Graphix, the Scholastic division focused on comics and graphic novels for children, released the ninth and final color volume of Jeff Smith’s epic fantasy adventure series Bone this month. PW Comics Week spoke with Smith and interviewed David Saylor, v-p, associate publisher and creative director of Graphix, via e-mail regarding the significance of the milestone and their future publishing plans.
Smith first self-published Bone in black and white in 1991 and it quickly became a self-publishing phenomena selling hundreds of thousands of copies. The year after the self-published series came to an end in 2004, Scholastic approached Smith about publishing a new version of the series in full-color. More than two and a half million volumes of the new color edition are now in print. Smith acknowledged that it has been “almost surreal to go through the whole Bone lifecycle again.”
Plans for promoting Crown of Horns, the final volume, which has an initial print run of 100,000, include a Bone floor display at retail stores, trade and consumer advertising, and a national media campaign. Scholastic's Bone web site has been updated with information about the final volume well as an excerpt and a new Bone game that will launch on the site this spring.
The Graphix edition has been published in thirty countries. In 2006, a release of the first color volume was coordinated across Europe. Smith recently conducted a three-week book tour of India, where the first four volumes are in print.
However, Crown of Horns does not, in fact, mark the end of the road for Bone at Graphix. The publisher will re-release Rose, a prequel about Grandma, a prominent character in the series, in the same color format as the earlier volumes. Smith is also interested in re-publishing Campfire Tales, which includes stories not in the regular series. “More projects are in the works with Jeff Smith, but we are not ready to announce them quite yet,” Saylor said.
Smith said he understood, with some amazement, that there continues to be a market for more versions of Bone. “To this day I will go to book stores and meet people who have bought Bone in every form, and they say ‘curse you,’” Smith joked. His 2004 self-published one-volume 1300-page version of the black and white Bone was a blockbuster seller.
While Smith and Graphix are both interested in a similar color version, none is planned yet. Saylor explained, “Publishing a one-volume color edition would be great, but we want to make sure that the format and price would make sense for fans.” Smith noted that it may not be technically possible to publish a one-volume color version. “I was at the very edge of printing technology with the black and white edition. You need onion-thin paper to print a book that thick and you need thicker paper for color.” A three-volume full-color edition is under discussion.
Both Smith and Saylor stressed the significance of the Bone collaboration. Saylor explained, “ I think that publishing Bone has broken barriers and helped make the market viable for kids’ comics.” The volumes have been critical for Scholastic’s comics publishing program. “Bone has also been the centerpiece of the Graphix publishing program and therefore our benchmark for the kind of excellent, creator-driven comics that we’re eager to publish,” Saylor said.
Smith said he is pleased that the partnership with Graphix has brought Bone to so many young readers, although that was not his original market for the book. He envisioned the series for college students, seeing it as a mix of “Uncle Scrooge with Heavy Metal comics.” Now, he explained, “I still can’t believe kids are reading it.”
A proponent of using comics and graphic novels to encourage reluctant readers, he added: “I’m very proud and feel lucky that Bone was in the right place at the right time. Comics have had a very bad rap for a long time in this country. I have always known that comics get kids to read. I couldn’t be more pleased that that this trend is blossoming at this moment.”