Free Comic Book Day: Royden Lepp on Archaia's Rust

Royden Lepp's Rust has been one of those properties that Archaia has helped craft into a multimedia brand in a very short period of time. The all-ages book is not only one of those featured in the hardcover they've got coming out for tomorrow's Free Comic Book Day, but they've also worked with Lepp to put together an iPad app that functions in much the same way as Marvel's highly-touted AR app, with special features, video introduction, games and the ability to buy the book in-app, reading it either like you would on paper or with layered pages that allow the reader to see the artistic process.

The story, which will be published in four parts including the one already available and the second issue due out later this summer, was also recently optioned by 20th Century Fox for a live-action feature film--so it's something that we'll be hearing more of.

Lepp spoke with ComicBook.com about Rust, Free Comic Book Day and Archaia's stylish hardcover offering for this year's event. The hardcover, titled Mouse Guard, Labyrinth and Other Stories, will be available Saturday morning at comic book stores everywhere.

How did Rust come to be one of the stories that appeared in the Free Comic Book Day hardcover?

Archaia decides who's going to participate in their Free Comic Book Day book, and I think that they probably spend a lot of time and sweat over choosing who's going to go each year besides David Petersen, who the book is sort of based around.

I think they're counting on getting a lot of readers of all ages for Free Comic Book Day, so they've traditionally based the Free Comic Book Day issue on their all-ages stuff--so Fraggle Rock and Mouse Guard and stuff. Because I fell into the all-ages category of their books for the last couple of years and because Rust is an ongoing series for four books total, I think that they felt that it was a good idea to get Rust into as many readers' hands as possible. So it's going to be pretty exciting; it's going to be thousands and thousands of people getting to read Rust for the first time on saturday.

And it'll be a really hotly anticipated issue. The presentation alone--a free hardcover!--has got a lot of people talking about this issue.

Archaia is really great at packaging their books; they like hardcovers, that's what they're known for, and they spared no expense and didn't pull any punches for the gorgeous packaging on that book.

So I hope that Rust can be one of those books that's in the public consciousness for people to keep their eye on. I know the first book piqued interest and the question when there's a good first book, is can the creator keep up with this? So I have to prove that to readers right now—that the story and the characters are worth investing in. If I can do that in Book Two then I think I'll be able to really grab an audience.

It's funny because it was really only recently--with the success of Mouse Guard--that I started thinking of Archaia as all-ages friendly as opposed to more Vertigo-like.

They have their dark, mature readers-only stuff and people who are going to want that are going to seek it out, so the all ages stuff is what's getting the push here I think.

They both have their challenges, and Archaia is trying both, but I think because they've had success with Mouse Guard they're looking for books that can ride the coattails and where they can tell the readers, "if you like mouse Guard, try this...". So yeah, they're trying to keep their hands in all the pies and so far they do seem to be doing a good job of it.

Was it difficult to boil Rust down to fit the shorter format of the Free Comic Book Day anthology? Your only previous work on the property was a long-form graphic novel.

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Yes, it was hard to fit into the format. If you look at my previous book, you can tell that I like to stretch my legs and tell a story over a lot of pages. The joke that I have is that they had a bet going around Archaia about whether I would be able to [tell a story] in eight pages or less.

Not to be too self-depreciating but that was a concern—it was hard for me to fit a story into eight pages, but we had something that was going to fit and it worked. Plus, the purpose is not to tell a totally complete story but to give a taste of the mood of the book. So they shouldn't feel satisfied by those pages, they should want much more. I'm just trying to have a suggestion of a story arc similar to what they would have if they opened the book. We got that this year, and hopefully we can get that again next year.