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Monday, May 24, 2010

Jon M. Gibson Loves Hamburgers

Jon M. Gibson started i am 8-bit, as a spectacular art show about the nostalgia and love of old-school video games .That is continually held in Los Angeles. The i am 8-bit art show is highly received by video game fans and the art community and has had over 100 well known artist participate. Jon’s career started as a freelance video game journalist before co-founding Play Magazine, a well known video game magazine. After leaving Play Magazine Jon became a writer for different animated properties (cartoons) on all the major children’s networks. He is also the owner of Nerdcore, a producer of Nerd-themed calendars.

Jon M. Gibson is also the owner of i am 8-bit productions (The “i” is suppose to be lowercase). I am 8-bit productions is a marketing firm and idea house that produces commercials and, does viral marketing. Including campaigns, events, animation, and creates marketing materials and highly idolized press kits. I am 8-bit productions has serviced the needs of huge companies including Nintendo of America, Capcom, Spike television, EA, New Line Cinema and others. The company’s latest events were the Super Street Fighter Tribute Club in Atwater, California that happened on April 23rd 2010 and the Lost Planet 2 launch party that was held at the Roosevelt Hotel, in Hollywood California on May 6th.

A few weeks ago, I had my long overdue interview with the man who wants to do everything.

We met at Umami Burger just past Sweeny Todd’s Barbershop and a few steps from Wacko Soap Plant. I had never been to this burger joint, despite passing it a hundred times

One thing I learned about Jon is that he is insanely busy. This interview took months to get, and I planned on being seated for a while. It was well worth it when a tall skinny man with a ruff beard wearing a hat and glasses came with a smile on his face, put out his hand and said, “Hey, sorry I’m late.”

Jon is well versed, enthusiastic, filled with a hundred thoughts and friendly, He has no enemies, just people he has already crushed. That’s the impression I got from talking casually with him.

Like I said he sat down and we immediately fell into conversation. I thanked him for creating the greatest art shows I’d ever been to. And through a friendly discussion I got around to asking some questions.

First up I asked about when the i am 8-bit art show would return.

Jon said it was definitely happening this year and that it must happen this year. “It’s the anniversary,” he exclaimed. It was a pleasure to hear, “Sometime this Fall, maybe October.” I was so thrilled to hear it I immediately asked why there was no i am 8-bit in 2009? I sorely missed it and had probed the internet for new about it and found nothing. Jon gave a few reasons such as a bad economy, and their old gallery, the Wonder Gallery had left this world, “The pieces weren’t falling together,” Jon. Eventually he owed up to not getting around to doing it.

He also explained that at the last 8-bit in 2008 that something was amiss. The first night he had the flu. He felt terrible and had to push through it to do the show. What was funny is that Jon told me many people thought he was doing cocaine that night.

Asking about 8-bits creation was ringing in my head and laughter out of my face about the cocaine. Jon’s personality throughout the interview was that of a casual guy who would spring on certain questions. This was not one of those questions. It went down like this

Jonathan: How was the i am 8-bit art show created? (I paused waiting for a long speech.)

Jon: I just walked into a art gallery and asked.

Jonathan: ...

Jon: Just walked in one. I’ll just do things like that. I love asking questions. I love knowing how things work.

Jonathan: How’d you get the artists?

Jon: Pfft, I have plenty of artist friends.

Jonathan: Okay then I thought that would take a lot longer to answer.

Jon revealed that it wasn’t easy though and it took 9 months from conception to reality. Jon exclaimed how every event he planned has taken time even though the initial conception may have been short. He mentioned the Megaman event  I attended here in LA. At the event a moded ice cream truck was delivering Megaman E-tank boxes with t-shirts inside. Jon explained the initial idea was a hot dog cart. The event over time became an ice cream truck through a series of meetings between what Capcom wanted and what Jon’s I am 8-bit production’s team could produce.

It takes time to plan these events outs and Jon has done many events He did some launches at the Nintendo World Store in New York for games like Muramasa: The Demon Blade. He traveled to Germany for ich bin 8-bit.

Germany has an outlandish arts festival and ich bin 8-bit was a perfect edition to it. The art show consisted of post-it notes as pixels to form video game characters done by the artist Jude Buffum.

Jon later revealed he was a puppet master pulling the strings behind events I've been to or read about online. I found out he was behind a John K. (creator of Ren and Stimpy) event I attended many years ago here in LA. At the event John K had a Q &A about himself and his work and showed off Naked Beach Frenzy an unreleased Ren and Stimpy cartoon with lots of nudity.

 Turns out Jon set up the whole affair and a series of other cartoon showings and Q &A’s with their creators including one for Bruce Timm of Batman: The Animated series fame, Ralph Bashki and other famous cartoonists.

Jon brought up how he wanted to talk at the John K event as the host, but someone else took his spot. That had irked him. At the point we discussed how he gave a speech. He opened his small notebook and showed me a few bullet points he covered for an hour long speech. Jon explained he just looked at the few sentences and went on for an hour. Jon doesn’t need a teleprompter to speak, he speaks his mind.

Back to the cartoons. Jon knew these cartoonists because when he was a writer for many animated programs he hanged out with the artists and became their friend. His initial connection with these cartoonists was probably Gabe Swarr. Mr.Swarr worked for John K at Spumco, the animation house that made Ren & Stimpy and has since worked on many other animated shows. In my opinion he’s one of the best artists featured in i am 8-bit. It should be no surprise that Gabe was Jon’s first friend in LA. Jon spoke highly of him except, for his first attempt at drawing Mario for 8-bit. Jon was amazed at how boring it looked and told Gabe to do it again until it was a “Gabe Swarr Mario”.

