According to cartoonist Jeff Smith, not only is his sci-fi comic RASL now optioned as a movie, but there's renewed interest at Warner Bros. for a feature film based on his international hit series Bone.
"This RASL one looks pretty good," Smith said, speaking of the news on March 11th that Lionel Wigram's production company picked up film rights to the comic. "We just went out to L.A. last week and met with Wigram and Lin productions [who is producing Bone], both of whom are on the Warner Bros. lot."
Bone, which has sold millions of copies worldwide since it began 20 years ago, was an ongoing series that ended in 2004 after being self-published by Smith through his Cartoon Books imprint. Combining humor and an epic conflict between good and evil, Bone has been optioned for film by Warner Bros. since 2008.
"The Bone movies have stalled for quite some time now, but a new studio executive has come in who's really into the Bone comics and wants to get it going again, so you just never know about these things," Smith said of his meetings with the production companies last week. "It's not over yet."
RASL, which is on currently on its 12th issue, is a sci-fi noir story that Smith began self-publishing in 2008. The black-and-white series tells the mysterious story of a scientist-turned-thief who is being hunted as he travels between dimensions.
Smith, who spoke to Newsarama as he promoted an upcoming color collection for Bone, said he was surprised by the interest in RASL because he hadn't planned to pursue Hollywood until that series was closer to being finished.
"We had told our agent, 'Let's not shop this around,'" Smith said, mentioning his wife, Vijaya, who is his business partner at Cartoon Books. "We had shopped Bone around before it was done, and it's difficult when the story doesn't have an ending and you're not sure how it's all going to work out. So we decided not to shop RASL around."
Smith said he's excited by the deal with Wigram because he believes the people developing the film understand the story and meaning behind RASL.
"The Wigram people were just serious! And my agent said, 'You've got to listen to them,'" he said. "And I'm glad I did, 'cause they totally got it."
Wigram, who has produced several Harry Potter movies, wrote the screenplay for the recent Robert Downey Jr. version of Sherlock Holmes. Smith said that movie gives him hope that Wigram will produce a quality version of RASL.
"[Sherlock Holmes] was pretty exciting, and I liked it," Smith said. "And I think that kind of energy would be really good with RASL."
The cartoonist, who won an Eisner Award for his work on Bone, said he's not getting his hopes up too high for film versions of his comics, because he's gone through so many starts and stops with Bone.
"Mostly just stops," he said with a laugh. "We are very cynical. Vajaya and I were joking around about how we're on our 20th anniversary of not making a Bone movie. But it's not something we have any control over. We can just make our comics and let Hollywood do what Hollywood does. I can't say I understand it, but that's their job."
Bone was even in development as an animated series on Nickelodeon, but that and other deals have fallen through. Smith is hopeful that RASL won't go through the same problems.
"Won't that be a kick if RASL is a movie before Bone?" he said with a laugh. "That would just be par for the course."