One of the biggest buzz books of Preview Night at San Diego was a sneak peek of Jeff Smith’s new series Rasl. While the preview was only six pages long, the oversize 11×17 format was definitely eye-catching. Published by Cartoon Books, Smith’s own company, in a limited edition of 2200, it’s expected to sell out quickly.
Much of the excitement is due to this being Smith’s first original series since finishing his epic fantasy Bone and Shazam:Monster Society of Evil for DC. Rather than sitting back and riding the popularity of the neo-classic Bone, Smith is getting back in the game with a stark SF thriller about a thief with an amazing artifact that he can only use at a price. “Rasl is an art thief who created a spectral immersion suit,” Smith explained. “He can go through the light in between dimensions. But using it is very painful—it sometimes takes him days to recover. In the meantime, he drinks and smokes and gambles. He’s needs all these human pleasures of the flesh to help him recover from the blinding pain. Then he has to go through it all again to get back to where he came from.”
Rasl’s job as an art thief and who is financing him is the subject of some mystery that will unfold as the series progresses. “He has a lot of stories,” said Smith. “There’s a tattoo of woman his arm, who is another man’s wife; he’s got issues.”
Smith plans the ongoing comics periodical to start some time next year. “I’m trying to mix the old market with the new market, so it will probably be about 2 years of comic books for the direct sales market. In the end I’ll collect it into a graphic novel.” The ongoing series will be oversized and in black and white, while the collection will be in a smaller, color version of about 250 pages.
Smith is enjoying his post-Bone work, and says that he works on Rasl much more loosely. The idea for the story came from some of his reading in popular science books by Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Brian Green. “I started thinking about all these other dimensions. Since Rasl can go to different universes, if a collector wanted to pay enough money to get a Mona Lisa, Rasl would go to another dimension to get him one. That’s his life.”
Rasl is the first of what Smith hopes will be many new series from his pen. “I’ve got tons of ideas and energy left. I want to keep working. This is the first show in a while where I’ll have a new indie project.”
While few Rasl copies are available at the show, a few copies have been held back to for Smith’s appearance at this October’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda