web stats

CSBG Archive

She Has No Head! – “Johnny Come Lately” Has Another Name

gingerhaze comic panel

Panel from Noelle Stevenson’s comic

Last week, Noelle Stevenson, Nimona comics creator, among other things – including art  student grad, social media maven, and traditionally published comics creator – published a fantastic short comic about her terrible experience in a comic book shop. I urge you to go there and read it in full as it is both hilarious and sad and filled with painful, pitiful truth.

The result was, naturally, internet explosion – of both the good and bad variety – last I looked it had been re-blogged or noted over 73,000 times. A ton of people related to this comic, understood it instantly, and even if they hadn’t experienced it themselves, understood that this happens ALL THE TIME. Of course there was also a ton of sexism, harassment, concern trolling, silencing techniques, victim blaming, and plain old mansplainin’.

So I thought as someone with a regular column that addresses these kind of things, it might be time, or past time possibly, to weigh in on my experiences, because I’ve never really talked about my own comics shop experiences. Some of you know how I came to comics – i.e. through the 1990’s X-Men Animated Series. For some reason this has never gotten me (to my knowledge) the ire that others experience for DARING to find comics via other more popular media. There’s quite frankly, never a good reason to judge someone for how they come to comics, but it’s hard for me to understand why you’d laugh at someone for getting there via something like Nolan’s Batman, which made literal mounds of money – like rolling in vaults of gold Scrooge McDuck style – and is pretty damn good to boot – and then NOT judge someone else for getting to comics via cheesy 90’s animated X-Men cartoons. Makes no sense. Though I love the 90’s X-Men Animated Series (sometimes powered by nostalgia alone) I can admit in retrospect that they were rather terrible. But I’ll always be grateful that they brought me to comics. Unfortunately, this is the culture we live in these days – a culture in which people – typically those with a whole lot of privilege – love to be outraged over things like mythical “fake geeks” (usually “fake geek girls”) I guess because it’s just not enough to have ALL THE STUFF MADE FOR YOU…you also have to make sure NOBODY ELSE ENJOYS IT OR MIGHT INFLUENCE IT IN ANY WAY.

Well I have news for you, you people that think this way are fucking dinosaurs and you WILL die out. It’s just a matter of time.

By opting to be on the “I hate change” team you are ignoring the entire breadth of human history, because change? She is the only damn constant. You’re on the losing team, kid, you just don’t know it yet.

So, what happened to me in comic shops to make me so sure that Stevenson’s comic is right on the money? Very little. I happened to get very very lucky in my first comics experiences in large part because I had four things going for me that few people are lucky enough to have:

#1. I WASN’T DOING IT ALONE. I had my younger brother with me and that changes everything on both sides because from my side of things – let’s face it, everything is less scary when you have a friend/partner in crime. I had my brother and he was an awesome partner in crime. We bonded because of comics and became close in a way that I don’t think we ever would have without managed without them. Though we went our separate ways with comics eventually, him largely leaving, except for the occasional book or series, and me diving headlong into them for life, those experiences and our love of the medium still unites us to this day. It was awesome and I’ll always be grateful for that bond we share and that he was as in love with them on sight as I was. Perhaps more importantly however, from the retailer side of things, they didn’t even have to see ME as a potential buyer because I had their core audience with me – A YOUNG WHITE MALE. By the time anyone figured out that I was also there for myself I was spending enough money that they didn’t care I was a girl.

#2.  I WAS YOUNG & NAÏVE.  And thus almost unaware when I was being treated in a dismissive way. I’m sure it happened from time to time but I simply didn’t “get it” enough to know it was happening. It’s a lot easier to walk into a “boys club” and attempt to screw with the status quo when you don’t actually know you’re doing it. While I was insecure, probably like any teen, I also had that weird confidence that only youth can bring – that brazen naivety that makes you completely unaware that people might not want you there. If I even could get to “why wouldn’t they want you?” it might have thrown me, but I was too blissfully ignorant to even think up that possibility. In my mind, of course I was wanted – I was awesome and had money to spend – who wouldn’t want ME?!  The 20, 30, 40, 50-something (etc) new female comic fan doesn’t have this “luxury of innocence/stupidity” – they are all too aware of how the world works, how shitty people are, how close-minded and fearful tight knit groups can be, and they can more easily read the signs (both literal and not, both spoken and unspoken).

#3. ABSOLUTE OBSESSION. I had the benefit of absolute obsession, again, a quality few adults can afford. I had fallen head over heels in love with comics and as a result I had the kind of blinders on that only come with obsession. I argued to the point of insanity with my father one day when he would not let me (16 years old and frankly not a great driver – who is at 16?) drive in a BLIZZARD to pick up my pull. I’m sure there was something going on with Rogue/Gambit that week that I was DYING to know about. Anyway, I was obsessed with comics in that way that few adults are obsessed with anything. As an adult you learn perspective, you learn about responsibilities. Even that stuff that drives you mad in the good and bad ways (a crush, a new relationship, a promotion, that guy you hate) – most of us as adults can still see the forest for the trees. Not so my teenaged self that loved comics. There was a point at which someone probably could have grabbed my boob and insulted me at the time in a comic shop and I would have just moved his hand and been all “uh-huh, and WHEN does that book come out?”

120x240Tall

Hell, “my shop” was even referenced in a really famous comic once!

4. A GREAT SHOP. Very early in my comics reading and shopping for comics experience My brother and I had the good fortune to find a great comic book shop and one that actually happened to be owned and operated by a woman, which made it naturally more inclusive in every way. Mimi was the owner of Night Flight, but also a hardcore fan and so despite the fact that I almost never saw women in her shop (and I don’t recall any other female employees during the years I shopped there) just her presence alone “normalized” the idea in my impressionable young brain about women reading comics. It was also a store with an inclusive, open, friendly, and knowledgeable staff. I’m sure that was, in part, quite naturally, because when your boss is a woman that loves comics you learn very quickly to be more open minded and see OTHER women as potential readers/customers AND because you probably know, even if you WERE prone to any kind of discrimination/sexism/harassment/casual that your female comics loving boss was unlikely to look kindly on that.

It’s no surprise that Night Flight became OUR shop. That when it came time to set up our pull, this was where we did it, no question. It was also (at the time) conveniently located in a mall (and one with an arcade-bonus!)…but I would have driven much father for it.

From the moment I started reading superhero comics I also started creating them. Drawing and writing my own characters (all terrible). Night Flight was a place I felt so encouraged and accepted that I recall (at least once) showing Mimi and some of her staff my stuff. They were sweetly encouraging (despite said terrible work) and they helped – ever so subtly – grow those tender ideas that I could actually work in the comics field. I’ll always be grateful to Mimi and Night Flight (which still exists – though not in the same location – go check them out) for their part in my development as a reader, a fan, and an eventual creator.

My next regular comic shop was in Tucson Arizona my freshman year of college at The University of Arizona. I got lucky again when I found a perfect comic shop right off campus called Captain Spiffy’s with a fantastically charismatic and friendly owner that didn’t blink an eye at my presence. By then I had a good two years of comics reading under my belt so I would have been more difficult to dissuade, but still the shop made a huge difference in my life. In fact, the owner was a creator himself and had an ongoing self-published book based on the character Captain Spiffy and he even offered night classes teaching sequential art. I ended up taking two of the courses my sophomore year and they were hugely responsible for me eventually transferring to The Savannah College of Art and Design to study sequential art. It was taking those classes that actually helped me understand how much I loved comics because most of my fellow graphic design students were obsessed with graphic design, while I was obsessed with comics. I couldn’t come close to their passion for graphic design (no matter how practical a career path that might have been) because my obsessive space where you keep your passion for your work was already filled up with comics, there wasn’t enough room for graphic design. [Captain Spiffy’s is long gone – where?! – but it’s nice to know others miss it too]

tumblr_n0snwut6Gh1qeqx7ko4_1280

Panel from Noelle Stevenson’s comic

Interestingly enough, when I moved to SCAD to actually study comics, I largely stopped reading comics. Or at least the week to week floppies. I didn’t like the comic shop near me in the suburbs – I never felt welcome there – odd as you would think a shop would go out of its way to be a good shop when you were one of only a few in a town that had “comics” as a MAJOR. The shop near school was supposedly good, but I never gave it much of a chance and it was inconvenient for me. I was also just absorbing a lot of comics history and knowledge that suddenly made month to month floppies, especially superhero stuff, seem less interesting to me (and let’s remember this was the late 90’s so it’s possible I was just burned out on the 90’s in general). Anyway, it was a weird time. And it was a while before I got back into comics.

