iFanboy Video Podcast

iFanboy #141 – Jeff Smith: Creator of ‘Bone’ and ‘Rasl’

Show Notes

Once of the king of the indie comics scene, Jeff Smith began publishing Bone in 1991. Taking over 10 years to complete, Bone stands as a breakout hit with numerous re-printings and distribution by Scholastic. The One Volume edition of Bone has been printed 14 times already. In addition to Bone, Jeff Smith recently launched his new series, Rasl which has already garnered critical acclaim

Ron catches up with Jeff Smith at the Alternative Press Expo to discuss Rasl, Bone as well as his career in independent comics.

In addition to creating great comics, Jeff Smith has been an inspiration and a help for other independent comic creators. He was the subject of a recent documentary, The Cartoonist, which is a must see for any fans of comics or Jeff Smith’s work. You can see the trailer and more at The Cartoonist website.


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  1. Am I the only person who was introduced to Bone from it being syndicated in Disney Adventures? I honestly didn’t know it was a thing until I got deeper into comics

  2. @Heroville: I read Bone in those Disney Magazines too! That actually might be one of the first comics introduced to me. That and Batman…

  3. I was lucky the LCS way back then had a good selection of indy books that I tried out. From Cerebus, to SiP, to of course Bone. Actually, I got into Bone kinda late. I thought from the covers they were "kiddie" comics or something below my notice. Well, I got pwned. My first actual issue was #28, and I grab a bunch of backissues, and Image also reprinted a bunch.

  4. I found my sister’s box of comics from when she was a kid a couple months ago.  It was mostly issues of Barbie Adventures (which was some of the earliest work of Amanda Conner, so I didn’t mind) but she also had about five issues of Bone.  I flipped through them, then went out and bought the One Volume Edition.

    But that Cartoonist documentary really is worth getting if you’re a Bone fan. It also includes a pretty lengthy video of Scott McCloud interviewing Jeff Smith at some college.

  5. @Heroville & TNC – Holy cow! That was going to be my exact same comment! I loved DISNEY ADVENTURES when I was a kid. At around that same time, a comics/pop culture columnist for our local paper gave me BONE #3, which is a great stand-alone issue. Both of those things working together really made me love BONE. When I saw the one-volume edition of it at the 2004 ComicCon, I snatched that bad boy up. Really looking forward to getting the time to reread it someday.

    Too bad Conor didn’t get a chance to read the book himself. But it did give a nice excuse for Josh to play around with that Bone doll the whole time. Something tells me that even if Conor had been sitting on the couch, Josh still would have been playing with the doll. And nice interview, Ron!

  6. I highly recommend the Cartoonist doc as well – it’s an amazing look at Smith and his career. Great DVD – NetFlix it now!

  7. As a person who got into comics through the "indie" route, it is my shame that I haven’t read Bone yet.


    Also, Jeff Smith looks like the Dude, only not high.

  8. I think I’m the only comic book fan that has absolutely no desire to read bone.

  9. Superb podcast – I’m in the midst of reading Bone right now and can’t get enough the mix of humor and fantasy.  I definitely want to talk about that in my friend and I’s podcasts.  Rasl looks interesting as well.  Jeff Smith seems very knowledgeable about the business and what it is he wants to do with his career in particular.  Gotta get that DVD.

  10. Excellent, Bone is a great book. I need to hunt down the colour versions, they look nice.

    Did anyone else play the games from Telltale? It’s a shame they didn’t make the rest of series, but Out of Boneville and The Great Cow race are a lot of fun.

  11. Great video podcast ep, guys.

    I plan on reading Bone soon and read the first oversized trade of Rasl…..which I loved. Can’t wait for more. 

  12. Awesome VideoPodcast.

    Jeff Smith is such a nice guy. I met him at APE and he was very cool.

  13. So happy about this podcast!  I teach "Bone" in my seventh grade classroom, and even reviewed the Jeff Smith documentary on my website (www.outfromthecomicshop.com).  My students loved reading the first volume so much last year that this year they voted the series their favorite kids’ book series!  Over Harry Potter!

    And boy, Jeff Smith’s enthusiasm is infectious, isn’t it?


  14. I can give Smith props for being a prolonged successful creator, but honestly, I never got the excitement about Bone or why it was so ‘good’.  O.o

     And I definitely don’t put him in the same sentence as some other ‘indie’ artists, who really formed a movement well before and better than Smith.

  15. I got into Bone in 92 through my wife-to-be.  She had an awesome Jeff Smith sketch from a con, and I married her for it.  I think Bone has been my most successful recommendation to ‘non-comics readers’ over the years.  Just did it again for a friend’s nephew.

    Ok, I didn’t marry my wife for her Jeff Smith sketch.  She also had a couple Paul Chadwick Concrete pages.

