To describe cartooning is that it’s a very diverse and layered art form which has its ways to be told through comical talking animals, serious reflections on walks of life, jabbing fun at the human condition and even injecting in intense political matters.
But cartooning isn’t done by itself because it is through the dedicated talents of the cartoonists. Out of all of them, one creator had made a bold trail to blaze by the name of Jeff Smith. His creation, “Bone”, is a mix of animated expressions, light humor and an epic heroic journey.
To celebrate his birthday that is coming and allow me to spin the tale of this innovative cartoonist, both Feb. 27, 1960. Smith’s talents stem from his love for comic strips, animated cartoons and constant drawing of his own comics. Before “Bone” was a graphic novel, it began with Smith drawing bone looking creatures with large noses especially one that was perpetually frowning that would eventually become one of his story’s protagonists. His creative skills were influenced by several prominent figures in cartooning and comics. When one observes any panel in the “Bone” comics and compares it to “Scrooge McDuck’s” comics, that was a way of visual storytelling by none other than Carl Barks, the man behind Scrooge McDuck. He had a gift to move characters from panel to panel.
Then there is Charles M. Schultz, whose “Peanuts” stories encouraged Smith to learn how to read. But, besides from Barks and Schultz, Smith also took enormous inspiration from Walt Kelly, a cartoonist who had the tendency to mirror societal and political matters with “Pogo.” Even after watching a cartoon special of “Pogo” done by Kelly and Chuck Jones, Smith received a treasure book of Kelly’s swamp satire by a classmate when he was just a fourth grader.
The other sources of inspiration for the “Bone” comics include Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Rings, fairy tales and even the action-packed Star Wars trilogy. Like any young budding cartoonist, Smith worked on a strip at his college. He called it “Thorn” at the Ohio State University containing many characters that would go onto be in “Bone.” Originally “Bone” would have been a syndicated strip if Smith didn’t make it into a graphic novel but was inspired by independent self-published works like “The Dark Knight”, “Maus,”and “Watchmen” to go for it with his heart. As of today, Smith has become one of the most important names in the cartoonist community as well as his heroes by the names of Fone Bone, Smiley Bone and Phoney Bone.
To conclude this with a happy birthday to Smith and to honor all those comic book enthusiasts and cartoonists with the strong will to go with their stories to bring them to life.