WC13: IDW Announces "Jeff Smith's Bone: Artist's Edition"

Friday evening at WonderCon Anaheim, IDW Publishing announced the latest addition to their award-winning "Artist's Edition" line: "Jeff Smith's Bone."

"Bone" follows the epic adventures of the three Bone cousins: Phoney, Smiley and Fone. After the cousins are exiled from their hometown, they're forced to seek refuge in a mysterious land full of wizards, dragons and rat creatures. The series ran for 55 issues and was primarily published by Smith's own Cartoon Books, except for a brief stint at Image Comics. Smith has also released popular colored collected editions of the originally black and white comics through Scholastic.

The first volume of "Bone: Artist's Edition" goes on sale this fall and will collect the second "Bone" story arc, "The Great Cow Race."

IDW Publishing Special Projects Editor Scott Dunbier spoke with Comic Book Resources to give special insight in to how "Bone: Artists Edition" came about. Dunbier discussed how involved "Bone" creator Jeff Smith is in the project and explained why "Artist's Editions" are "the closest thing most fans will ever get to some of the some of the greatest original art ever done."

CBR News: Scott, why "Jeff Smith's Bone: Artist's Edition?" Why now?

Scott Dunbier: Well, it really is a no-brainer. Jeff Smith's "Bone" is a classic comic in the tradition of all the greats. It's in the tradition of Carl Barks, Walt Kelly and classic "Mickey Mouse." There's something timeless about "Bone." The charm, the execution; it's one of those strips that transcends regular comics.

"Bone" was always on my list of projects I wanted to do as an "Artist's Edition." Jeff and Vijaya [Iyer] from Cartoon Books and I have been talking about this for several years. I sent Jeff a copy of "Wally Wood's EC Stories: Artist's Edition," and I think it's safe to say he was floored by it. He's become a very big and vocal fan of the line.

In the beginning, when we first started talking about this, the timing wasn't exactly right because they had a number of projects going, but finally everything sort of aligned and we worked out a deal. I'm thrilled, I couldn't be happier. Doing "Bone" is just one of those rare treats.

"Artist's Editions" involve quite a lot of extra work that a normal collected edition doesn't require. How long did it take to collect all the pages, scan them in and produce "Bone Artist's Edition?"

It's a work in progress, still. We're gonna release the book this year, but that doesn't mean that everything's done. There's still a lot of scanning and a lot of design work. Doing an "Artist's Edition" is definitely labor intensive.

Ask me that question again when the book's about to come out and I'll have an answer for you!

Will there be "Artist's Editions" for the entire "Bone" saga?

If it was up to me, I'd say yes. I'm not sure Jeff or Vijaya would necessarily agree with that, though. I'm hoping they're happy with the results of the first book and that they would like to continue. Certainly, I'd love to do more than one, and there's certainly more than enough fans of Jeff's work who would be very happy to have more than one.

The first volume's subtitle is of the second Bone story-arc, "The Great Cow Race." Will it the collection also include the opening arc, "Out from Boneville?"

Just "The Great Cow Race," but there will be some other stuff in there as well. Again, it's a work in progress.

How involved is Jeff Smith going to be in the final look and feel of the book?

The way I like to work is to give as much or as little involvement to each creator to work on their book as they please. Knowing Jeff, he'll want to look at it at every stage. He'll want to look at the layout, he'll want to look at the design, he'll want to look at the printer's proofs. He'll want to check out everything.

Think about it -- he's trusting us with his baby.

When did you first discover "Bone" yourself?

Oh, God, it's probably been nearly 20 years. "The Great Cow Race" actually might have been the first thing I read. There's a charm, a simplicity and a beauty to Jeff's work. And not just the artwork. The art is gorgeous, but his writing, his pacing, his storytelling, is also top notch. It's just really great comics.

For people who have never seen or purchased an "Artist's Edition," what sets them apart from normal collected editions?

"Artist's Editions" are about tracking down the art. That's the most important thing, the first step. In some cases, it's easy -- either they're in the possession of the artist or the family of the artist, like with "Dave Steven's The Rocketeer" and "Walt Simonson's The Mighty Thor," and in some cases it's a lot tougher, like with "Wally Wood's EC Stories" and the "Jack Davis" book. For those, I had to find a number of different collectors who had some very wonderful complete stories by those creators. It's a bit of detective work and a little bit of archaeology.

The size of the books varies depending on the year in which it was done. Artist's Editions of modern comic art are 12 by 17 inches. The older books are 15 by 22 inches, which is ridiculously big. It's almost two feet high; it's larger than a baby!

The important thing about an "Artist's Edition" is that it's basically a facsimile of the original art. We scan the art in color, even though they are black and white images. A good color scan will pick up all the little nuances of the artwork like blue lines, whiteout corrections, creases and pasteovers.

You're obviously extremely passionate about these books. What would you say is the mantra for the "Artist's Editions?" Why do we need these giant oversized books in our lives?

It's the closest thing that most people will ever come to some of the greatest original art ever done.

If you want to own one of the few "Dave Steven's Rocketeer" pages that are in private hands, and they rarely come up for sale, you're going to pay up to $20,000 and more for really great pages or covers. Same with Wally Wood's stuff -- his classic EC stories go for tens of thousands of dollars, plus the really good ones just don't come up for sale very often because people love them. This is the opportunity for fans to have the next best thing to the originals. I actually have some friends who lent me artwork for "Artist's Editions" who then sold the art because they now had it recreated in the book.

This all goes back to when I was an art dealer and I'd buy complete issues from artists. For instance, I bought all of Steve Dillon's "Preacher" art from the very first issue because I loved the comic. I read the first issue, loved it, called Steve up and struck a deal. Then, every few months I'd get two or three issues of art in the mail from DC Comics. I stopped buying the comic because I enjoyed so much the experience of actually reading it from the original art. That was one of the sparks that started the "Artist's Edition" line.

Do you still have those Preacher pages? That's amazing!

Well, I was an art dealer. My business was selling art, not keeping it!

What other "Artist's Editions" do you have coming up?

"Will Eisner's The Spirit: Artist's Edition" is coming out shortly, as well as "Jack Davis's EC Stories: Artist's Edition" and "John Byrne's Fantastic Four: Artist's Edition." The "Best of EC: Artist's Edition" comes out in late June and, boy, that's just spectacular.

Honestly, I have another 25 or so that are on the list that will come out at some point. This is my dream job as an art lover and editor. To do books like this and have people respond to them like they have? There's nothing better.

"Jeff Smith's Bone: Artist's Edition" will be available this fall from IDW Publishing.

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