Comics: Royden Lepp Talks Rust: Visitor in the Field Film Adaptation

Fuel for the forge

By , Columnist

While this image uses many of the same elements and palette as Rust: Visitor in the Field, it only hints at the artist's versatility and wide-ranging interests, as the images below will attest.

This time out, Royden Lepp discusses the proposed film based on his graphic novel series and what role he’s likely to play in that adaptation, when we can expect the next installment in the Rust cycle, and the reason why he’s had to find a new hobby.

You’ll find all that—along with a host of images from his past projects and other examples of his art—in this final installment of my extended interview with the multitalented and award-winning animator and creator of Rust: Visitor in the Field.

Angelic pillow fight by Royden Lepp.jpg

You’ve done so much, artistically: you’re an illustrator, a painter, an animator, etc., etc. Now, Rust has been optioned for film, right?


Are you at all interested in being involved with that adaptation? And is that something you could see yourself doing eventually, either as a designer, director, screenwriter, or…?

You know, the answer is, “Yes!” I think everybody dreams big. “I want to be a movie director,” or, “I want to be a screenwriter.” Everyone has those kinds of dreams.

But, whether it’s appropriate for the individual, I’m not sure.

The question I’d have to ask then is, “Would I be a good director? Would I be a good screenwriter?” you know? Because I don’t just want to do it because I have the opportunity; I want to do it because I know it’s something that I would excel at.

Royden Lepp mouse and dragon.jpg

And I don’t have the ability to find that out, because I’m not going to write the screenplay (Aline Brosh McKenna) for Rust. I’ve got someone who’s very good doing that, doing it for me, and I’m not gonna direct it because I have no experience doing that.

There is a selfish part of me—I think it’s part of every creator—that says, “Give me the steering wheel of this bus. I put the bus together; let me at least drive it!” And that’s when things fall apart, really. You can be good at putting the bus together, but you need to put the right driver in the driver’s seat. And I think for Rust: The Movie, it won’t be me.

However, with that said, Fox has kept me quite involved. I feel like I’m part of how the movie would turn out if it does get green lit. And that’s pretty exciting, because I’m in the background now. I don’t have to…

My responsibility is the books, and the movie is not my responsibility. But I feel like I’ve been kept involved to a point that it feels like somebody actually cares what I think. And I have heard that that is rare in Hollywood. So, I’m not sure what to expect, but it’s been a surprise and it’s been really fun.

Royden Lepp's angel fire image.jpg

Well, you’ve said that you now have a definite idea of the overall shape of the story now, and that the second volume is due out sometime in the fall of 2012. So, how many more volumes of Rust will there be?

There will be four total. So, there’ll be three more coming out. Secrets of the Cell is volume two. I’m not sure we’ve decided on the names of volume three and volume four, but those will be coming out afterwards. But, yeah, the story arc will happen in four books, and it will all end in the fourth.

So, yeah, that’s the plan. I think everyone will enjoy the ride. I think it’ll be a good story, and I don’t think…

I think the ending will be a good twist. I think people will like it.

Royden Lepp's little devil in hiding.jpg

And is the plan on them being released one a year?

I’m not sure exactly sure what the plan is, because I know that it shuffled. But it’s probably close to one a year. I can say that I have a lot of the drawings done, and that when I approached Archaia I had already completed most of the story. So, there are a lot of the pages that are already complete, and what I’m doing now is spending time making the intervening pages as good as they can be, and then following through and finishing up the story, as I say, in book four.

Now, will that be the complete story at that point, or are there possible openings for prequels, sequels, spin-offs, etc.?

I would like to. I wish I was someone like David Peterson, the creator of Mouse Guard, who created this open world that you can just keep pulling out of it ideas, and sequels and prequels and stories from all different angles. I’m not sure Rust will be that way. I want it to be that way, but that may not be appropriate for it, and I think I’ll find out when all the books are out.

Royden Lepp's robot tears in the rain.jpg

I think it’s a vast world, and I think there are a lot more stories that could be told, and I’m willing to tell them. But I want to see what the fan’s response is, and the reviews are, and then, obviously, what sparks my creativity.

If I want to do more after this, I definitely will. And if I don’t, I might anyway, but… [Laughs]

It depends if the movie comes out, I guess.