Eventually when I was in LA, post 2001 and reading regularly again, I went both to a good shop close to me (DJ’s Universal) and Meltdown Comics, perhaps my favorite shop I’ve ever been to (keep in mind I haven’t lived in LA since 2005). In New York (post 2006) I mostly frequented a small shop right in my neighborhood (Alex’s MVP) and Jim Hanley’s, the shop I like the best (of several good ones) in Manhattan but which, like Meltdown in my LA days, is just not convenient enough to be my “weekly shop.”

So I’ve been really lucky all told. So why do I believe people like Stevenson that talk about about having terrible experiences? Well, firstly, because I tend to just believe comics creators when they talk passionately about their experiences via their art. Stevenson even mentions in her comic how she has had other experiences and that she knows not all shops are bad, but that things like what happened to her keep her from becoming a regular comic shop go-er (and comics reader) despite the fact that she’s an actual COMICS CREATOR. But her mentioning that doesn’t keep people from calling her a liar or blaming her for “not loving comics enough” and suggesting that “she needs to work harder if she wants to be a real nerd” and saying that “because they’ve never seen this happen, it doesn’t exist” – one of the more ridiculous arguments that the internet loves to recycle.

tumblr_n0snwut6Gh1qeqx7ko6_1280

A panel from Noelle Stevenson’s comic

But I don’t just have to take it on faith, because it HAS happened to me. And let’s even ignore the less direct ways that women are told comics and comic shops are not for them – with what is featured and how it’s displayed, a lot of it loudly proclaiming, before anyone says a word, that this is not SUPPOSED to be for you. Fortunately the direct stuff that I experienced did NOT happen to me when I was new to comics, or if it did I was not aware of it. It mostly happened to me once I was old fucking hat at comics and so I was more easily able to stand up for myself and make store employees (and customers) feel like absolute asshats for their bullshit preconceived notions and rampant discrimination/sexism. Doesn’t mean it should have happened. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have been taken seriously until I could “prove myself as a true fan” or “prove myself to not be a ‘johnny come lately’” or “prove myself to be someone with a brain and interests and not just a pair of tits walking around blindly who happened to stumble into the wrong damn store.” I shouldn’t have to prove ANY OF THAT. Nobody should.

I shouldn’t have to prove any of that in any scenario, but I ESPECIALLY shouldn’t have to prove it in a comic shop, something that is (and frequently claims that it is) dying a little bit every day. Comic book stores have a really tough go of it, let’s face it. They cater to a tiny niche audience and access via digital comics is killing them. And because of these fact they should be MORE open and interested than ANYONE in new readers, they should WANT the “Johnny come latelies” because you know another name for those? NEW READERS.

Yes, NEW READERS, you absolute idiots.

I’ve never seen another industry, more committed to its own self-destruction. I wrote (I hope passionately) last week about how I want to see more of EVERYTHING in comics, and that isn’t at the exclusion of anyone, including white males, of which my father, brothers, boyfriend, and many friends, all of whom I adore, happen to be, it’s just for the INCLUSION of everyone. And that includes all people – including, yes, all women – being able to go into any comic book store in the world, unafraid that they’re going to be harassed, hit on, stalked, insulted, talked down to, and generally despised for daring to come into a store to BUY SOMETHING.

As my 3 Chicks co-host Sue is known for saying – women’s money doesn’t have little boobies on it.  And quite frankly, even if it did, who cares??? You could still deposit it IN THE BANK.

I’m not going to end this piece with a whole “and I know not all stores are bad” bit, which is what my “don’t get people too upset” instincts are telling me to do. I’m not going to do that, because I already wrote over a 1,000 words about  my personal experiences with good shops. So don’t try to make this about something else. It’s about exactly what it actually says it’s about.

In addition to whatever comment you were already planning to leave, consider mentioning any shops you know of that you are CERTAIN are good/safe shops. It’s true that I’ve seen a lot of cases where people will be all “Oh such and such shop is the best!” and in my head I’m all “Well, that’s not entirely true, cause X, Y, and Z happened to me at that exact shop before I gave up going there” but it’s still worth trying to share the good shops. Unfortunately, as we all know, it only takes one really bad employee to potentially ruin a shop permanently for someone. And honestly, any shop owners reading? I would seriously urge you to have an intervention with your employees and make sure everyone is on the same page with how you want your shop to be perceived, because 50% of the population rarely comes into your stores and at least some percentage of them would like to, but are afraid, and it only takes one bad experience to send them running, not only away from your shop, but away from comics. And our industry straight up needs every reader it can get.

What you definitely DON’T have to add to the comments section is how this never happens because you’ve never seen it happen, or even better, that it never happens because one time you saw a woman treated well in a shop and therefore they are always treated well. Since I have my University of Arizona days on the brain I have to tell you that with that logic you would get an F in my freshman “Logic & Critical Thinking” Philosophy Course, my friend (I, however, got a B, so…take that) :)

***

Totally unrelated personal side note: The Kickstarter for my book STORYKILLER ends midday on Thursday, so check it out if you have a chance.

In addition to being a cool book, the print edition is going to have 32 pages of  full color art – 22 original pieces  from 21 incredible comic book artists including: Dustin Nguyen, Rebekah Isaacs, Kris Anka, Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire, Caanan Grall, Matthew Southworth, Ross Campbell, Stephanie Hans, Meredith McClaren, Renae De Liz & Ray Dillon, Kyla Vanderklugt, Thomas Boatwright, Ming Doyle, Ben Caldwell, Noelle Stevenson, Jake Wyatt, Stacey Lee, Cassandra James, and Brett Weldele.

About half the art has been revealed and there are still limited edition prints available for some, but much of the art is going to be debuted over the next three days – including some awesome originals. So get in there!

145 Comments

I work in radio. My demo and target listener? A working mother, aged 28. That’s my audience. She’ll bring her kids and her partner with her, but that’s who I play to.
When my wife discovered Twilight and read it and raved about it – I read it to see what it was all about. I did some research and discovered that author Stephenie Meyer was influenced by the ’90’s X-Men cartoon – and gave each of her characters powers on top of being a vampire – like the X-Men. My wife tolerates my comic book obsession. In return, I try to understand what she likes. We’ve been together nearly a quarter of a century. My comment isn’t about Twilight, pro or con. My comment is that my wife makes allowances for my geekery. While not always perfect, I try to understand why she likes what she likes. because she does that for me. It’s not always fun. I’d rather be reading comic books. But we’re happy with it.

The toughest thing for people to understand about this is that all of this is anecdotal. I don’t doubt anyone who says that they have bad experiences in comics shops, and I don’t doubt people who say they’ve never had a bad experience. Since I’ve been reading your columns, I’ve actually looked at how comic shop employees treat their customers, especially women, and I’ve never seen bad things. My comic shop is a stereotypical place – it’s cramped and packed and the owner is kind of a slob – but they’re very friendly to women who come in to the store and obviously know nothing about comics (they’re buying for their kids or even boyfriends who couldn’t make it in that day), and they help out as best they can. Even after women have left the store, there’s no “Who was that and how dare she enter our domain!” kind of thing. So it’s tough for men to believe this kind of thing. I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if someone said they had a bad time in my comic shop, even though I’ve never seen it. The reaction to someone like Stevenson isn’t surprising, because people are so weird about what they love. They don’t want to think there are bad (or just stupid) people involved with something they love, even though they have plenty of evidence.

I just find the stories about bad experiences in comic shops hard to believe because I really can’t fathom why someone would try to drive away customers. As you point out, who cares if a woman is giving you money? Do you put it in a special envelope labeled “Chick Money” and then don’t spend it because it wasn’t handled by a true comics nerd? Sheesh.

I think another source of this fear is that, on some level, comic book fans do not want comic books becoming too popular. If it did, comic book stores would go the way that coffee shops did when Starbucks took over. Gone would be the specialty shops and, instead, you would have corporate comic shops that sell the same thing the same way and look the same. I have to admit, I have two comic shops: one that sells the popular stuff (usually super hero comics) because they think the other stuff is artsy pseudo-intellectual stories that look down on the average person’s comic book buying habits, and one that sells stuff that is different from the popular stuff because the owner of that store is passionate about wanting to get people to buy stuff beyond the popular and that he thinks is better. These two guys have a constant rivalry with each other, which I cannot help but find ridiculous since, no matter how popular or arty said comic is, it is still on the fringe of what most people know. Still, I am glad both are out there, or I wouldn’t find some of the unusual stuff I enjoy reading, whether it be super hero or the more artistic attempts, and I got to admit that, if this stuff did truly become pop culture, I fear these avenues would be blocked to me.
I am not denying that sexism exists in comic shops. Though, I have to admit, I do not see too many women in the shops I go to, though my area is a bit of a small town. If there is, it is the girlfriend of said comic shop owner or a woman who wanders in and everybody looks at because they are surprised to see a woman there. Heck, I’m surprised when I see a kid in a comic shop these days. If I see any negative attitude towards new readers, it is usually someone who comes in after seeing an X-Men movie, and wanting to find comics about it, and walking away disgusted because the comic looks nothing like the movie.

