|Posted on December 31, 2012 at 8:40 PM|
Royden Lepp is the creator of the original graphic novels RUST vol. 1 and 2 published by Archaia Comics. RUST Vol. 1 and 2 are now available at your local comic and bookshop. And they can be ordered online here.
Rust is a story about a mysterious boy with a jet pack, world wars, killer robots, good vs. evil and more. I recommend you read the books to really see what it's all about.
Coverless: Let's start with the big, broad question... Tell me about Rust vol. 2. which was released in early December?
Royden Lepp: Rust vol. 2: Secrets of the Cell is obviously the follow up to vol .1: The Visitor in the Field that came out last year. This second book is really important to me, I think it’s where readers decide if they’re going to stick with the series or not so I’m crossing my fingers. I’m proud of it and I can’t wait to hear what readers say.
Having read both volumes myself, in my opinion vol. 2 is a stronger work overall than Vol. 1. I loved the fast paced wordless opening sequence for vol. 2. It introduced the concept completely without the need to read vol. 1.
Interesting that you say that. I’m hearing a lot of people say that it’s important to reread Vol.1 again before you pick up Vol.2. Glad you enjoyed it. That opening sequence was one of the most enjoyable for me to write and draw.
In vol. 1 there is more back story to the human characters in the story, but Vol. 2 gets us up to speed well enough to figure out if you like the story or not. And by the way, yeah I’m hooked after reading Vol. 2.
How did you come up with the idea of Rust? Was there a defining moment in your life when you realized you needed to do this comic?
Rust started as a video game pitch many years ago. It basically came out of some simple drawings and a gameplay mechanic. Once the video game idea died, the graphic novel was born and it came about very organically. I simply started drawing some pages for my publisher at the time. It wasn’t until I had quite a few pages done that I started to think about what I was doing and where I was going with the book. Rust remained with my previous publisher for a several years, unpublished, until it was passed over to Archaia in 2011.
Can I ask who the previous publisher was and why they never published this? And how did you hook up with Archaia?
Rust was originally going to be published by a company called Zondervan, they’re the Christian umbrella of Harper Collins. They were looking to break into Graphic Novels. They ultimately decided not to get into GN’s as a whole, not just Rust specifically, and so their entire catalogue was cancelled. I started shopping it around and fell in love with Archaia’s people and their approach.
How often are you getting flak for the obvious Astro Boy comparisons? Were you a fan of Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy?
Ha! I haven’t got any yet. I remember watching Astro Boy when I was really young, but I don’t fully remember the concept beyond ‘flying robot boy’. I can honestly say that it was not a conscious inspiration. I can’t really say I was inspired by any particular story. I’ve never read any Iron Man comics. The Iron Man movie in 2008 was my first exposure to the character, and when I saw Tony Stark plug that ‘cell’ into his chest I nearly cried in the theater. At that point I was over 300 pages into Rust and felt like I would just be viewed as a copycat. It was hard to deal with at the time, but now I know that there are no original ideas. Everything’s been done... like …several times. I hope I’m offering a fresh approach at least. I’ll take any comparison like that as a compliment. I’ve heard Rockateer, Iron Giant, Ironman, Steam Boy... Those are all great stories so I’m flattered.
To be honest, I never thought of the Iron Man movie comparison till you mentioned it, but yeah now I see it. So there will be a volume 3, any time frame for its release? Can you give me any details about it yet?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last couple years, it’s to never promise a release date. So... no details on Vol. 3 yet, except that I get up every morning while it’s still dark to work on it before I go to my job. I want fans to get their hands on it as soon as possible. I know I’ve rolled the story out slowly but Vol.3 is going to be juicy, that’s all I’ll say.
Fair enough. Since you've worked in the animation/gaming industry how are the challenges different when it comes to getting your work published in the comics field?
They’re two completely different industries, that is for sure. Games is big business. You get paid a salary with benefits. You’re part of a huge team, anywhere between 10 and 100 people. And to break in you have to make the argument that you can contribute to the project as a whole. In comics, most are lucky if they make any money at all, but you can produce something alone or possibly with one or two other people. I mean... comics take a lot of collaboration too, a lot of people assisted me in making Rust good, but it’s a different kind of teamwork. I don’t know… they’re very different mediums, very different experiences. Very hard to compare I guess.
