The following is an interview with Angela Henderson and Harley Salbacka, co-hosts of the Fake Nerd Girls podcast. In this interview, Fanbase Press President Bryant Dillon chats with Henderson and Salbacka about the inspiration behind their podcast, what listeners can expect when tuning in, the podcast’s upcoming special guest lineup, and more!
Bryant Dillon, Fanbase Press President: How would you describe Fake Nerd Girls, and how did the podcast first get started?
Angela Henderson: Fake Nerd Girls was really born from a need to create a space where everyone in comic book fandom felt they belonged. Of course, we (Harley and I) want to talk about comic books from our perspective, but we wanted to foster a home for anyone who has ever been called a “fake nerd” because they don’t know, say, what happens in a specific issue of X-Men from the ’60s or whatever weird specific knowledge you might get quizzed on by aggressive (typically male) fans. That’s bullshit. There’s no such thing as a fake nerd girl (or boy!) – and, yes, we’ve both been called that. If you like something in comics, you can be a nerd for it. We’re reclaiming fake nerd girl, and there’s a space for everyone. Which is why our recommendations tend to point you toward indie books you can pick up and read with no prior knowledge or to good spots to hop is an established series. If you’re more seasoned, you’ll catch on to our more seasoned banter. Harley is definitely more knowledgeable with all the brass tacks, and I have a million more questions since I’ve been out of the industry for a minute, so you’ll have a voice no matter where you are on the spectrum of fandom.
Harley Salbacka: What she said! We talk about comics and nerd culture from our own perspective, and since we are both feminists, it has a feminist view point. It’s a podcast for everyone. Whether you have read tons of comics or none, everyone is welcome. We want to help everyone find great stories and have fun with us talking about nerd culture.
BD: For those who have never listened, what can Fanbase Press readers expect from a standard episode of the podcast?
HS: Our favorite reads, typically critiqued and discussed from a feminist angle. You’re also going to hear about our thoughts on the comic book industry, as women who have both worked in it, our general thoughts on life, and you’ll probably hear Angela’s dog barking in the background.
BD: As co-hosts of the podcast, can you tell us a little about each of yourselves and how life led you to launch Fake Nerd Girls together?
HS: I ran a comic shop for four years which is how we met, and Angela actually found me and then trained me at the shop. We both are womxn* who have worked in the comic book industry, a place that has been traditionally male dominated, and it’s like being in the trenches together. How we were perceived behind the counter was just different. We both loved helping not just the traditional comic book fan, but all fans and potential fans find great stories. It can be really intimidating to go into a comic shop to find something to read if you haven’t been doing that your whole life. It’s hard to know where to start. We wanted to make a place where everyone was welcome, because everyone has a story and a voice!
AH: We weren’t going to sell you some boring nonsense where the womxn characters only acted as props, sorry (and those books usually didn’t do well!). We wanted to give you the quality stuff, the stuff where the storytelling was alive and especially when it gives you the voices of the underrepresented.
BD: What do you you each love about comic books and/or the comic book industry, and how did it inspire the creation of the podcast?
HS: I love stories. I love helping people find something great to escape into and experience. I am also a fan girl 100%, so I enjoy talking about my favorite characters and helping other people fall in love with them, too.
AH: Ditto. I also just like talking to Harley. She sometimes brings me food, which is a bonus.
HS: That’s really why she wanted to do this podcast with me, because of my cooking.
BD: What has been your favorite episode of the podcast so far and why?
HS: I think my favorite of the three released so far (more to come this week!) is the third episode where we talk Ms. Marvel. You see how passionate we get about that book.
AH: I think so far my favorite has been the interview with Quinton Peeples (which Harley talks about in the next question). Just a really fantastic writer and person.
BD: What upcoming guests and/or episode focuses can listeners of Fake Nerd Girls look forward to?
HS: Up this Friday (April 17th, 2020), we will release our episode where we chat with comic book and TV writer Quinton Peeples (Marvel Runaways, 11-22-63), but we also have a great guest list in the works featuring Jody Houser (Star Wars: Thrawn, Faith), Cecil Castellucci (Batgirl, Star Wars Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure), and Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Superman: Birthright).
BD: What one thing do you think our readers might be surprised to learn about the podcast?
AH: We’re not catering to anyone. We are two feminists doing a comic book podcast. It is what it is. Already, someone (a man) messaged Harley and told us we should be nicer to men after listening to our first episode, which to me, we weren’t ever mean to men at all. Just speaking truths! If something is sexist, we’ll say it. If something is wrong in the industry, we’ll say it. We have already talked about this briefly on some of our episodes. In that same vein, we definitely want to be a safe place for lesser-known creators and minority creators to speak their truth. Of course, it’s going to be structured as book reviews and jokes and interviews, but we’re going to keep our finger on the pulse of the industry as a whole, an industry that still has a lot of growing to do.
HS: And the best part is the industry is starting to grow and become more accepting. You have great publishers out there putting out new and different stories with diverse creators. Plus, womxn have been in comics since the beginning and often just didn’t get credit. The late Len Wein (co-creator of DC Comics’ Swamp Thing and Marvel Comics’ Wolverine) told me that when we met. He told me he knew womxn who worked in comics with him who never got their names on a comic. People of all kinds are finally starting to get their opportunity to be seen and heard.
BD: As part of Fanbase Press’ 10th anniversary, we’re taking part in a company wide initiative called Stories Matter which focuses on how universal communication through stories allows all of us to examine the essentials of human existence, to understand ourselves better and to grow and/or heal, to pass on importance values, knowledge, and lessons to the next generation, and to connect with one another through empathy and compassion.
So, with that in mind, I pose to each of you, why do you believe stories matter, and how do those beliefs connect with your work via the Fake Nerd Girls podcast?
HS: Humanity is made up of stories. At the end of your day, you come home and tell stories about your day, and you go out to see your friends and share stories about your life. All forms of entertainment tell a story. Music, dance, TV, movies, and books – they are all stories. It is what connects us and give us the ability to learn and understand each other, no matter who we are or where we come from. Our podcast helps everyone find great stories and hear stories from us and creators who tell stories for a living.
AH: Stories matter when EVERYONE’S stories matter, because they are all related. We want to find you more stories that you wouldn’t normally think to read, because they are all connected. We cannot consistently elevate one type of story, even in comic books, when there are so many diverse voices.
BD: At Fanbase Press, we’re always interested in what our fellow creators are fans of. It doesn’t have to be necessarily geeky or comic-related, but what are you each currently fans of? What have you recently enjoyed that you’d want to share with our readers?
HS: I just started watching The Loop on Amazon (highly recommend for sci-fi fans), as well as the new season of Westworld. I also just finished reading Circe which was a phenomenal look at Greek mythology and feminism.
AH: I’m the worst feminist in the world and my favorite show is The Bachelor. No wonder I’ve been called a fake nerd girl.
BD: Thank you to Angela and Harley for participating in this interview. Interested readers can find out more about the Fake Nerd Girls podcast by visiting the following links online:
*The term Womxn is an alternative term for the English language word “women” which has been occasionally in use since 2015 to explicitly include non-cisgender women. It has been used in a similar manner as womyn and wimmin, as a rejection of the English-only etymology of “woman” from Old English wifmon (wife-man).