When I was running D&D Encounters at my friendly local comics & gaming shop, we would get in young women who wanted to play D&D. I and the rest of the folks running it did out damndest to make them feel welcome and at home, but they would get some sideways and some subtle hostility from some of the other male comics and D&D nerds there. Most everyone else was good about giving those guys a subtle word or two, and most of the young women came back.

I had to really stop and think about why that was, and I reached the conclusion that a lot of these guys were painfully, socially inept, especially with women. As a result, they end up retreating to places where there are only other guys who share the same interest – i.e. other socially inept nerds. Anyone or anything that comes into what they perceive as “their” space becomes a threat, and they react with shameful behavior such as being condescending, insulting, sexist, or overtly hostile.

I think the biggest problem with these guys is, well, being a young guy. What I mean is, that all young guys, whether they know it or not, are all in competition for attention from young women. Now, no one teaches these socially inept guys how to handle talking with women, treating them as equals, and realizing when it is appropriate to engage in a male/female dynamic (“Hey, wanna go out on a date?”) or engage in a peer/peer dynamic (“Hey, wanna play D&D/talk comics?”). This is usually due to a lack of older male role-models with experience, or said models thinking, “Ah, they’ll figure it out.” As far as learning from male peers? Forget it! They are *competition* and you don’t teach your comptetitors.

Now, I am not saying that we excuse their behavior – far from it! We need to call these guys on it, in an attempt to re-educate them as to what is or is not appropriate, at least as far as the peer/peer dynamic. That is on all of comics & gaming geeks. Everyone should feel welcome and free to engage their nerd passion!

Just gonna throw my 2 cents in about the comic shop I used to frequent:
For the most part the guy wasn’t bad. He owned the shop with him and his wife and they had a huge dog that sat in the corner and after the second year I went there a baby (usually playing with the dog). I am going to paint him a little one dimensionally, as this is the internet and I don’t have all day, but he looked a lot like the comic book guy form The Simpsons. He had an employee for also almost a stereotype as he just sat behind the cash register and read comics. I suppose he must have stocked shelves on Wednesdays but I always saw him on his stool until he was fired. many times I would walk in to exactly what you would expect to hear from a comic shop like debates about Batman and Superman or discussions of Watchmen. I should mention the shop itself (for the first couple of years) was also looked almost exactly like the shop from The Simpsons on a what passed for a main road next to a Subway sandwich shop.
Anyway, to get to the point, the guy did not make his shop particularly inviting until he moved it, not because he was insular or pig headed or anything but he just didn’t know any better. He was not particularly friendly but he tried. I was just getting back into comics and he helped me a little but I think we were both a little shy. When I went in with women they were never mocked and I never got the impression that they would have been if I wasn’t there but nobody ever suggested anything to me or noticed that I always read this writer or that writer or even tried to have a conversation. I think this was just a guy who like comics and bought a shop and did what he thought he was supposed to do. So I guess what I am saying is while there are jerks out there who want there toys to themselves and promoters who want everyone to try a comic and don’t care who you are there are also just “nerds” (for lack of a better word) who think it would be cool to sell comics and don’t quite know how to run a shop any other way then a dark shop in a strip mall.

things did change, however. I don’t know if it was the successful comic book movies or having a baby or what but the guy bought a bigger shop with windows and space to actually walk around and did not just fill it with displays and posters. He started selling more movie and nostalgia toys. He started wearing a shirt and tie and greeting people at the door. So secondary point is that things can change. Maybe not the jerks and the isolationists, but those people in the middle can learn from what is working and what is not. I think the industry as a whole is better than it was 10 years ago and am excited for each step forward.

I’ve said this in several places, but it bears repeating: Nobody gets to make fun of women for hypothetically buying sexy Lobo in an industry where the “Bad Girls” trend happened.

Hell, I’m a man who’s been buying comics for 30-odd years, and I’ve certainly encountered comic-shop employees (and record-store employees, and regular bookstore employees) who scoff at some purchases. It hasn’t happened to me often, but it’s certainly happened, and I don’t doubt for a second that women encounter that attitude way more than men do. Anyone who plays any attention to the comments section on comics blogs can see that there’s some weird hostility directed at female comics fans that I find completely baffling.

@Michael P: Yeah, the absolute tone deafness and lack of history/context and utter hypocrisy on anyone laughing at women for buying a “sexy male character in comics” is HILARIOUS.

I mean, yes, “Bad Girls” as a trend that just dominated, but not even just that, just the everyday nature of the portrayal of women in comics. They are ALMOST UNIVERSALLY sexy. So yeah, taking hypocrisy to a new damn heights!

At least in my country (Brazil), the geek culture that we have now is a lot more inclusive and mainstream and “clean” than what we had in the 1990s.

In my younger years in the 1990s, I’d go into comic shops in disreputable streets, with only other guys there, and most guys would be alone, and everybody seemed to feel a little too self-conscious, it was almost the same environment as a run-down porn bookstore. Yeah, I suppose that a woman would feel pretty unwelcome in one of those shops, but hell, lots of males also would.

Nowadays, comic shops are totally different in Brazil. Lots of women, lots of conversation, clean and well-lighted environments, people of all ages, not only middle-aged men, lots of couples and groups in the shops. In short, it’s almost like any other bookstore for affluent middle-class people. The only difference is that the people are dressed more colorfully.

I have to admit that sometimes I feel a little nostalgic for the days when geek shops were like secret places, unwholesome as they were. But I much prefer things as they are now.

You know, I don’t think there is anything wrong with girls liking a story with a handsome, sexy guy. It’s quite natural.

What I DO find funny about Twilight, 50 Shades of Gray, and other fandoms is that many girls are apparently drawn to guys that are abusive, domineering assholes and enjoy picturing themselves as damsels in distress or even the bottom in a S&M relationship. Well, okay, if that is what floats your boat. But what happened to feminism and all that talk about strong women? Are feminists a minority after all?

Excellent article. I’m a middle-aged woman, who has been buying comics since I was 15, and while I have for the most part been pretty fortunate in my comic book store experiences, boy howdy, have I had to put up with some absolute Neanderthals as well. Actually, that is a something of an insult to Neanderthals, who were probably perfectly nice people once you got to know them.

A Comic Book Store is in the Retail business. I know this is hard for some guys to fathom, but talking down to potential customers, having a dark and filthy store, talking about them after they leave and being rude and unhelpful only really hurts yourselves. You can sit around and sneer at newbies until the cows come home, but once YOU were a newbie too.

Maybe some people don’t have as much knowledge as you do about every single nuance of Stilt Man, but so what? Make them feel welcome, and they will BUY things, and perhaps someday come to understand what it is that makes Stilt Man so incredibly fabulous!

Wait, what?!?!? Are you people blind?

I thought my incredible fabulousness was obvious.

Two words: GIANT STILTS!!!

Deal with it.

I never understood treating girls like they don’t belong in “our” club. You have an actual flesh and blood girl in your store who likes and wants to buy comics! I’ve been lucky to have had two great shops that have been run by great guys who would never look down on anyone who came in their stores. unfortunately very few girls have ever come into the stores, most of them were usually with their boyfriends and you could tell they didn’t want to be there.

I shop at Alakazam Comics in Irvine, CA and they have been consistently great and welcoming to my wife and very young kids. They make more in toy sales than they do on my pull at this stage. I have been in lot of utterly terrible comic shops, but (like you) my regular shops have always been warm and friendly.

Like you, I came into comics from another medium. The after-school reruns of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN and BATMAN ’66 hooked me at a very early age. Finding out how deep those wells went was a borderline obsession and it was a long, long time before I found the Direct Market. I used to hunt re-prints constantly and that is how I found Marvel. The Lee-Kirby and Lee-Ditko stuff was far more available and affordable than older DC Comics.

Still, my first comic shop experience was intimidating. It was very different to have read “The Great Comic Book Heroes” by Jules Feiffer (or at least the re-prints therein) and Stan Lee’s “Sons of Origins”. It was quite another to be around folks that lived and breathed that stuff. I mean that literally, since those old comics were moldering on the wall. I cannot imagine being “outside the target demo”.

@Sallyp: I think some of the problem is that comics stores, more than just about any business I can think of, are started by people passionate about the hobby and not by people looking to start a small business. These are generally experts in comics who want to create a space where they can share their hobby with their friends, not people looking to start a new store who think that comics are the Next Big Thing. As such, the stores tend to take on the persona of their owners…and since there are a lot of sexist jerks in fandom, there are a lot of sexist comics stores.

