

I give the original Bone graphic novel series…

AN INSTANT RECOMMEND! 

Now it’s your turn your express your thoughts about Bone or this post about Bone by leaving a comment below or by clicking HERE. I’ll see you all next time in another Legit Animation Blog.

LEGIT!

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