In 2010, Archaia released the first volume of Royden Lepp’s “Rust” and generated a major buzz. Not only was it well-reviewed, the graphic novel was optioned as a film before it was even published. Nearly two years later, “Rust” is back with a second volume detailing the continuing saga of Jet Jones, the mysterious boy with a jet pack, and the Taylor family, who are struggling to run a farm as a war rages on and a giant robot lays dormant in their fields. While the first book left off on a huge cliffhanger, Lepp hopes to continue keeping the mystery alive as he answers questions and raises others in the second volume.
CBR News checked in with Lepp to discuss continuing his saga, how he feels he’s grown as a writer since his first book was published, the expanded role of the Taylor’s neighbor Jesse and what readers can expect for Jet Jones coming down the line.
CBR News: Royden, where does the second volume of “Rust” pick up in your timeline?
Royden Lepp: It picks up right where the first volume left off. Hopefully, where people want it to. I know people were left on a little bit of a cliffhanger there at the end and we kind of pick up there. However, it does start out the same way as volume one with a flashback where we get a little glimpse of Jet’s history and uncovering some more of his secrets and see what makes him tick. Volume two starts off similarly to volume one in that way and then we pick up where we left off with Roman and Jesse on the Taylor farm.
When we talked about the first volume about a year and a half ago, you mentioned that a lot of “Rust” had to do with the mystery you were putting together. How much more of that mystery gets solved in this volume?
It’s hard to quantify. I hope that volume two answers some of the really elusive questions, especially about Jet and where he’s coming from because we’re just finding out the basis of his nature and his design in volume one, realizing he’s not who he says he is. In volume two, I want to start to show people where he came from and why he’s on the run, so to speak, for so many years. That’s something I’m looking forward to uncovering. There’s still going to be questions about that, about parts of his past. We still don’t know where the giant robot that came in during volume one came from, or the one that Jesse hit with the truck at the end of volume one, but that robot she hit with the truck plays a pretty big role in volume two, getting the action moving again and giving the reader a glimpse at a little more of the trouble that Jet’s causing on the farm.
Considering this is the second of four volumes, did you find it challenging to develop the full middle game before getting to the wind-down of the conclusion?
It’s kind of hard because I really love mystery, I don’t want to give away too much, but I don’t want to have a “Lost” situation. If you’re a fan of the show of “Lost,” you’d watch the show and get one question answered, but you’d have three more. I don’t necessarily want to create that for the reader. So, it’s a balance between hoping the readers are satisfied with what’s being told and getting a sense of where I’m going. Volume one was just a taste of the world and the way that I like to tell stories through comics. Volume two is really going to help readers decide whether they want to stay on board for this story and find out what happens to these characters. In that respect, it’s a bit of a scary release for me because this is where I’m really going to hold on to fans, hopefully, and gain their trust as a storyteller. That’s what it’s been like here in volume two and I’m deep into working on volume three and dealing with the same things — how is volume three going to compare to volume two? It’s a challenge, all the way through.
When we last spoke, you felt like you didn’t really see yourself as a writer and the editors over at Archaia had really helped you to refine your story. How do you feel your writing has improved in the last two years?
That’s a good question. I did spend a lot of time, especially when the first book came out, struggling to see myself as a writer, but over the past year I really felt like people are saying, “Hey, I like the way you tell stories and I like the story.” That’s signified to me that, okay, I can do this. I can tell stories that people will be interested in. The biggest growth for me is being able to see the story through the eyes of readers. Hearing them respond to the story and say, “Oh, I thought this was going to happen” or “This is what I predict will happen” — hearing that stuff from fans is like getting to hear the story through their ears. That helps me gauge a little of what they’re expecting. The story is pretty much in the can, so not a whole lot is going to change, but it still guides the path a little bit of how I tell the story and when I’m going to release details. That’s been a big thing.