Snowbound cyborgs by Royden Lepp.jpg

Exactly. It sounds like your gut instinct has served you pretty well so far, so it might be something you want to listen to at that point.

Yeah. It’s true, it has, yeah.

What do you get from creating art, in general, and what has creating Rust given you, specifically?

Hm, that’s a good one. That’s a good question.

I really enjoy storytelling, a lot, in whatever medium it is. I do best when telling stories with artwork and images, whether it’s photography, like you mentioned, or illustration. I don’t want to focus on one medium. I want to focus on the act of imparting an emotion through an image. That excites me a lot, being able to show somebody something that makes them think or feel differently than they did before they saw the image.

Royden Lepp's facing the wild boars.jpg

I am convinced of a lot of the beauty that exists in the creation in the earth around us, and I want to mimic it, and I want to highlight it when I see it. And sometimes that’s even in sad stories of human tragedy. There’s something beautiful about telling those stories, and something about focusing on them in a different way than you would seeing them in the news or something like that.

It’s just telling a story in a certain way and having control of the aspects of the story, and changing how people feel after reading it—even if it’s just a single image, or just eight pages—that’s fun. I’m not sure why, but that’s what I find exciting, that’s what I find satisfying.

And telling the story of Rust is super-exciting; hearing that people like it is even better.

Circo Lineup by Royden Lepp.jpg

What would like your readers to get out of it?

I would like them to get nothing more than a good story. I mean, if they get more than that, great. But, ultimately, I’m just trying to tell a good story that entertains, and being entertained is not something small. It’s hard to be entertained by things these days. There’s a lot of noise in the world, especially in the entertainment world. And so, if readers can sit down and read Rust in however few minutes it takes them without all that dialogue, if they enjoy it, that’s a great thing. And if they enjoy having it on their shelf, that’s great, as well.

So, yeah, I guess it’s a pretty simple answer, but I can’t think of anything else. I want them to be entertained, and to enjoy the images and the story, even if that seems a little shallow. [Laughs]

No, not all, and especially, as you said, in these days and times, a few moments of pleasure is nothing to be belittled or unvalued.

Yeah. Yeah, I guess that’s what it is.

Barnabas Goes Swimming pgs 30-31.jpg

And I think, too, without trying to get too deep, as you noted earlier, with your eye for the hidden wonders in the world and your attempts to mirror and capture that in your work, that’s there, too. So you’re offering that to them, as well. Because when you look around at the landscape and the world you’ve depicted in Rust, it might be the middle of nowhere, but it’s also a perfectly beautiful place in a very real sense.

Yeah. There’s the joy in, I guess, romanticizing things that normally wouldn’t be seen positively, such as a broken family. Not that that’s a nice thing to have, a broken family. But if we see the beauty in a broken family being put back together, or at least taking one step to being put back together, that’s what the joy in the story is [rooted in]. I don’t enjoy stories about people being broken apart further, but that’s my own personal taste.

Royden Lepp's Want Fries with That.jpg

Well, if someone wanted to learn more about you and your work, where should they go?

I spend a lot of my time on Rust, so I don’t have a lot of time for a blog or a website. But people are welcome to follow me on Twitter. I try to tweet fairly often, and I try to be interesting. [Laughs]

I do have a website, I call it my blogfolio; it’s just basically my portfolio. I don’t update it, but just throw images up there when I feel like they’re worth looking at.

Royden photo of chamelon spray.JPG

And then there are links from there to some of my photography that I’ve done, which is fairly narrow—I like taking pictures of reptiles. And I don’t why that is, but that’s something that I’ve done on the side that has become a hobby, because comics is slowly turning into something that’s not a hobby, and so it’s nice to have something that I do on the weekends. When it’s sunny out, I’ll just take the camera outside and take some photos of bugs or something like that, so I would encourage people to check that blog spot out, and follow the links there.

Finally, I would also like to say that, if people enjoy Rust, to send me an email because that’s fuel for the fire. That helps me keep working.

Royden Lepp's bonfire image.jpg

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A veteran journalist who has covered the comics medium since 1998, Bill Baker is also the author of Icons: The DC Comics and WildStorm Art of Jim Lee and seven previous books featuring his extended interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and other notable creators. You can learn more about Bill’s work…

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