The wait is finally over. Christopher Preksta’s noir sci-fi world that envelops The Mercury Men is now ready for prime time. In the parlor game of guessing just where the highly-anticapted web series would end up, Syfy was always high on the list. Now comes the official word out of the NBCu-owned network that it is licensing the series for exclusive distribution on its Syfy.com hub, in a similar deal to the steampunk drama Riese: Kingdom Falling.
Set in an alternate version of 1975—where aliens really do inhabit the other planets of our solar system—the 10-art series picks up with pure-light beings from the planet Mercury invading earth. The story’s reluctant protagonist Edward Borman (Mark Tierno), a government office grunt finds himself in the middle of ground zero for defending the planet. Luckily he gets some help from clean-cut action hero Jack Yaeger (Curt Wootton) who knows his way around some pretty slick looking retro-tech.
So far just a splash page and trailer are up on Syfy’s page for The Mercury Men:
A steady stream of pre-release videos, trailers and production blogs over the past year and half have left many readers feeling like the seris has been held in web series purgatory for ages now. But, Preksta tells us, the series wasn’t fully finished until April of last year, which is just before when talks with Syfy began in earnest.
“We’d love to have it thrown it out there, but it was more important to wait for the right time, and more specifically the right place,” Preksta told us.
The deal is not an outright purchase of the IP, as we’ve seen with some other web series pickups, but instead is a licensing deal which sources tell us is in the mid-five figure range.
There are also continuing talks of a film version of The Mercury Men as well as explorations into other media like comic books, which seem to be an obvious extension. Since Preksta retains rights to the story and characters, its fate isn’t beholden to how it performs on the network.
Still though, “success makes anything possible,” added Preksta. “If it does well online, then a lot more options open up.” So what is success online, specifically on Syfy? Syfy also announced that its latest web release Riese has racked up 1.2 million streams in just two months on its site. This now appears to be a benchmark for the network for an opening season.
“For a new web series with 10 episodes to get a million views,” said Preksta, “in my eyes that’s pretty successful.” Much like Riese, The Mercury Men will also be getting some on air promo spots during one of the cable network’s more popular shows. Which show that will be is still to be determined.
Preksta’s previous web series, Captain Blasto (also starring Wootton), was nominated for two Streamy Awards back in 2009, which helped fuel the buzz around The Mercury Men. The extra time before release has been a blessing for Preksta, who has been hard at work on a companion series highlighting the “digital props,” pieces of the show that live in the The Mercury Men story. There’s a crafty DIY feel to the experience, with many of the props involving more than a little printing and cutting handiwork from fans. Everything from retro trading cards, papercraft figures—even a retro Atari game.
“Online you’re moving at such a pace that you don’t have a lot of time to explain how those gadgets works,” said Preksta, “so the digital prop series explains them further.” And if building isn’t your thing, there’s even a few collectibles that can be bought and shipped the old fashioned way:
No official release date has been set for The Mercury Men, though Preksta assures us that it should be “in the first half of 2011.” Preksta will be speaking on a panel at NAPTE next week in Miami about building digital sci-fi worlds.