Did you see what he did there? For his Bone series, Jeff Smith took Walt Kelly’s Pogo characters — see how much Fone Bone and his goofy cousin, Smiley Bone, look like shaved versions of Pogo and Albert the Alligator — and sent them off on adventures in a mysterious land. (On his home web site, Smith acknowledges The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as inspiration.)
Along the way, the Bones meet all sorts of magical and scary creatures, as well as a beautiful maid who lives in the woods with her grandmother, who in turn races cows as sport.
The books are silly and fun. When surrounded by nasty giant “rat creatures” in “Out From Boneville,” the grandmother’s plan is straight out of Doctor Who: “When I say run … you run! Got that?” “What?! That’s your plan? Run where?” Fone Bone shrieks in panic. Grandma’s smiling reply: “Ready? Here we go!” Crasssh! Crunch! Thud! Wak!
I remember seeing Smith’s characters in Ohio State University’s campus newspaper, before he began self-publishing them. Now they’re ranked number four on CBC Radio’s top 10 graphic novels list, along with Maus, Watchmen, Love & Rockets and Persepolis.
They’ve traveled a long way. Good for them.