I’ve thought for a while now that Diamond (or possibly Marvel, or DC) should create some sort of “Retail Relations Team” to teach store owners the basics of customer service. Things like, “OK, the giant pin-up of Vampirella with ‘clever’ word balloons written on it where she makes come-ons to the customers? Not such a good plan…especially not right next to your kids’ comics selections.” :) I know you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink, but it still seems like a good plan.

Or ooh! Something like ‘Restaurant: Impossible’, but with comics stores! “Robert Irvine has only forty-eight hours to get this store owner to stop being a sexist jackass, and create a store that doesn’t cause right-minded people to flee in terror to go scrub the slime off.” :)

@John Seavey: I would SO watch “Comic Shop: Impossible”

I I asked my wife about this. She hadn’t even read the article or comic yet and described stuff in them. Neither of us really frequent any shops these days but I hope there’s been some improvements since we stopped going. I mean…at least install some more lights and dust every once in a while!

Very nice, now I am wondering if I have been naive and lucky at the same time. The comic shop I go to is my first and they are pretty cool. They even encourages new readers…of both genders :O

The Trilogy Shop on Princess Anne Blvd in Virginia Beach is where I do my purchasing — and here’s the point of how welcoming is not always about the condition of the store…

Trilogy is in a small strip mall that seems to be in CONTINUAL renovation — I have never gone into the place without having to dodge potholes, scaffolding, or nearby stores being remodeled. But once IN there, there is never any shortage of affable, friendly people who will go out of their way to make sure that my requests and needs are met. I’ve even brought Danny in there with me, but it’s always “Hey, Rebecca — got your CHEW and Movement right here!” (Yeah, I’m one of the few Gail mentioned.)

Then one day, I happened to be in north Norfolk and I drove past their satellite store, so I figured I ‘d go in and see if they had a Secret Six trade I’ve been trying to get my hands on (Depths, btw). The place was clean and well-lit, and the staff… could not have been less interested in helping me if I was bleeding on their well-scrubbed tile floor. The guy behind the counter even asked if I knew that the kind of book I was asking for was “that kind”. Hampton Roads isn’t the most open-minded place on the planet, but even by the standards of Pat Robertson’s town, the condescension was infuriating. Ever since, when the folks in Va. Beach have offered to get me a copy of anything from Norfolk, I’ve given them a nice tip rather than spend the gas to go up there and subject myself to that again. It’s not worth it.

Everyone makes fun of people who bought Lady Death and Barb Wire. I buy all the Red Sonja titles and even I have to admit that some of it’s pretty silly and the cheesecake is a pretty huge part of the package.

To me, the fact that the Lobo thing is the exact same joke is a tally in the not sexist, not hypocritical column.

I haven’t read Lobo but I’m guessing it’s like the rest of DCs stuff. Uninspiring and mediocre and completely within the realm of the butt of jokes .

I often hear about this kind of disrespect / discrimination but I don’t often see it as I rarely shop outside my regular store. The Dragon, in Guelph, Ontario, is owned by a mother and teacher who offers free workshops to schools on using graphic novels in the classroom. Being a father and a teacher myself, this gives us a lot in common. The store manager is also a woman, and the store regularly supports charities that support women’s education in third world countries.

One of my favourite moments in the store last year was when the manager showed me their supplier’s calendar, with a scantily clad Vampirella in the month of October. One of the employees (male) had covered it with a piece of paper reading, “PG-13 – ask management to see”. Priceless.

I don’t remember Captain Spiffy’s, but then I don’t recall the names of the shops I occasioned in Tucson anyway (I got most of my new comics via Westfield, for price and convenience, throughout the ’80s & ’90s).

I’ve been to shops that were major collectibles centers, holes in the wall, mall and flea market locations. I’ve been to nice shops and shops that were fairly skeezy (rarely more than once). There’s a local shop that doesn’t seem to be very welcoming to anyone the guys running it don’t know personally.

I have never understood the mentality of comic shop owners/staff that would not welcome girls or women. When I was a kid I’d have loved to have known a girl as hooked on comics as I was. As an adult I enjoy conversing with women about comics.

Then again, I’ve frequently preferred talking to women than guys about anything, but that’s another issue.

Particularly in a hobby peopled by outcasts, largely focused on heroes who fight injustice, this has never ever made sense to me. Shops that act like this deserve to lose business and close.

I go to The Comic Shoppe in Ottawa. They have a female employee there. So I doubt there’s much misogyny there. But I don’t spend much time inside whenever I visit, and I don’t pay much attention. I have noticed a couple women who seem to be regulars, and they always seem happy to be there, so I’m guessing they get treated well. So I think it’s probably a pretty good store in that respect.

Mummra the ever living

February 18, 2014 at 12:07 am

I am absolutely sure this kind of bad experience happens on a regular basis.

I love comics. My girlfriend doesn’t. Not an issue. What is an issue though, is that she regularly tells me that she feels uncomfortable in my LCS and feels like she can’t go there by herself. (I frequently have to buy my own birthday/ Christmas presents).

There was no inciting incident for this though- it’s as described in Stevenson’s panel above: a zeitgeist of “this isn’t meant for you”. And although she isn’t into Comic Books, she is into all the collateral- loves the movies like crazy (I’m a lucky man).

On top of that though, I’d point out that bad experiences (and consistent bad experiences) don’t be necessarily relate to gender. I’m in the demo and my LCS have almost no customer service at all. They are in a prime location on, literally, the busiest shopping street in Scotland and are always packed.

This has lead to complacency & in turn lead to me being routinely ignored (often in favour of those mothers buying for their kids) and that has driven me away. I have never found an inviting comic book shop yet.

So now I am mostly a digital reader (with the odd exception that I must have the physical item) because the stores near me give me nothing that Comixology do not. And that’s what will kill the LCS dead.

Firstly, Alex’s MVP is cool… I go in there once or twice a month, fighting the crowded trains and transfers from Queens just to dive into the back issues and get lost for a couple of hours. The owners are quite gracious and enjoy seeing this black old kid dive in and continually flipping quarters to make decisions on which books to get.

Secondly, I admit to being in my younger days to being the “ick. Girls here? NO!” disease. I think what turned me around to the whole thing was visiting a comic shop on the edge of Fort Campbell, KY/TN while I was serving. It was the only comics shop that I found and it did have a large female clientele. Like you Kelly, a lot of them were influenced by the cartoons of the time but then migrated over to other books. That’s where I first heard about guys like Morrison and Ennis and where I got used to having women around regularly in the shop.

Now as I hit my shop in Long Island or the shops in Manhattan, it doesn’t phase me whatsoever… Still I will admit, it did take time for me to get over my ignorance and stupidity and I think I’m lucky to frequent shops that try to be all inclusive now….

How does a customer, male or female, talk to a shop owner about these concerns?

John, a Comics Shop Impossible, would indeed be quite wonderful.

I used to have a gorgeous local comic shop with sofas and lovely staff, who remembered things about me (“hey, you like that, so you might want this”) and sweets on the counter, and male and female staff, and I used to be in there all the time. Then they shut, and now I have Forbidden Planet, where they shelve graphic novels by publisher then title, so it’s pretty impossible to find things by writers I’ve read and liked, which is how I buy comics. The dudes who staff that end of the shop are so rude and condescending – and on weird things, too. When “Dotter of her Father’s Eyes” was put on the Costa Prize nominations and was all over the press, I thought I’d pick it up from there to give them the sale and their attitude was ridiculous – they hadn’t got it and didn’t plan to, there wouldn’t be demand for it*. The staff on the *other* side of the shop, where they sell the lego and the toys and such are always lovely, I can’t get my head round the disconnect.

I think comic shops can fall into nerd-clique problems, and some types of hardcore fans definitely look down on me for wanting author over title (even though I’ve been a comics fan since I was 13) and get madly defensive over “how it’s done”. (even though my local independent shop would always have shelves of books by popular writers, for people who’d, I dunno, read Coraline and wanted to see more by Neil Gaiman). So I buy on Amazon – and all my comic friends who are women do too, because a shop that looks down on me is a shop I won’t go into.

*Idiots. Another friend had exactly the same thing with that book and that shop, except their server was confused why people kept asking for it. It had been on Radio 4 (national radio) and reviewed in all the big national ‘papers – if that was my old store, they would have had it in the window straight away, with an “if you liked this you might like….” pile

I live in Chicago, where we are quite lucky to have multiple comic shops with female employees and excellent customer service, at least as far as I’ve seen. The stores are all three locations of Graham Cracker Comics; Chicago Comics in Lakeview; Dark Tower Comics in Lincoln Square; and First Aid Comics in Hyde Park. All those stores have female employees and at least one has a female manager.

There are also a couple lousy comic shops of the dark, dirty, and staffed-by-unhelpful-people variety, but I won’t mention them by name, because I want to focus on the positive.

