By RYAN PFEIL
The next time you see a picture of the University of Oregon’s Puddles mascot, know that Medford resident Mike Royer helped design it.
“It’s just a kick in the pants to see that,” Royer says, smiling.
But Royer, who attended a two-hour signing event at Village Books in Medford Saturday, has a portfolio that extends beyond that design to a 40-plus year career in the comic-book industry.
He was an artist for the “Tarzan,” “Speed Buggy” and “Magnus” comics. He worked in Disney’s creative department for consumer product and licensing, where he was key in designing the Winnie the Pooh characters’ new look. Royer also has an extensive history in animation, including work on the “Amazing Spider Man” TV show.
He also inked numerous pages for comics artist and Captain America co-creator Jack Kirby.
“The guy was a genius,” Royer says of Kirby. “It just flowed from his head and his hand.”
As a child growing up in Lebanon, Ore., Royer’s father subscribed to the Oregon Journal out of Portland. As a child, he read the publication’s “Alley Oop” comic strip voraciously. He also loved the adventure strips like “Flash Gordon.”
“I’d cut the Alley Oop’ strip out of the newspaper every day,” Royer says. “I just loved Alley Oop.’ It was my first inspiration.”
He moved to Southern California in 1965 when he was in his early 20s. He got his start in comics by working part-time as an assistant for comic-book artist Russ Manning, who did the “Tarzan” comic strip. Royer hasn’t looked back since, working in animation, and for Marvel and DC Comics as an artist and inker. He also did contributing work for horror magazines “Creepy,” “Eerie” and “Vamperella.”
He started working for Disney in 1979, where he contributed to the Ducks logo, was an artist for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comic books, and on Winnie the Pooh. In 1993, he started a seven-year stint for Disney stores’ creative team. He’s also done some design work for video games.
“Almost all the Disney stuff I’ve liked, he’s been a part of,” says 21-year-old Josh Howard, who made a trip from Gold Beach to meet Royer.
Other event attendees at the Village Books signing were impressed with Royer’s breadth of experience.
“He was very knowledgeable, very well-spoken,” says Tyler Mickelson, a 28-year-old student at Southern Oregon University. “I could probably sit there and listen all day.”
Mickelson got issue No. 214 of “Captain America and Falcon” signed, along with a book of “Forever People” comics.
Royer and his wife, Laurie, moved back to Medford in 2001. He’s still doing character art for Disney, and has found occasional time to ink in recent years.
“Really, I’ve been lucky. I’ve been at the right place at the right time,” Royer says.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or email@example.com.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.