By Jason Sendaula
South Philadelphia’s J1 Studios is an ever-expanding comic book and multimedia studio founded by local artist Jason Richardson. Beginning with comics, the company has expanded into video games, cover art and a variety of freelance engagements. During an art show last month at South Philly Comics on Passyunk Avenue, we were able to talk with Richardson about how they got started, current projects and the company’s future.
Jason started his journey into the art world when he was five years old and has taught himself the skills needed to create and develop his characters. “My grandmother used to take care of a homeless man named Eugene. He saved up some of the money that she would give him and bought me an art set and he told me that one day I would be a great artist and I stuck with it. I was one of those kids who like to fiddle around with things. I guess I always had a dream and figured out what I needed to do to get there,” he says. “I did a lot of freelance work here and there, I’ve always done freelance stuff, since I was about 12 years old. I started J1 Studios in the 2000 with my best friend Kevin Siter. We just wanted to be a creative unit but it wasn’t until about two years ago that I started to really push J1 Studios. Before that I kept it kind of private, had local friends checking things out but then I realized that I had to get things really moving if I wanted to be successful in anyway.”
Starting with his own characters, Richardson has always had a point to their being. “The mascot is Super Bounty J1. I wanted to create a black anime mascot because there isn’t one out there,” he says. Angel Savior was a story that he came up with when he was younger. He’d develop it into something “that a teenager could get into, that had some spirituality to it…There is stuff for little kids and there is stuff for adults but there is nothing out there for teenagers. Teenagers don’t necessarily want to stare at the story of a vegetable or watch the anguish that a husband and wife go through. They still want to look at the action shows, the cartoons, the superheroes, so I created a spiritual action story.”
The artists that J1 Studios supports don’t just have a desire to see their creations come to life. “I like to give artists that I know have the passion and the drive to produce a chance that major companies won’t give them. I see the promise in different people.” Jason goes on to tell us about one such artist, Kate Milo, who created Lime Rind: The Rogue Samurai. “Kate is a hard working person and she just made it an opportunity and I saw her as someone with a lot of promise and talent.”
In regards to the current staff, Jason doesn’t see adding more people as the way go just yet. “I do like to keep the family small and have everybody wear many hats but sometimes you need people. Sometimes it helps to have more people, the more people to tell their friends and families about what we’re doing. It can also make it easier when we have a large task in front of us.”
J1 Studios is looking to branch into areas beyond comic book production. Jason tells us, “I am doing work with hip hop artist Mega Ran who’s licensed through Capcom. I am developing a web comic that we are putting on our site using his persona and we are working on doing a collaboration where he’s going to do music for us. We are also working on our own game Hero EX, which is a lot of work. Our goal is to put it out independently thought video game networks like Xbox live or Playstation Network. People don’t realize how many people are usually working on one game. Our crew is four people so it is pretty labor intensive.
“I am happy where I am going but I’m not where I want to be just yet. I have bigger plans for my staff. I want to have something for everyone. There is no cap on where I want to be, I want this to get as big and go as far as it possibly can.”
J1 Studios will be sponsoring video game events this year, the first of which will be at South Philly Comics in February, which is a build up to their main event on May 22nd at the Rotunda in West Philadelphia. More information can be found on their website (www.j1studios.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/j1studios).