Below is the final of four installments on my favorite print-based visual storytelling work, where I provide choice images and cleaned-up notes on why I love these works so much. Read the first installment along with the story of how I did this, the second installment, or the third one. I encourage you to consider where you come from creatively by revisiting and reflecting on your favorite and most foundational influences.
Note: The rights of these works belong to the creators and their publishers; blemishes in the image quality of the shots below are meant to acknowledge and respect that. If you want a better look at any of these works, go out and buy them! ;-)
Demonstrated here is unbelievably tight and expressive line work. Every mark appears to be exactly where it’s supposed to be and how it was intended to look. Working hand-in-hand with this is very animated character and a great use of gesture.
The sequential storytelling is strong overall thanks to simple page layout and an animator’s intuitive sense of a story’s beat-by-beat movement. There’s no fear of (and ample skill in) frame repetition to allow focus on the rhythm of character interaction and effective joke-telling. There are a small handful of frame-to-frame missteps that led me to brief confusion and temporarily falling out of the story, but these moments were noticeable only because they were extremely rare across the 1,000+ page story.
As for the story and narrative work, it’s done with clearly demonstrated patience, control, and restraint, resulting in one of the main reasons Bone sticks with me years after reading it. There’s a slow buildup and reveal of the antagonists that accomplishes an especially deep impact. It doesn’t hurt that Smith has a knack for creepy moments to help build tension and anticipation. The story truly takes its time, allowing a gradual unfolding that, along with good overall pacing and a generous amount of humorous or endearing breathing places throughout, sets readers up to form a close connection with the characters beyond their primary narrative functions. Because of this the final pages hold a uniquely visceral bittersweetness for me.
That wraps it up for my Influences series—at least, it does for works of printed visual storytelling. I’m toying with the idea of doing similar series in the future but focusing on other personally significant media—literature, film, etc. Perhaps the urge will come again this winter…
In the meantime, what creative works most influence you?
All images referenced in this post are from Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume (2004) from Cartoon Books.