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Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: A…

Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope,…

by Jim Ottaviani, Kevin Cannon (Illustrator), Zander Cannon (Illustrator)

Other authors: Shad Petosky (Illustrator)

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Jim Ottaviani and Big Time Attic’s Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh, and the Gilded Age of Paleontology focuses on the two titular paleontologists, their rivalry, and the ethically-dubious practices of government-funded scientists in the late nineteenth century. They portray Cope as ambitious, but put-upon and Marsh as something of a huckster among his fellow academics; an interesting choice as Marsh frequently encountered P.T. Barnum, as Ottaviani and Big Time Attic depict. The artist Charles R. Knight, who was the artist of choice for depicting Dinosaurs and their reptilian contemporaries, serves as something of a middle ground for the two extremes of Cope and Marsh, while allowing the authors to introduce other people who played a role in early paleontology.

Like Jonathan Fetter-Vorm’s Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb or his Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War, Ottaviani and Big Time Attic’s book offers a good introduction to the subject of science in the Gilded Age for both high school and introductory college readers as well as general science enthusiasts. Though the book fictionalizes some events for dramatic effect, Ottaviani and Big Time Attic helpfully include a “Fact or Fiction?” section where they offer additional details about the facts and discuss where they fictionalized events as well as how those literary licenses were based on actual events. The book closes with a list of further reading for those interested in learning more about the subjects discussed. Educators, students, and casual readers will gain a greater insight into the world of the Gilded Age through the events Ottaviani and Big Time Attic portray and from how they recreate the language of the time, both in direct quotes and through the font choices for speech balloons. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Dec 24, 2018 |
Not just a place for gunfighters, gold diggers, and cattle rustlers, the Wild West served as the backdrop for competition among the new and rapidly developing science of paleontology—a competition rife with scoundrels, backstabbers, and downright thieves. The story elucidates the sordid relationship between two premier paleontologists of the late nineteenth century: Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. Cope, a pure (albeit poor) scientist, works tirelessly to advance the trade by locating new dig sites in remote locations of the western United States. Marsh, a wealthy bureaucrat, uses his name and claim to the Peabody fortune to advance his own career—and to systematically sabotage Cope’s. The bold, black and white illustrated cells of this graphic novel add a depth to the story beyond mere words. The drawings capture the actual expressions of the characters as well as present to the reader the bones and specimens over which the protagonists are squabbling. At times a bit erratic, clarity is revealed as readers become accustomed to the unique format and writing style. ( )
  paulavev | Dec 2, 2012 |
Summary: In the late 1800s, America's "Wild West" was being settled, dinosaurs were all the rage, and two of the country's leading paleontologists spent most of their lives feuding over the bones that were being discovered in the West, and over the names and interpretations of the animals that left them behind. Edward Drinker Cope had the passion for fieldwork, collecting, and science to fuel his monomania, but Othniel Charles Marsh had the political and professional connections - and the money - needed to rise to preeminence in the field. This is a story of their years of trickery, theft, professional sniping, and personal backbiting, peopled with some of the major figures of the age, including P. T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill, and Ulysses S. Grant.

Review: I typically really enjoy the history of science, and while I'd heard Marsh and Cope's names before, theirs wasn't a story I knew. It turns out that it's a fascinating one, though; larger-than-life in a way that only stories from the Gilded Age can be. Between the two of them, they discovered almost 140 species of dinosaurs, including most of the best-known ones today; they were responsible for the original confusion regarding Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus; and their endless bickering via the scientific literature was the origin of page charges for publication, something that to this day haunts scientists who are trying to conserve grant money. This book isn't a work of straight non-fiction: Ottaviani plays a little bit loose with the facts when the narrative demands it, but the bare bones (hah!) of the story are intact, and there's an extensive "Fact or Fiction" section at the end where he explains the changes he's made.

Unfortunately, I still found the narrative a little jumpy and disjointed for my tastes. The graphic novel format is an interesting way to tell this story, and in a lot of ways it works: it gives an immediate sense of time and place that would be missing from straight prose. However, there are a lot of details that are crucial to understanding the story - particularly who the multitudes of supporting characters are, and why they're important - that just can't be covered in speech-balloon snippets of dialogue. I also had a hard time telling the minor characters apart; the main characters (Marsh and Cope and the painter Charles R. Knight) all have distinctive facial hair or glasses, but a lot of the other men in this story looked much the same, showed up without explanation for a few pages, and then disappeared just as suddenly. Otherwise, I really liked the artwork; it's visually appealing despite being in black and white, and the panels had a lot of detail without looking cluttered.

Overall, it was an easy and interesting introduction to a period of scientific history that I didn't know much about, but it wasn't smooth or complete enough to be entirely satisfying. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It was an interesting American counterpoint to the British dinosaur-finding of Remarkable Creatures. Recommended for those with an interest in Gilded Age history, paleontology, or non-fiction graphic novels, as long as they don't go in expecting too much depth. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Sep 17, 2011 |
A graphic (by which I mean illustrated, not sexually suggestive), account of the rivalry between two of the most famous scientists in early paleontology.

Unfortunately, the drawings -- which must carry the story in a graphic book -- are just passable. (If only the interior of the book were as compelling as the cover!) And while the authors have tried hard to be accurate, there is much to annoy for anyone familiar with fossil exploration, excavation, and the history of paleontology. Not the worst introduction to the subject for those new to dinosaur hunting, but take it all with a grain of salt and move on to other books. ( )
1 vote ElizabethChapman | Nov 15, 2009 |
Showing 5 of 5
This dusty subject is given life and verve through the personal politics of the participants, and it’s the details that make it fun.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jim Ottavianiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cannon, KevinIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Cannon, ZanderIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Petosky, ShadIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0966010663, Paperback)

The Wild West provided the setting for some famous battles, but the gunfight at O.K. Corral doesn't hold a candle to the Bone Wars. Following the Civil War, the (Re-)United States turned its attention to the unexplored territories between the Mississippi and the Pacific. The railroads led the way, and to build them we blasted through mountains and leveled valleys and exposed rock that hadn't seen the light of day for millions of years. This is the story of Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, two scientists who found and fought for those bones, and the artist Charles R. Knight who almost single-handedly brought dinosaurs back to life for an awestruck public. Guest starring Chief Red Cloud and hundreds of his Indian Braves, the gun-totin' and gamblin' Professor John Bell Hatcher, colossal and stupefying Dinosauria of the New World, and featuring special appearances by The Cardiff Giant, P.T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill Cody, Ulysses S. Grant, Alexander Graham Bell, and a plentiful supporting cast of Rogues and Gallants from the Eastern Scientific Establishment and The Old West, the colorful supporting cast makes for a rich blend of history, adventure, science, and art.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:50 -0400)

Contains a graphic novel that presents a fictionalized historical tale of two late-nineteenth century scientists who fight over the discovery of dinosaur bones.

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