Today’s guest is James Bullock. He’s an anime aficionado who became instrumental in running the long-lived Anime Mid-Atlantic. He’ll talk about his journey from discovering anime in college to his crucial role in AMA. You’ll enjoy some laughs with this one.
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Episode 10 - A Conversation with James Bullock
[00:00:00] Halfling: Thank you all for tuning into the Halfling and the Spaceman. If you're new to our show, we welcome you and hope you are entertained and inspired to start your own journey into active fandom if you're a returning listener, thank you for choosing to spend some more time with us, and today we are very excited to be talking with James Bullock anime convention organizer and all around anime enthusiast.
[00:00:22] Halfling: James will take us on a journey that started with his love of anime and ended with him helping to organize and staff one of the southeast premier anime conventions, namely Anime Mid-Atlantic. James, welcome to the show.
[00:00:37] James Bullock: Hey, thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:40] Spaceman: So James, before we get started, could you please let us know a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in anime fandom?
[00:00:48] James Bullock: Probably a story you've heard before. So I was born in the seventies. Raised in the eighties. My dad was into science fiction. You know of the time, you know your Star Wars, your Battlestar Galactica, your Buck Rogers. So kind of grew up watching all that stuff on TV.
[00:01:08] James Bullock: There was always something going on, related to science fiction at our house also a big fan of Godzilla, a lot of Japanese movies as well. Godzilla, little Ultraman. All that fun stuff. Of course that was the era of Saturday morning cartoons. So basically, you get up Saturday morning and flip channels, the three or four channels that we had back in the day and watch a slate of different cartoons. So I would start to notice and of course we had cartoons before school. We had cartoons after school as well.
[00:01:40] James Bullock: And I started to notice that, you know, some cartoons were a little bit different than others. And I think it was like before school and our local channel here, they ran Star Blazers. Which, you know, I was like, wow, this is an interesting show. This is different. You know, there's like this, war going on and there's this spaceship that has to go across the galaxy to save the earth.
[00:02:03] James Bullock: And I was like this wasn't like the other cartoons. This wasn't like the 20 minute, 30 minute, you know, haha. We're all happy at the end. This was actually an ongoing story, which fascinated me as a kid. So that was like one of my entry levels into anime. Of course, at the time I didn't know it was anime.
[00:02:23] James Bullock: So just kind of following Star Blazers, before school or after school, whenever it was on, Battle the Planets. There was a show also on, I think it was one of the pay channels. It was like a version of the Thunderbirds that was kind of interesting, at least to me, since then some older fans have said, oh, we don't like that show but as a young guy, Hey, this was this other sort of sci-fi kind of action show. I grew up on those. Um, you know, like with everyone else in my neighborhood, it was like, we watched, we watched Transformers and He Man and all the shows of the time, GI Joe. But again, there was something special about the certain cartoons that were these sort of stories and they were different.
[00:03:08] James Bullock: Of course Robotech, Robotech was sort of this big entry point. Again, it was this story of this war going on and you had the fancy transforming jets and stuff, stuff like that. You had the flash, but you also had this ongoing story. So that's when I kind of knew that like something was different about these shows.
[00:03:29] James Bullock: But didn't know the term anime. Then that came a little bit. When I got to high school, my immediate friends really weren't into this anime. They were into typical cartoons, but I was like, you know, they weren't really watching those shows. I was like, oh, I really love these shows.
[00:03:51] James Bullock: So I knew there was something different about them. And my brother had a friend who was into manga and this was sort of we're getting close to mid to late eighties. I remember we went over to his place once and he had like the, I get the Ninja Turtles, the original Ninja Turtles comics that were the black and white and they were different, but he also had this comic, Apple Seed.
[00:04:18] James Bullock: And I was like, Ooh, this is interesting. Of course, I hadn't made the link between, this Japanese art form and then sort of these cartoons that were different. I don't think I really made that link until I was able to drive and we would hit, this is the age of like the video stores, blockbuster and Earls and Hollywood video.
[00:04:40] James Bullock: And you just go to the shelves and you'd be like, you're in the science fiction section. It's like, hey, there's some animation stuff here too. It was like kind of that slow discovery of, Akira. Bubblegum Crisis, some of these stuff that started to slowly appear on the shelves.
[00:04:58] James Bullock: By high school, I think I kind of knew like, Hey, these were from Japan. These were different. You're getting a different culture. I started to figure out that like, hey, they were bringing these shows in and these movies in, but they were, maybe getting a little bit chopped up for our Western audience, our western eyes.
[00:05:16] Spaceman: A little a little.
[00:05:19] James Bullock: I was being nice. I was being nice. Yeah, on that front I remember, picking up, Warriors of the Wind that I later discovered was, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki stuff. Uh, picked up, a VHS copy of what was it? Clash of the Bionoids which of course was the Macross movie.
[00:05:40] James Bullock: So it was a really interesting time. Again, I didn't have a lot of friends that were into it, so it was this sort of like discovery, of like, what is this? You know? So like I said, I got a little bit older. I got to drive, I got to go to comic shows.
[00:05:56] James Bullock: And you had the occasional comic book dealer. It was interesting. I really wasn't into like superhero comics and stuff as a kid, but I would go to these shows knowing. There would be a dealer there that would have some of this stuff. So yeah, it was like this slow interesting discovery of this like art form that was different and kind of cool, you know?
[00:06:20] James Bullock: So that's kind of like my origin story with anime.
[00:06:24] Halfling: I believe you said your brother was reading Manga at the time, right?
