Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith is best known as the creator of Bone, a family-friendly fantasy that started out in the early '90s as a lively, cartoony book, and developed over the following decade-plus into a dark fantasy without ever losing sight of its roots. The series came out through Image for a year, but otherwise has been completely self-published—one of self-publishing's true serious success stories. After entering comics with Bone and working on it for 13 years, Smith took a break to write and draw a DC Comics miniseries, Shazam! The Monster Society Of Evil, which came out as a hardback in 2007. Now Smith is back into writing and publishing his own solo book, RASL, the just-launched story of a dimension-traveling thief navigating the complexities of parallel worlds. Shortly after the second issue hit stands, Smith spoke with The A.V. Club about what's happened in the eight years since our last interview with him, including the new series, the recent news that Warner Brothers is working on a Bone movie, why his company Cartoon Books hasn't become a publishing dynamo, and what he gets out of the fans and comics creators who hate and love him.

The A.V. Club: The name of the new series—some interviews say it should be pronounced rass-el, but others say razz-el. Which is it?

Jeff Smith: I say rass-el. With an S. It doesn't really matter, though. [Laughs.] It's a silent comic, there's no speakers.

AVC: You've said it'll run about two years as a quarterly—how tightly is it planned, in terms of number of issues or overall plot?

JS: It's a little bit loose. I have an ending for it, and I have an outline. I'm approaching it just like I did Bone, where I don't really know how long it's going to be. Everything is not set in stone. But I have an ending, and I know what the general twists and turns of the plots are, and who the main characters are. If new characters present themselves, and they work, then I'll build them into the story a little more, stuff like that. Which is how I did Bone.

AVC: Working that way with Bone, were there ever points where you got a little ways down the line and then wished you'd come up with something sooner on, or integrated something into the story earlier?

JS: For the most part, no. I pretty much would just flow along. And if something really interesting came up—like the cow race, for instance, was not part of the original script. Bartleby was not part of the original script. In my original outline, he was a little bear cub who got lost. And at some point at the last minute, I said, "Oh, I think it'd be more interesting if he was a little lost rat-creature cub from the enemy." And he turned out to be a great character, and he bonded with Smiley Bone, and actually ended up going back to Boneville. Which was weird, because I did do one of the very last chapters of Bone very early on in my run. In 1993, I was asked to do a Christmas story for Hero Illustrated, which was sort of a Wizard magazine type of thing, that's gone now. I did a little four-page story that took place in Gran'ma Ben's cabin, in the winter. And I knew that it was going to take place at the end of their adventures, because Bone basically takes place over the course of one year. Even though it took 13 years to draw it! [Laughs.] Anyway, I got to the point of doing the big 1,300-page, one-volume edition, and it was time to insert that little four-page story, near the end. And Bartleby—I didn't even know Bartleby was even going to be a character at that point, so he's not in that story. And I debated for a split second whether or not I should add him in, just draw him into the back of the corner of something. But then I thought, "Ah, maybe he's just outside playing in the barn or something."

AVC: How far do you work in advance?

JS: Terrifyingly not. I'm actually still, as you're speaking to me, as we're talking now—I think the second issue of RASL shipped maybe three weeks ago? I'm writing and drawing the third issue now.

AVC: What's the timeline like for an issue? It's a quarterly—does it take you a full three months to produce it?

JS: Yes, it does, it does. Because I write it and draw it myself. I'm definitely playing this kind of artistic game with myself, where I'm right on the edge and chasing the deadline. But this way, I can get feedback from the last issue, and see what people are responding to. Again, this is how I did Bone. So that I could say, "Ooh, people are really picking up on the maze aspect of the multiple universes and stuff," and I can go into that more deeply. In fact, I can barely do it in three months. It's an extremely tight timeframe. Because RASL is 32 pages. It's not like a regular 22-page or 20-page comic.

AVC: And it runs without ads. Have you ever been tempted to follow the industry and support yourself by inserting advertising into your comics?

