There's more than one kind of comic, and there's more than one way to print it. And three Swedish artists have partnered as PEOW! Studio to publish their work, and that of others, using a Risograph. Launched in 2012, PEOW! Studio is a small press publisher, print shop and artist collective in Stockholm, releasing the works of founding artists Patrick Crotty, Elliot Alfredius and Olle Forsslöf, as well as that of others, through anthologies, art books, zines and prints. To date, its most popular release has been Jane Mai's Pond Smelt, a 32-page comic inspired by a popular social video game.
"Pond Smelt is based a bit on this video game called Animal Crossing, but it's mostly about being an outsider and not fitting in, also friendship and love and stuff," Forsslöf tells ROBOT 6. "It sounds a bit gloomy but it's actually really cute and funny and if you've seen Jane Mai's other stuff you know what to expect from it."
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Pond Smelt, like all of PEOW! Studio's offerings, is printed using a Risograph, a printer manufactured by Japan's Riso Kaguku Corporation; it's intended for high-volume photocopying. Using a printing technique similar to screenprinting, Risographs are ideal for short print runs and offers a unique filter to the printed project that PEOW describes as akin to an Instagram filter.
"The technique in itself isn't new but [Risographs do] offer up the possibility to do small to medium editions of comics and books and for a pretty cheap price," Forsslöf explains. "You're still able to do stuff that looks really good and new and different, it doesn't automatically give the comic "an old look". It lets you experiment more with how you can do a comic due to the limited colors and limitations of the machine itself. And it does change the way you approach making comics, how you choose to color them, if at all, and how to mix colors and techniques, etc."
The impetus for creating PEOW! Studio came out of the trio wanting to pool their efforts to publish their own material, but they've expanded quickly to help showcase other talent such as Mai.
"We started out just wanting to be an illustrator agency representing ourselves, then we got the risograph and started to offer the printing service to others and to print our own comics," Forsslöf says. "And now we want to focus on comics as much as possible. So for now our goal is to be able to publish more comics by artists and people we like and to grow. We want to be able to do larger editions and maybe eventually a book printed with offset. The goal is also to be able to work full time with this and quit our day jobs!"
In addition to books like Pond Smelt and their own books, the PEOW! trio has also launched an sci-fi anthology series titled Time Capsule that fans of Brandon Graham's Prophet would likely enjoy. Time Capsule #1 was released in early 2012 and quickly sold out, leading the small press outfit to nearly double the print run for it's second issue, coming out this month.
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Although it won't be competing with Marvel, DC Comics or Fantagraphics any time soon, the PEOW! is the comics equivalent of an indie music label, showcasing work that might not otherwise get a shot, and increases the diversity of talent on comic shelves. Speaking of which, all of PEOW! Studio's offerings are available for order through its website, but for those of us not based in Sweden you'll have to navigate international shipping and the currency exchange for Swedish krona. Select PEOW! books are shelved in some larger international cities such as New York Bergen Street Comics, Los Angeles' Secret Headquarters, as well as Gosh! Comics and Impossible books in Bologna, China, Tokyo and England.