[00:06:28] James Bullock: Well, it was his friend, so neither. Yeah. So my brother and I were about seven years apart, so there is a little bit of uh, distance apart, but one of his friends was into manga and it was kind of, um, back then, um, you know, now of course it's everywhere, but back then, It was kind of Americanized where they flipped it our way
[00:06:51] James Bullock: and, they collected it, in the F Floppies.
[00:06:55] James Bullock: A little bit later on, there were some American artists that basically did Americanized versions of their content. So we're kind of in that like early nineties, like around 90, 1990, 1992. In that era.
[00:07:11] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:12] James Bullock: Before, I guess the fans got smart and said, oh no, we don't like it this way.
[00:07:16] James Bullock: We want the Japanese way. And now everything is flipped the other way. That came a little bit later again. So you've got this kid who's like this kind of quiet kid discovering this stuff and that stuff came later. I'm sure we'll get into the fandom stuff but yeah.
[00:07:32] James Bullock: Just a sense of discovery.
[00:07:34] Spaceman: Well that's kind of a bridge because we wanna talk about, what does fandom mean to you? I can't speak for everybody, but most everybody in fandom I've ever known has had multiple entrants like to say they're cross indexed In addition to anime fandom, are there any other things you're into?
[00:07:50] James Bullock: Now I into a lot
[00:07:52] Halfling: Uh,
[00:07:53] James Bullock: we always had a video game system in the house as a kid. So I'm into video games. I didn't get into comics interestingly enough until college. Those came later, my brother who was younger, he was into superheroes and I would go to the local shop up in Harrisburg. I went to James Madison and picked up comics and then slowly that slowly got into the X-Men stuff.
[00:08:19] James Bullock: So that came a little bit later. What else? You know, just everything. It's science fiction, fantasy. Um, wasn't really a book reader as a kid, but over the last 10, 15 years I discovered Audible and started reading the classics. So kind of a little bit of this, little bit of that.
[00:08:37] Spaceman: Audible is amazing. We decided during the pandemic that we were going to go through the entire juvenile works of Robert Heinlein.
[00:08:45] James Bullock: Mm-hmm.
[00:08:46] Spaceman: We just listened to 'em one after the other because there was nothing else to do,
[00:08:50] Halfling: Yeah.
[00:08:52] Spaceman: So yeah, audible is a blessing because it gives you time to read when you wouldn't normally have time to read, even though you're not really reading.
[00:09:00] James Bullock: Yeah, it's amazing. Love, audible.
[00:09:03] Halfling: So, going back a second to what I think you had mentioned, your earliest memories of anime were actually watching Star Blazers. Is that your first encounter with it, I guess
[00:09:14] James Bullock: Yeah, it would be Star Blazers. So, again, like I said, it was on, I think it was a morning with the morning cartoons in our area.
[00:09:21] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:22] James Bullock: And then slowly discovering other stuff. I think Battle the Planets probably came later when we got cable and I think that was on, I guess it was a superstition and I think before it became TBS or whatever it was.
[00:09:35] James Bullock: So yeah, Star Blazers was kind of like my first.
[00:09:38] Halfling: And we were so fortunate to be able to meet one of the voice actresses and actually became friends with her, Amy Howard Wilson and it was great. We first met her at one of the AMA conventions and we just really hit it off and she was a great person. Unfortunately she did pass away, but it was such a pleasure to get to know her and it's great to be able to say that we actually knew somebody that voiced one of the main characters of that show.
[00:10:07] Spaceman: that Well, and I think the three of us are prepared to fight the Comet Empire whenever we're called on.
[00:10:11] Halfling: There you
[00:10:11] Halfling: go.
[00:10:12] James Bullock: oh yes. Oh yes. , sign me up.
[00:10:16] Spaceman: Although, you know, Desler Desler from the first series wasn't so bad. I mean, he was at least styling.
[00:10:24] James Bullock: So have, have you guys seen the remake?
[00:10:28] Spaceman: No, we have not seen the remake.
[00:10:30] James Bullock: Okay. I know remakes are touchy for various reasons and various fandoms, but I will put my sign of approval on the first season remake. I thinking about like 2015 in that era.
[00:10:45] Halfling: Okay.
[00:10:46] James Bullock: Beautiful, gorgeous animation. Beautiful, gorgeous animation.
[00:10:50] Spaceman: Where's that available at? Is it on Crunchy roll?
[00:10:53] James Bullock: Funimation, put it out. I have the Blu-Ray.
[00:10:57] James Bullock: So check Funimation, Crunchy Roll may have it as well, but definitely Funimation's channel. You will love it. I have issues with the second season, which is the Comet Empire season, so they went an interesting route with that. I'm talking about the remake. They went an interesting route there but the first season I love. And I believe they're in production on the third season right now in Japan.
[00:11:19] Spaceman: Awesome. Now we did see the Live Action Yamato movie. We got a English dub from Malaysia, I believe. And I watched it one time before I broke the disc, and they did a really good job on the sets. Mostly I didn't like what they did with Yuri, i.e. Nova, making her a fighter pilot and taking away her role.
[00:11:40] Spaceman: I understand why they did it. I just, you know, being old school, you know.
[00:11:44] James Bullock: Oh yeah.
[00:11:45] Spaceman: But it's amazing that these things, they influence their home audience, then they influence us, and then we influence them, and then they do it again, and they influence us and we influence them.
[00:11:57] Spaceman: It's the cycle. Everybody gets better.
[00:11:59] Halfling: Yeah.
[00:12:00] James Bullock: It really is. It really is. You know, and, you know, they, they modernized it, the remake when you see it. I was always wondering as a kid, why is there only one woman on this ship? You know? So the remake, they modernized it a little.
[00:12:13] Spaceman: That's good. That's good.