Like I said Jon has so many artist friends because he has a lot of cartoonist friends. Cartoonists are simply artists who get paid on a more regular basis. These cartoonists were then connected to regular artist who sometimes aren’t paid at all and have regular jobs to cope with their lifestyles. How Jon got to know these cartoonists and become a writer is another short story titled “Jon is a Lucky Bastard".

Jonathan: How’d you become a writer?

Jon: Sat a food court and made friends with cartoonist.

Jonathan: Wait, what?

Jon: Sat at a food court the Sherman Oaks Galleria and made friends and talked about video games.

Yup, he sat at a food court and had lunch. Not the story I thought it would be. Again.

One of the cartoonists he made friends with was Ralph Bashki. Ralph was behind many adult oriented cartoons including Wizards and The Lord of the Rings animated feature, which is having a re-release with a hailstorm of commercials.

Jon spent a long time with Bashki spending somewhere around two years visiting him. This ended with a book Jon co-authored about the animator.

I asked Jon some other questions that I thought needed to be answered while we continued to dine at Umami burger. Just some bullet point Q & A.

We delved into Nerdcore for about one question. “Nerdcore is awesome, but it’s annual” said Jon, so it doesn’t mess with his schedule.

If I shot a calendar of naked girls in super hero outfits I’d probably try and do it more. That’s what Nerdcore does if you don’t know. They make calendars with nude models that nerds enjoy. They've covered super-heroes, sci-fi movies and horror movies so far.

Jokingly, I asked Jon if he knew what happened to Game Jew.

 He didn’t know. Game Jew was an internet sensation a few years back. His shtick was to dress up like Mario in red overalls and go to video game events. He also wrote songs about video games. He attended the second to last 8-bit show. I asked because Game Jew was in line at the DSI launch at City Walk and I thought it was a funny segway … it wasn’t.

Jon’s I am 8-Bit Productions was in charge of the event which had I am 8-bit artists on hand making t-shirts for attendees. It had a huge turnout and is considered a success by fans.”

Next I hit him with a question about those great flyers that 8-bit released for one of it's show. The flyers could be folded into mini- arcade machines.

Who created the 8-bit arcade flyer? “I did, but the artist Scott Campbell designed them, except one. There are 5 in all. You had to attend a foundation 5 party to get one Scott Campbell didn’t design.” Jon.

Check out the set.

Reveal for fashion fans. Jon told that there’s still going to be an 8-bit clothing line. I asked because of a Nintendo Power I read ages ago said there was going to be. “It’s just going to be a while”, Jon said.

I learned Jon is a man who needs to move. Jon paid for lunch by taking out his hamburger wallet.

 Yes, he has a Hamburger Wallet. I questioned him on that. He’s response,”

“I Love Hamburgers!”

Jon Gibson (1982-current)

I walked with Jon across the street we headed to a local business that silk screens shirts, Fresh Pressed.

I observed Jon working. He approached the owner as he did me, friendly and courteous and always asking questions. He wanted to go through everything about making a silk printed shirt and wanted to know the details on every little thing. Even after his first barrage of questions, he kept asking more questions. He was doing this to make sure everything would be ready. Jon is thorough about so much that even power requirements are necessary. He wanted to get everything perfect for the Lost Planet 2 Launch Party I later attended. It rocked by the way. Even after his initial talk he just kept asking more questions of the owner. He explained once again he wants to know everything he can about something new he learns.

After Fresh Pressed we headed to the secret I am 8-bit offices.

The i am 8 bit offices were a pleasure to visit. When I entered I was greeted by different pieces of art I had seen over the years online and from  past 8-bits.

 I saw a clutter of posters from different events I read about online. I saw a poster for The Wizard which had special showings at the Alamo draft house with the cast and crew present. Turns out Jon was behind that event, too. I actually rented that movie on Netflix because of this poster.

 I saw Jon had many awards. We didn’t really talk about them. He was humble about them.

I also spied some of the equipment used to make press kits and what not. It was slightly cluttered as Jon has a lot of events to plan and a lot of items to fabricate from scratch.

I noticed a familiar lunchbox that was on the office bookshelf.

 It was done by Amanda Visell whose art show I just attended at the Natural History Museum.

 She’s a regular artist for 8-bit. The lunchbox was also featured in the Megaman 10 commercial that 8-bit produced. Jon’s bookshelf in his office holds many books to reference so he can reproduce or fabricate items for any event. It’s kind of nice to look at examples of ancient maps or certain calligraphy to make an event seem more authentic.

While sitting around his office. He revealed it takes forever to make the excellent promotional items he gives in press kits. He asked me, with what seemed like hate, on how long it takes just to create a promotional item box. Like the Megaman E- Tank box or the Zombrex case Jon gave me as a parting gift. It took a while I guessed in my mind, because Jon was still talking about creating said box. It takes a very long time I found out. Very long.
Leaving with my Zombrex, a promotional item for Dead Rising, I thought damn that guy has an awesome job.

The job of doing anything he wants.

His face is not shown as he was disfigured by an unruly beard at the time and allowed no pictures of himself.

Buy  Jon’s book on Amazon  i am 8-bit: Art Inspired by Classic Videogames of the '80s  and sign up at the i am 8-bit site to get info on upcoming 8-bit events.

I'd like to thank my friend Angello P. for being my editor on this write up.