Headlines   2004 Review Index   January 2, 2004
Suspended Animation &

Michael Vance

Mark Allen

Michael Vance Books

The most-circulated and longest-running comics review column in America
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Bone: Out From Boneville

      I wish comic books were a part of mainstream America. I mean, the millions of people who enjoy the comic strips in their local newspaper, but scoff at the thought of reading a comic book (what's up with that?) really don't know what they're missing. Especially considering those exceptionally good books that I believe mainstream America would enjoy, if they gave them a chance, and if someone got them into mass marketing. One of those books is Bone: Out From Boneville, the first collection in several volumes, by creator, writer and artist Jeff Smith.

      What is Bone? It's a combination of things, really. Things like fantasy, adventure, humor, and even a little horror, done in such a way that all ages can enjoy. It's Dungeons and Dragons, meets Walt Disney, with just a bit of The Lord of the Rings tossed in. Yet, it all smacks of freshness and originality.

      In this volume, the three Bones (Phone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone) have been banished from Boneville (where else?), and are on their own in a strange land containing talking bugs, vicious, but not-too-smart rat creatures, a rather large red dragon, and the like. Landing smack-dab into the middle of an ages-old conflict, one of the Bones is sought out by the rat creatures, who hope to rid the valley of the "Great Red Dragon." Adventure, intrigue, and hilarity ensue.

      Not only does Jeff Smith's elaborate writing and characterization thrill the reader, but his artwork is unmatched, for it's ability to render simple cartoon-like characters, and well-detailed, dramatic ones in the same frame, all of whom he is somehow able to make the reader care about. There is, quite simply, no reason for anyone not to take the first volume of Bone for a spin. They would soon desire more.

      Bone: Out From Boneville, published by Cartoon Books, 142 pages, $12.95.

      Recommended for all ages, Bone: Out From Boneville can be found at comic shops, comic conventions, some bookstores online auctions and at www.boneville.com.

      Review by Mark Allen

Suspended Animation Anniversary

      Suspended Animation began on January 8, 1989. This column marks the beginning of its fifteenth year of continuous weekly publication.

      Then as now, its purpose is to find and review comic books and strips that will appeal to adult readers, and to publish those reviews in comics and non-comics related publications.

      I created Suspended Animation, and comics reviewer and writer R. A. Jones was my first co-author, writing alternate columns. When he left, he was replaced by Dr. Jon Suter, and then by current co-author Mark Allen.

      So what has happened to Vance, Jones, Suter and Allen in fifteen years?

I wrote several comic books including The Adventures of Captain Nemo, Bloodtide, Straw Men, and The Angel of Death. Several of these were written with Jones.  For the past seven years, I have been writing short stories set in my fictional town of Light's End, Maine. Many of these have found homes in different magazines.

      Jones continues to write comic books.  His latest work includes Bulletproof  Monk that was released as a motion picture. He has also created and written Scimidar, The Fist of God, The Protectors, and many other titles.

      Dr. Suter moved from Oklahoma to Houston, Texas to become the head librarian of a university. He often teaches courses on comics and pulp magazines. Mark Allen was 'promoted' from his position as a Youth Minister at one church to the Pastor of another Oklahoma church.

      And what has happened to comics in the past 15 years?

      Sadly, sales continued to decrease even in the wake of blockbuster movies like Spiderman and The X-Men. The cover price of comics has increased dramatically, and many 'superstar' artists and writers have come and gone. Graphic novels have proliferated although their sales are still modest compared to the heyday of the medium. And comic strips are still read by millions each day in newspapers.

      And what will happen to comics in the next fifteen years?

      Stay tuned.

     Review by Michael Vance


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