[00:12:15] James Bullock: Yeah, it's a beautiful show.
[00:12:16] Spaceman: All right. We'll check it
[00:12:17] Halfling: Yeah, we'll definitely check it.
[00:12:19] Halfling: So James, let's circle around to your work with Anime Mid-Atlantic, talk a little bit about the convention and what your role was.
[00:12:29] James Bullock: Yeah. So, I had moved up, this is after college for me. This is late nineties. I had moved up to Northern Virginia, Alexandria. And I ran into the story in itself. I ran into Edward and his wife. Edward, would become the con-chair of Anime Mid-Atlantic. We worked together at Anime USA.
[00:12:52] James Bullock: It's first year.
[00:12:54] Spaceman: And just to be clear, we're not talking about Edward Elrich from Full Metal Alchemist. We're talking about Edward Fortner of Anime Mid-Atlantic.
[00:13:03] Halfling: He, he wishes
[00:13:06] Spaceman: no, I think Edward Elrich went to way through much so, maybe he doesn't.
[00:13:10] Halfling: Well, that's, that's true.
[00:13:13] James Bullock: So we worked a convention up in Northern Virginia for one year and Edward wanted to start a convention in Richmond. And again, I had worked with him at that convention and was part of the senior staff on that convention and part of the senior staff at Anime Mid-Atlantic.
[00:13:30] James Bullock: And my role was, basically, so again, I'm a introvert, so my kind of strengths were kind of organizing. Where, Ed's the guy that would go out and there was other members of our senior staff that would go out, shake hands, meet people, get the kind of external facing stuff of the convention up and running.
[00:13:51] James Bullock: My role was to help out with the planning. Help out with the scheduling. He had ideas for where he wants to play stuff. And I'm sitting here look at, you know, we had multiple rooms, we had video rooms at the time, we had our main events. We had, small, I think it was a small artist alley that first year.
[00:14:11] James Bullock: You basically kind of, map out where you're going to put your events. You have guests to worry about, you're bringing in guests. You need to place their panels at certain times based on, how many panels or events they're doing. So my role is basically to help out with scheduling.
[00:14:28] James Bullock: But I became kind of a jack of all trades, starting as a small convention. We had the small core team. And eventually we added more people. But when you start out at convention, you're kind of doing everything, at the senior level and you see a little bit of everything. I think if you're sort of an organizer who is doing maybe like one event, like maybe you're doing just video rooms, so you're doing just the gaming room, you can kind of focus on that event.
[00:14:57] James Bullock: But kind of at the senior level where I was, it's like you see a little bit and you're working with different staff members and you're seeing like who needs help, who needs support. There was also the stuff that goes on, the signs that you need to place around the convention. So that's kind of at the convention.
[00:15:16] James Bullock: But of course being a senior staff, going into the convention every year, you've got the planning, you've got the advertising. Edward, I think he put together the website for the first year and then starting the second year, in my day job, I'm an IT guy, so, uh, government contractor, IT guy. So I,
[00:15:35] Spaceman: I am shocked. I am shocked. An anime fan who likes IT. I am shocked. I am amazed. James, tell me it is not so!
[00:15:43] James Bullock: We, we did kind of have a, what would you call it? S stereotypes to, we had kind of a formula. I, I'll say some of our fandom, our early fandom elites.
[00:15:54] Halfling: Okay, I'm just gonna leave the room now, cuz Yeah. Clear. Clearly the discussion is gonna go beyond me, so
[00:16:01] James Bullock: No, no.
[00:16:02] Halfling: You guys have fun.
[00:16:03] Spaceman: Look, look, I promise that James and I will not start talking about IT.
[00:16:07] Spaceman: You know, why would we talk about IT when we could be talking about Macross?
[00:16:11] Spaceman: I'm sorry. I mean, you know,
[00:16:16] James Bullock: I mean, yeah, and again. Yeah. Early fandom, kind of, you could probably put us into boxes, but with the explosion of anime and especially when anime presented more genres, I guess more maybe female friendly genres or I think we expanded to include more people, which is great.
[00:16:36] James Bullock: Which is great.
[00:16:37] Halfling: I think that's one of the things. That I really like about anime, and not just from a female perspective, but just the fact that there are so many different genres. I mean, I like some of the battle, some of the battle suits. I like some of the war ships. I like stuff like that, but I also like Kiki's Delivery Service. I like the fact that there
[00:16:59] Spaceman: Who
[00:16:59] Halfling: something for everyone.
[00:17:01] Halfling: Hey,
[00:17:02] Spaceman: Macross: Love, Do You Remember is my second favorite anime movie. My first is Whisper of the Heart.
[00:17:08] Halfling: Mm. Mm-hmm.
[00:17:09] Spaceman: you know, sue me.
[00:17:12] Spaceman: You've got this, you know you got this six foot two guy, who is your stereotypical IT guy whose favorite movie is Whisper of the Heart.
[00:17:21] Halfling: Yeah.
[00:17:22] James Bullock: Yeah. Yeah. I know there really is something for everyone. but going back to the IT.
[00:17:31] Halfling: So I think you were going with, you started designing the website.
[00:17:34] Spaceman: Hold on, Before we go on with the, IT, does it all float down here?
[00:17:38] Spaceman: No.
[00:17:38] Spaceman: Different it. Okay.
[00:17:39] Spaceman: Sorry.
[00:17:40] Halfling: Uhhuh. Okay. Spaceman. . But anyway, James, I think that's where you were going. Did you start designing the website
[00:17:50] James Bullock: Yeah, with year two, I sort of took over the website because again, it was what I did for my day job, putting together internet sites for clients and stuff like that and it freed up Ed to focus on other stuff, guests, and the things that he does the business stuff. I took over doing the website year two.
[00:18:10] James Bullock: We acquired some software to start doing the program book. So I started doing that as well. So the advertising, signage, stuff like that, basically wherever Ed needed me. I was there, with the sort of organizing at the top level, and it was interesting too, because I got to basically, again, interact with different departments and talk to different people. I was helping out with the artist Alley for many years, but eventually we got someone to do our artist alley. So I got to work with her. The cosplay stuff, which. I am not a cosplay I think I dressed up one time back in college. I tried my best to put on a homemade venom, costume. It's like, you know, I've got a mask and I've got a black shirt and I can put a spider on it. So that's my one cosplay experience.
[00:19:05] Spaceman: Hey man, don't be knocking the closet cosplay, some of the best cosplayers are the people who can just pull things out of their closet and roll with it.
[00:19:12] Spaceman: Yeah.
[00:19:14] James Bullock: It's amazing again, and just sort of my window into that world, the cosplay events that we put on we got into the fan favorite contest. We got to contemplate chess. That's a whole nother world, but it's just being at the senior level, you could dip in and out and kind of sample all the parts of anime convention.
[00:19:35] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:36] Spaceman: Now, before you started, helping run AMA, did you actually work at any other conventions or attend other conventions, or was AMA your first? Did you just dive right into the deep end of the pool?
[00:19:49] James Bullock: Oh, no long story. So again, Growing up didn't really know a lot of people around me that were into anime or manga. Went off to JMU and went to James Madison University. Did the usual, first semester party a little bit with my roommates and various folks, but didn't really find my, my clique, kind of the people that I wanted to really hang with.
[00:20:12] James Bullock: So, James Madison, they have a science fiction guild or club up there. They started, Matacon, their first year, and I know someone will correct me if I get the year wrong, but going into my freshman spring 1991, it would've been, was the first Matacon. And I heard about it and I was like, oh, well let me go check this.
[00:20:37] James Bullock: It was in our university center. They had a room with tabletop gaming. They had, I think they probably had a author guest their first year. I'm sitting here wandering around, sampling this and that. I had done a little bit of Axis and Allies, Shogun a little bit of board gaming.
[00:20:56] James Bullock: So I was like, I'll go hang out. Maybe I'll meet new people. Cuz I was, again, I was still that shy kid. Hadn't quite broken out of my shell yet. So I wandered down the hallway and they had a video room. I was like let's see what they're showing in the video room. So I go into the video room and there was like no one in there, and they had some VHS tapes laid out on a table.
[00:21:15] James Bullock: And I was like, there's no schedule and there's nothing. And so I was like, okay, well there's no one in here. So I was digging around and then, I think I asked someone, it's like, oh yeah, you can just put something on. I was like, okay, is this how this works? So, I think they had a copy of Clash of the Bionoids of all things.
[00:21:34] James Bullock: So I was like, oh, you know, I think, I don't know if I've seen this. So I stuck it on and sat in the room and every now and then someone would wander in and look at what I was looking in, you know, if they were interested they would sit down and not, they would wander out. It was an interesting kind of start to that part of Matacon. So, I knew I kind of had met like my crew. These are gonna be my people. I remember picking up a flyer and then the following, I don't know, I don't think I did it after Matacon. I said Matacon was either in March or April of that year and the following semester said, okay, I'm gonna join.
[00:22:10] James Bullock: So I joined the science fiction group and you got to meet people. Instead of having the drunken party nights, they're gaming, they're doing like a board game night or they're, just hanging out. It's like, oh, this, this is my group.
[00:22:23] James Bullock: I was like, hey, do you guys know this anime stuff? And some of 'em did and some of them looked too funny. And it's yeah, you're into that stuff. So I end up defacto becoming the anime guy at that club.
[00:22:35] Halfling: Mm.
[00:22:36] James Bullock: And then the next year's convention would roll around.
[00:22:38] James Bullock: So I was starting to buy stuff, VHS of course, and I ran into people at JMU who were into the tape trading, and could get copies of stuff that wasn't out yet officially. So, coming into that second Matacon, I put together the room and was showing anime there, kind of became the guy, the next, was it the Matacon 2, 3, 4. After I graduated, it continued and I found out that they actually formed an anime club and this going into the mid nineties. So that was my introduction to Cons, kind of running a piece of a con.
[00:23:15] Spaceman: Yeah. It's hard for some of our younger listeners to actually believe that there was a time when you couldn't just go to the video store and buy anime. There was no anime.
[00:23:25] Spaceman: You know, there were like two or three titles and they were all butchered, like a Attack of the Bionoids.
[00:23:31] Spaceman: Mm-hmm.
[00:23:32] James Bullock: yes. Yeah. And again, my only outlet was the few maybe, titles that they did have now they got better again, with the boom in the mid to late nineties. But yeah, it, I think part of the draw of maybe any fandom, especially anime at the time, was the sort of the hunt, like finding that person that knew more than you did.
[00:23:55] Spaceman: Keep it secret. Keep it safe.
[00:23:59] James Bullock: So, no. And then once you discovered something, not being sort of like that gatekeeper, not holding onto it, so another thing that I had done going into that second year is having an anime night, sharing it with other people. And, I found a community of people that loved what I loved,
[00:24:18] James Bullock: so,
[00:24:19] Halfling: That's great.
[00:24:20] Spaceman: It's so strange. My friend Roy tried to convince me that anime was the thing for me and he got me to watch Robotech and I hated Robotech and yeah, no, no, really, I had like Star Blazers and I'd like Battle of the planets, but,
[00:24:34] James Bullock: Mm-hmm.
