Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards

I went down to the Durham Public Library and perused the fiction section for graphic novels. Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards is one of the many GNs that jumped out me. By writer Jim Ottavani with art by Big Time Attic (Zander Cannon, Kevin Cannon, and Shad Petosky) and a cover by Mark (Xenozoic Tales) Schultz, the full title is Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh, and the Gilded Age of Paleontology.

The story is a highly fascinating account of the rivalry between Cope and Marsh in the early period of paleontology as they jockey for digs, naming rights, and notoriety. As with all GT-Lab books, this story is enhanced history with the facts embellished by Ottavani to move along the plot. However, when you have Cope and Marsh alongside cowboys and the famous PT Barnum, there isn't much embellishing that needs to be done as they plant fossils, usurps digs and otherwise snipe at each other to establish early dominance causing one to burn through and inheritance and the other to die with only his body to donate to science. The reader is left to speculate to what good they might have been able to accomplish if either could set aside ego and grievances to work together.

The art by Big Time Attic is dominated by Zander Cannon so it's the style that we've become familiar with in his other projects. This time it is embellished by being printed entirely in sepia tones with a single half tone shade and is filled with rather colorful historic characters. What stands out most to me is the hand lettering which is finely showcased when PT Barnum shows up in the beginning and the end. PT Barnum's speech is embellished with flourishes of the lettering that you would find on carnival posters.

From beginning to end, this is a fine and entertaining comic book look at 2 fascinating character from a bygone era and comes highly recommended.

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