Sunday, May 04, 2008

Rather large Jeff Smith exhibition...

After last weekend's excellent exhibition of John Welding's Drawing The City, I'd love to be able to tell you I'm off to see Jeff Smith's new exhibition; Jeff Smith; Bone & Beyond. Unfortunately it's taking place at the Wexner Centre in Ohio University, and that's a little too far to travel.

But Jeff has posted some pictures of the prep for the exhibit, which looks quite amazing. It not only features 75 original pages from Bone but:

"also includes a selection of original comics whose artists Smith cites as direct influences, among them examples from Walt Kelly's Pogo, Will Eisner's The Spirit, George Herriman's Krazy Kat, Charles Schulz's Peanuts, Carl Barks's Uncle Scrooge, Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury, and E. C. Segar's Thimble Theatre. The exhibition is organized by Lucy Shelton Caswell, professor and curator of Ohio State's Cartoon Research Library, and David Filipi, the Wexner Center's curator of film and video. The catalogue features an introduction by Caswell, essays by Filipi, Sandman creator Neil Gaiman, and cartoonist and scholar Scott McCloud, and an extensive and wide-ranging interview/conversation with Jeff Smith, Caswell, and Filip."

Seeing this exhibition and having seen some Bone books at my daughter's School Book Fair last week made me think about Bone and why it's one of the most important books of the last 10 years.....

From very humble beginnings in 1991, the Bone saga spread by word of mouth and with the advent of the collections, became something that more and more people were drawn into. Of course, back then Bone was shelved with all of the other black and white comics and you were more likely to find it next to Love and Rockets and Yummy Fur than with the other children's comics. Oh, wait. There were no all ages comics in comic shops back then were there?

But along comes Scholastic and completely revolutionizes the way Bone is sold. They reformat the books, add colour and aggressively market them. No longer consigned to the comic shop market, the Scholastic books editions of Bone have now gone on to sell over 2 million copies of the books. Two. Million. Copies.

And they're selling to children. In bookstores, online, at book fairs. Everywhere.

Bone at Scholastic is the comic medium's equivalent of Harry Potter. It's an incredibly powerful tool in getting children to read comics. But you probably wouldn't realise this if you popped down to your local shop. In the better shops you'll at least be able to pick it up off the shelves. The bad shops may not even know what it is (which is a really obvious sign that you need to find somewhere else to shop).
But how many comic shops have got a children's section? Isn't that what we need?

Usually at this point in the argument someone tells me that children don't read comic anymore, they'd rather be playing computer games. No. No. No.
Bone. Scholastic. Two. Million. Copies.
To children.

My own daughter loves comics, and occasionally, when she can be bothered, even reviews them. She's currently on a Simpsons readathon, but it's about time we started her off on Bone.

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