10 March 2008

A Bone to Pick

Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations provided a link to this BookPage article on comics artist Jeff Smith, creator of the delightful comic Bone.

The conversation offers this glimpse of Bone's transition from self-published comic magazine to multi-volume set from the major children's publisher Scholastic:

Smith encountered his own surprise when he began talking with Scholastic--namely, the suggestion that the Bone series be published in color. Smith says that, when he first created Bone, he stuck with black-and-white for several reasons, including a small budget, an affinity for newspaper comics and his desire to pay tribute to Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel memoir, Maus. . . .

"At first, I thought the idea was a little sketchy, that it would be like colorizing Casablanca," Smith says, adding that he's not comparing Bone to the classic movie. "But then, I felt we could do storytelling things with color: create depth, direct people's eyes, create a mood. If something is happening at sunset or twilight, you can only tell the reader or draw really long shadows [in black-and-white]. But if you throw a bright orange light on it, you can really change it. I've been won over."
Although Scholastic is sending Bone into children's libraries, Smith also says he originally created the magazine "for other cartoon-heads. . . I definitely wasn't picturing them as children's books."

That's another piece of evidence for something I've been ruminating about since reading Cybils graphic-novel nominees in January: that in American culture people are more apt to think that a book in comics form is for kids even when that's not very apt at all. Bone reminds me of nothing more strongly than Walt Kelly's Pogo, and although I and many other young readers enjoyed that newspaper strip it was definitely directed at grown-ups.

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