JS: Yeah, yeah, I think about. But on the other hand, I just have this picture in my head that I want to do this 32-page book, this big, solid thing. And my storytelling is a lot more visual, and it takes me a lot of pages to tell stories. And I really need that much space to get the idea across. 'Cause I don't like to put in little word boxes and explain everything that's going on. I really want the reader to be right in the picture with the characters, and experience everything. And it takes me a little longer to do it that way.

AVC: You were talking about working based off your feedback—do you think you're more affected by positive or negative criticism? If somebody says, "I didn't like this, it didn't work," does that inspire you to change things?

JS: What inspires me to change things is if it sounds true to me. If somebody's just being negative… there are lots of negative people on the Internet in all fields, and comics, they're somehow just really let loose. But I can tell if somebody just doesn't like me. There are people that just cannot stand me, or anything I do. And why that is, just not important. I can't even figure it out. It might be because I'm not friends with Dave Sim anymore, or because I went to Image Comics in 1995 for a year, and people hold grudges. Or maybe they just think I draw little funny-bunny things, and they just hate that. So I can tell right away. If it's just somebody that—they just hate me, well I can dismiss that, I don't lose any sleep over that. But if it's somebody who clearly is interested by the books, but they're like, "You did this one thing…" Sometimes they'll hit something on the head, and it might have been something that was nagging me a little bit too. That's when it'll make me want to change it. And I will, often. I'll go back to print and change things. And it can be negative or positive.

AVC: What kind of feedback are you getting about the adult content of RASL?

JS: None! From what I can tell, it seems to be going over pretty well. It's not extreme, over-the-top porn or anything. I think people are digging it. I think mostly, everybody's just really shocked. You know, Terry Moore, who's got a really excellent series he's got working out coming out right now called Echo, he and I have been buddies for a long time. And he did a little write-up of the second issue of RASL on his blog, and I thought he summed it up perfectly. He said, "It's really weird seeing Jeff Smith art doing gritty and naked things," he says. "But once you get over the shock, you know, you can really get into the story." He likes it.

AVC: Did you feel any need, coming out of Bone, to do something radically different? Either in terms of doing a more adult story coming out of an all-ages project, or doing a relatively short project coming out of a 13-year epic?

JS: I did the Captain Marvel miniseries. It was like 200 pages. That was sort of like my decompression out of Bone. But I also had the experience of doing the entire thing at once, and just putting it out once it was finished. So I didn't get any feedback on it. It was whatever it was it was, and people mostly liked it. I got a great review from The Onion, thank you. [Laughs.] But there were people that were hardcore comic-book guys, and there were things they didn't like about it, and I would've loved to have gotten that feedback immediately after the first issue, because what they didn't like wasn't that big of a deal. I could've just twisted it a little bit. It would've been nice to get that kind of feedback.

AVC: It's funny that you seem so focused on adapting with feedback, given that you've often emphasized in interviews that you're one of those people who's just doing the comic you want to see, regardless of how other people feel about it.

JS: Well, I don't think that they're completely mutually exclusive. I actually didn't really finish answering your last question, which was what drove me to do something different. I didn't do it just to do something the opposite of Bone, because I didn't really think of Bone as a kids' book. Bone was just kind of a story I had in me that I had to get out. But I spent hours and hours penciling and inking quietly by myself, and I watched movies a lot. While I was working on Bone, I was really getting into noir films from the '40s, especially Humphrey Bogart. I love The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. And then the Jason Bourne movies got me really hopped up, especially when the third one came out, when they all just fit together and I could watch them back to back. It was really exciting. So I had this desire to do this Humphrey Bogart type of story. But I throw genre into it, like I always do.

AVC: Bone often felt like it was consciously based off Looney Tunes cartoons, and RASL feels like a noir movie. Do you study films and TV to learn storytelling, or staging?

