On the SyfyWire live stage at Emerald City Comic Con, creator of the RUST graphic novels Royden Lepp and Archaia/Boom! Studios editor Cameron Chittock spoke about the finale of the long-running series.
Ten years on, RUST has been completed by Lepp, and he finds it “bittersweet” to be done. When he realized he wouldn’t “be in that world anymore”, it was hard because it had become his nightly routine to operate in it.
It was such a personal story to create, and Lepp was asked when he learned how the story would end. He said it wasn’t at the beginning, when he had a “concept and a world”. But only shortly before the ending did he “find his way” toward it. It was, however, the most satisfying to draw those scenes.
Chittock said that seeing those pages come in was very rewarding, having talked about them for years, and it was “awesome to watch” it coming across the finish line.
For Lepp, creating comics came out of the frustration of not being able to make film due the expense of filmmaking, but as an artist, he was able to develop comics. He doesn’t think he tells comic storytelling in a “normal” way because of it, but has a very individual approach, but he’s glad that fans responded so well to it.
The pacing was called out by Chittock, as well as the ability to “dig into characters and emotions” as well as having giant fight scenes with huge robots.
Lepp said that he didn’t plan on RUST being as personal as it ended up being, but having invested so many years of his life in it, it “had to” become personal in order to commit to it so fully.
Lepp values the role of readers and editors in making sure that the creator doesn’t get “lost” in the story. He may not write anything this personal again, but it was “satisfying” on a “big deal” and personal level.
He’s not sure what’s coming next, but we’ll see what kind of stories he now wants to tell, Lepp said.
Events in his life impacted the course of the story, including losing his father, and becoming a father. He hopes it’s not a “selfish exploration” of his own experiences, and that it’s a good story as well as being “cathartic”.
Lepp said that if there’s a heavy dialog scene, he often writes a script, but if there’s a more visual sequence, he just relies on thumbnails. He relies on his editors to be able to read his “chicken scratch” thumbnails.
Over four volumes and many years, they’ve focused on structure to make sure that the story hit the promises made to the reader early on, Chittock said.
Lepp said that “writing comics feels like telling a story in slow motion”, and it’s hard to keep track of things. Relying on editorial staff to make sure that he’s “tying everything up” is important to Lepp. He feels he’s not a good enough writer to do that totally on his own. He likes to be reminded to fulfill elements of foreshadowing, for instance.
Lepp has a background in animation and video games, and that came into play in his work in that he’s had film and storyboarding training. His “proclivity toward action scenes and the way he portrays them” probably was influenced by animation, but he feels the storytelling was influenced by film school more. He sees less influence between video games on the comics.
Chittock said that when you first read a volume of RUST, the second reading brings out the detail more because there’s so much action. Because there’s a lot of silent panels, the emotion of characters carries a lot more weight, and that was stuff to consider carefully when editing RUST. It is a “rich reading experience” of “true sequential storytelling”, Chittock explained.
Lepp was asked if RUST could ever be a movie. When the first volume was released, it was optioned by FOX for a live action movie, but that started a “Hollywood rollercoaster” for Lepp. He watched others develop and make the story their own, and that continues to be in the background. He hopes that there will be a film someday, but for now he “hangs his hat” on the books, Lepp said.