I make no bones (heh) about saying that Jeff Smith’s Bone is probably one of, if not THE, greatest comic book of ALL TIME. Sure, many others have created long form stories, like Cerebus, Preacher, and more, but none have had quite the same universal appeal as Bone.
I’ve read a ton of articles and interviews with Smith, and even saw him in a live, Inside the Actor’s Studio type session with Matthew Cody (author of Powerless), and got to speak briefly with him afterwords, where he signed a copy of Bone for me and drew a little Fone Bone on the first page of the book.
He’s a self-made success, self-publishing Bone, a book he wrote and drew all by himself. And now, Bone is available all over the world, in multiple languages, and is in the hands of millions of fans. It’s a great success story, and one that really almost seems worthy of a fim, doesn’t it? Well, that film was recently released, and it’s called The Cartoonist. (buy it here)
Check out my review after the jump!
The Cartoonist is a must-view for any independent comic creators looking at inspiration. Hell, any creator trying to decide if the “juice is worth the squeeze” should check this flick out. As an inspirational piece, and for fans (even younger fans who can sit still through a documentary), you’re likely to see something that, even in the many articles and pieces of literature on Smith, you’ve not seen before. There’s a ton of old artwork, and even animation pieces that Smith worked on that I had never seen before that I was absolutely impressed to see. As a Smith fan and a fan of Bone, you’re going to see a nice guy make good, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, the thing that really bugged me about the piece is what it seemed to leave out. Not that Smith is secretly an evil man or anything, but this is 75 minutes of everyone telling you how great Bone is and how much Smith worked to make it happen and how it couldn’t have happened to a better guy. But, much like many documentaries on comic books, those who know there’s more to the story will feel like there are big gaping holes that should have been discussed.
Smith’s very public falling out with Cerebus creator Dave Sim, his disagreements with Nickelodeon on the rights to the Bone motion picture, the Bone merchandise, the year he took off and the work he did with Charles Vess, and a ton more … these topics are either briefly mentioned in little to no detail, or left out of the documentary entirely. And while I get that this was supposed to be a piece on what makes Bone work as such a timeless tale, it would have been nice to go over more facts – how many printings did the first issue sell? At what point did Smith realize he actually “made it?” Was there ever a point where things got too much for him? All of these were questions I found myself asking that were never answered. And while a documentary doesn’t necessarily need a conflict like a fictional story does, it sure does help make it more interesting.
Still, if you’ve picked up Bone in any of it’s various incarnations, this film is definitely worth your time. I’m unsure if it’s available at your local comic shop, but to make the $20 price tag easier to swallow, in addition to the 75-minute feature, you get an 82-minute interview with Smith (similar to the one I saw), as well as a brief introduction to the science that inspired Rasl, which actually had information on Nikola Tesla that I found fascinating.
If you’re like me, and you like comic documentaries, even if you’ve not read Bone, you’re liable to want to pick it up after watching The Cartoonist. You can purchase The Cartoonist at its official site or for a couple of bucks cheaper on Amazon.com. (The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE and the Changing Face of Comics)