JS: Yeah, I do. I look for camera angles, and how tight do you get the close-up. I like the work of good directors. Comic strips mostly is what I look at for inspiration. I go back to Terry And The Pirates, or E.C. Seger, and I get a lot of pacing from that. But still, movies, when you talk about stories, they share with comics this visual language. There are a lot of things in noir films that I could really use in comics. All the shadows are a weird angle, and they seem to be cutting through the characters' heads. So if you can do that on a movie set, why can't you do that on a comic and get the same psychological effect from it?

AVC: You've done a lot of research for RASL: Visiting the desert for visual inspiration, studying Picasso's signature so you could imitate it, researching physics to come up with a theory for dimensional travel. How much of that research is about getting down specific images and ideas, and how much is just getting into a mindset?

JS: It's a little of both. One of the secret pleasures of my business of storytelling and making comics is doing that research, because I'm writing stories about things I'm interested in. And I get to spend a bunch of time either on the Internet tracking them down, or going places. I was a big fan of Tintin, the boy reporter, when I was a kid. I was under the impression that because of all the precision in all the locales in the drawings, that everything was always right in a Tintin comic. If he went to Paris, then the exact kind of trash cans around the streets of Paris were in the book. I thought [Tintin creator] Hergé went to those places for research. And he didn't. I only found out very recently, when there was a PBS special on in the last year or so, that he never went anywhere. He got all that information out of National Geographic and newspapers. He had these huge tearsheet morgues of files he could go through and look at pictures. But I thought that's what you did to make comics.

Act 3 of Bone, I wanted to take place in this ancient mythical kingdom that Gran'ma Ben and Thorn were from. I needed something to model it on, and I didn't want to model it on the same old Sleeping Beauty castles, or the King Arthur Camelot thing that we're used to, and I hit on the idea of modeling on eastern architecture, eastern palaces like in India, where my wife's from. And so I went and spent two weeks in India and a week in Katmandu, which is what I ended up choosing to base it on. And that was just a blast. I think it throws a lot of authenticity into the comic, because I used the kind of architecture that they use, everything from how window frames are made to where the street meets the house, and what kind of gutters they have. I put all that stuff in there, and I don't think any reader really will notice it outright. I think they'll just feel it and it will feel authentic, and you'll be paying attention to what Smiley Bone and Phoney Bone are up to anyway.

AVC: What about with Monster Society Of Evil? Did you have to sit down with decades of Captain Marvel comics?

JS: [Laughs.] A lot less. I went to New York a bunch of times and took pictures of the streets, and I spent a bunch of time in Central Park.

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AVC: How did that book come about? Who approached who?

JS: DC called me when I was getting close to the end of Bone. Everybody in comics knew I was getting to the end. Mike Carlin, who was DC's editor-in-chief at the time, said, "Hey, did you ever think of doing superheroes?" And I hadn't, but I thought I'd hear him out, because I was getting to the end of Bone, and I didn't know what I was going to do after that. And he said "Captain Marvel?" and that is the only superhero he could've possibly said that would've caught my interest. I have zero interest with what's happening with Green Lantern, [Laughs.] or The Flash or something. But Captain Marvel just struck me right. They originally wanted me to relaunch the character with an ongoing series, with a new #1. And me doing a monthly series, that's like asking a comic to be a failure. So we worked out that the best thing would be for me to just do a limited miniseries. So that's what we did.

AVC: Did you find yourself wanting to work more in color after that?

JS: No. I mean, I love the color, and what's gotten me more into color is the Scholastic versions of Bone, colored by Steve Hamaker, who works with me here at Cartoon Books in Ohio. Neither of us had colored anything when we started. He was just working with me. He was a toy designer, and he was helping put packaging together and stuff. He started coloring the covers, and then suddenly we're coloring the comics, right? So we learned it together, and we discovered all these incredible ways to tell stories in color that are probably obvious to all the colorists working in the world. But we didn't know about it. You could totally set the mood for any scene by making everything purple. Or throw a shadow onto things, and then you could erase away the shadow with a hard edge, or give it a really soft edge, and it just completely changes the mood of the room. You could say "What's the interior dialog happening in this person?" If you put a soft red shadow on their face, then they're warm. If you put a dark, hard-edged shadow on them, then they're feeling tense, or they're hiding something.