  16. Nice podcast.  It would have been nice to see a mention of other "all ages" comic books, as I think most people think that they are only for kids, and really most anyone can enjoy them.  I’d include Carl Barks, the comic, Akiko, and the Planet Smoo, Zot, Lulu, Casper, Richie Rich, Hot Stuff, Dennis the Menace, and others in the catagory. 

  17. This video did remind me of RASL’s existence, so I just picked it up from the library. That is one nice-looking oversized book. I’m looking forward to actually reading it.

  18. Our store has been giving away free life-sized Phone Bone dolls if you purchase the entire Scholastic series of Bone.  Often, I am asked to transfer them from store to store.  When I had our van, it was not an issue, but now tht I have no vehicle, I find myself, every couple of weeks, riding the subway with a three foot tall plush Phone Bone in the seat next to me.

    The other day , to make it even more weird, I put a Back To The Future 2 shiny hat on him, and taped headphones to the side of his head (he doesn’t really have ears).  I sat in the seat next to it, reading "Out From Boneville", occasionally looking up from the book, looking at Bone, and then shaking my head.

    I’d like to think I made peoples’ commute through Boston a little weirder.

  19. Just the incentive I needed to finally crack open my complete Bone collection this weekend. Actually pretty excited about it!

  20. This has definitely piqued my interest in this man’s work.  I had seen the books previously, but never gave them much thought because they looked to ‘cartoony’, regardless of how rediculous that sounds.  I’ll be getting that definitive bone edition soon.  Thanks again guys:)

  21. Great show, guys–definitely a worthy subject. Bone’s always been one of my favorite comics, and it gets my vote for one of the most important comic series of the past twenty years. In fact, since 1986, I’d be hard-pressed to pick a series more important than Bone, except for maybe Sandman. Bone reaches MILLIONS and MILLIONS of young readers who otherwise might never pick up a comic book. It’s done more for the artform than almost any other series, and its influence obviously hasn’t stopped expanding yet.

    A big point of interest for me was how Jeff said that Bone would be nearly impossible to get off the ground today. This goes back to something that Ron touched on in his articles about comics in the 2000s. Yes, it’s great that smaller publishers like Boom! and IDW have had some success this decade…but my rebuttal to that is to point out what someone like Jeff Smith was capable of achieving in the ’90s. It wasn’t a really, really EASY road for Jeff, but I don’t think he was starving for his art all that much even when Bone wasn’t selling much. Today, on the other hand, the system of distribution are so difficult that a similar indie creator would have to spend so much time trying to get his product out there that he’d have no time for a dayjob. But Jeff in a sense was able to just "do his art on the side" comfortably until it got on. Today, comparatively, there’s no room for that. Today Bone (through its first 4-5 years of existence) wouldn’t even be selling enough single-issue copies to get a listing in Previews–that’s scary. It’s a lot harder road for indie creators now; you basically have to get your project picked up by a semi-well-known publisher or else nothing is going to come of it. That’s not to say that it’s impossible, but I feel that today a creator sort of has to have all his ducks in order–have a significant chunk of the project up and running/completed–BEFORE even trying to publish it…whereas Jeff (though he did plan some things out, of course) could just publish independently AS he completed chapters of his work, whenever he got around to it. On the other hand, as Jeff said, there are POTENTIAL advantages today in the form of online comic forums, etc.

    Either way, thanks for the great episode, guys.

  22. P.S. I also think it’s worth pointing out that Jeff wasn’t the ONLY indie creator in the ’90s to be able to self-publish. Self-publishing flourished in the ’90s, even though today we only remember the cream of the crop (Jeff, Dave Sim, Terry Moore). Many of the "bad girl" titles started out independent. Chaos! was huge, and it didn’t only feature bad girl series. Billy Tucci had Shi, Randy Queen had Darkchylde. On the other side of the spectrum, people like Dave McKean and Bryan Talbot could find vanity presses (sorry if that sounds like a slight; I don’t mean it that way) to put their work out also. And think of lesser-known creators like Mike Diana and several others who caught the ire of authorities–they were the reason that the CBLDF was set up, and they were all SELF-publishers.

  23. Great episode guys. I dismissed Bone for years on the basis of the Bone’s visual design. I now know what an idiot I was for doing that. I bought the one-volume edition about a year ago and as soon as I finished it I bought all the Scholastic colour editions, the two spin-off books, Rasl, Shazam, and all the art books about him. I’ve since gone on and bought the one-volume edition as birthday presents for a number of friends this year and all have loved it to date. Without a doubt one of my favourite books ever.

  24. When I watched "the cartoonist" movie about a year ago I noticed how the opening trailer had something i’d like to call "over-quoting" with the abudance of citations. In my head (where I think I’m funny) I thought heh there should be one at the very end that says something along the lines of:

    "He shits golden bricks…" – Mangaman (ifanboy.com) XD but that would imply speaking on behalf of the site, which (anyone who knows me would know that) my voice is a far off departure from the mainstream.

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