Saturday, March 02, 2013
Meet a Local Con Organizer: Ron Barba of AnimeUSA
The Convention season has started again, with anime and manga focused-Katsucon having been at National Harbor last month, and Emerald City Comicon kicking off the comic book cons in Seattle this weekend. Six months ago, I attended AnimeUSA at the Washington Marriot Wardman Park, where it had moved after being in Crystal City in Arlington. The following interview was done with one of the con organizers, Rob Barba, for a Washington City Paper article that didn't gel. But everyone I see at AnimeUSA looks like they're having a great deal of fun, so perhaps it's not too soon to start planning to attend this September's event.
Mike Rhode: How’d you personally get into comics?
Rob Barba: I'm the writer for a webcomic, Claude & Monet (www.claudeandmo.net); due to its anime style, I felt working with a convention would be a good way to gain both exposure and experience. The former I've got, but the latter my cup runneth over. I can honestly say that in my eight years of working with Anime USA, it's been a worthy experience.
MR: How is AnimeUSA different than a standard comics con?
RB: We focus both on manga, manwha, and manhua (Japanese, Korean and Chinese comics, respectively) as well as webcomics. In the former case, these are the basis of anime, which has been on the rise for a number of years. For the latter, it will be the future of how comics are produced, and we felt it was important to be at the forefront of exposing our audience to this medium.
MR: How many years has it run, and how many years have you been a part of it?
RB: Anime USA has been around since 1998. I joined in 2004, after I moved into the area.
MR: How many people did you have?
RB: We had an attendance of roughly 3800 people. While this number is roughly the same as last year, we believe that the move to the new hotel as well as the tragic events of Hurricane Sandy had an effect on our attendance. We plan for greater growth next year.
MR: How did the weather such as Sandy and the following Noreaster affect 2012's con?
RB: Quite a bit, to be honest. The result was a wholesale cancellation of various panels, vendors coming from the north, and even many of our own staff. As mentioned before, attendance took a hit because of it. Still, I believe we did our best to regroup and move forward for our fans.
MR: Why did you move to the hotel in DC this year?
RB: The Marriott was best suited for our needs after an exhaustive search for a new location. With a layout suitable for panels, workshops and the like; plenty of picturesque locations for cosplayer photography, and room to grow, we were hard-pressed not to chose this site. Combined with the attentive staff of the Marriott, it sealed the deal for us.
MR: Any guests you are particularly proud of having come in 2012? Favorite guests of past years?
RB: Phil Lamarr, as he is one of the largest guests we have had to date. Caitlin Glass is also a fan favorite. The list of favorites for previous years is too long to mention, but includes folks like Steven Bloom, Monica Rial and others.
MR: Is there anything special about 2012 not mentioned yet?
RB: If people enjoyed 2012, wait until they see what we have planned for 2013. While I can't comment due to contractual reasons, I can say that the marquee guest for next year will be one the fans have been clamoring for, for quite some time.