Bone Sharps, Cowboys and Thunder Lizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh, and the Gilded Age of Paleontology
Jim Ottaviani, . . G.T. Labs, $22.95 (165pp) ISBN 978-0-9660106-6-4
Ottaviani has been writing historical graphic novels about scientists for years, but he's outdone himself with this delightful and fascinating account of the late–19th-century struggle between two scientists over fossilized dinosaur bones in the American West. Scheming paleontologist Marsh is more or less the villain of the piece, and his scrappy, doomed rival, Cope, is something like a hero, but Ottaviani paints rich, complicated portraits of both and milks their skullduggery for an exciting, fast-paced story. The rollicking narrative includes guest appearances by historical personages who got mixed up in the dispute—everyone from President Ulysses S. Grant to P.T. Barnum—as well as a subplot involving a hugely popular dinosaur artist, Charles R. Knight. The artwork by the Big Time Attic collective (Zander Cannon, Shad Petosky and Kevin Cannon) is cartoony and whimsical but meticulous when the historical record calls for it. As a bonus, a "Fact or Fiction?" section at the end of the book painstakingly details where Ottaviani has fudged history for a livelier narrative, and where his details are bizarre but true.
Reviewed on: 10/10/2005