When Jeff Smith took a break from writing and drawing his current Tüki Save the Humans series, something magical happened.
That is, it was something magical for fans of Smith's now legendary epic Bone. Smith suddenly got an idea for one more Bone story — a "coda" for his award-winning series that ended in 2005.
In July, readers will get their hands on Bone: Code, an all-new tale that picks up right where the original epic ended. The story is being published for the comic's 25th anniversary (since the first issue was published in 1991), and it will be packaged with the Bone companion by Stephen Weiner, now fully illustrated with behind-the-scenes photos and drawings, as well as an afterward by the author.
Smith's new Bone: Coda adventure will tell the story of the Bone cousins and Bartleby as they travel across the desert on their way back to Boneville. Newsarama talked with Smith to find out more about the new Bone story, whether the author's style has changed at all, and when he'll be getting back to Tüki.
Newsarama: Jeff, you took a break from Tüki to do another chapter of Bone?
Jeff Smith: Yeah, it just came out. I've been working on Tüki, but then I had to take a slight break because my arm was kind of bothering me. And during that break, I got this idea for this.
So my arm was feeling better and I just hit it. It came out really fast.
It was actually something I had started writing earlier, but I was trying to write something else. And then I just wrote this. And I thought it'd be perfect for the 25th.
Nrama: Was it a case of you always kind of "knowing" what happened when the Bones got home?
Smith: No, no. I just picked up where Bone left off and it was really fun, because the characters immediately came back. And just as immediately, ridiculous shit started to happen to them. [Laughs.] And it just came naturally. It was a lot of fun for me.
Nrama: I'm sure that, even though you've done a few series since Bone ended, you still visit these guys all the time through your fans, and I know you had Steve Hamaker working on the colors for Bone, and I'm sure you still do new covers for things.
Nrama: You've spent so many years with these characters, so you probably never lost touch with them.
Smith: Yeah, it never stopped being something that I was working on, which I never minded, because I love those characters. You know, I dragged them with me all through childhood and adolescence and now into me old age [laughs], but I enjoy being with them. And finding an excuse to draw them again is great.
Nrama: You mentioned that it picks up where Bone left off. Is it the story of them getting back to Boneville?
Smith: You'll have to read it and see! But it really does pick up right where the last chapter left off. We were joking about calling it Bone #56, but then I decided that people would think I was going to start doing a series again.
Nrama: Right, they'd be waiting for #57.
Smith: Yeah, they would want a #57. And I don't want to do that. Not until the 30th anniversary.
Nrama: It's been awhile since you worked on these characters. You said it all came back to you. No change in the approach at all because of time and this being a different era?
Smith: I didn't think about it consciously. I wondered if it would come back. But it did very quickly. I was surprised. A friend of mine looked at it and he said, "This is like looking at something that you did 15 years ago and it was in a time machine or something."
So it came back pretty nicely.
I have to emphasize that it's not a very important story. It's mostly just silly, ridiculous Bone stuff. But it was still fun for me to spend time with them.
Nrama: And I'm sure, still fun for readers to spend time with them. Tell me about the rest of the book where this issue is appearing, the companion.
Smith: The guy who wrote it just self-published this on the web. But he didn't have any pictures or anything. And I said, well, what if we illustrate it, fully illustrate it, for this 25 anniversary project? And so that's what's different about it.
The second two-thirds of the book will be the Bone Companion and sort of this thank you letter I'm writing to the fans and to the comic book community. And both of those are going to be heavily illustrated with comics and with photos. Hopefully it will be fun.
Nrama: But you're still working on Tüki, right?
Smith: Yes. It got pushed off to the side for this 25th anniversary thing. And I'm also thinking about doing some reworking on it. During this period, I've re-colored the entire thing. So when Tüki comes back, it's going to be relaunched, I think. We've been retooling it while we were working on the 25th anniversary.
And I've got some story ideas I want to get to.
But that's a different conversation.
But yeah, Tüki is something I still really like and believe in.
Nrama: When you said you're reworking it… I thought, uh oh, is there new science?
Smith: No, no, no, no. I actually, the science that keeps coming out actually kind of backs me up. I picked the right track. There are different tracks, you know? Different scientists believe different things. You have to kind of choose what's most believable. And fortunately, I picked the one that they keep finding more evidence for.
Nrama: OK, we'll talk about Tüki more when you have more to talk about, I guess.
Smith: Sure, sure.
Nrama: I think it's exciting for fans of Bone to not only get this new story from you, but get the companion too.
Smith: Yeah, it should be. I think it'll be fun, and since they're going to be so heavily illustrated, I think it'll be a good way to spend some time at the beach.
Nrama: And what anniversary is this? Twenty-fifth? Really? That long?
Smith: I know! July 1991.
Nrama: Are we old?
Smith: Oh yes! I don't know if you are. But I am.
It has been really fun watching how happy people are to see any new Bone pages. I hope they enjoy them.
Nrama: And during that 25 years, the audience and the marketing for Bone has evolved so much.
Smith: Oh yeah. Twenty-five years ago it was me and Vijaya with a bunch of comic books in our trunk. It's gotten a little more sophisticated since then.