AVC: Do you think about possible colorations in the future when you're doing RASL?

JS: Not really. I thought of it one time in the first issue, when it opens in the desert, and he looks up and sees the sun. And then he turns around and he sees the moon in the daytime. If we color RASL, that was going to be much clearer. That's the moon in the daytime if we just have the sky be blue, right?

AVC: After Shazam, there isn't any other superhero or character that you would be interested in tackling at some point?

JS: No, not really. I'm much more interested in just telling my own stories.

AVC: Rasl the character looks a little like you. Is that intentional?

JS: No. I did take some reference photos while I was out in the desert, so he has my stumpy legs. But no, he's much stronger and more built than me. Actually, his face—what I was trying to do was, I wanted the character to be somewhat of a caveman, a bit of a primate, almost. Because one of the things that interested me about noir is that it's very primal. The main character is trapped in some very hard situations, either in a maze or in the desert. And they're pretty primal confrontations. My first drawings of them go all over the map in my notebooks, and I was trying to figure out what his face was going to look like. I was reading an old Jack Kirby comic called Kamandi. It's not the best comic in the world, but it came out when I was 10, so I loved it. It was Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth, and it was sort of like Planet Of The Apes, although instead of just apes, it was like every animal was a humanoid, it could talk. But Kamandi was drawn so strangely, and that's what Rasl's face is sort of a take-off on, with the squat nose and the caveman brow.

AVC: At times, your art also resembles Paul Pope's, especially in Annie's face in this last issue. The two of you are friends—do you see any resemblance between your art?

JS: Yeah, I do. Paul is one of the few artists that I actually look to, one of the few contemporary artists I get inspired by when I'm looking at his artwork. And he also sees things in my artwork, and he has a term for it. He calls it "a floating bohemia." [Laughs.] His idea is that in the modern age, with its modern pop culture, and just the way everything works, it's the equivalent of getting together at a coffee shop in Paris and talking over your ideas and drawing inspiration. We're just doing it in our comics. He's all the time showing me stuff where, "Here, I drew this out of your comic, because I saw it and thought it was cool." He likes to have this dialog going back and forth. There are certain things that I've picked up on that I was sort of doing anyway, but I'll see a Paul version of it, and I'll just put it in, like a cloud or something. I draw clouds just like Paul, and he'll put in a rooftop that he liked in mine, or something.

AVC: When The A.V. Club last talked to you, back in 2000, one of your upcoming planned projects was a collaboration with Paul Pope called Big Big. Whatever happened to that?

JS: Well actually RASL is Big Big. Paul and I were never going to work on the same comic. We were going to each do our own science-fiction story, and RASL was the one I just started thinking about at that time. Paul's books are gigantic. He does these oversized books, one of them's called Buzz Buzz. In fact, Paul came up with the name Big Big, and he was going to do something called La Chica Bionica. [Laughs.] Which is this bionic chick, I guess. And it was a great story; I really hope he does it still. But Bone went on two years longer than it was supposed to, and I got caught up in Shazam, and he's off doing his stuff, designing lines of clothes, and he's got all sorts of book deals. So we didn't actually get it together, but RASL is the project I was going to do for that.

AVC: One of the other things you talked about in the interview… It was just after your company, Cartoon Books, published Linda Medley's Castle Waiting. It seemed, at the time, like you were going to become a full-scale publisher of other indie books, but that never developed. What happened?

JS: It didn't work out too good with Linda Medley. She was very unhappy, didn't feel like we were promoting it very well. We promoted it as well as we could, and if we needed to do more, we certainly wouldn't have been able to. That's pretty much what it was, it was like, "You know what? This isn't fun, let's not do this."

AVC: As an indie publisher, do you have an idea what percentage of your time is taken up with actual writing and drawing and researching, versus how much time is spent on promotions and finances and business?

