There is no shortage of terrible comic books that have been the beneficiaries of movie development deals that move along at a brisk pace. Throw a rock in Hollywood and you’re likely to hit a half-dozen examples of poorly drawn, hackneyed crap with great development deals, or good pieces of material with terrible deals. (When you do throw that rock, if I may once again borrow from Barton Fink, throw it hard.) But every once in a while one of the really great pieces of material ends up under the watchful eye of someone who keeps it from falling into the polluted hot tub where Green Lantern, Elektra and Judge Dredd are lounging like hairy swingers with eager eyes and very loose definitions of ‘disease free.’

Such is the case with Jeff Smith‘s Bone, a really tremendous piece of comic storytelling that tells a tale of prophecy, a princess, a dragon and three cousins lost in a strange land. The title has been in development hell for many years; a few bad scripts have come and, thankfully, gone. Jeff Smith now seems to be optimistic about the future, as Warner Bros. has a new draft in the works and just put together a four-minute short that wowed him.

The LA Times talked to the writer/artist/publisher, who said he’s “actually excited” after seeing the four-minute piece, which is the first hint of a trilogy of CGI 3D films.

Fone Bone was falling in the water and going through cliffs and canyons. The dragon moved in from off camera in the shadows with smoke around him, all in 3-D. It was pretty mind-blowing.

So there is footage! That’s exciting. (There has probably been footage in the past, so I’ll rephrase: “there is footage Jeff Smith likes!”)

Warner Bros. has had the title for some time, and that three-film plan was first heard of in late 2009. If that seems like a long development process, keep in mind that the film was with Nickelodeon and Paramount for some time before that — it has taken a while to crack. Jeff Smith says that a feature-length first film is still easily two years off. As long as it properly represents the story, I’m willing to wait.

His newer series, the more adult-oriented RASL, now eleven issues into a fifteen-issue run, tells of a guy who is able to ‘drift’ into parallel universes and runs into trouble when the government wants his technology. That one has a film development deal, too, and having just blasted through the existing eleven issues I’ll admit that it seems like a much easier task to adapt than Bone. Warner Bros. and one of the Sherlock Holmes producers, Lionel Wigram, are overseeing that one, too. There is no significant new development to report on that front — or there isn’t now. Jeff Smith has a few appearances set for Comic Con, so we may get some news before the week is out.

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