[00:24:35] Spaceman: and then he showed Macross: Love, Do You Remember? or Do You Remember
[00:24:40] James Bullock: Love?
[00:24:40] James Bullock: do you remember Love?
[00:24:41] James Bullock: Yep.
[00:24:41] Spaceman: Yeah.
[00:24:42] Spaceman: And that movie just hit me so incredibly hard. There is a scene in that movie where one of the female protagonists, Lynn Minmay, is singing this epic ballad about love, and there is this animated battle going on between the good guys and the bad guys, or let's just say the misunderstood guys and the more misunderstood guys. And there is something about that one scene that is probably the most heart rendering scene of any movie I've ever seen because of the juxtaposition of the two dis-congruous things, and that's something you don't see a lot in Western media.
[00:25:27] James Bullock: Yeah. One of the things I had noticed about anime. One of my other favorites is Lupin
[00:25:32] James Bullock: Lupin, the third series. A lot of fun, a lot of comedy and a lot of 'em. But there were also some serious Lupin, I guess we call them, direct to video movies or shorts. So you could have, a show that had like you, maybe like a serious content than a sort of goofy moment and then flow back and forth.
[00:25:53] James Bullock: It was just different. It was just different.
[00:25:57] Halfling: Well, and one of the things that's different is that in anime, You better not get too attached to a character because they weren't afraid to kill off a major character.
[00:26:09] Spaceman: Yeah, their, fighter craft will get all shot up, and then they'll still come home to their girlfriend and then die after they've fulfilled their promise.
[00:26:15] Spaceman: What the hey man.
[00:26:18] Halfling: And it's not something that the western audience is really all that used to, or at the time. I think that's a little different now, but watching some anime, when we first started getting anime and seeing some characters die that were pivotal in the story, you know, major characters and it's like, what's happening?
[00:26:39] Halfling: He, he didn't. He didn't just die.
[00:26:42] Spaceman: You mean there are real stakes for real actions in anime? Yeah, exactly. Wow.
[00:26:47] Halfling: You know, so.
[00:26:48] James Bullock: Yeah. Not to get too deep into it, but, I don't know if you'd heard, well, lemme take a step back. So, of course with Robotech and Macross, there's that whole split. I'm still a fan of Robotech just because of what it did for like Western fandom. It did introduce a lot of people to anime.
[00:27:09] James Bullock: So it always had that kind of special place. I did later on discover like, oh, it's, you know, Robotech is Macross and it's Super Dimensional, Southern calvary. And then the last one was MOSPEADA. So I did discover that it was, three different animes that were carved up for our Western taste. And I have now gone back and seen the original of the three.
[00:27:35] James Bullock: But, I don't know. You'd heard in the last what, year or two, guess what, Big West, who owns, you want me to get this mixed up? But basically the whole, we weren't getting newer Macross content. We had gotten, what? Macross Plus and then, there was another one. Oh, Macoss Two. But we had not gotten anything beyond that.
[00:27:57] James Bullock: We hadn't gotten Macross Seven or Frontier. It's because of the rights issues, the Harmony Gold versus the Big West thing. So over the last year or two that they have come together and they said, now we're gonna get Macro in the West, and I guess they're gonna promote Robotech in the East.
[00:28:13] James Bullock: So, you'll be able to buy legit copies of Macross Seven Frontier, Delta. I will say with the later stuff, they may have gone a little bit too far with the idol that, sings to save the world, because now it's not just Minnmay. Now there's an entire girl group that, will sing and save the world. But,
[00:28:36] James Bullock: uh, no good
[00:28:36] James Bullock: stuff,
[00:28:36] James Bullock: good times, good times,
[00:28:40] Spaceman: You know, if J-Pop can save the world, I stand behind j-Pop. Matter of fact, let's start a movement. J-Pop against climate change.
[00:28:51] Spaceman: I.
[00:28:57] Halfling: Uh, moving on
[00:29:05] Spaceman: See, the halfling has to keep it real over here.
[00:29:07] James Bullock: does, she's she's gotta reign, reign us back in.
[00:29:10] Halfling: it's a losing battle, you know? I try. So James, who would you say has been the most interesting person that you have met in your convention time or even outside of convention time? You know, in related, in any way to fan. fandom.
[00:29:28] James Bullock: So, of course at Anime Mid-Atlantic, we had Carl Macek as one of our guests, got to meet him. Mari Iijima, who was a voice singer behind Lynn Minmay. She came one year and there was another Japanese singer Christine saw. So she was fun to hang out with. But to tell you the truth, probably the talent that I would most want to meet. I had to go to Otakon, like a bigger con. We were small, we grew, really, really fast, but we still weren't big as like an Otakon on the East coast, the biggest one, or maybe Anime Boston, or on the West Coast, obviously, Anime Expo. So we were never like the biggest con that could attract a lot of like manga artists, or Miyazaki wouldn't be stopping by our con cuz it was too small
[00:30:22] Halfling: Right.
[00:30:23] James Bullock: I would've loved to have met the mech designer behind Macross series or when I was first getting into and discovering kind of the manga, even though they had turned it into floppies and made it accessible for Western audiences. There was that cyber punk period that I was really big into with, Bubblegum Crisis or Apple Seed there. The famous artists there was Masini Shero. , I'd love to meet like someone like him, but again, these talents, if they even came to US, were too big for us.
[00:30:55] James Bullock: I think just in general, the conventions, I think it was just hanging out. People with fans
[00:31:00] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:31:00] James Bullock: because again, not having like a local club in my area growing up or not having a lot of people in high school, again, it wasn't until, college where I got to meet people that had similar interests.
