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?
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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