Interview: Jenna Busch, Founder of the Legion of Leia and Geek Goddess

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Photo by Kevin McIntyre

Photo by Kevin McIntyre

Chances are, you’ve heard of writer and all around Geek Jenna Busch without even realizing it. Busch has hosted Cocktails with Stan, done voices for My Little Pony, written comic books and even founded the Legion of Leia. She is Geek Goddess to the core. Jenna took time out of her busy writing and convention schedule to talk to FangirlNation.com about what she has going on.

FGN: Jenna, you have been just about everywhere in the fan community. Where (out of many places) might our readers know you from?

Photo by Kevin McIntyre

Photo by Kevin McIntyre

Jenna Busch: I’ve had a pretty crazy career so far. For someone that gets bored easily, it’s a dream! Writing-wise, you might have seen my work on Huffington Post, Geek Nation, IGN, UGO, JoBlo, Newsarama and Coming Soon to name a few. I appeared on the premiere episode of Geek & Sundry’s Tabletop with Wil Wheaton, Grant Imahara and Sean Plott, and I co-hosted a weekly show with the legendary Stan Lee called Cocktails With Stan. You might have seen me on G4’s Attack of the show, CraveOnline’s Most Craved, in the pinup magazine Cupcake Quarterly’s geek edition or wandering around Comic Con with a stupid grin because I just bought yet another lightsaber.

FGN: Have lightsaber, will travel. What is it about Star Wars that grabbed your attention as a kid? What keeps you loving the fandom as an adult? How many lightsabers do you own at this point?

Haha! I have 4 in the house now, a Boba Fett helmet in my trunk and a ridiculous amount of Star Wars toys. In fact, my boyfriend, Jeffrey Henderson, used to design Star Wars toys for Gentle Giant and gave me one on our first date. Now that we live together, it’s like a Star Wars convention in here!

As a kid, there weren’t that many female characters to root for and Star Wars had Leia. She kicked ass and she took care of herself. I loved her. I was Leia for Halloween. I had all the toys. As an adult, it was the purity of the story that kept drawing me back. Good guy and girl win against evil. Redemption is possible. It’s hard to find that in any show or film these days. It’s hard to find that in real life, honestly. It, like the lightsaber, seem to belong to “a more civilized age.”

FGN: On your blog (Girl Meets Lightsaber) you recently shared your outrage over the casting of only two female characters in the upcoming Star Wars Film.  What can fans do, male or female, to make Star Wars a more inclusive place?

Jenna Busch: Since I wrote that, a bunch of female cast members were announced and I’m thrilled. Honestly, I think the louder we are as female fans of the genre (and fans of color, LGBT fans, etc.), the more the studios realize that we’re out there and want to see ourselves on the big screen. It’s why I founded the Legion of Leia.

FGN:  Can you tell us about the Legion of Leia and how our readers can get involved?

Jenna Busch: I was out for drinks with a girlfriend of mine and we were talking about the LegionOfLeia_Violet_Flatcasting. I’d just written the blog post and talked about dressing up as Leia as a kid. She told me she had as well and we speculated that most of our friends had similar pics of themselves with their hair in buns. On May the 4th (Star Wars Day), I asked everyone I knew to post a pic of Leia or themselves as Leia on all their social media profiles to support women in Sci-Fi. The response was overwhelming! Fans of sci-fi, women around the world, geek celebrities like Adrianne Curry and Jane Espenson and even dads and brothers who were supporting family members took part. The Legion was born!

Honestly, the whole point of this was that I wanted to stop complaining and start doing something. I’ve told this story before, but when I published my first comic stories in Womanthology, a little girl saw me showing the book to someone and asked to hug me. She told me that she didn’t know girls did that. There are so many women in the industry, from actors to directors, to writers and producers, to makeup artists to designers … I wanted to make sure that girls knew these jobs existed. Each week I profile a woman doing what she loves in the realm of Sci-Fi.

I also want to put a spotlight on how women are portrayed in the genre and the industry in general, highlighting both the issues and the good ones. We do a Sci-Fi character profile each week as well. We’re hoping to sponsor art and fiction contests, get the community involved and make sure everyone knows just how many female fans are out there.

If you want to be involved, head over to Legion of Leia on Facebook and Google+ and like us. Leave us comments because I read every one. Tell us who you want to see profiled. Come visit us at the Geek Nation booth at SDCC (I’ll be there, and at the Nashville Comic Con in September, Epic Con in Ohio in October and Comikaze Expo in November). I’d love to meet you guys and hear your stories. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @LegionofLeia. Send us your pics. This is an interactive fan community!

FGN: In addition to Star Wars, you have hosted podcasts on Game of Thrones and True Blood. Recently fans (both male and female) expressed concern over a violent sexual encounter between two characters that was not described as thus in the George RR Martin book series. As a fan of the series, what was your reaction to the scene and fan reactions?