@AirDave: That explains why my reaction when I watched the movie once was that they were the “shitty vampire X-Men”, with Edward as “shitty vampire Wolverine” and also “shitty vampire Colossus”, “shitty vampire Emma Frost”, and of course “shitty vampire Xavier”.

@Dalarsco: I’m no Twilight fan, but how does Edward track as “shitty vampire Wolverine”? – wouldn’t he be “shitty vampire jean grey” or “shitty vampire xavier”? I’m not sure who any of the other examples would be either. You could make a case for “shitty vampire storm” (that one chick who can electrocute stuff), and in some ways Bella AND Edward are both “shitty vampire jean grey” since one can read minds and one can project a “shied” and prevent her mind from being read…

now there’s some Twilight X-Men fanfic….”shitty vampire jean grey” in love with…”shitty vampire jean grey.”

My shop is amazing. Comics Unlimited in Westminster, CA. It haws been owned by Nancy for many years, and 2 of her 3 employees are female. It is super welcoming, well lit, etc. There is a picture of my son on a board behind the counter. It seriously is the best shop with the best people. If you live anywhere nearby, you owe yourself a trip.

I live in Perth Australia, my LCS is Comiczone, they do not currently have a female employee, but they have previously and have always been inclusive, they even offered me a job once because they wanted to have a woman on staff. They’re really great above and beyond that, and I love to see them help people out or suggest new things.

I previously worked at another comic store in Perth, and after I left I know they went really down-hill, until I stopped going in there, the new staff were really rude, and I got the stink eye the whole time I was in there, and I heard the same stories from my friends who went there. That shop should have known better, it had been a very inclusive and fun store.

In saying that, in general I think Australia has it much better than other places. I’ve been to a lot of comic stores, and generally, they’re pretty good.

Captain Librarian

February 19, 2014 at 9:00 am

My first though was “Hey, the IDW My Little Pony comics are awesome! Have some crossover audience with adventure time maybe he was offering some readers advisory?”

But yeah probably not. Looking at this, I think we’re seeing at least a small part of why comic book shops are dying. On the positive side, the local one near me has several female employees and in general seems to be run by nice people, from my perspective as a guy…unfortunately they never have the less popular comics I looked for and in general had trouble getting things in stock. That and the price of comics has driven me to Barnes and Noble, the library, and Comixology.

@Sarah – you may be amused to know that the Forbidden Planet in NYC sorts alphabetically by title (no company info required), but then will randomly just put certain authors in where they would go alphabetically. They often have multiple shelves in different parts of the store for the same author. And, also, I don’t know if they still do, but they used to split off super hero and non-superhero (with little consistency).

I have a hard time believing anybody would front by walking into a comic book store especially women.

I’ve had good and bad experiences in comic shops. Some were extremely condescending and expected me to know very little about comics, and employees asking me to go to the back room with them– and not to dig up back issues. Very negative overall.

Others have been very friendly. (Atomic Comics was very professional.)

Anyway, men dismissing the experiences of women about this, though, are dead wrong. YOU may not see it, but it happens. They’re not being oversensitive. They are accurately relating what’s happened to them. Instead of diminishing it, help promote a welcoming and inclusive community, and don’t just go with the ‘oh, he’s just…’ and ‘she’s just making it up’ habits. There are a lot of sweet guys in comics, and everyone understands that, but there are a lot of the usual maladjusted, women-scorning gatekeepers who make a point of gatekeeping what a nerd or a geek is, and many of them ARE store-owners or employees. Those guys need to get over their bad high-school experiences and stop acting like the folks who gave -them- crap for loving comics.

Most shops I’ve encountered have douchebag owners.

Just watch Comic Book Men.

You know something that seems to be escaping many people’s notice is the fact that women who venture into comic book shops may be getting some hate for treating the proprietor and their customers like creeps rather than engaging them, genuine interest aside. I’ve tried to strike up casual conversations about material and been looked at like I’m wearing just a trench coat. Hopefully as everyone gets used to the changes in the comic book fan demographics everyone will be treated with acceptance.

Some random thoughts:

I agree that the problem is often that the men involved are socially inept and uncomfortable around women and therefore don’t want them around. I’m not excusing it, just explaining it.

I can personally say that there have been times when a woman OR a man has expressed that they are a “nerd” or a “geek”, and I found it a bit difficult to accept because I grew up being these things and suffered socially for it. So when someone walks up and they don’t look like they’ve ever had trouble getting a date but call themselves a “geek”, that can be a little hard for me. But the utmost reaction they might get from me is an eye-roll, nothing like what is often mentioned in these situations.

BTW, a typical response to the above is often “don’t you want those people to like what you like?” to which I would have to reply “yes, but not because they feel like they are lowering themselves to my level. I don’t want loving comics to make one a geek; I want loving comics to make one cool. The cool people should continue to be cool, even when they read comics.”

I would suspect that the reason you got a pass for coming in via the 90’s X-Men cartoon is that it used so many of the storylines from the comics. You might have gotten a weird version, but you knew what a “Dark Phoenix” is. Whereas other movies have made so many changes that it could be said that those people aren’t really fans of the characters as depicted in the comics. But it really shouldn’t matter either way.

Well, I’m in Newcastle, Australia and my LCS is Graphic Action and they’re always a blast. Owner and employees alike are always friendly, accommodating and respectful. In fact, the major “issue” with the owner is he’s TOO friendly! TOO chatty! And WAAY too into Star Wars! (G’day James, in case you end up reading this!) Instead of being sullen and “Comic Book Guy” from the Simpsons, the whole group of people are always ready to help you out. Sure, I feel a geeky/nerdy nostalgia for their old, somewhat cramped, dark shop, but the current place is brightly lit, well organised and totally new reader friendly. Been going there steadily for easily 15 years now, and I cannot complain one bit. Except maybe the times I’ve been late for a bus/train/work because conversations with James run long! >.< So any Aussies in the area should know they've got a great LCS ready and waiting to take their money. I mean, help them find what they want.

There are good shops, there are bad shops, and then there are all of the rest.

I’m a guy, I worked in two comic shops when I was a teenager, and I owned a fairly major online player in Canada for seven years.

I’ve been to a lot of shops as a fan and I can’t believe even as a guy the different treatments I get depending on how I dress. I’ve gone into shops on weekends wearing my usual casual uniform of some sort of super hero t and jeans, and by and large I get pretty good service. If I bring my kids…I usually get worse service (which is ridiculous, because I spend 2-3x more when my kids are with me).

My favourite moment was when I was standing in line, and the cashier was chatting with a subscriber and generally taking her time. My five year old son (whom I had asked 10 minutes before if he had to pee, and he didn’t) suddenly had to pee really bad. I asked if I could pay for my kids books, she gave me the worst face I’ve ever seen, like she had eaten a lemon, and sighed heavily before ringing up my $8.00 worth of books! I almost left right then and there, but didn’t want to deal with my son freaking out because we had to leave the store without his comics. The customer she was chatting with commiserated with me and said he had a son, and recognized that dance – and that if we didn’t wrap up soon, there’s be a water problem in the comics shop.

Another time I ran into a “Shuster Award Winning Comic Shop” during my lunch break wearing a suit. Not only was I practically invisible, but when I asked if I could get a copy of Sandman Overture, I was told in a very snippy fashion that “We’re not sure if we have enough for our regulars, so we’re holding them. You can come back tomorrow and see if we have any left over.”

Seriously, one of the biggest comics of the year, and you’re not sure if you have rack copies? Also, I have money in my hand…and you don’t immediately take it? I won’t ever go back to that shop, especially when one two blocks away was more than happy to take my money.

I’ve seen women get treated incredibly poorly in comic shops…but those shops often just have really shitty employees. They’re also the shops that end up closing down under mysterious circumstances. Those circumstances don’t seem that mysterious to me.

Ty– They may have had bad previous experiences and are waiting for another one. Just keep being nice and professional, it pays off.

My LCS is great, and I think it’s the result of many things. The store was started by three guys who are family friends. One had already owned a comic and gaming shop previously (of the hole-in-the-wall variety), one had a day-job as a general manager of a more mainstream retail store, and one was just an enthusiast and all-around nice guy. Their plan was, specifically, to open a shop that was not the stereotypical dark pit of nerds. They went out of their way to find a nice space, design it with a manager’s eye, and keep it open and inviting with a lot of natural light. I remember the first time I went there after they opened, the first thing I said was “Wow. It doesn’t smell like nerd in here.”

Despite the fact that all the owners/employees are male, they have a number of regular female customers who come in both to shop and to just hang out on days off. It’s the kind of shop where most people who come in, male or female, end up becoming friends with the owners. I actually moved a few towns away, and despite no longer having a car, I still buy my regular pull-list there instead of any of the shops in the larger city I live in.

