Jason Richardson and J1 Studios – The trailblazer of Philadelphia Geek Culture
by Bryan Carter
BC: What do you do outside of J1 Studios?
JR: Outside of J1 Studios, I am a graphic designer and one of the five hosts of the award-winning live radio show Black Tribbles.
Essentially, what brought forth the idea of creating J1 Studios?
JR: I always created things as a kid. I developed games, comics, and my little radio dramas as a child. I just saw an opportunity to make it my profession.
BC: As an introduction to J1 Studios, what could someone expect to find on your website or while attending one of your events?
JR: Variety. We provide so many things on the site that it can be overwhelming. The events obviously show that we are a crew that’s really trying to give something that we (as fans) would want. A by-fans, for-fans ideal.
BC: How would you describe geek culture to someone who’s unfamiliar with the term?
JR: It’s anything they’re passionate about, but it deals with entertainment, comics, science fiction, video games, board games, and novels (mainly fiction). Anyone can be a geek. Jocks are geeks about their favorite sports teams, and comic book readers are geeks about the titles they read.
BC: I’m familiar with the term “geek,” but does geek culture truly exist?
JR: I want people to see that black geek culture exists. That’s the thing people don’t know about. People do not know black geeks are a real thing.
BC: But what’s the difference between black geek culture and regular geek culture?
JR: Black geek culture needs the exposure so that it becomes a part of regular geek culture. If you pay attention to the media, you would think that black folk don’t exist in the scene. I can tell you that friends and family members have at one point introduced “black geeks” as “the whitest black people” they know. You lose your identity as a black person when you step outside of the stereotypical black roles that culture has made for us.
BC: Is it safe to assume your goal is to expose black geek culture while also expanding on geek culture as a whole?
JR: Indeed. At some point I want it to all be under one roof, comfortably. I want it to all just be called geek culture. The first step is for all ethnic geek cultures (not just black) to be recognized without animosity. This goes for women as well.
BC: Who are some of the major names in Philadelphia’s geek culture?
JR: Obviously, major names in Philly’s geek culture are the Black Tribbles (Len Webb, Kennedy Allen, Randy Green, and Erik Darden). There’s Cipher Prime’s Will Stallwood, comic book artist J.G. Jones, Damien Warsavage, and Eric Small. There are more but these are the ones I can think of at the moment.
BC: J1 Studios and Black Tribbles won two awards at this year’s Geekadelphia Awards. How did it feel receiving those awards?
JR: I was so happy to see Black Tribbles up on screen for Streaming Media Project of the Year. Being on stage with my Tribble crew was amazing! All those people looking at us and listening to what we had to say was phenomenal! As the winner of the 2014 Geek Of The Year award, I was blown away. All the press generated due to the awards still baffles me. I’m like: “You care to know who I am?” It all felt like the hard work was finally paying off.
BC: I recall one of our conversations in which we discussed J1-Con. Kindly fill everyone in on the details of this event.
JR: On September 14th, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., we are going to be holding our annual anime convention, located at 3801 Market Street, First District Plaza, 3rd Floor. Expect to meet various YouTube celebs, like the famous anime voice actor Vic Mignogna (the voice of Edward Elric on Full Metal Alchemist, Broly on DragonBall Z, Tamaki on Ouran High School, Nagato on Naruto, and more!) We’ll have vendors where you can buy anime DVDs, games, plush dolls, and action figures. The added touch is the video game and card game tournaments. Prices to enter the convention range from $10.00 - $30.00.
BC: Who has inspired you? What was it about them?
JR: A homeless man named Eugene who used the money he saved to buy me an art set. He told me that one day I would be a great artist. Don’t get me wrong: I had my mom, cousins (like David Mitchell), even friends (like Kevin Siter) who inspired me to move forward. My main concern has always been creating worlds and information for everyone to enjoy.
BC: What obstacles have you faced since starting out with your brand?
JR: Keeping those friends who want to get into the industry as badly as you do. Friendships end, especially if you happen to advance farther than your friends do. You start to see the truth behind your friendship. Usually, people you were close with in the past become estranged, and those you never expected to help you are the ones spending their last dime in support of you. Those are the friends you need to respect. In the past, due to family situations, I ended up on the street. That's an obstacle that I never want to deal with ever again.
BC: What future projects are you working on?
JR: I can't get into too many details, but I will be bringing back my card game that I developed back in 2003.
BC: A card game? Details please.
JR: Best way I can describe it, without giving anything away, is that it’s the essence of a fighting game. It’s a 1-on-1 fighting game through cards. I pick a character, you pick a character, and we battle until someone is KO’d, or there’s a “time over.” It will make use of all the characters from the J1 Studios properties.
BC: What advice would you give to other people trying to do what you are doing?
JR: Know that there are way more sacrifices in the beginning to get where you are going, and it's never instant success. As quick as you grow is as quick as you burn out. Create that slow, solid foundation first. Get as much advice from as many people as you can. Study the people who made it. Learn how they made it. Don’t just think you are going to start where they are now, or you will be heartbroken with your outcome. Support others because there will be a point when you will need them to support you.
For details on their upcoming J1 Music Fest click here
Photography by K/D/Morris