It's a big book, but somebody had to do it.
All 75 issues of Bone, the hit comic book series by cartoonist Jeff Smith, are being released this fall a single, hardcover color collection, as the title celebrates its 20th anniversary.
"The color, one-volume edition of Bone is the single most requested item we get here," said Smith, who is publishing the collection through his Cartoon Books imprint. "We've been wanting to do it, but the technology wasn't available until just recently. So now it finally came together."
The hardcover books will be available in three versions: The regular slip-cased edition at $150; a limited edition box set with lots of extras that only has 2,000 copies and sells for $350; and a special box set that includes original art by Smith and is limited to 50 editions for $1,000.
"It's pretty cool. I mean, we went all out," Smith said. "I can't believe it's been 20 years, but we wanted to make the 20th anniversary special, so we threw in a bunch of extras and got this thing done."The book has a whopping 1,344 pages, but Smith is making sure all that paper doesn't harm the environment. "We made a deal with American Forests to plant 2,000 trees," Smith said. "We thought, with a big paper eater like this, we should plant some trees, so we're going to plant trees for each one of the box sets we sell.
"Bone will not suck the oxygen off the planet," Smith added with a laugh.
Smith, who won multiple Eisner and Harvey awards for Bone, said he can't believe it's already been 20 years since he self-published the first issue of the series. And as Newsarama reported yesterday, he has renewed hope that a feature film version of Bone could happen, as well as a movie adaptation of his series RASL.
Bone was originally released beginning in 1991 as a black-and-white comic with subsequent trade paperback volumes. After the series ended in 2004, Bone was collected by Cartoon Books in a single edition in black and white.
Beginning in 2004, Smith agreed to have color added by colorist Steve Hamaker and children's publisher Scholastic marketed digest-sized color editions to kids, selling millions of copies.
"Ever since the first Scholastic book was released in color, we started getting questions about when we were going to do the one volume in color," Smith said. "The technology wasn't really available to do it in any manageable way until now. It's a combination of glue and sewing, and now they can do it. I mean, it could be done, it just required too big of a book."
Plus, Smith added, Scholastic technically owned the color rights to Bone. "So we [Cartoon Books] had to deal with them to do a special color edition of it. But it really wasn't that hard. They really like us and they wanted to help us make this special for the 20th anniversary," Smith said.
A slip-cased edition of the color collection will be available for $150 beginning in November from Cartoon Books. It will include several extras, including a new essay by Smith titled "Twenty Years with Bone," and an illustrated timeline of the Bone story.
"It's the same basic size as our former black-and-white, one-volume edition, but we have a much heavier paper, so it does weigh a little more. And it looks really good," Smith said. "That seems to be the size that people like. I personally wanted to do something a little bigger, but I think this is the size that people have taken to their hearts."
But that release will be preceded by two very limited-edition box sets, which will be filled with goodies. Orders for the box sets are being taken now at Boneville.com.
"We're doing three editions altogether. The one you'll see in stores in November will feel sort of like the 'Absolute' editions that DC was putting out for their stuff. It'll have extras in it, but that won't be limited," Smith said."For the summer, which should be ready for Comic-Con, we're doing a collector's box set that has 2,000 copies," he said. "It's the hardcover book, but it's inside this big, red, glossy box with a magnetic clasp. And there's the three pewter Bone cousins in there, and there's a gold coin. Underneath the book, in a little well, is another book that has a DVD and cover gallery and all sorts of little goodies. And a little miniature copy of Bone #1, which came out in black and white in July 1991. There's even a signed, limited edition print that's attached to the inside lid of the box.
"The coin is crazy good," he said, describing the 22k coin that's included in the box set. "It's based on a coin that Smiley and Phoney concocted at the very end of the story, when Phoney thought he was going to be the king of the city, so he was going to reshape all the gold coins to have his head on them."
For the third edition — a box set that Smith is calling the "super-special edition" — all extras are the same as the 2,000-edition box set, but the signed print will be replaced by original art. "I'm actually penciling and inking an original piece of art of Fone Bone, and Steve's hand-coloring it with watercolor," he said. "There are only going to be 50 of those."
Smith said he's pleased with the colors on Bone, despite the fact that he was once reluctant to add color to his work on the series. "I did it in black and white originally because, as an underground cartoonist, there was just no budget for doing the color. It would really lower your profit margin, plus I would have had to take the time to do it myself, since it was a self-published effort," he said.
"But I also kind of liked the black and white," Smith said. "I was a big fan of newspaper strips growing up. I always liked the way black and white looked. I loved the way Pogo looked in black and white. Or Dick Tracy, the Chester Gould stuff from like the '30s and '40s. Man, I loved that stuff. It's so graphic and beautiful.Art Spiegelman, who was consulting with Scholastic at the time, was the one who finally convinced Smith to add color to Bone. "I said, 'what's the hurry to put Bone in color? Especially since Maus isn't colored,'" Smith said. "It took about six months to convince me, but he finally did. We ran some tests. And wow, I have to admit, the color is pretty spectacular! Especially in the last half. It's really something else to read that epic part of the story with Steve's colors."
But would Smith ever color RASL the same way?
"I don't know! I don't think so," Smith said. "The idea of RASL is sort of a sci-fi noir. So it's just intended for black and white. But you never know. What color I've seen, what we've experimented with, looks really hot. So you never know. I might just decide to do it."* Newsarama Note: GEOFF JOHNS, in his first full length interview about FLASHPOINT, exclusively Friday @Newsarama