They recently moved locations, but the shop is still in Lodi, CA and is called the Launchpad.

This was a very enlightening read and especially hit home for me as my worst comic book store experiences came from working in a store in, well, Tucson! Seems I moved to the of U of A just a decade too late to have visited the wonderful store you mentioned.

The store, which I will leave unnamed as I don’t believe the offenders are employed there any longer, were not only completely dismissive of female customers, they refused to interact with them. It was made clear that I was hired to be the “token female” clerk who would bat eyelashes at male customers and be friendly with the girls since they couldn’t *possibly* communicate with women. (“Sell them that Manga crap, I hate that stuff.”-boss quote)

I left shortly after the sexual harassment got physical from my boss, who would grab my butt when I bent over to pull subs from boxes as the regulars came in. The owner told me I should take it as a compliment when I reported it.

All in all, it was a terrible experience that put me off comic book stores for years… It’s sad to hear others have had issues with this, too. We just want to read and create comics too!

Kelly, I’m glad you wrote this article… and I’m sorry it was needed. I don’t imagine it will change many minds, but if it moves a few to be a bit more considerate or tolerant, it’s a win. I will never understand the need that drives people to treat others so.

On the good side, I wanted to mention the best comic shop I’ve ever found:

8th Dimension Comics & Games in Houston, TX

8thdimensioncomics (dot) com

Shop owners Jeremy and Annie Bulloch (they met working in a comic shop!) have create a comic and games store with a welcoming atmosphere for enthusiasts of all ages and interest levels.

I’ve seen Jeremy work hard to promote interest in a kickstarter campaign for a little-girl-friendly comic publishing project. And I’ve watched him help a concerned father and eager daughter steer toward age appropriate comics that are female affirming and darned good reads. Annie has held several ladies only nights where the men HAD to stay out and the women were free to discuss their favorite artists, writers and interests.

But it doesn’t matter what age or sex you are – it’s just a darned fun place to shop. In fact, I drive a ways to pick up my pull list there, even though there are much more conveniently located shops here in Houston. Favorite pastime in the store: watching customers play “stump Jeremy with comic trivia.” Haven’t seen anyone do it yet.

I would like to mention Astro-Zombies Comics in Albuquerque New Mexico as a safe and professional shop for anyone. I have never witnessed the employees treating anyone poorly (I go there every Wednesday) and neither has my girlfriend been treated poorly (or witnessed such treatment).

I’d like to say, though, both myself and my girlfriend have, at other shops, been made to feel like newbs or that we are somehow interrupting the day of the shop employee/owner, even though no one else is in the shop. I sometimes think people treat shops as their personal fortresses of solitude, and not commercial enterprises. I personally think that shops work best as places of business that become community spaces for all.

Big Planet Comics in Washington DC is a really great local comic store run by very friendly guys. I have always seen them be respectful, helpful and energetic with all types of customers. Definitely not a boys club or comic clique feel to it.

Dora: I hate to be the kind of person who encourages people to be litigious, but if he physically touched you, you definitely should have involved the law somehow. More power to you for being forgiving, I guess, but people like that deserve to be either penniless or in jail.

I personally buy Amazing/Superior Spider-Man solely for Aunt May.

I suppose the question could also be asked as to whether this happens more or less often when men walk into traditionally-female stores. Or if it happens more in comics shops than in auto repair places or other such male-dominated areas. I know of one auto repair place that mentions how ladies are treated with respect right in the commercial, so obviously it’s at least a perceived problem there too.

@TJCoolguy: You are completely correct. I wasn’t forgiving so much as young and naive; I was just barely an adult when this happened. The thought of outright losing my job while a broke student scared the bejesus outta me.
( Yelling at the boss about how uncool it was eventually got him to stop, but by then the damage was done; I felt totally disrespected. If this is happening to anyone else out there: Take this guy’s advice and get a lawyer!)

Here’s an example of one of those infamous comic shops that drive women (as well as non-Christians and people of color) out of the hobby. The Book Nook of Atlanta, GA. The owner was one of the biggest, misogynistic, racist, fascist, jerks I have ever came across. He bullied and insulted anyone whom he differed in world view with. He was notorious for over-changing women and non-white customers. In the decade, I lived in the area, I only visited his shop a few times. Don’t think I ever bought anything there. I did buy several comics at the convenience store around the corner. Other stores weren’t as bad, but made up for it with inept employees and sexist posters festooned on the walls. Plus being so far out of the way, one had to make a special trip to just shop there.

@Sarah/Sean/Whoever

Yeah, you know, I think that while the organization of a store and how reader friendly that is, is certainly a stumbling block for many readers, especially the new ones, but it’s ultimately a different problem to me than how a store is presented and how helpful/welcoming/non-douchbaggy/close-minded/sexist the staff are.

Because in an open and welcoming store, even if the organization is terrible (which can easily happen, because let’s face it, there are a ton of ways to organize this stuff), you feel fine about asking for help.

I actually have kind of a funny story on this tip. Jim Hanley’s (manhattan/old 33rd street location) as I mentioned in the piece, is a GREAT shop. Tons of selection from mainstream books and indie books, including self published stuff, they’ve also got toys and games a section for porn. Everything you could want, really, and they have a generally great staff, they’re well lit, and smartly open-mined (they are of course in a heavy tourist area – so this is especially smart and necessary for them).

That said, they do (or used to) reorganize the store a lot – as if they are always looking for the right balance…and I get that, but it can be frustrating because well…things are always moving around.

ANYWAY. I was in there one week looking for Crossed by Garth Ennis. So I look in the new weekly/current stuff, alphabetical (under C) and don’t see it. I look in the “not new” stuff under C, still nothing. I do all that again looking under E (Ennis). The store was really busy so there was no one to ask at the moment, I try again, and look under A for Avatar and G for Garth (the latter making no sense but I was getting desperate). No dice.

Finally there’s someone available. I grab her attention. “Hey…do you know where the new Crossed is?”

She thinks for a minute, gets this strange look on her face and then takes me to “P” for PREACHER. Where all of Garth Ennis’s books are shelved…next to PREACHER. I look at her and roll my eyes. “You know this is TERRIBLE, right? Who would EVER think to look here?”

She nods like she has had the conversation a least a thousand times, we laugh, and I go about my day.

So yeah, even a (sometimes) terribly organized store, so long as it’s got great friendly customer service, the rest can be solved, IMO.

I’m interested to know what Savannah comic shop was “in the suburbs” since all three were in the city proper. Both the one downtown and the one on Mongomery X are owned by the same guy, and up until last year they also both had backrooms for porn. I spent late high school and early college hanging out at the Montgomery one trying to talk comics with the guys who worked there while occasionally getting out of the way for some sweating, jumpy guy to buy his porn without a girl nearby to see it. So, yeah…not exactly a “welcoming” environment for girls in general, but the guys who worked there were never patronizing to me.

The one downtown is closing in favor of consolidation to the Southside location. I spoke to the owner about it and when I brought up the Seqa kids he dismissively said, “They always come in their senior year and say ‘I never knew this place was here!'” which seems a little nuts to me. Then he told me they were all “too fat to walk”. Awkward. I shifted the conversation to the fact that there were a lot more girls in the major now than in the old days and he said, “That’s who I’m talking about!” So………….yeah.

The other comic place on Eisenhower is closed. They were mostly a shop for table top gaming and yes, the workers/owner there had a massive bad rep for being patronizing to just about everybody.

It’s really no surprise I buy all my books online now. The few times I’ve gotten to go to great shops in other cities I’m just blown away. That’s a low bar, though.

Let me add to the chorus of “This crap doesn’t happen in my LCS.”

Don’t get me wrong, my comic shop guy hates his fair share of customers, as everybody who has ever worked retail does. He’ll bitch about the lookie-loos, the people who think his store is a daycare, and the ones who think he’ll pay for a garbage bag full of crappy baseball cards.

But if you’re there to buy something, he could not care less what’s between your legs or how much you know/care about whatever it is you’re buying.

Glenn– not on this particular and pervasive scale, especially since the treatment extends from the shop to the conventions to the professional environment. It’s the same kind of treatment that auto shops, instrument shops, big box hardware stores, etc, often do as well.

Even recently online, when discussing art (my work) with folks, I’ve had to have pros assure folks that I actually understood what I was talking about– whether it was photoshop in general or comic art in particular, it took a man to assure folks that I wasn’t clueless.

This reminds me of a comment I posted on one of your editors about Ms Marvel(was her name Nicole? I fail either way if I forgot her name or get it wrong). It was about how women shouldn’t need to prove anything, other than they may like reading comic books. Each case is different, and I think is good. Is good Kelly tells her side of the story.

