Comic Book Biography: ROYDEN LEPP

royden-leppRoyden Lepp is a recognized name in the world of video games. Now he is making the cross over to comic books. He took some time to tell us about his new project, David: The Shepherd’s Song.

First Comics News: You attended the Vancouver Film School how did that prepare you for a career in comics?

Royden Lepp: The education I got at VFS was priceless. They taught me how to succeed as a professional artist, not as a starving artist. Besides that, I think it’s little known how broad the medium of animation covers topics in the world of art. Animation fails without strong understanding of color design, composition, line quality, rhythm, timing, physics etc. And so you’re left with an education in art, not just moving graphics.

1st: Your film the Suit was nominated at the Brandon Film Festival, how did you get nominated?

Royden: I’d like to say that it took a lot of hard work and dedication, but it didn’t. It’s one of the perks of VFS; they do all film festival submissions for you. It took a lot of work to complete the film, but I didn’t find out about any festival screenings or nominations until after the fact.

Funny thing though, I was born in Brandon. So maybe that helped.

1st: You have extensive work in the video gaming industry, why move to comics?

Royden: Comics… (so far)…do not support a family very well, at least not in Seattle. The video game business is a fun industry to work in, and it has bigger revenue than Hollywood right now. It’s a great career, pretty good stability etc. But my real passion is for drawing. Children’s books, comic books, anything that will involve putting lead to paper.

1st: Why a religious comic for your first comic?

Royden: I didn’t really plan it. I was taking a break from some children’s book submissions when the story just started coming out in panels. It’s a story I’ve loved since I first heard it. It is one of the many ‘gladiator’, or ‘braveheart’ stories of the Bible. A friend of mine connected me with Mike Miller and Brett Burner at Alias Enterprises who were looking for something to hit the Christian market with. I think David caught their eye because of its appeal to that market.

1st: I assume you are religious?

Royden: I hate the term ‘religion’. But as far as definitions go, I suppose it’s correct. The truth is that I believe that the Bible isn’t made up. And when you read stories like David with that in mind, it changes the way you live life. I really don’t want to come across as Christian, looking to bridge into ‘mainstream’ comics with Sunday school stories that will make you want to be a more moral person. That’s not the message of David, and contrary to what you hear in some churches, that’s not the message of the Bible either.

1st: How did you decide on the story of David: The Shepherd’s Song?

Royden: I read a book by a guy named Charles Swindol called ‘David’. It was a character study on how the events of his life affected his faith and shaped his impact on the nation of Israel. I highly recommend that book. I was also hugely inspired by Kazu Kibuishi’s book, Daisy Kutter.

1st: Have you been a fan of religious comics?

Royden: I haven’t read much but I’ve never seen anything I would buy. I’ve never been a fan of religious entertainment period. Its focus has always been something other than honoring God with quality art and story telling. It’s true that the main goal is to arrive at the gospel but unfortunately I rarely see it done with skill and talent. That sounds prideful but I don’t know how else to put it. With books likeArmourQuest and HeroBear and the Kid, It looks like that’s changing. I hope I can help it change.

1st: How have you changed the story to adapt it for comics?

Royden: I’ve tried to expand on what’s implied or suggested in the Bible. For example, in 2nd Samuel, David responds to King Saul’s fear of David’s confrontation with Goliath by stating how he’s killed a lion in the past, “I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.” Well that doesn’t leave me much to work with. I young boy can’t punch the lights out of full-grown lion. He must have used a club or a stone. That’s where I need to expand, so it becomes a story worth reading, not just imagining. It needs to have a level of believability so it seems less like a mythical Sunday school story.

1st: What are the advantages to telling the story in a visual medium?

Royden: Telling stories with pictures. I really think it’s the most affective way of communicating ideas. When you have a discussion with someone in person, 90% of what’s being communicated is through body language. It’s almost totally visual. It’s what makes movies so popular. And really, that’s all that comics are; they’re storyboards. Every good director does storyboards before filming. The challenge to artists is this; at a glance of David standing on a hill, do I have enough of a grasp on anatomy and culture to use the human body as a tool to tell the reader what David is thinking through posture and expression without writing it in a bubble. What’s written in the word bubbles should finish the statement of the scene. Not start it.

1st: I assume that you plan a TPB to collect the story after the mini- series?

Royden: I hope so.

1st: With David: The Shepherd’s Song do you see this as a perennial comic, where it is sold to generations of religious comic fans?

Royden: Wow. That’d be great. However comics, like everything people create, need to evolve. It’s wonderful when something becomes timeless, but I’m not sure that’ll be the case with David. I think the story of David is timeless, but the way I’m telling it may need to be revisited.

1st: News of you comic has been included with the Christian Comic book movement. The Associated Press has mentioned you comic, and the story was even on CBS What’s it like to get that kind of coverage on your first comic?

Royden: It’s a little crazy. I hope it helps attract ‘non-religious’ attention to the book. But any attention is welcomed.

1st: Has all this coverage resulted in increased orders for the comic?

Royden: We’re on the cusp of finding that out. I don’t think I’ll really be able to gauge David’s success until issues come out and are reviewed by the public and by critics.

1st: After David: The Shepherd’s Song, do you have any more Bible inspired comics?

Royden: The story of David’s life is very detailed, and it’s the only one I’m working on. I think I could write a very long series about it. So I might do that. The story of Samson’s life is another one that comes to mind. It’s a lot less ‘all ages’. It would be more mature and harder to sell. But I’d love to do that one some day.

1st: Do you have any interest in do mainstream comics?

Royden: Of course! I hope that David is considered ‘mainstream’ in some regard. It’s not being targeted to anyone in particular yet. But as far as non-religious titles go, I’d love to draw anything that inspires me or would cause others to be inspired. There are a lot of good stories yet to tell in the comic medium.

1st: What should our reader know about David: The Shepherd’s Song?

Royden: They should know that it’s different. If you haven’t picked up a comic in a while, pick up this one. I really think I succeeded in reaching outside the box of modern comic books to tell a story that’s worth telling. I know that’s pretty bold thing to say but I think it’s true. Check it out. And when you do, tell me what you thought of it. I’ve got thick skin, I can take it.

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