Doing Too Much and Still Making it Work: An Interview with Emily Buza

Emily Buza is a senior at Clark University studying English and Theatre, and she is currently working on her honors thesis. She is also the Editor in Chief of Clark Writes, Clark University’s official creative writing blog, as well as an actor in The List, one of this year’s Playfest plays. Additionally she is a co-host of a fan podcast focusing on Young Justice, an animated DC Comics series, which is the subject of this interview.

TOMLIN: What is the name and topic of your podcast, and where can we listen to it?

BUZA: I cohost a podcast called Whelmed: The Young Justice Files. We discuss the animated DC Comics show Young Justice, both from a fan point of view, talking about what we love what we maybe don’t love about it, as well as from a creative point of view, discussing how fans can learn from the show to implement lessons into their own work–whether that’s creative writing or playing RPG’s or whatever it is they are interested in creating in this world. We want to help people learn how to do that from the fiction they love. You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts, we are on iTunes, google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and YouTube. We are on whatever your preferred podcatcher is!

TOMLIN: Why Young Justice, why that show in particular?

BUZA: Well, one it’s a fantastic show! It’s a show that is very near and dear to my heart for various reasons, it was the thing that first got me into superheroes, which is part of why I love talking about it. It’s honestly just a really rich and complex show within the superhero genre that deals with things beyond just good and evil and punching bad guys. It is a show about teenagers finding their place in the world and young people figuring out what they want to do with their lives, all while also being a show about having super powers and saving the world. It is about a bunch of very complex interesting things that create these wonderfully complex, multi-generational stories across the seasons that have existed and the seasons yet to come.

TOMLIN: So the show is still going?

BUZA: Yes, it was a two-season show which ended after two seasons, then five years later it was renewed for a third season—that was back just a couple years ago. The third season has just wrapped up a couple of months ago, and the fourth season is currently in production. So it has a wonderful fan history of fans petitioning and fighting for years and years like, “we want more of this and more of this story,” and DC comics and Warner Bros. being able to give fans the season they had fought so long for once they started their own internet/Netflix style platform that got us another season. And we are all very excited.

TOMLIN: How did you get involved in the podcast?

BUZA: The story of how I got involved in the podcast is a bit atypical from how most people get involved in podcasting. I was a fan of Whelmed: The Young Justice Files before I was on it. My wonderful co-host Rich Howard and his co-host Caleb and I jokingly say that I told them they were wrong on Twitter enough times that they decided that they needed to have a conversation with me! But more accurately, that fact that I followed the show and I listened every week and I would tweet at them and say “oh you talked about this episode but you didn’t talk about this thing, or this aspect of the show that was very important to how I watched the show as a fan.” And I would give them these—way too long for twitter—responses and discussed things and we’d get into these big online discussions and eventually some of the other listeners to the show were like, “you should have her on to talk about this more,” and they did. They decided to bring me on as a guest for a discussion episode to talk about teen romance on the show as well as the fan culture that surrounds fanfiction and shipping and those aspects of the show and the fandom. And after we had recorded this discussion (that was a very fun and wonderful experience), Rich Howard, my co-host basically was just like “So, Caleb can’t do next season because of life and work and a bunch of other stuff, would you like to join the show as a permanent co-host” and I said YES. And have been doing it ever since. That happened near the end of freshman year, since then I have been the co-host of the show and it’s been wonderful.

TOMLIN: So that’s as you said a very atypical way of getting involved, so from your position now, how do you advise people to get into podcasting? Specifically a podcast like yours?

BUZA: It depends, it depends on what you want to do, it depends—there are so many different ways to do podcasting and it is up to you. I know the way I think of being guests on other podcasts now is just kind of reaching out. The best advice I can generally give to people who want to start a podcast is to start it! Find wonderful people who you want to talk to and who you want to have conversations with, pick a topic that you love and that you have something to share and to offer to people and just do it.

I definitely recommend recording for a while before you start publishing, so you have backlog and you have some episodes saved up. There is a lot of technical advice I could give on that front, but in general my advice if you want to do anything like this on the internet whether its blogging or doing things on YouTube or whatever you want to do, I always recommend that people just participate, talk to people, put yourself out there. If you are putting yourself out there on the internet and sharing that you care about and that you are clearly passionate about, people will respond, you will find an audience for what you want to talk about.

