And Then I Read: BONE SHARPS, COWBOYS AND THUNDER LIZARDS

Bone Sharps cover
©Jim Ottaviani and Big Time Attic

In tribute to the Victorian/Gilded Age time period of this graphic novel, the full title is wonderfully florid: BONE SHARPS, COWBOYS AND THUNDER LIZARDS BY JIM OTTAVIANI & BIG TIME ATTIC, A TALE OF EDWARD DRINKER COPE, OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH AND THE GILDED AGE OF PALEONTOLOGY.

Writer Ottaviani has put together an entertaining account of this real-life story about a famous rivalry in the dawning science of Paleontology, which at the time consisted of digging up fossilized dinosaur bones and trying to fit them together into skeletons. Some of it is fictionalized, and elements are rearranged a bit to enhance the story value, but all the relevant facts are listed in a lengthy appendix at the end, for those who want to know exactly how things happened. Both the main characters come across as larger-than-life manipulators, tricksters, and con-artists, and their rivalry is a sort of duel amidst the journals and meetings of their peers. Entertaining, as I said, though a bit sad too, as we can only wonder how much more could have been accomplished if they had only been willing to team up instead.

Bone Sharps page

The art is by the studio Big Time Attic, which is Zander Cannon, Kevin Cannon, Shad Petosky and assistants. It’s line art in sepia tone with digital half-tones added. The main look here is that of Zander Cannon, as seen in his other graphic works, THE REPLACEMENT GOD and SMAX (with Alan Moore). Lots of research has obviously been done to capture the time and place. The figures are somewhat stiff and doll-like, but I didn’t find that a drawback here, since the characters act in a very melodramatic way anyway, and it all gets the story told in a satisfying manner. At times telling some of the large cast apart was a little challenging, but it all comes through in the end. There are lots of nice touches in the lettering, such as in the example above, where odd characters represent a prehistoric language of Indian legends.

If you like history, dinosaurs, or even the kind of rousing true-life adventure told by early Mark Twain or Jack London, you’ll find this appealing. Recommended!

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