JS: I bet it breaks down roughly half and half. But it's never just like you spend half a day on comics and half a day on the phone. It's all over the place, and as the deadline gets closer—I think I still have seven weeks until I get RASL #3 to the press. The last four weeks are hell on earth. [Laughs.] They are. I'm not exaggerating, they are anywhere from 15 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and it is brutal. But there's just no other way to do it. There's no other way to force yourself to do so much work. You just have to have that deadline breathing down your neck, and sit down and deal with it.

AVC: As far as the business side goes, do you find it interesting or fulfilling, or is it something that takes away time from drawing?

JS: Oh, I think it's great. I love it, and I have a wonderful group with me here. My wife is my business partner, Vijaya, and she's the other room as we're speaking right now, talking to our agent, I think. Talking to lawyers all the time. So I feel very safe and comfortable in a lot of ways; everything's being taken care of. I don't lose a lot of sleep over that. And Vijaya includes me on all that stuff, and we have meetings all the time about what's going on, what possibilities are being open to us, and by the same token, every comic, every character I come up with, the first thing I do is run over to Vijaya and go, "Oh, I thought of this idea." In fact, I'll tell you right now. I went up to her just last week and said, "I have three pages that I'm going to work into the new RASL, because I want this tall lanky street guy to com up to Rasl, and act like he can tell Rasl's not in the right universe. But it'll turn out he's just a crazy guy. His name's going to be St. Thomas the Doubter." And I just thought that was awesome, sort of like the Duke out of Huckleberry Finn, or a character in a Bob Dylan song. And Vijaya loved it, and of course I told her a lot more about the character that I just told you. It was a little more interesting. [Laughs.]

AVC: So you also go to your wife for feedback. And you've mentioned in a lot of interviews, bouncing your ideas off your peers in comics, especially people like Terry Moore. Do you tend to feel like you work in too much of a vacuum? Do you need that kind of sounding board to make things work for you?

JS: I don't know, I haven't really analyzed why I would do that, but I think it's very helpful. Sometimes you just get to a point where you can't decide if you're making quite the right move. I'll give you a good example. At the end of Bone, there's a scene where Thorn is in this field, about to go into the Dragons' Graveyard, and she's facing an entire army by herself. And she runs to the army, and leans forward, and flies, just like you do in a dream, like five or six inches off the ground until she gets to the army, and then she flies up over the entire army. And before I committed to it, I thought, "That's too far. It's too far to have Thorn actually fly. I've never shown any kind of magic or anything. There's always been this suggestion in Bone that there's this other world, there's more than you can see, but I never actually had—Grandma is strong like Popeye. But that's it. Nobody can fly, nobody can shoot lightning bolts or anything like that. It's just too far." And the three people I talked to about that were Terry Moore, Frank Miller, and Paul Pope. And all three of them were just like, "She flies. That's absolutely what you've been heading toward, that's what you got to do." That was it. The brain trust says she flies, so she flies. And I kind of wanted her to, I just wanted reassurance. So the way I worked it in the book was to have little Bartleby, when she flies, in his reaction shot, he says, "Wow, it's just like a dream." So you don't know if she really flew, or if she used the Dreaming power to make the army and everyone else appear—make her appear to fly. And then maybe she slipped through. You don't really know if she did it or not.

AVC: Have there been other turning points like that, where you had to go to the brain trust and ask, "Does this work, does this not work?"

JS: No, that was the only big one where I wasn't actually sure what I was going to do. Usually, it's just fun to bounce ideas off people, and they bounce ideas off me as well, and we just get honest feedback. They all hear what they're looking for. If that's the reaction they wanted, then they'll do the idea.

AVC: Getting back to self-promotion briefly, how has it changed since you started?

