Friday, June 15, 2007

Mercury Studios is now… Periscope

Portland’s homegrown comic artist collective changes its name from Mercury Studios to Periscope. They’re getting a new space and adding room for more artists. From here:

Mercury Studio, the largest studio of freelance comic book creators in North America, announced today that it has a new name: Periscope. This follows a move to a new space overlooking downtown Portland, long known as a major hub of the comics industry.

"We often invited creators from all ends of the field to come by and work," explained Jeff Parker, a Periscope member best known for his writing at Marvel Comics. "As we were looking to move to a larger space, Steve Lieber suggested we go ahead and invite some of them to have permanent desks. Now we're a fairly thorough cross-section of the comics industry."

"We can really pool resources and let our skills cross-pollinate," added founding member David Hahn. " Now it's common to see a major emerging talent like Colleen Coover swap tips with an established veteran like Ron Randall, or Jesse Hamm assisting Matthew Clark in between his own graphic novels."

New member Dylan Meconis describes the varied workweek of the new assemblage. "We're doing storyboards, editorial illustration, theatrical and animation design. On any given day, there can be a dozen different projects going on here- and of course, comics!"

With all the talent and industry credit in one shop, it’s another example of why Portland is the west coast epicenter for comic books. As noted from a recent Oregonian article here:

...this quirky little studio occupies an important place in the multimillion-dollar comics industry: One editor once joked that if all Mercury's members were to fall sick, at least one major comic-book company would be forced to shut down…

…With so many comic-book artists living in Portland, it made sense to try to band together and share the cost of studio space, so they could get out of the house, so they could stop being so lonely, so they could, as member Ron Randall puts it, "come back to the world."

The first location they chose for the studio lasted a little more than a year before problems with the building forced them to leave. A year and a half ago, they moved to their current space at Southwest Fifth and Stark.
Although some of the early comic book studios, such as the famous Eisner-Iger studio of the late 1930s and early 1940s, were built around the idea of a roomful of artists working like an assembly line on a single comic (to the point that "many of the older artists today don't even remember the books they worked on," says Schutz), all the artists at Mercury work on their own projects, and in wildly different styles.

I had the pleasure of interviewing several Periscope (Mercury Studios) members for my documentary Portland Comics and I get a little fanboy pride out of knowing that so many great talents of the industry live and work right here in “small” Portland. With Periscope’s expansion and name change it looks like this hometown comic book Renaissance might just continue for quite a while… and that suits me just fine.



Don Snabulus said...

If they can get Tonya Harding and Bob Packwood to join up, they can get go for the "edgy dynamic." Crappy stick figures of Nancy Kerrigan bleeding and women sprawled naked on congressional desks may not sell too well though.

Seriously, though. Good luck to Periscope!

ladybug said...

There must be more too it than just moving the space....maybe the company is evolving in some way also? I dunno, sometimes when you mess w/word recognition in the business world, it can come back to bite you in the butt!

All the same, I wish them the best, and continued success!

Swinebread said...

Me too!