J1 Studios, a multimedia paradise for comic nerds

To any frequenter, the stretch and sights of South Street have always held more than the glow of shops, bars and psychics – they hold unseen characters waiting to be found. One such man about

img_0144.JPGTo any frequenter, the stretch and sights of South Street have always held more than the glow of shops, bars and psychics – they hold unseen characters waiting to be found. One such man about town, Jason Richardson, has been living, working and making art above the South Street hookah bar Shouk for years.

Jason’s business J1 Studios is an ever-evolving production company that develops comics, animation and video games. Each category’s maiden project is due for completion in the near future. These projects contribute to Richardson’s larger ambition to develop “a new creative age,” according to his Web site j1studios.com.

Richardson’s artistic experience dates back to his formative years.

“I’ve always done freelance work, even before Photoshop was around,” he said. “I was doing banners by hand, giant posters by hand using colored pencils and some markers. And I made a good profit on it, even as a kid.”

The birth of that business, which grew from his customers’ word of mouth, still influences how Richardson operates today. Most of his creative endeavors are founded on personal relationships. His business associates are often people he knows very well, including family members and friends who share similar passions for different types of media.

Steve Ecklund, Richardson’s friend from his hometown of Darby, Pa., is the programmer for J1 Studios. James Whitley, his brother-in-law, is an animator. And even his mother, Marcia Campbell, has the important roles of chief financial officer and vice president of marketing.

Because Campbell handles the more vacuous aspects of business, Richardson can have free reign over the creative endeavors.

Richardson’s concept is simple: when he doesn’t like what’s happening in the worlds of comics, animation and video games, he forces the media in new directions.

“I always wanted that, so I thought, ‘Why not make it myself?’” Richardson said of Angel Savior, his upcoming apocalyptic graphic novel that draws its inspiration from his religious upbringing.

Richardson was raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist.

“Growing up, Saturday, that’s our holy day,” he said. “I couldn’t watch video games or watch cartoons unless they had some type of spirituality to them. My mother would get me the comics from the religious store . . . but they were all little kid comics.”

Richardson described these mini-Bible adventure stories as essentially plot-less tales of children who turn to prayer in order to restrain the “bad guy.”
“That’s good for a little kid, but a teenager’s not going to buy that,” he said. “As a teenager, I was frustrated because there was nothing there for me . . . so now, I took aspects of stuff I like, anime and just comics in general, because I wanted to put in action and, you know, plot.”

The result has plenty of both. The world of Angel Savior draws from both the Book of Revelations and the Old Testament. Famous biblical figures become Richardson’s cast of characters. God’s players from the beginning of the world slowly evolve into their roles for the end of time.

The narrative’s protagonist, despite being the Angel of Death, is very human. The Angel takes the form of a human named Jason Campbell, who is loosely based on the artist himself and depicted with Richardson’s signature dreadlocks.

Hero E.X. is J1’s first video game production, a high-definition 2-D adventure and fighting game. The plot is fairly simple: humans who are transformed into superheroes team up to defend a city. More interesting than this is the game play, which features different plot twists and endings depending on the player’s choices.

The production of the game is also unique – it is made using the most traditional of animation processes. Richardson spends much of his time drawing a great number of frames to animate each character’s movement in the game. Even something as simple as a punch can take hours or days. Still, it is a labor of love, and Richardson has great enthusiasm for it.

His dedication is finally achieving results. Angel Savior’s first volume will be available for purchase through Amazon.com, Yahoo.com and Barnes & Noble this summer. Hero E.X. will also be released in the near future. These will be the initial successes that have been a long time coming, but still mark just the beginning of his career.

Richardson sees many directions that his multimedia Web site could go – in his eyes, it is potential waiting to be tapped, and he is confident that he has the talent to complete any project.

Luke Marron can be reached at luke.marron@temple.edu.