Jeff Smith's just scratched the tip of the iceberg with his work on the enigmatic, dimension hopper Rasl. What would you do if you could traverse dimensions as easily as walking from one room to the other? Rasl becomes an inter-dimensional thief, procuring priceless items for the highest bidders. This is quite a change from the all-ages romp Smith created in the whimsical Bone series. But, after twelve years working on that series, Smith was ready for a change. Smith told THE PULSE, " ... with RASL I wanted to do something different. Something that feels quick, simple and strongÖ like a cup of black coffee."

THE PULSE: I guess one of the first things most people would wonder is why did you follow up your critically-acclaimed award-winning all ages series Bone with a darker more mature tale like RASL?

Twelve years was a long time to spend immersed in BONE. I loved being there; itís a large, sprawling world filled with lush details and a lot of characters. But with RASL I wanted to do something different. Something that feels quick, simple and strongÖ like a cup of black coffee.

THE PULSE: What inspired you to even do something like RASL? How long have you been intrigued with the idea of alternate dimensions?

The idea of being able to change places with yourself in a parallel universe has always been intriguing to me. Would you have the same friends? The same career? Would you meet your girlfriend only to find she had married someone else and didnít even know you?
I read books on physics and Iím a big fan of noir filmsÖit was only a matter of time before I put them together.

THE PULSE: What sets your dimension hopping protagonist in RASL apart from the average Joe who traverses the cosmos, time and realities?

Well, heís not a hero or an explorer. Heís not even a very good guy. Rasl is a man who is trapped. He made a lot of bad choices and heís using the only means at his disposal to survive.

THE PULSE: I know you originally described it as "Blade Runner meets Jason Bourne" before an issue was in print. That can bring a lot of ideas to mind .... How influenced were you be either of those works when you were developing RASL?

Mostly in terms of tone and energy. RASL shares very little with either film when it comes to characters or plot, but the dark, closed-in feeling you get from Blade Runner is typical of noir. The Bourne films are thrillers filled with intrigue. Both feature protagonists lost in a kind of labyrinth.

THE PULSE: There are a lot of scientific concepts and ideas being explored within the confines of this story. What is it about the realm of science that intrigues you so much as a creator?

Iím looking for answers just like everybody else. Without waxing too philosophical, I believe science and religion have a lot in common. There are places out there on the edges where we really canít see. It is the job of both science and religion to speculate whatís out there.

THE PULSE: What kind of scientific research did you do to help make the things Rasl is doing here seem with the reach of someone like him? I mean, it's fiction, but how did you ensure it would feel as if it had some factual aspects correct?

Nothing in RASL is magical. Everything in the story, from his T-suit engines to parallel universes are at least theoretically grounded. I studied up on electromagnetic and Unified Field Theories. I read current works on the latest scientific ideas. What scientists are speculating right now is pretty wild. For example, String Theory or modifications of it like ďMĒ Theory call for multiple dimensions, some tiny and spiraled, with parallel universes that ride on huge membrane sheets. And thatís the real science! For RASL I also delved pretty deeply into fringe or conspiracy science where Einstein completed his Unified Field Theory in 1928 only to cover it up, Tesla built Death Rays that fired through the earth and caused the Tunguska Event in 1908, and the Navy turned a WWII Destroyer Escort ship invisible and teleported it 300 miles. The Philadelphia Experiment as it is known.

The real fun of RASL is that it straddles both of these worlds of science.

THE PULSE: What are some of the biggest challenges of working within the sci-fi realm?

There has to be more than rockets. You still have to have interesting characters. I wanted to fill my science fiction with hard-boiled characters who operate with their wits in a brutal world. Thatís one reason I designed Rasl to look a little primitive. Even though he is dealing with cutting edge theoretical physics, he is a man grappling against primal forces.

THE PULSE: I have to say RASL reminded me a little of the qualities I liked originally about Wolverine. Who or what influenced how you brought your dimension hopper to life? He certainly is one of those manly men types ....

Nobody, and I mean nobody is cooler than Humphrey Bogart. Nobody is a tougher badass than Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe. If I can create a character with balls the size of Sam Spadeís in The Maltese Falcon, Iíll be damn happy.