I have seven sisters, I was the eight(nine in total; my brother the last one) one. I had many girls(such great watercooler conversations) tell me they wished they had that many sisters. I can understand why they would say that, but is funny to me. Why? Because imagine trying to ask for advice. I had to learn from the streets and from my father. My dad is as old-school as you can get, and my friends — who were as fascinated with my family as everybody in the neighborhood — were all I needed in order to understand man law. Comics, movies, etc were entertainment, but the boys showed me a general understanding of boys will be boys. Back then, as long you were around the block, you were welcomed. My sisters could have never showed me that, but they did show me great music.

All cases are different, and everything makes sense when you put it into context. The explicit language is a bit unnecessary, Kelly, but if you feel that way, then you feel that way. I can’t tell you how you should express yourself or how you should describe your past experiences. Is unfair. But what I can do? Give you props for saying something what every girl is thinking about but is afraid to admit it. And that is something I can respect.

Even though I’d love to agree with the notion that these shops are on their way out, the fact is there are many, many of these shops that have been going strong since comic shops first started popping up in the early 70s.

Part of the reason they will continue to exist and actually be the dominant “type” of comic shop is that women still do not shop at comic shops in large numbers. Certainly not large enough that their absence would drive a store out of business. Those women who do shop at brick and mortar stores that are treated badly rarely say anything about it. It’s true that these type of sexist shops have only recently been getting attention. But the fact is that most women get their comics digitally. The others just find another, more welcoming store. But that really doesn’t change the demographic that would keep the bad stores alive.

The funny thing is that, as an army brat, I can remember going to comic shops across the country in the 70s when comic shops were just sprouting up and being welcomed much more than I was during the 80s and 90s. But based on where we were as a culture in the 70s(remember when guys thought feminism was cool? True story!) and how comic art reflects what demographic the comic is marketed to, the 70s were much more female friendly than they were in the 80s and on. While I only have anecdotal evidence to support this, conversations with people like Trina Robbins and Michelle Nolan have led me to truly believe that there was a mass exodus of women from comics in the 80s. I think the fact that objectification in comic art grew exponentially more grotesque in the 90s somewhat bares this theory out. True, there were women getting into comics in the 80s and 90s but a lot of them, like Kelly, were getting into it through television animation and films rather than discovering them via comic shops. There were female friendly comics, but they were fewer and far between in the 80s and 90s.

And even though social media shines a light on the bad shops more than ever before, ultimately, the bad comic shops will continue to exist and women will just buy them in other outlets all together. Something that should make a site like comixology very happy. But the pessimist in me just doesn’t see this ending inside the next few generations if ever. And, lets face it, the thing that makes these comic shops so sexist are the people, not the shop. The things in our culture that shape the men who act this way are not just going to vanish. Ever. Not as long as people raised in a misogynist culture continue to vent their pent up anger at the real or imagined slights of their childhood on those they feel represent the guilty party once in a perceived position of power. In the case of the guys who work at these shops, that would be women.

“I can personally say that there have been times when a woman OR a man has expressed that they are a “nerd” or a “geek”, and I found it a bit difficult to accept because I grew up being these things and suffered socially for it. So when someone walks up and they don’t look like they’ve ever had trouble getting a date but call themselves a “geek”, that can be a little hard for me.”

Glenn –

You can’t somehow figure out a person’s entire past just by looking at them and chatting with them for a few minutes. There are many cases of people who were more stereotypically nerdy when younger, but blossomed into more confident adults. Either naturally or deliberately. People do change and you can’t say for sure that they weren’t as bullied as you in high school.

Also, if being “dateless” is the hallmark of being a nerd, I gotta tell you that I’ve met some guys who looked exactly like the nerd stereotype and still managed to score a lot.

@iola

Well, this was nearly 18 years ago, so even accounting for time, it still sounds like downtown (Homerun?) was no better than the “suburbs” location – and yes, the one on Montgomery X was the one I was referring to. You can have “suburbs” still in the city proper right? Regardless, it didn’t feel like downtown, it felt like “the suburbs” but if that’s not technically correct, then okay!

Regardless, yeah, it sucked and it sounds like it’s obvious why – poor ownership/leadership.

And if SCAD students didn’t know his shop was there, sounds like they needed to do a better job of promotion. I’m sure the sequential art staff/teachers would have been happy to help with that. Hosting things there, giving discounts, etc. You can’t just sit on your ass when you run a business and expect it to just flourish. Annoying!

“I can personally say that there have been times when a woman OR a man has expressed that they are a “nerd” or a “geek”, and I found it a bit difficult to accept because I grew up being these things and suffered socially for it. So when someone walks up and they don’t look like they’ve ever had trouble getting a date but call themselves a “geek”, that can be a little hard for me.”

You really can’t tell just by looking. I got harassed and vilified over loving comics, and I even got abused by my family because I wouldn’t stop reading them, because ‘comics are for boys’. Then I went into comic shops, and got treated very poorly by guys who saw a dress or some clevage or just ‘a girl’. I just wanted to read the books I loved, bro! Maybe talk about them with people who liked the same stuff! You would never have guessed that I got slammed into walls and punched in the spine for refusing to stop reading and buying comics and books. Obviously not everyone’s experiences are like this, but it’s not right to have a chip on your shoulder against people who you deem aren’t ‘geek’ enough.

And speaking as an artist, I would like it very much if more girls bought comics. More girls buying comics = more comics being made and a healthier industry.

The My Little Pony crack was out of line…at least from the way it’s presented. He could have been trying to be helpful. Probably not, but it IS possible. The Lobo comment just rings true, and there’s no reason to give a damn. If retailers are seeing an increase in Lobo sales to female readers because he’s now represented in a way that speaks to the female readership, there’s nothing wrong with commenting on it. There’s also nothing wrong with disliking the Twilightization of characters. There’s nothing wrong with disliking when characters are tarted up either. We’re all entitled to our own opinions, and seeing so many women get so worked up about so little is tiresome. Stop making mountains out of molehills. Stop assuming people are out to get you.

I moved to online ordering years ago because of shitty comic shops. Even there I found prejudice from the guy I ordered from, so I moved to a different service. I honestly don’t understand why ANYONE would buy comics at a comic shop unless they had to.

I’ll restate my opinions in a different way:

Instead of “are you sure you don’t want my little pony too”, the clerk should have said “would you also be interested in our my little pony comics? a lot of our other female customers have been buying it and have said good things.” Good Clerk vs. Bad Clerk.

Instead of being so deep in conversation with a coworker, the clerk should have made himself available to every new customer that walks in the door. Granted, most people that shop don’t want to be bothered and will ask the clerk for help when needed…so to pass the time, clerks talk to each other. Nobody likes to interrupt a conversation, but conversations can last forever sometimes. Upon entry, the clerk should have welcomed her to the shop and stated that he would be available if she needed anything. Now, maybe he was having a boisterous talk with his buddy and didn’t hear a meek young lady try to get his attention. but he could have checked in with her during a lull. That one’s hard to judge since it’s just from one perspective, but if you want sales it’s best to be solicitous.

Edward Cullen Lobo comment was fair, and it’s best if the ladies just own it. Own it and say “so what?!” Take the shame. We have to take the shame for Grimm Fairy Tales and whatever. Her issue is that they assumed this was why she was buying it when it wasn’t. However, her situation is rare. It’s not every other female Lobo-reader that is buying it because their friend worked on it. That one wasn’t worth complaining about.

That’s what I think.

Yeah, but Own, considering that the majority of comics are T&A, you don’t hear cracks like that about books they’re selling to their bros. Especially when that life-sized Zatanna display is falling out of her spangles right next to the counter. It was out of line.

@Own Your Shame:

Yeah, but you guys don’t “take the shame” for buying Grimm Fairy tales. I’m sure NOBODY gives you shit for that. We had an industry half built on “sexy barely clad bad girls” for AGES and we’re still struggling to climb out of it, clearly nobody was being given shit for buying that kind of thing.

And that’s kinda the ENTIRE POINT.

Just some things to consider. This is not to diminish or take away from any woman’s crappy experience in a specialty shop.

Sexism in comics is a glaring ugly issue and it should change. The same could easily be said for music, film, and advertising. It sucks. The toll it takes on society in general and women specifically is f’in’ horrendous.

When I walk into a craft store, be it Michaels, Jo-Anne’s, or a local store as a male I often feel unwelcomed and am often dismissed. But, I’ve also had the same experience at other specialty retail stores where I was often more knowledgeable than most, if not all of the staff working there. Music stores and video stores are/were notorious for treating customers like crap.

