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Bone Sharps,
Cowboys, and
Thunder Lizards

I don’t buy a lot of graphic novels anymore. They’re to the point where they are just a little too expensive and there’s too much stuff that I’d like to buy that if I started that floodgate, it’d never close. So, on a visit to a comic shop yesterday, I saw something that caught my eye and pretty much forced me to buy it. It’s a comic retelling of one of the most interesting times in paleontology and the classic feud between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles March.

Who, I hear you asking, and why are they in a graphic novel?

The who is easy. Cope and Marsh were probably the leading figures in paleontology before 1900 and they both hated each other and made furious claims against one another over the years they were competing for fossils and journal space. They were both colorful characters with friends, and respectful enemies, who ranged from P.T. Barnum and U.S. Grant to Chief Red Cloud and Buffalo Bill Cody. The story pushes them all into view, despite the fact that they probably played nothing more than a sidelight role in the feud (and all the facts and deviations from fact are carefully annotated in the back of the book).

The why is slightly harder. There’s a long tradition of historical fiction in graphic novels, with the Big Books by Paradox Press and Rick Geary’s A Treasury of Victorian Murder series. GT Labs is specializing in doing comics about science and scientists. They are an amazing specialty nook and they put out great work like Suspended in Language (about Niels Bohr) and Fallout (about Oppenheimer). The books are amazingly researched and brilliantly drawn. It’s academia that doesn’t feel academic.

That’s probably because the story of Cope and Marsh feels so much more like a real fight than a battle of scholastic wills. As the saying goes, the battles are fierce because the stakes are so low. I can’t really think of a comic that better presents the battle between two individuals and their respective philosophies.

Cope is made out to be the more sympathetic of the two, with Marsh as the evil, connected villain. Cope slowly loses his grasp on the world and it’s so sad to see how the unethical (at least as presented in the work) Marsh tries to destroy him.

If you like historical fiction, you’ll adore Bone Sharps. If you like strong interpersonal struggle comics, you’ll love Bone Sharps. If you like 19th Century stories of science, you’ll love Bone Sharps.

Just go out and buy it, because if you like graphic novels at all, and quite possibly if you don’t, you’ll love Bone Sharps, Cowboys and Thurder Lizards.

Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh, and the Gilded Age of Paleontology

Chris Garcia

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