[00:31:13] James Bullock: So I think it was just hanging out with the fans,
[00:31:16] Spaceman: One of the things that we're stressing, is the importance of community, and convention is about as much community as you can get. You can't have a convention without community and you can't have a community without a convention. Maybe that's not true, but that communities tend to form around conventions, so it brings people together and it lets people find people who share their interests. And sometimes people find conventions to be a little intimidating. Do you have advice for people who might find conventions to be intimidating?
[00:31:48] James Bullock: It's an interesting question cuz it was for me in the beginning, especially the bigger cons. So if it's for people who want to get involved in the convention, a lot of conventions will have volunteer programs where you can volunteer to help out with the convention.
[00:32:06] James Bullock: Our convention, I don't know if it's still common, but, conventions sometimes even offer crash space. A lot of them will offer your membership fee, you get it back. If you wanted to get involved in the convention, volunteering would be the best way. Of course, always knowing someone who works at the convention who could get you in is another way.
[00:32:25] James Bullock: If you're attending a convention, just as a fan, I don't know if I can really just go, just walk around the convention. If you're going to a convention, you're usually going for the reason, maybe you're going just to feel it out.
[00:32:40] James Bullock: It's like, oh, is this for me? Like, you know, of all these people around me, is this for me? Maybe the draw is usually like the vendor room. Maybe you're looking to buy something that you can't buy in your local town. There's always gonna be some kind of usually draw, but if you're just going to just figure out like, is this for me?
[00:32:58] James Bullock: I just say go. If you find it overwhelming, again, maybe it's not for you always find a little quiet area or you'll decide whether it's for you or not. For me, again, being an introvert, I think I just had to push myself to go, because I'm not going to meet people if I don't
[00:33:17] Spaceman: There have been so many people that we've spoken to so far whose advice is just do it.
[00:33:22] Spaceman: Whatever it is.
[00:33:23] Spaceman: If your goal is to write, just write. If your goal is to publish your game, just publish it. So, it sounds a little pat when you think about it, but we can always find an excuse not to do things. The Halfling and I aren't trained media people, but we're doing a podcast. We're not. No, we're, we're, not uh, but
[00:33:49] Spaceman: We're doing this. When you started your convention, you weren't a professional convention organizer, but you did it.
[00:33:54] Spaceman: Uh, and, uh, you know, that's the way it goes. Sometimes it helps if you've got some background..
[00:34:00] James Bullock: Yeah. Just do it. So it's funny this topic's come up. So AMA ended in 2018, so obviously we're four years removed from the last convention that where I was an organizer.
[00:34:12] Spaceman: Except for we're not gonna count two of those years, so let's just say two years.
[00:34:16] James Bullock: Yeah, the world changed a bit, two of those years. Would I do another convention? Yeah, I probably would help out. Honestly, doing a convention for 18 years is a long streak, and there, there was a little bit of burnout towards the end. Would I do it again? Yeah, I probably would do it in a reduced role, like maybe focus in on one thing at a convention, but since the convention ended, I'm still into anime.
[00:34:43] James Bullock: I'm still keeping up with the things that I'm into, the different shows as I can. There's just so much content these days when streaming, but I am looking for that. What you do lose, for me is, like you said, that sense of community. Again, I'm back in a situation where, if there is a local community around me, it's probably going to be geared to probably younger fans.
[00:35:09] James Bullock: You know,
[00:35:09] Spaceman: You better like One Piece.
[00:35:10] Halfling: Yeah, but you can show them a thing or two. You know? You can tell them a thing or two. Throw in a little "Well, in my day..."
[00:35:17] Spaceman: In my day, all the robots were giant and we liked it, that
[00:35:22] Halfling: Hmm.
[00:35:23] James Bullock: But I think probably not, maybe joining maybe the local club. I think I'm looking to like, maybe extend the community online. I wanna like maybe do something on YouTube, to, like you said, kind of show, Hey, this is the origins and maybe there's a percentage of 'em they're interested in anime. The before times, you know,
[00:35:45] Halfling: Mm Ooh. Anime origins, I like that. I could see that.
[00:35:52] James Bullock: So, yeah. Again, you lose that sense of community, if you're not working for the convention but that's definitely where I would want to go forward is to maybe reestablish it, but reestablish it in a different form. I was talking to my brother about it, recently and he said, look, yeah, you've got all this history.
[00:36:10] James Bullock: Yeah. Maybe you'll be the anime historian or something like that. It's like, that makes me so old. And then of course he joked, well, you are old now. I was like, oh, thanks. Thanks. Thanks, brother. Thanks brother.
[00:36:20] Halfling: Uh, well, don't tell anybody, but we're actually a little older than you, so, you know, but, age is irrelevant when it comes to fandom. I think anyway,
[00:36:31] Spaceman: Age is irrelevant, resistance is futile
[00:36:33] Spaceman: wait. No.
[00:36:38] James Bullock: Say which fandom is that? Resistance is
[00:36:40] Spaceman: is,
[00:36:43] Halfling: uh. Goodness. Well, I did have a quick question though going back to actually working with AMA, one thing that you didn't really mention, you said you started with your core crew, it's like you knew who your people were gonna be.
[00:36:58] Halfling: That was for the more, I guess, social aspect and the local club I guess. But when it came to staffing AMA, how did y'all actually recruit people for that?
[00:37:11] James Bullock: It was a combination. A again, this is where, a con-chair would probably, jump in, recruiting with the local anime clubs. I have this gap between my sort of college Matacon years and then before the kind of formation of Anime Mid-Atlantic, I started volunteering at the other conventions in the area.
