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FROM PAGE TO SCREEN: BONE BY JEFF SMITH
 



 

Will the planned Bone movie be the next Shrek for Warners?

Bone is a series of self-published B&W comic books by the artist Jeff Smith. It ran 55 issues between 1991 and 2004. The series tells the single narrative of a trio of cartoonish characters (they look a bit like Casper the Ghost, but with big noses) all surnamed Bone from, you guessed it, Boneville.

The three characters get lost one day and winds up in a valley straight out of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It is populated with medieval villagers, dragons, mystical warriors, sheep-sized rat-like creatures, talking insects and the like. They meet up with a girl named Thorn and her tough as cookies grandma who turn out to be the former Queen and Princess of the kingdom. Thorn is the heir to the throne, but danger lurks in the form of the Lord of the Locusts and its army of rat-creatures who seek to destroy the valley. An epic battle is looming, one which will decide the fate of the entire universe . . .

Unlike most self-published works, Jeff Smith’s Bone is actually pretty good and hardly the work of an amateur. It is well-written and the art work is professional. It must have taken some guts to publish Bone though. Unlike most comic books of the 1990s, Bone is pretty light -hearted and whimsical in tone. The dreaded epithet “charming” actually applies to it. This puts it in direct contrast with most popular comics of the era such as Lobo and Spawn which all wanted to be “dark” and “gritty.”

Bone incongruously inserts its Casper the Ghost characters into a realistic Tolkien milieu, but the effect isn’t all that jarring. What also distinguishes Bone from many other contemporary comic books is its character-driven sense of humor. Two rat-creatures (one who prefers quiche to live prey) in particular provide some Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead-style comic relief. But it isn’t a post-modern self-aware type of humor. Also notable is the art work, which is direct and simple in an unadorned fashion that some “busy” comic book artists can learn from.

In the 1990s Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies wanted to make a traditionally animated film version, but the project fell through when the studios saw the project as strictly being for kids something which Bone isn’t. Rumor has it that the two Hollywood studios wanted the Bone characters voiced by children and also wanted some Britney Spears and N’Sync songs for the soundtrack, something which Smith was vehemently opposed to.

In March 2008 Warner Bros. announced that it has bought the rights to the books and that Smith will adapt the material for them. (The film is scheduled for a 2010 release.) It is unclear whether the project will be a traditionally 2-D animated flick (like Warner’s Iron Giant), a live action movie, a computer-animated film (like Warner’s Happy Feet) or maybe even a mixture of 2-D and live action like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

With the current vogue for all things computer-generated, don’t be too surprised if Bone is made into a computer-animated project no doubt Warners seeing the series as its next Shrek. However considering the cartoonish aspects of the material and the story’s epic scope (it is collected as a single one-volume collection clocking in at 1 332 pages!) Bone is probably best suited as a 2-D animated TV series. Reading Bone however one can also see how the material can be pared down into one kick-ass 90 minute-long computer-animated movie. It’ll have loads of action and humor, memorable characters and could be the next kiddies hit at the multiplexes to rival Shrek.

Only problem is that cramming all the action into one a half hours of running time risks losing what makes Bone special to begin with: its character development and unexpected humorous digresses. It could also just end up as a noisy, flashy piece of junk that will give parents a headache. We like the 2-D animated TV series idea better, but that’s just us.

But before Hollywood messes it up (or turns it into something really cool) there are still the original books. The one-volume edition might be big enough to be Exhibit A at a murder case, but it isn’t such a lengthy read and is recommended even if you’re not particular fond of fantasy works.


 


Bone: One Volume Edition (Paperback)
by Jeff Smith

Product Details

Paperback: 1300 pages
Publisher: Cartoon Books; Rev Ed edition (September 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 188896314X
ISBN-13: 978-1888963144
 


 

 



 

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