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Published: Wednesday, 3/8/2006

Cartoonist reveals his hidden art

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Cartoonist and author Jeff Smith signed autographs for Matt Kautz, 12, before speaking at the Stranahan Theater. Smith was the
featured guest for the Authors!
Authors! series sponsored by
The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas
County Public Library. Cartoonist and author Jeff Smith signed autographs for Matt Kautz, 12, before speaking at the Stranahan Theater. Smith was the featured guest for the Authors! Authors! series sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
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The cartoon-heads were there - guys in their 20s who nodded in recognition when Jeff Smith mentioned names of classic comics.

Fans as young as 7 or 8 were attentive, too, asking questions such as why the paws of the rats always have dirt on them. (That's not dirt, Smith clarified; those are pads.)

Smith led an audience of 225 last night on an armchair tour of the behind-the-scenes world of comic books, emphasizing Bone, his rounded little character with a Snoopy-esque head on a Mickey Mouse-like body.

Smith, 46, was the fourth speaker in this season's Authors! Authors! series, held in the Great Hall of the Stranahan Theater and sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

He explained that the white spaces between cartoon panels are called gutters; human imagination ingests the images on either side of the gutter and forms an idea.

Cartoonists can control the pace by which a reader tracks a story by changing the number and size of panels; for example, a series of narrow, tightly spaced panels without gutters would indicate quick action or a time sequence spanning split-seconds. And a single color can be used throughout a story as a subconscious tool linked to a specific emotion.

Smith discussed the symbols he employs - water to suggest something is coming, and references to Moby Dick to foreshadow a type of adventure facing Bone.

Smith, who lives in Columbus, created his Bone stories in black-and-white over a period of 12 years. They are being colorized and published, two a year, for youths in paperbacks of about 136 pages each, by Scholastic.

The Bone books have sold more than one million copies. Last year, Smith compiled all 55 chapters into the 1,343-page Bone: The One-Volume Edition, and printed 50,000 copies. Priced at $40 each, they sold out but might be reprinted in a colorized version at some point in the future, he said.

He said he'd love to see Bone made into an animated feature and would tap actor Tobey MaGuire, who has portrayed Spider-Man in recent films, to be the voice of Bone.

"I've had a couple of close calls with Hollywood. They're crazy there," he said. "My two problems so far have been no respect for the comic and [their] not being reasonable about money."

The next speaker in the Authors! Authors! series will be Khaled Hosseini, author of "The Kite Runner," at 7 p.m. April 3 in the Stranahan Great Hall. Tickets can be purchased at branches of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and at the door.

Contact Tahree Lane at:

tlane@theblade.com

or 419-724-6075.



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