[00:37:37] James Bullock: And that's why I'm saying that if you're interested in maybe becoming a convention organizer, helping out volunteering is a good in road. Another way that we got people to join AMA is advertising at other conventions. So, at least conventions in this area, we do table swaps. And you would see me sitting at a table in a vendor room or an artist alley of course, handing out flyers for our conventions.
[00:38:04] James Bullock: Say, Hey, come to AMA. But we would always get people that, would come up to us and say, Hey, I'm into video games. Hey, do you need any help in your video game room? Or, I'm in the cosplay, can I join your cosplay staff? So that was a good recruitment method as well.
[00:38:19] James Bullock: Going to other area conventions, meeting people, and then they're asking you questions and advertising, Hey, we need help with this. Are you interested? So that's where probably I came in.
[00:38:30] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:38:31] James Bullock: Yeah.
[00:38:33] Spaceman: We know from our own experience that putting on a convention can have many, many challenges. Looking back when you first got started with AMA and you and Ed were banding around ideas, putting it together, is there anything that you really wish that you would've known then that you know now that you can share with our listeners?.
[00:38:51] James Bullock: We did it for so long, I can't think of anything specifically, but I know as every AMA happened, we would do that sort of assessment. You know, like what could we have done better or what went badly this year? And we would definitely try to approve the next year. So I don't know if I have a specific example.
[00:39:11] James Bullock: I'll take that back. Traffic flow or placement of certain events. I don't know if that's what you're asking.
[00:39:17] Spaceman: Well, just as a general question, and you actually gave a really good piece of advice, even though you didn't frame it in, that having a post-event assessment with your core staff is actually, I think, vital to any long running event. So I'm glad to hear that you guys did that.
[00:39:35] James Bullock: Yeah, and basically listening to feedback. I mean, you're running a convention, you're not going to please everyone. You just kind of know that, and it's like the first couple, like negative responses. Those first year or two, you take it a little bit personal cuz you're putting on this event, but you have to take a step back and say " Is there something valid there?"
[00:39:55] James Bullock: You know, like, could we do that better? You know, saying your convention sucks, or something like that doesn't really help any, whatever you're saying, that doesn't help anything.
[00:40:04] Halfling: Right,
[00:40:04] James Bullock: Give us constructive criticism and you'll get the constructive criticism and have that post event gathering and hopefully that makes your event better.
[00:40:12] James Bullock: The next time.
[00:40:13] Spaceman: Right, Right, telling somebody they're a big poopy head without telling them why they're a big poopy head doesn't help anybody,
[00:40:19] James Bullock: Exactly,
[00:40:20] Spaceman: and I don't know about you, but I don't wanna be a big poopy head.
[00:40:26] James Bullock: And again, you have to have sort of a thick skin. We live in the internet age. We remember the world before the internet. We remember that world.
[00:40:35] Halfling: right.
[00:40:35] James Bullock: Again, over time, knowing that again, you can't please everyone, take the constructive criticism and build off of that.
[00:40:45] Spaceman: You know, you have so few seconds in your life.
[00:40:48] Spaceman: Why spend so many of them hating? Love, man. Just love, have empathy, be kind.
[00:40:55] Spaceman: It's, it is sad that people can't take that to heart.
[00:40:57] Halfling: Yeah. Yeah. It is. Over the years in my professional life, I have learned that if you are going to be critical, at least make it constructive.
[00:41:08] Halfling: Tell them why, tell them exactly what you think was wrong, and even better offer suggestions.
[00:41:16] Spaceman: Right, because the con-chair wants the best con possible within the constraints they have. The book publisher wants their books to be the best they can possibly do. The comic artist wants their comics, their art, to be the best.
[00:41:29] Spaceman: They all want to improve.
[00:41:31] Spaceman: And so they need feedback, but the feedback needs to be framed in a manner where it can actually have an effect. Because if you just call somebody a big poopy head, they're just gonna shut you down. They're, not listening because that's where you're starting from.
[00:41:44] Spaceman: But if you say, James, I think that registration could have worked better if you guys would've had the flow coming from left to right, instead of right to left. That's something concrete and can be workeded on.
[00:41:53] James Bullock: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I really have nothing to add to that. It's just for your listeners again, constructive criticism, it goes for anything. It could go for something as silly, you know, going to a Marvel movie and it's like, oh, I didn't like this or that, or, you know.
[00:42:08] James Bullock: I've listening to a lot of YouTube lately, but I found the most interesting, people that I keep coming back to are the ones that really have that critical criticism. Maybe they don't like something and that's great, but then they'll tell you why they don't like it or maybe even, and sometimes how it could be better. I find that people that have that perspective as kind of the people that I continue to go back and listen to.
[00:42:34] Spaceman: Right. revisiting that for a second. You know, we're talking about AMA. AMA was a really good mid-size convention, but you weren't big enough to draw the biggest names from Japan. It just was not economically viable for the convention or for them.
[00:42:47] Spaceman: And so understanding the thing that you're judging. You can't judge a small thing by the standards of a big thing.
[00:42:55] Spaceman: You can't judge a one off indie artist working, making comics out of their bedroom, which they staple themselves against what Marvel or DC is able to put out with an entire editorial staff.
[00:43:07] Spaceman: Now, sometimes the indies are better. Many times the indies are better, but they're never gonna have the same production quality.
[00:43:13] James Bullock: Yeah and again, because we're like a small to midsize event, we would have to basically, tap into really the things that folks wanted to do. You're not gonna be able to draw from a big, huge name. Well, you get the feedback after the convention, you say, Hey, we want more like fan events.
[00:43:32] James Bullock: Like maybe we have like a cosplay contest, but how about a fan favorite picks? You know, usually with cosplay contests, you're getting the technical people saying like, your dress or your uniform was technically, this and that, and you've got these sort of like maybe, cosplay or customing experts that are judging that.