JS: Oh, it's so different now. I'd go to comic-book shows, especially something like the Small Press Expo or MOCCA, where it's mostly indie comics, and of course the first question I get asked is, "What's the scene like now compared to when you were doing it?" And it's so different, I almost don't even recognize it. There were more distributors of comics back when I started in '91. But on the other hand, self-published comics were not really accepted beyond a very small niche market. And we didn't have the Internet. It's so different now. There's such a huge acceptance of comics in mainstream bookstores. You can go to Barnes And Noble, and you'll find a graphic-novel section in the children's section, and another in the regular book section. So it's a much different scene, it's so much more accepted now. It's still pretty damn difficult to get your project off the ground. It's so much work just to make a comic and then suck it up and put it in boxes and schlep it around to shows. It takes a lot of energy. But I go to these shows, and I see a lot of really talented kids—I can call them kids now—and they're doing it. And one thing hasn't changed. The good ones do rise. The cream rises, and that's the same as it was always.

AVC: You got your early tips in self-publishing from Dave Sim, before the blowout between you. These days, people are watching you to follow your methods. Is there still anyone out there that you look to, that you can still pick up tricks from?

JS: I don't know. At this point, I'm pretty far out there. [Laughs.] There's not too many people out here. There are a few though.

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AVC: Do you watch what the majors are doing?

JS: No, never thought that was a good barometer. I've always thought that the goal should be to just do the books and get them to the widest possible audience. And I used to spend hours and hours talking with Dave Sim about this, and with Colleen Doran and Larry Marder, and all the self-publishers from the early '90s. We would go to every show in the country, and there was one every month at least. We spent so much time together at restaurants and at our book signings, and then go hanging out in our hotel rooms or in the lounges and stuff. And that's all we talked about, was comics. We talked about "How do we get it out further?" And I used to talk with the distributors, like at Diamond, and say, "Why aren't you selling our stuff to book stores?" And they were like, "That's just a different market. Comics don't go there." And I just knew that there had to be a way to make that jump.

AVC: You used to go to mainstream shows like Book Expo. Did you used to have to fight a negative attitude toward comics there?

JS: Used to be huge resistance, really my whole career. Vijaya and I started going to conventions in '95, and I'd go to San Diego Comic-Con, and there's like 300 people lined up to get their books signed, and it was all I could do to not destroy my arm. And then we went to Book Expo America, and I'm standing out in the aisle trying to hand out—"Can I draw you a picture?" [Laughs.] Nobody wanted to talk to us. 2002 is when I feel the tipping point happened, where librarians began witnessing these books getting checked out and read by boys who, I guess, they were really worried about losing, as far as them being able to read. It was definitely a feeling in comics that kids don't read, that we've lost them forever to our electronic culture; videogames and computers and TV and DVDs.

AVC: That's so funny, given that it only 20 years ago, there were so many news stories pegged to "Oh my God, comics aren't just for kids anymore!"

JS: Yeah, but comics haven't been for kids since the '70s, as far as the customer base.

AVC: Well, mainstream news often takes a while to catch up. It was really big news back in the '80s: "They're making comic books for adults!" Now it's really big news that the industry is making comics kids are reading.

JS: This happened in Europe about 10 years ago. I was starting to go over to Europe a lot, and especially in France, where their comic-book stores are so wonderful. You go in them, and they look like real bookstores, and of course a lot of comic-book stores are starting to do that. Now you're starting to have a carpet, and shelves. But they were worried then in the mid-'90s in France that they had too successfully opened up the art form to adults, and that they had actually cut off the kids. And they were actually worried: "Where does the next generation come from?" And I thought that was really interesting, because back home, we were all saying, "Aw man, if only we could do what they're doing in France. If we could just be accepted as a real live art form, we could do real things." So we were starting to hit that same bump ourselves, but a couple of things happened. Manga, which is a very corporate commercial product—some of 'em are good, some of 'em are not so good—they're not like graphic novels, which are usually an artist who writes and draws a story they really want to write and draw. Manga comes from an assembly-line process just like the mainstream superhero books. There's little factories, little studios that put them together. But my point is that they're marketed toward kids. It was a plan from the beginning, "We're going to get kids," almost like they're bubblegum cards or something. They just got them excited about it, and it worked.

AVC: It seems like there's some big news now on the Bone movie.