Jenna Busch:I was really upset. I talked about it on the podcast, which is on Geek Nation, but it just felt wrong. That is not what it was in the books. There was no reason to make it worse. I mean, they’re brother and sister having sex in front of the corpse of their dead son. Come on. The other strange thing was that the director said that they both wanted it by the end. There are so many issues with that statement that I can hardly begin to address it. Obviously if most of the Internet thinks it was rape, then you directed it or edited it wrong. There is the consent issue. Not that rape doesn’t happen and in a violent, if fictional, society, we’re certainly going to see it. It just seemed like not only a glaringly wrong choice for the character and a needless change from the book. (I’m on record saying that I do love most of the changes, so I’m not a purist.) They did this with the Dany/Drogo scene. It’s not that way in the book. The differences have been explored in a zillion places, so I won’t go over it all here, but it was just unnecessary.

Photo by Kevin McIntyre

Photo by Kevin McIntyre

FGN: You also host Cocktails with Stan, a podcast with Stan Lee and some of the biggest names in comic books and popculture. Can you tell us more about how the podcast got started? Who has been your favorite interview to date?

Jenna Busch: When I was asked to do a project with Stan Lee, my reaction (after the happy dance, the weeping and the giggles) was, “Sign me up. Can I start right now RIGHTNOW?” Each week we would sit down with a celebrity and goof off with them. Stan is, without a doubt, one of my biggest heroes. He’s also one of my favorite people ever. Listening to his stories about the early days of the comics industry is one of my favorite things about my career thus far. The man has more energy than I do! It’s hard to pick a favorite. We’ve had Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion and Lou Ferigno on the show. How can you choose? But I do have a favorite moment. Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a. Elvira was telling me about when she dated Elvis and how he convinced her to leave Vegas and follow her dreams. Somehow we got into a discussion about bad kissers. Stan didn’t understand how there could be a “bad kisser,” so we started explaining it. Of all the surreal moments in my life … it was insane!

FGN: You worked on the comic book prequel from the TV Show, The Pretender. What got you started with writing comics? What was it about The Pretender that made you want to extend the story?

Jenna Busch: I was lucky enough to meet Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle (who are beyond amazing), the creators of the show. We were chatting about social media (I was getting Steve onto Twitter), and the fact that I write comics came up. I’m a super fan of The Pretender (Steve calls me The Blond Miss Parker), and they asked me to take it on. I should have more news on that front soon! I did a 10 page preview with art by Jeffrey Henderson, which you can check out at planethenderson.com, as well as on ThePretenderLives.com. The new novels are AMAZING!

I got started in comics as a fan, when I read my first X-Men story. I wanted to be Storm so I could give myself snow days. (I was little!) I was asked to write a story for Womanthology and I was thrilled. I wrote “Archetypes” and Elisa Feliz did the art for it. I’d been a guest host a bunch of times on G4’s Fresh Ink Online around that time, and I’d brought in Janet Lee and Jim McCann’s Eisner Award-winning “Return of the Dappermen.” I met Janet because of it and we ended up doing another story for the book called “Ladybird” with my co-writer Rachel Pandich. Now I can’t stop writing. It’s so much fun!

Photo by Kevin McIntyre

Photo by Kevin McIntyre

FGN: Have you ever been harassed for not being “geeky enough” or called a “fake geek girl” ? If so, how did you respond? Do you have any response for our readers on how to combat harassment in the geek community?

Jenna Busch: I’ve been really lucky to have worked with wonderful men and fellow reporters who never gave my presence a second thought. That said, I’ve certainly gotten reactions from interviewees who were surprised that I knew my stuff. I actually just read this question out loud and got a laugh from the other room when the words “geeky enough” came out. I’m pretty public about my geekdom, so it isn’t questioned that much.

That said, I’ve definitely had to deal with harassment. I don’t like a movie, I get death and rape threats, which is something my male colleagues rarely deal with. My appearance is the first thing to be critiqued. I have a pretty thick skin, but when I or my family is threatened, it’s an issue. I wear a costume, it’s either “prissy” or “slutty.” I was called out by a jerk on Twitter who was upset that I wanted more female characters in Star Wars, because Leia is so awesome that why should I ask for more? During this rant, he said something to the effect of, “Don’t even talk to me about Slave Leia being sexist because I know you’ve dressed up as her in the past.” For the record, I haven’t. I have no issue with Slave Leia and would absolutely dress as the character. Either way, this stuff comes up.

As far as advice, I’d say this: First of all, if you’re harassed at cons, tell someone! I’ve been a part of anti-bullying panels at SDCC and NYCC, and it’s important that the cons know what’s happening. Cosplay is not consent and no one should have to deal with it. Don’t patronize cons that don’t have a firm harassment policy or who shy away from making sure everyone knows it. If your local con has this issue, let them know that you want this changed. Speak out and tell everyone when they do! Take online bullying seriously and let people know. Talk about this. Silence doesn’t change the world.

FGN: Where is the best place for our readers to follow your fabulous fandom exploits?

Jenna Busch: You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jennabusch. You can hit me up on my Facebook page and Google+. Definitely follow @LegionofLeia and like our Facebook page! You can watch me each week on Most Craved. New episodes go up on Thursdays on ComingSoon.net and CraveOnline.com. I’m writing for Geek Nation and I do a weekly True Blood podcast. I’ll be covering Doctor Who and Vikings for them as well. And come visit me at the cons if you’re going!

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