[00:43:50] James Bullock: But maybe you want to have something fun for like your guests. So like maybe you have a fan event that like everyone can like vote for. So you do things that kind of draw People and you stay creative, you gotta stay creative. So, there's a lot of things to make a smaller event more interesting.
[00:44:10] Halfling: Sure. We actually are fans of smaller conventions. I don't know, there's just something a little more, I hate to use the word intimate, but it's more of a chance to actually connect with attendees there and even when you have a convention that has rooms where both the staff and guests come and hang out, which y'all did some of that at AMA.
[00:44:33] Halfling: Sometimes it was the same room and sometimes it was separate. But that was actually how we met Amy, was one year where it was the same room and I was staffing it and she came in and we just really hit it off. But I'm digressing, I can't even really remember what my point is here.
[00:44:52] James Bullock: Well, that's the advantage of a smaller convention. Like you said, you used the word intimate, but that's true. It's more intimate or more personal, that you can have little events like that.
[00:45:03] James Bullock: And you can really like run into people, you're in the hallways. I love the two years that we were at a big, or actually three years, but two years in Richmond, that we were at a big convention center cuz it felt like, ooh, it felt big, it felt impressive and all this stuff.
[00:45:19] James Bullock: But there's something to be said for the more intimate, smaller hotel cons. Cuz you run into people a little bit more. You can have those smaller, gatherings where the guests can maybe, if they have time, they can hang back and talk to you more. So yeah,
[00:45:38] Halfling: Yeah, Yeah, do you happen to have any resources that you might could recommend for anybody who might be out there listening and gets the crazy idea that they might wanna organize a convention. God help them.
[00:45:54] Spaceman: Software ,websites.
[00:45:56] Halfling: Yeah. Anything that you could offer up in terms of resources?
[00:45:59] James Bullock: Not really. The only thing I can really say about that is if you're interested in starting your own convention, go to conventions and go to different types of conventions. Go to a comic show or go to like maybe a video game tournament. Show there's now, video gaming conventions are big these days.
[00:46:20] James Bullock: Go to different types of shows. Go to the big ones in Baltimore or New York, that's probably the best thing cuz then you'll experience the different types of one events you can throw. You can look and say, Hey, you know, I like the way they do this. Maybe I can do this in my event.
[00:46:39] James Bullock: So I think just going and experiencing is probably the best thing that I could tell someone that's wanting to organize their own event.
[00:46:47] Halfling: Umm hmm.
[00:46:48] Halfling: Well, that makes perfect sense. I mean, get some experience, get wet behind the ears attending some of these and then, get an idea of what it is you really want to do.
[00:46:59] James Bullock: Yeah, there was no guide when I joined Matacon, there was no guide. When we started. Anime USA and then later AMA there was no us like Ed didn't say, here, read this.
[00:47:11] Halfling: Well, maybe that's something y'all could think about doing, putting together, you know?
[00:47:15] Spaceman: Yeah, I'll be a collaborator.
[00:47:17] Halfling: Yeah. That's a thought
[00:47:19] James Bullock: and it's just the, like you said, it's a different type of events again, I ran into you guys at RavenCon back in April. RavenCon is a different type of event than AMA is a different type event than a MAGFest. Yeah.
[00:47:33] Spaceman: Yeah. It's, so weird, James. We were invited to RavenCon as Lit guest, and we did all our panels on tabletop gaming, except for Janet, the Halfling did one on short stories, but apparently we are still known as the Game Buddha and the Game Diva of many people.
[00:47:50] James Bullock: Well, yeah. And so you guys ran ours for a couple years and I was like, I always wished I would've come to you guys more and say, no, no, no. Hang with us a little bit more. It'll grow, it'll grow. I know it's an anime con, so yeah.
[00:48:05] Spaceman: Truth behold, Kathy needed this more, so.
[00:48:08] Halfling: Yeah, but we love being with the AMA staff. That was one of the reasons why we kept helping out year after year was, you know, so good to see so many great people. Um, you know, and it was really a good time. So we, we had a lot
[00:48:22] Halfling: of
[00:48:22] Spaceman: We made a lot of friends doing
[00:48:25] Halfling: yeah.
[00:48:26] James Bullock: And that's the most important thing. And like you said, it goes back to community. If you don't like the people that you're hanging out with, you're not gonna stay for very long.
[00:48:34] James Bullock: You know
[00:48:36] Halfling: Why? Why? would you wanna do that?
[00:48:38] Spaceman: Yes, Yes. One of the folks we recently interviewed, he said that the number one rule of going to conventions is don't be a jerk . And that is the absolute, eternal power truth.
[00:48:50] Spaceman: Don't be a jerk
[00:48:51] Halfling: there, you.
[00:48:51] James Bullock: Yes.
[00:48:52] Spaceman: and that can carry you a long way in life. Unless you're dealing with an insurance company, then sometimes you do need to bring the. old, be a jerk out. Yeah, Bringing, but, but that's only for like The Empire and the Third Reich. You know, the Kishin Corps and insurance company.
[00:49:09] Halfling: And insurance companies.
[00:49:11] Spaceman: And insurance companies.
[00:49:14] Halfling: Well, James, listen, thank you so much for talking with us today. We have had a great time. It's good to talk to you and hear about your journey. We appreciate you being with us Us
[00:49:24] Spaceman: right. And we want to thank our listeners for tuning in today. We hope you've enjoyed and perhaps become a little inspired by today's guest, James Bullock. We want to give James a shout out, and thank you for joining us today, and this is the Spaceman of the Halfling and the Spaceman signing off.