Editorial Edits – Jeff Smith’s Bone

Welcome back for another session of editorial edits.  If you haven’t already gleaned from the title, this time we’ll be looking at pages from Jeff Smith’s magnificent magnus opum, Bone.

Jeff Smith's Bone

Jeff Smith should be a household name to any respectable comic book fan, but for those of you funny book neophytes out there, I’ll give you a quick synopsis of his work.  As of right now he’s writing and drawing an amazing little black and white book called RASL that’s released quarterly.

It’s far more adult-oriented than the often-times whimsical Bone, and it has a very gritty feel to it.  The book focuses on a dimension jumping art thief, fictional physics, the work of Nickola Tesla, and alternate universes.

It’s a great read and I suggest you pick it up if you’re interested.  Before that he wrote and drew SHAZAM! And the Monster Society of Evil for DC Comics, a revamp of my favorite DC hero, Captain Marvel.

But then comes Bone, and everything else pales in comparison.  It’s a touching tale of three wayward cousins lost in a magical land of dragons and magic, knights, queens, and everything in between.  Each page in the tale is built off of a six-panel grid, 2 panels across and 3 down, all of relatively equal sizes.  Here’s an example

The 6-panel archetype in Jeff Smith's Bone

Because the book is built off of such a consistent format, Bone is strikingly clear.  Mr. Smith doesn’t throw any confusing or convoluted layouts at you, just combinations and different iterations of the 6-panel page.  So now you’re probably thinking, “Well if all you can do is praise the guy, what could you possibly have to edit?”

I will admit, my edit is a very very small one, barely noticeable even.  However, I do think that it would enhance the strength of one particular page ever so slightly and thusly contribute to the book as a whole.  This is the page that I would change.

I would edit this page. I'll explain, don't worry.

Can you spot what I would change?  I’ll give you a tip: It’s in the top row.  The page above is a riff on the six-panel grid layout.  The bottom two rows are mirror images of each other in terms of panel size and possess a sort of symmetry.  The top row has three panels, the 2nd and 3rd are connected loosely through the gutter by the imagined extension of Gran’ma Ben’s arms and the onomatopoeia at the top of the panels.  If I were Jeff Smith’s editor I would have proposed that he combine the 2nd and 3rd panels to make it a 6-panel page and physically connect panels that are as yet only connected in the reader’s mind.  This would enhance the clarity, symmetry, and visual consistency of the sequence.

Readers can see the Gran’ma Rose punching through the wall, but because the wall is flush against the panel border, it looks as though she’s punching through the gutter to grab the rat creatures.  Because of that her arms seem outlandishly long for such a stout woman.  Also, it looks like the panels are meant to be connected through the CRASH and SPLINTER sound effects stretching between them, but then why separate the panels in the first place?  What purpose does that white gutter space serve?  This is how I would have changed the page.

My very slight change adds consistency and symmetry.

And there you go, the page is symmetrical and the panels are connected (just go with it).  I wonder if that gutter was something Jeff really wanted in the page?  I would be really curious as to whether or not he thought it enhanced the page.

Ben Chabala, editor-in-training, OUT!


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