Way back in the day, great stories were written in the form of epic poems.
The Iliad told the story of the Trojan War – a decades long battle started when the Trojan prince, Paris ran off with Helen, the wife of a Greek King. The Greeks invaded Troy, resulting in a war that lasted 20 years and destroyed an entire civilization. After that war ended, one of the Greek generals, Odysseus, tried to go home.
The Odyssey told his story, and how he incurred the wrath of the god Poseidon and secured the aid of the goddess Athena who battled with one another to prevent him from getting/help him to get home. Along the way he fights monsters, storms, and curses for years and years.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the story of a Mesopotamian King. Beowulf tells the tale of a fierce Norse warrior called upon to save his whole society. The legend of King Arthur, the fictional king that was said to unite all the tribes of great Britain, is another epic tale. The common thread among all these stories are fantastical adventures that cover vast place and time.
In more recent times, stories like Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Redwall, and more for adults, The Dark Tower and A Game of Thrones have all been called modern day epics due to the incredible scope, fantastical characters, and exciting adventures in each of these tales.
I’m going to argue that one more story should be added to this incredible list - Bone.
Some people look at the Bone graphic novels and immediately discount them as “little kid” books, because the main characters look like silly kids’ cartoons. And it’s true – Fone Bone, Phony Bone, and Smiley Bone are goofy and cartoony – at least in the beginning of the nine book series. Don’t let that fool you. They still have exactly what it takes to be great characters. The three Bone cousins are up there with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy or Bugs, Daffy, and Porky, or even Frodo, Samwise, Merry, and Pippen from The Lord of the Rings.
Fone Bone is the Mickey/Bugs. He’s serious, he’s normal, and he’s loyal. Phony is Donald/Daffy Duck – he’s angry, he’s temperamental, and he’s selfish. Smiley Bone is just like Goofy or Porky – he’s happy, he’s silly, and he’s there for comic relief. Now just imagine that Mickey, Donald, and Goofy find themselves in Middle Earth fighting the forces of evil for the future of mankind. That’s Bone.
These cartoony cousins have somehow stumbled into another world, a world in which an evil being called the Lord of the Locusts is trying to take over. There are incredible bad guys, treacherous journeys, daring rescues, perilous battles, and all the other things great epics need – evil villains; a chosen one growing into their role as hero; mystical animals like dragons, giant mountain lions, and the horrible rat creatures.
Over the course of the 9 books in the series (plus a prequel story called Rose and a supplement called Bone: Tall Tales), you get as much drama, action, adventure, mystery, and good vs. evil as you do in Lord or the Rings, Gilgamesh, Beowulf, or Harry Potter.
Like any great story – epic poem, graphic novel, or prose story – the only bad thing about the Bone series is that it had to end. It’s a great ending, but I would have loved 9 more books instead. Thank goodness some one else agrees, because there’s now a new Bone series - new characters and a new adventure in a series of illustrated novels (think Diary of a Whimpy Kid or Wonderstruck) called Bone: Quest for the Spark. Those new books are definitely on my “to-read” list.