JS: Fingers crossed. I hope it works out better than the last time. [Laughs.]

AVC: Presumably you had a pretty good contract the first time, and maintained control. When Nickelodeon was trying to do things you didn't want, presumably you were able to say no, and have it stick, since we aren't watching your characters dance to Britney Spears right now.

JS: Yeah, right.

AVC: Did you learn things from that experience that you took into this latest deal?

JS: You know what, I'm not sure it's going to be the lesson you think. [Laughs.] The lesson I learned from that is that I am not a filmmaker, and I don't really have much interest in it. We're in the advanced stages of negotiating with Warner right now—it's not actually a signed deal yet. We agreed to the major terms on a Friday night in a really short time span, and they announced it the next morning. And I was shocked. I got up the next morning, and I wasn't going to tell anybody. But it was everywhere. It was all over the Hollywood Reporter. Anyway, we're in the advanced stages of negotiating, and it's going really well. So like I said, fingers crossed. But for one thing, I do not want to write it, I don't want to direct. Like I said, I'm not a movie guy. I'm a comic-book guy, and I like making my comics. Movies—so much of what I spent my time doing was trying to talk people into doing stuff or agreeing to something. And with the comics, I don't have to do that. So I think I found where I'm supposed to be. Those things are different now. It's different from 10 years ago, when I was talking to Nickelodeon, and I had to get it in writing that it wouldn't be a bad musical. Now since then, there's been Spider-Man and X-Men movies, there's been Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter movies which were really pretty true to the books. And doing something true to the book now has a different meaning in Hollywood than it did 10 years ago. I actually think that what Warner Brothers is talking about doing is going to be good. But like I said, it's still really early in the process so there's nothing actually happening yet.

AVC: A lot of the problems you had along the way seem reminiscent of what Richard and Wendy Pini went through trying to get Elfquest to the screen. Have you talked to other people in comics about this whole process?

JS: I've talked to some people. But not really, no. I just figured that was my own problem. [Laughs.]

AVC: What about Mike Mignola? In your blog, you recently talked about being on a panel with him, where he talked about the troubles of getting Hellboy to the screen. Has he been in a situation similar to yours?

JS: In a way. He didn't go into great detail, but it sounded like it wasn't that satisfying of an experience. I got the impression that he was helpful, and he did what he could for the movie, but the second movie, especially, was more the director's vision than his. The way that parallels with me is that I'm not as concerned about it as I was before. When I was working with Nickelodeon—I used to do animation, and I actually wanted to do a Bone movie. Now I want nothing to do with that part of it. I want to be involved, I'm an executive producer on this if we do it, and I'll be involved as much as I want, but I'm comfortable that Bone is now known as a book, as much as anything can be.

AVC: Do you see RASL as being a film someday?

JS: Yeah, sure. Why not? Especially if there's a nice hefty advance involved. We've had some phone calls. There's some people pretty interested already.

AVC: Has it been decided whether they want to do animation or CGI with Bone?

JS: I'm pretty sure it's going to be CGI, from what I've seen. I think my first choice would've been 2D, but when they showed me what they showed me… They can do it. They convinced me.

AVC: What about with RASL? What would be your ideal way to do that?

JS: Oh, I think live-action. That's totally a Jason Bourne movie.

AVC: Do you have anybody in mind for the lead?

JS: Heck no, I'm still drawing the third comic. [Laughs.] I haven't even drawn Maya yet, the girl whose name's tattooed on his arm.

AVC: So you're in that place as an author where you aren't worried that a movie that departs from your work will overshadow the work itself?

JS: Yes, and I was terrified of that in 1999 in the middle of the Nickelodeon thing, because Bone wasn't even finished then. It was only two-thirds of the way through, and I was very concerned that they would make something dumbed-down and clichéd, and that was going to be Bone in people's minds. Now they have the whole book to work from, they have an interest in the new trend of being true to the books, and they have some pretty good techniques in CG, so I'm pretty psyched. And yeah, I'm in that place where I'll be involved, but the book is canon.

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