Archaia continues to be a huge help. My editor, Rebecca Taylor, is amazing and she’s my first fan. She gets to read everything first and gives her gut feeling on everything. I need her eyes. I’d be really stuck if I didn’t have her because she’s very helpful.
Talk a bit about Jet Jones’ relationship with the Taylors in this volume. How does Jet’s relationship with the Taylor boys progress?
He’s still there on the farm working like a hired hand, but as Roman has pointed out, he’s got a lot of things he’s not talking about. Roman knows that. It’s evident to him and he seems to be resigned to the fact that Jet’s got secrets he’s not going to talk about. That’s fine. He’s helpful on the farm. Whereas Oswald in volume two isn’t feeling quite the same way. He feels a little like Jet could be an intruder, maybe even a bad guy. His view is a little more simple because he’s a child, basically. Whereas Roman is a little bit dismissive — probably too dismissive — of Jet and his secrets and his history, he knows that Jet isn’t exactly who he says he is, but he’s willing to overlook it because he’s so focused on his own projects in the shop. Of course, we’re bringing the neighbor Jesse, who plays a big role in volume two and is somebody that Roman cares about very much. I care about her as a character very much, so I’m excited to see how fans respond to her in volume two.
How have you continued to develop the robots in “Rust?” Were there any new designs that you got to play with in this round?
The one that Jesse hit in the truck in the first volume, if the readers looked at it carefully, it’s a little different from the model that Roman’s working on. It seems to be a new class or an upgraded version of the Model C to show there was technological progress during the long war. So, he’s kind of the main robot character for the second volume. He turns the farm upside-down in volume two, that’s for sure. It’s a big deal. He’s not a giant, obviously, he’s human size, but if readers looked carefully, they’d notice that he’s wearing a jetpack himself and I’m sure they can get a sense of where that’s going in volume two.
When the book first dropped, it was almost immediately optioned for a film by Fox — are there any updates on that front?
The biggest news we announced this summer was Joe Cornish getting onboard and taking the director’s seat for the film. Joe Cornish is best known for his film called “Attack the Block,” which he wrote [and directed] in 2011. He was a writer on “The Adventures of Tintin,” the most recent animated film, and he’s a writer on “Ant-Man,” which has yet to be released. Him sitting in the director’s chair, he’ll be working with Aline McKenna, the screenwriter. There’s a lot of work to be done. As you know, films take sometimes many years, but getting Joe on board has been a huge boost. He’s incredibly creative, really, really smart and absolutely the best director we could hope for for this project. It feels like we have a dream team with Aline, who’s amazing and brilliant, and Simon Kinberg, who is also amazing and brilliant. Now, getting Joe onboard, it’s just the perfect team of people. I’m hoping we’ll have more news in 2013. I think this next year is going to be pretty exciting for “Rust” in a lot of different ways. I don’t have any more news other than the attachment of Joe Cornish, but I would strongly encourage people to stay tuned in 2013 for more news.
Beyond “Rust,” do you have any other projects you’re hoping to launch soon?
“Rust” is the priority. I’ve got to get that done and it does take a lot of work. We’re placing the release dates essentially a year from each other, so that’s my priority. I have a day job because comics doesn’t completely support someone to work on it full time. I’ve got my job as an animator full-time in video games and then working on “Rust” on the side. I’ll continue working on “Rust” volume three and volume four and after that, who knows? I’ve got a lot of ideas and if fans like “Rust,” then I’m excited to tell more stories, but that still seems like it’s quite a ways away, so my focus is on “Rust” and getting that into the hands of readers as soon as possible. It’s very hard for me to think about how long readers wait for volumes. As a reader myself, I would have a hard time waiting for “Rust,” I’d probably wait until they were all out. That’s fine too, but I’m working as hard as I can, as fast as I can and I just want to focus on the goal of having all four volumes out and having people collect them on their shelf. I think that’ll be really cool to see.
“Rust” Volume Two is now available in comic shops and bookstores.