Still comparing the two industries which is more rewarding?
I wouldn’t call one industry more rewarding than the other. I love the games industry, it’s full of very close friends of mine, incredibly talented and smart people that I love working with. For me it will always be more satisfying to tell my own story in my own way and my own style. Rust represents my attempt at breaking out of the team structured creativity of games to do something for myself, by myself. No Art Director to approve it. No meetings where we assess the market value and the demographic. That’s the most satisfying for me at this point in my career.
Who or what influenced your style the most?
My style is most influenced by my time at the Vancouver Film School. They taught me to draw in a style that I find expressive, but also in a style that’s readable, clear and helps to tell a visual story. I was probably most inspired by animators like Glen Keane and Michel Gagne early on. Now I’m feeling really drawn to French comic artists like Claire Wendling. I’ve also always really loved Kazu Kibuishi and Doug TenNaple. Lately I’ve discovered Jason Brubaker’s book reMIND, as well as a webcomic by Maritza Campos and Bachan called Powernap. Bachan is a brilliant artist.
Yes, I can see the Michael Gagne influence, even Kazu Kibuishi. Your style is an odd hybrid of manga and an American cartoony style. I keep seeing a lot more artists with this kind of style coming out. It’s just the times, I guess. Are you a fan of manga or anime?
Mmm.. not especially. I love Ghost in the Shell, that’s about it.
What's the next skill or knowledge set you want to add to your repertoire to make you a better artist or writer?
I want to grow as a writer. It’s taken a long time for me to view myself as a writer, but now do and that means I need to grow. I’m starting to use some digital tools like Mind Meister (http://www.mindmeister.com/) to help assemble stories visually. Beyond that I could always grow as an artist and I work on that every day.
If Rust would have never been published, what might you have you been doing?
I’d still be drawing it. When I started in comics I obviously had the goal of being published, but it wasn’t a requirement. I always have stories to tell and I like to tell them visually, I was drawing and writing long before I was published and I’ ll probably continue to do so long after publishers are done printing my work.
Have you given any thought comics wise for projects after Rust?
Absolutely. Rust will still be taking up my time for the next couple years as I finish Vol.3 and 4. I have a couple ideas lined up for either the a) moment I’m done Rust, or b) the moment I feel the need to work in comics full time and maybe split my time between two books.
So even a volume 4? Fans of Rust are happy to hear that. Was it hard to convince Archaia on a four volume set?
Ha, I don’t know. Maybe there was some internal discussion before it was signed, but I pitched them a four book series with over 300 pages already completed and they said yes. I think the fact that I was already half finished kind of helped.
What do you like to do outside of comics?
I love photography. Photography is how I relax. People, wildlife, architecture. I love movies and coffee and rainy days in Seattle with my wife.
What are some of your favorite comics of all time?
Mm.. Good question. Recently I’ve loved the Flight anthologies. They felt like a glimpse into a bunch of creators private experiments. So inspiring. Before that I’ve always felt like Sam Keith’s The MAXX was genius and timeless. And before that, I was most affected by McFarlane’s Torment series in the Amazing Spiderman.
Since you come from the animation/gaming industry, an industry that is huge and successful, what are the biggest problems faced by the struggling comic industry right now? As a creator how should we handle these problems?
Oof. Good Question Paul. Hard question. I don’t know that I have the wisdom to suggest a solution. Not even sure I can identify the problem, but what I see is that comics make almost no money. It’s as though we’re all making comics ‘at cost’. There’s a huge demand for comics, but any publisher can tell you that they’re one bad quarter away from shutting theirshop. I don’t know what the solution is. Games is in a huge flux now too as cheap mobile games are becoming more popular than triple A, multi-million console titles. But still, games are more profitable than comics by far. I really don’t know why. The only thing I could say to creators is; work hard and do your best and don’t do anything for free.