TOMLIN: How would you say that your experience with English, Theatre, or Creative Writing benefited this experience?

BUZA: Because we are a podcast that discusses storytelling and discusses creative writing a lot, I think both of my majors (English and Theatre) have definitely helped me have an interesting perspective because we do a lot of writing analysis and story analysis as well as offering advice on how to write your own story. So that comes up quite regularly, and we do a lot of writing for the show because we write our own outlines and scripts.

Theatre also comes in because podcasting is just public speaking into a microphone. It’s just figuring out how to have that kind of presence to talk to other people, whether it’s just my co-host or if we have guests on. Occasionally there will be references to classic literature or classic theatre in the show and when we’re discussing those I’ll just be like “I actually know something about this! Let me share” and people have found that quite interesting. It is helpful because my co-host doesn’t always know all of those as he’s been out of school for a while.

TOMLIN: I know you are doing your senior honors thesis on super-heroes and comics, so where do you see–both with the podcast and with your studies–comics and superheroes mixing with literature, creative writing, and theatre?

BUZA: That is a very big question about a very complicated topic. I personally believe that comics, especially superhero comics since over the years more straightforward comics—things like Maus and Fun Home—have been recognized as literature, but people still push superheroes to the side and say “Oh that’s for fun.” And I get that, they are fun, but they are still these pieces of story-telling and literature that are diving into very complex issues depending on the writer and the artist and the creative team behind them. I think that they deserve to be looked at as not just a form of entertainment but as this complex story that draws on history and fan culture and a bunch of other things to create a really unique form of literature. I have had a lot of fun in my honors thesis diving into those questions of fan ownership that comes with comics because these characters have existed for so long with different authors behind them in a way that almost no other form of entertainment has. I just think that there needs to be an academic view of them, not every one of them, but I think they all deserve to not be shuffled to the side. And that’s a lot of what we do on our podcast of being able to open up this thing of “yes, the show is good, and there are fans of this show and we enjoy this show, but we want to break down why it’s good, this show is doing things that most superhero literature or entertainment isn’t always doing.” We want to break down why and how it’s doing that, and that’s a lot of what I’m doing with my honors thesis at the same time, though in a much more condensed way—focusing on a single character and her history.

TOMLIN: Do you find at Clark that you are getting pushback to that idea? Or more support than you would find elsewhere?

BUZA: I have gotten so much support for my honors thesis. My wonderful advisor Professor Blake is helping me and is very supportive of trying to figure out how comics work because she before this didn’t have much experience with them. She is helping me with the more academic side, while I am introducing her to the wonderful world of comics. The entire department–everyone who has reached out to me about figuring out how to do my honors thesis–has been very supportive of letting me go down this strange wonderful rabbit-hole. I’m talking about cat-woman and the ways in which she is a feminist character even when not all of her stories are, and the ways in which fan culture allows for this strange relationship between readers and characters. And I’m discussing how human story-telling works in a world of gods and monsters and saving the world from the forces of evil. It’s just been wonderful to get to explore all of those things in a more academic context.

TOMLIN: I think it’s interesting to see in our Capstone class how many people are interested in finding new forms of literature, to see the amount of people who want to really look into a specific thing and say, “Well this is literature and I’m going to find a way to break that apart.”

BUZA: Absolutely, and it’s been very interesting with all of this to try to find all the bits and pieces of comic book scholarship. It’s strange, you learn MLA and all of that and all of the ways to cite things, but now I’m dealing with a different format. Comics aren’t broken down into paragraphs, so now I have to figure out how to cite them and how to talk about them. I have to find literary language to discuss a partially visual medium. It’s been a very big adventure trying to figure that all out. It’s been difficult but in a very rewarding way. I have to switch, with the podcast and the thesis, I have to figure out how to teach fans about literary analysis and how to teach people who are very familiar with literary analysis about comics and fan culture.

