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I have recently taken on the idea to submit ten essays, one per week, taking an in depth look at what I think are some of the finest examples and collections of comic book stories around. By no means have I read everything ever printed and don’t claim to know it all. I have read and own everything on this list as well as a large amount more. This is an eclectic collection that I, personally, think would please not just hardcore collectors, but casual fans as well. And that’s the most important criteria in forming this list; I looked at complete stories, easily accessible, without too much history to learn. Something that a casual fan, or even non comic fan can pick up and possibly enjoy. Last week featured Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: An Invisible Art.
Number Three: Bone by Jeff Smith, many various printings including nine trade paperbacks, nine hardcover collections, or one complete printing, black and white or color, and ranging from $9.99 to $350.00 for a limited anniversary boxed set.
This is where the list gets really exciting for me because Bone is just such a great story. It’s a self contained epic saga that follows the three Bone cousins after Phoney gets run out of Boneville and Fone and Smiley choose to follow along. They get lost in the desert and eventually find themselves in the valley where they meet all manner of friend and foe in their efforts to find their way home again. The story involves trust and love and family. High danger and mystery only help to keep you involved and the funny moments have no equal in serial comics that I’ve seen.
Drawn in a style reminiscent of Walt Kelley’s Pogo, Bone is a very simplistic, cartoon-y book that is beautiful in its presentation. Jeff Smith is a master storyteller that clearly learned his craft in movies, as the pacing and visuals are more than perfect for the direction he wants us to go. As the mastermind behind this series, both written and visually, Smith got it right without having to collaborate or rely on anyone else to present his vision. There are three main story arcs that each involve three ‘chapters’ and from start to finish this is a complete adventure that will leave you longing for more. It’s easy to become friends with these characters on a shared journey like this.
There’s more to the story in Rose, the prequel, or Stupid, Stupid Rat Tales which involves another prequel featuring the first time a Bone visited the valley and some filler snippets with minor characters. All of it is expanded universe type material without anything further needed to enjoy the Bone story. That’s why it’s so high on the list. And it’s that good! Bone has not only been translated into many different languages, but was also picked up by Scholastic and reprinted from the original black and white into color and then distributed to libraries and schools.
Jeff Smith and his efforts on Bone are the recipients of more Eisner and Harvey Awards than I could even attempt to start listing here. He’s also won many foreign awards in recognition of his work. Personally, I enjoyed a little pen pal type relationship with Jeff early on after he printed a letter of mine in Bone #10.
Michael R. Murray read his first comic and has been buying and collecting for over 35 years. At one point his collection included two copies of Amazing Spider-man #1, and one copy each of Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #2, Avengers #4, Showcase #22, and dozens more high grade and key issues. The collection has grown to include original art pages, as well as statues and busts, with the current emphasis on collecting original drawings from appropriate artists on the inside of his hard covers. His personal collection of graphic novels consists of over 2,000 hardcovers and trade paperbacks. He has attended all of the Boston and New York Comic Cons and experienced Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego. He has championed comic books in the local schools and was very proud that both of his children read at least three years above their grade levels, due nearly exclusively to comics. He’s quick to point out that none of this makes him an expert, but that his love of comics is most enjoyable when he can share it. Follow on Twitter at mycomicstore001 or like his Facebook page.