BrickMagic is upon us. Last week Joe Meno was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule to answer a few questions for me about the life of the BrickJournal editor and his involvement with this new LEGO convention. Here’s what we had to say…

Joe Meno, editor of BrickJournal Magazine

Joe Meno at BrickWorld 2009

BrickMagic is a new convention this year. Why another LEGO convention? (not that I’m complaining…)

JM: Why not?

Seriously, BrickMagic came into being when my publisher asked me if we could do a convention in Raleigh a couple of years ago. My first reaction was that we could do one when a LEGO store opens here (yes, the discounts on a convention are a big incentive to many), and last year, a store opened in town! More to the point, another convention is another opportunity for AFOLS to meet and show the public what can be done with bricks, imagination and dedication!

This may go along with Question#1—is there a big LEGO fan base in the Raleigh/Carolina area? Chicago it ain’t, but…

JM: There is a fan base, or else there wouldn’t be a reason to have a store:-)! North Carolina has a LEGO train club and LEGO Users Group, and has been active in local events. The predecessor to BrickMagic is an annual event NCLUG/LTC runs in nearby Chapel Hill called LEGOPalooza, which is a local late winter display. This year, about 3200 showed up that weekend.

I don’t remember seeing a LEGO con before that marketed so much of the appeal for the con based on a guest of honor. Sure, fans within the community have long recognized a name like “Kjeld”—but it hasn’t gone much further than the hardcore fan base. Now we have someone like Nathan Sawaya who is pretty much the rock star of LEGO building … are we seeing a shift in LEGO fandom? Has it gone “beyond The Brick,” beyond “Zack the LEGO Mania?” Will LEGO personalities become as well known as movie stars and superheroes?

JM: Yeah, this is definitely different. To create more of a buzz, Nathan was made a guest of honor. For the AFOL, this isn’t such a big deal, but for the new people we want to see entering the hobby, he’s a good fit. There is a subtle shift happening with LEGO fandom as the company begins to open up about who the designers are and what they have done, but being as well known as movie stars and personalities? That will take a while.

Tell us about a day in the life of a BrickJournal editor…does it ever leave you time to build?

JM: A day for me is never the same. It’s a lot of looking online for article ideas and e-mails and writing and picture taking and…. The most intense time for me is the week or so I spend laying out the magazine…then I go into my hermit mode and work on the laptop…I grow my hair long and get a beard…and look pretty ratty when I’m done. Afterwards, I step back for a week and maybe build something. I don’t have the time to do big complex builds, but I always have the time to build *something* if I want to. The last model I built was my iPad and it was an allnighter!

BrickJournal is not an official publication of the LEGO company. As such, I imagine you have certain liberties, but ultimately, you’ve still got to keep LEGO happy, right? Seems like you’ve got some nice folks from within LEGO (Megan Rothrock, etc.) as well as folks from the fan community (Jordan Schwartz, etc.), even some who have had the privelege of being both at different times… (Mariann Asanuma). What is the relationship between the LEGO Company and BrickJournal?

JM: The relationship with the magazine and the LEGO Company is pretty nice, actually, They provided launch costs for a share of the magazine, however, they stipulated that I have editorial freedom. In other words, they became something of an angel investor/silent partner. That doesn’t mean that I have completely free reign, though. I made a decision at the beginning to create a magazine that was a positive representation of the hobby and community. Because of this, the company shares info and sometimes resources with BrickJournal – with the most recent ongoing collaboration being the articles from the LEGO Idea House.

As the guy who runs the book (and sometimes runs away from it:-)), I look for those people who fit the positive voice I want Brickjournal to have. With the staff in Billund with access to the company (Hi Megan and Mark) and handling European submissions and stories (thanks Megan and Mark!), as well as everyone else (Hi everyone else!) things have worked very well!

What is your favorite LEGO piece?

JM: That’s a tough one. Oh wait, does the LEGO dice count? It’s not really a piece, but it’s so cool!

Do you have a favorite LEGO set of all time (whether or not you own it)?

JM: Of what I own, the Technic Space shuttle – when I got out of my Dark Ages, I searched on LUGNET to see what the most popular set was, and it turned out to be the Space Shuttle. It was out of production by then (it was 2001 or so), so I got it for $150 on Bricklink. And after building it (which entailed getting some missing parts – turns out the sealed box was missing a bag of parts), I was really impressed. So impressed, I haven’t taken it apart. So it’s on my shelf now ready to go on a mission:-).

Of what I don’t own, the Moon Landing set from 1975. I had that set when I was a kid, and it had everything – wheels, figures, and a spaceship! It’s the set I have the strongest memory of, and seeing it on display always brings back memories.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read my webcomic, The Brick Side … there was a series of episodes several months ago that had Jonathan Bender as a character and he was having a conversation with a Power Miner (Starting with 38 and going about every other until 45). Well, at one point a guy came running through the park, and the Power Miner took off after him thinking it was Joe Meno … only to discover it was “Joe Meano,” the editor of WormJournal magazine.  I never took it any further than that one episiode, and I’ve been thinking about developing the character of Joe Meano. I’ve been dying to hear your take on it. Just don’t shoot me. 🙂

JM: I remember this one—the depiction of me being a photo runner is pretty funny, if not honest. Best quote came from Bill Bourne: If you want to get a pic of me, use a high-speed film, or Joe’s just a blur!

As for Joe Meano – develop him. I do have a sense of humor, so I won’t shoot you:-)! I’m interested in what you make him into.

Joe Meno, editor of BrickJournal magazine

Joe Meno takes your picture