TOMLIN: Going back to the podcast, what’s the biggest opportunity that you’ve had because of doing the podcast?

BUZA: I have been able to do a lot of wonderful things because of the podcast. I have had a lot of amazing experiences because of it, but I think the biggest one was two summers ago, the summer after my sophomore year me and my cohost and our amazing producer and editor Neil, were invited to take part in a DC Universe project. They were putting together what became known as “Enhanced Episodes” of Young Justice that basically had visual pop-up commentary. They were doing these with creators of the show, voice actors, writers, and producers as well as comic book writers and people involved with the history of the comics. Then they were doing some that were supposed to be fan episodes. They were going to get a bunch of people who were vocal about the show or who did various online content or knew about comics and they were going to bring them on and do these fun commentary videos. They got in contact with us because—apparently, or the story we were told afterwards—the creators of the show, Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti (who we have known for a while listen to our show and have gotten in contact with us before to answer questions before) regularly listen to our show. And when asked “What are some internet fans we should get in contact with for this project?” said, “there’s this podcast, you should ask them,” and they did!

The company who was making this emailed us and we agreed to go. So they paid to fly me out to California to film with them in Burbank. I got to go and be a part of this thing and be a part of the “official media” surrounding this thing. It wasn’t just—we are a fan podcast, and that is a wonderful experience to have–but to be officially involved with this company that I’ve loved for so long. It was a very cool experience that came around because we participated and we put ourselves out there and made ourselves available for something like this. And because of that, after doing that we also—all three of us have come back for stuff like that. We haven’t flown back but I have Skyped into various interviews on their DC news show where we talked about Young Justice and we discussed recent episodes in a more condensed way than our podcast. So that was the best, the biggest experience. I also got to meet the creators of the show because my cohost set up lunch with some of them just because! And I got to meet them and the voice actors…that entire experience of getting to be involved and getting to travel as a result of this, just something that I do for free and would do for fun…to get to do something that big was an amazing experience.

TOMLIN: What is one of the challenges of being part of this podcast?

BUZA: There are always a few challenges to any sort of big creative endeavor like this. We have over a hundred episodes of this podcast, I haven’t been involved in all of them–I wasn’t around for our first season but that’s a lot of content to produce! So you get into some things like time management issues that are the adventure of every college student doing anything.

There are also the issues that come along with being a woman producing content on the Internet that many an internet content creator has talked about before. We are very lucky in that we have a very welcoming and opening and friendly community surrounding our show, but every now and then you get some people who are less than kind. Who don’t really want you to be enjoying things or having opinions about things on the Internet. I have been extremely lucky in that I have not had to deal with that as much as some people but that can be kind of discouraging.

What makes it easier from all standpoints, whether it’s time management or dealing with those fears or dealing with that imposter syndrome which comes from being a creative person making content in a world where there are so many wonderful things is having the support of other people. I’m really grateful for my entire podcast team, my cohost and producer and our assistant editors and others I have met in the podcast community to back me up. They are there and can help you schedule things around your classes and figure out how to make everything work. So the problems are the issues are there, but they never outweigh the good things from this, for me.

TOMLIN: Where do you see the podcast going? What’s next for you?

BUZA: Currently we are between seasons because Season 3 that we discussed just wrapped up, so we are recording our full reviews of those episodes, and once those are done we will be going into a—not really a hiatus—we will still be putting stuff out but our output will slow down a little bit as we dive into other topics and do more discussion episodes. We’re hoping to get a bunch more interviews with the people who create the show and discuss that. And we are always coming up with new things and doing new, wonderful ridiculous side projects as part of this.

So much of this is our little group chat of podcast creators throwing out an idea as a joke for side projects and someone will say “no that’s a good idea do it.” I had a little while ago said “what if I did a mini-series of episodes just focusing on the romantic arcs of the show?” and they said “do it, put together an outline, do it” and I do that now. We have a series of episodes outside our normal review episodes called “Super Sweethearts” where I break down romantic arcs between superheroes and it is very fun and cute. I have more of that to do, we have whatever the next season of the show will hold for us and what we talk about. Everyone I know in podcasting is just doing too much at once and still making it work.