Itís funny you should mention Wolverine, because Iíve been talking about RASL with Hugh Jackman and his production company for a little while now. You never know if these talks will go anywhere, but heís got the stuff to be Rasl.

THE PULSE: How many people can move through dimensions like RASL? We've already seen something on his trail ....

Yes, the lizard-faced man. Well, as the story starts, Rasl believes he is the only one zipping around through the Drift, but when he finds himself being shot at and pursued across the dimensional barriers he realizes heís not alone.

THE PULSE: Rasl hasn't really found anyone like himself in any of the dimensions he's traveled to, right? One might guess the Assassin after him is some kind of doppelganger ... how close would that guess be? When will we learn more about him?

We learn his name in issue #4.

THE PULSE: What have you found the most creatively freeing about following up Bone and Shazam: Monster Society of Evil with a project like RASL?

I get to draw drinking and smoking and sex. Thatís new.

But Iíve always had complete freedom to write and draw whatever I want.
Iíve only done the two comics projects before this one. In BONE, I explored themes of greed, religion, humor, fear, war, love, power, violence - - all of human nature, really. I know itís mostly marketed as a kidís book, but I didnít hold back at all.

And SHAZAM was my 9/11 book. In it, we are attacked by an evil outside force, but then almost immediately weíre attacked by our own government as it tries to profit from the situation. I had Captain Marvelís arch-enemy Dr. Sivana play the role of a rogue Attorney General. Whether you agree with me or not, remember how vicious and unreasonable people could get if you even slightly criticized the government in 2004? When I turned that script in, it took guts for DC to let me proceed.

THE PULSE: What kind of feedback have you gotten on this project? I know most comic fans seem to like what you're doing here, myself included; but have you gotten any kind of negative responses from people who were expecting another Bone ...?

Not yet, thank goodness. I donít want to do the same thing over and over again. And wouldnít people be disappointed by a Bone re-run?

THE PULSE: I know Rasl has these ways of checking if he's in his right dimension or not, but how can he truly be sure he's "home"?

When Rasl is inside the Drift, which is the name he has for the space between two parallel worlds, he travels in relationship to something much like the magnetic lines of force the way a whale or a homing pigeon would to keep his bearings.

I should mention that the distance isnít physically far; I imagine the distance between universes is less than the width of an electron, so The Drift is almost more a state of mind than a place.

THE PULSE: I know everyone loves having a big bank wad, especially in times like these, but why does Rasl continue to put his life on the line going after items; especially when he probably has a few fortunes in his bank accounts ...?

Rasl is a habitual gambler, a lover, and a drinker. He spends it as fast as he makes it. He also requires very expensive and highly technical equipment.

THE PULSE: I know you have an "end" date in mind for RASL, but as you create more of his adventure, are you finding yourself sticking to that 250 pages or coming up with more you want to do?

Iím coming up with more, of course! But I have to figure out what to tell and what to leave out. Itís a balancing act.

At the end of the first three issues I could feel the thing starting to boil, but thereís still a lot of information that has to come out. I need to keep the heat on, but also keep the narrative and the mystery unfolding.

Letís not talk about thatÖIím in the middle of writing an issue and it makes me crazy just thinking about it.

THE PULSE: A lot has happened to Rasl in these first few issues, but what are some of the things coming up that he'll be facing?

More about his past; Rasl made plenty of enemies in his life and caused a lot of destruction. He also has to grapple with the morality of what heís done scientifically: creating a doorway to other living universes.

THE PULSE: With this great ability that Rasl has, why does he steal things? What drives him, aside from money, to do this?

That is the very question the lizard-faced man asks Rasl himself in the next issue.

THE PULSE: What do you think you'd do if you could hop through realities and dimensions?

I donít know. It might seem like a good excuse to do things I never would in my real lifeÖ

THE PULSE: When's the next issue of RASL due in stores?

Around the third week of March.

THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?

I just finished a TOON BOOK for Francoise Moulyís new line of graphic novels for early readers. Itís called ďLittle Mouse Gets ReadyĒ. A fun piece of nonsense starring a little field mouse struggling to put his clothes on in the morning. That should be coming out in the Fall.

I also drew the cover for the next AWESOME COMICS collection from the Indie Spinner Rack guys.

I have a few irons in the fire, but the main thing Iím focused on for the near future, in this universe or any one nearby, is RASL.