My area has two comic stores to choose from. One also focuses on Magic and whatever else is trendy from season to season(last summer the place was flooded with Frisbee golf paraphernalia). The customer service is terrible and the owner and many of the customers there treat folks who aren’t regulars like crap. I have never seen a woman in there unless she’s shopping for someone else.
The other store has been in business for 30 years(with three owners through that time). They are uber-friendly and welcoming of outsiders and newbies and though they currently have no female employees they have had several over the years. There’s rarely a time when I’m in the shop and there isn’t female shoppers.

My point is, if you are in a shop and feel like you are being treated poorly voice your opinion if you feel comfortable enough to do so and never go back. Do this no matter what kind of business you are frequenting.

While I’ll admit, anytime I see a female in a comic book store I do, do a double take they are very rare indeed (from my point of view). But as I moved from the Chicagoland area to the Los Angeles area- shopping at whatever shop was closest to me (hoping from town to town), I never notice any ill behavyour towards a female shopper- either from shop workers or male customers- which I’m happy to say.

So it’s sad to hear this sh!t goes on, but humans will often do bizare things to others to make themselves feel special. And anyone out there trying to defend this behavior or brow beat the people it’s happened to- you are the problem my ‘friend’.

Lastly there are sooo fake geek girls- but they are not the ones shopping at comicbook stores, they are the ones hired by companies to get us true geeks to buy their crap.

FYI- My current shop, Galaxy of Comics (in Reseda, CA) has a girls-nite only sale each year.

I have shopped for comics in many US cities over the last 40 years and I have been in places like Noelle Stevenson mentions. I make it a policy to only shop where I would be comfortable sending my wife in to pick up my comics for me.

Titan Comics in Dallas is the best I have been to, and I have been to hundreds. https://www.facebook.com/TitanComics

I’ve only been to the one Comic shop, Adelaide Comics Centre and being a guy who pays little attention to what’s going on in the store I obviously can’t comment on how safe or not it is but there are two female employees and I have seen on occasion the male employees both helping out new female readers find comics and have discussions about old comics with veteran female readers so it certainly seems like a nice place. Of course it could easily not be on the times I’m not there, or even maybe when I am.

My female roommate and I always went to that shop in Savannah southside , knowing what we wanted and never paid attention to the staff. Sexism was a given in 1996 and it was reflected in the bad girl content. I buy everything digital because its so, so convenient.

I have never personally been to a comic store where I saw employees treating women poorly. I went to a store once where the guys seemed kind of jerky and ignored me, and I never went there again. But outright disrespect towards women? I’ve certainly encountered some strange dudes while comic shopping, some not every socially skilled, but a lot of this to me reeks of self-hate from comic fans.

And how much of this sexism is coming from inside women’s heads? If you go somewhere you feel like you might not belong, how much of that is you projecting something that’s not there? So if you “feel” like you are being discriminated against, that’s 100 proof positive you are being victimized?

The comic store I frequent has 1 female and 4 male employees. But what I like about the place is they try to foster a female readership as much as possible. On Hallowe’en they all dressed as their favourite female heroes in comics. And I had an occasion recently when I went to the store, which was rather crowded at the time, and realised that only four of the people in the room were male. So I really appreciate the way they actively try to make their store more welcoming to everyone.

I was kind of hoping to hear more about your personal experiences than pontificating on the theoretical experiences of others. Like, what was it like for an adolescent girl obsessed with X-men to first start going into shops and hanging out in them. It’s sort of a different world, and it would have been more interesting to me to hear what your first experiences were like in more detail.

Comics shops have always seemed rather weird and unwelcoming to me, and I’m a white male. It seems to me that comic shops are quite often run by people with an absolute aversion to customer service or even basic retail business practices.

Growing up, we had one store where they would close down for every minor holiday, so when you were a kid and you were out of school for the day (one of the best times to shop for comics) you were out of luck. Then they would often have stacks of comics sitting on the floor, but if you ever got near them, they would immediately tell you that there was no way you could buy them, because they still had to be inventoried. There was another store where if you ever picked a comic book off the shelf, the owner would eye you suspiciously and lecture you about how you have to return it to the same place on the shelf. A few years ago, I went into another comic book store on new comic book day and picked up a few new comics to buy. As I approached the cash register, the owner accosted me and demanded I put the comics back on the shelf. “Those aren’t for sale until tomorrow!” he shouted. “I have to grade them all first!” Just tons of weird, surly, unprofessional behavior from comics “retailers” in my experience.

But, I was hoping for another perspective different from mine. I wanted to hear your own unique experiences in this strange world. Instead, it seemed like you only defined your experiences in the terms of how they differed from generalized “bad” experiences of others that were never made specific.

ANNNNNND WE HAVE A WINNER!

It took us 71 comments before we got to a TOTAL BS “victim blaming/it’s all in your head” bit of ridiculousness, but here it is. I am honestly very impressed it took that many comments. Still, here we are.

Congratulations @BC, you win the sexist cook-off with this gem:

“And how much of this sexism is coming from inside women’s heads? If you go somewhere you feel like you might not belong, how much of that is you projecting something that’s not there? So if you “feel” like you are being discriminated against, that’s 100 proof positive you are being victimized?”

Thanks for the article and sharing your experience. This is timely for me, as a woman that’s getting back into comics.

I hadn’t been in a comic book shop in years until a few weeks ago. The spot near-ish my work was…. well, it wasn’t *bad*, but the employee was completely indifferent. He spent a lot of time talking to some other guy about a character, but he didn’t say a word to me until I stepped up to pay, and was pretty terse even then. Good thing I knew what I was looking for. I’m hoping the shop closer to home is friendlier.

As a woman it’s frustrating, and a small business owner myself it’s just bizarre. There are basically two ways to grow your business: sell more stuff to your existing customers, and get new customers. These bad shops/employees only seem interested in approach #1, but that’s very limiting and ultimately doomed to fail. And you get new customers by being friendly and helpful and professional and making them feel comfortable, which clearly a lot of places are not doing.

I didn’t want to blow it right in the first comment, so I held off on the sexism….

You know, I don’t have to have actually seen the moon landing to believe that it happened, and I don’t have to actually have seen dickwad guys in comic stores be dismissive of women to believe that it happened. And still happens. There is enough eyewitness evidence that it exists. I know I’m antisocial enough myself, so I have no doubt that other male comics geeks are way worse than I am.

From what I’ve seen in my local stores and experiences with females who were with me (sister or girlfriends), I haven’t encountered this attitude myself, luckily. But I usually avoid crappy people when I can. So I don’t go on the nights when all the gamers are there ;)

There’s a big difference between the panels shown in this post (with the derisive commentary aimed at Ms Stevenson when she’s STANDING RIGHT THERE), and a more neutral tone (“hey, we also have My Little Pony, is that something you might be interested in” or “it seems like it’s more female customers that want Lobo now, that’s a big change from what it used to be”). And even if a comics retailer would love to roll their eyes at whatever someone is buying, I don’t think ANY comics store is doing so well financially that they can afford to turn away ANY customers.

All that said, I have to judge Ms Stevenson for wanting the Lobo book. Not because of any “sexy Lobo” stuff, but because it’s a DC52 book. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!?!? ;)

Rather than dwelling on the negative and let me tell you about some great shops by where I live. Being a single dad of 2 great kids (boy and girl) so where I shop is huge importance to me because I will not accept anyone speaking to her in this manner, or even talk about women like that in my earshot. So as Kelly mentioned in the story DJ’s Universal comics is a great place (studio city) , Blastoff comics in North Hollywood has a great staff, Earth 2 stores are good ( although I prefer the one in Northridge), and if you are more west in the San Fernando Valley you can not go wrong with Collector’s Paradise. I know these are good stores as I go to them often. Not that a lot of the other stores are bad (although I did have 1 bad exp. at one store, but it shall remain nameless) it just these are the best. Yes I am a bit extreme fanboy to the extent when I have time I like to just travel from comic store to comic store all over Southern California. I am always saddened when comic collectors treat people badly because this is the type of stories you hear and it hurts the whole community that I cherish (as many others do also) so.much.

Congratulations, Kelly, for another well-crafted column. For whatever reason (and I won’t brown-nose and list the many reasons), “She Has No Head” is the only column about ANYTHING I’ll read regularly these days.

While I was in college back in the late 90s, there were only two comic shops in East Lansing (MI) close enough to campus as to be practical and I stuck with 21st Century Comics just because it was between a bar and a headshop and right next to a Barnes & Noble as big as the largest shopping center in my home town in Brazil. There were only two girls I ever saw in there, and one of them was a friend and, as confident and self-asured as she was, she’d only go because I went with her. They made her and me feel VERY uncomfortable.

Guys behind the counter always looked sideways, very distant, never started any conversations and never engaged, really, unless they were “schooling” me on some ancient comicbook lore or on how all my favorite comics sucked (on that last I’ll give them a pass, I was heavily into the 90s Ghost Rider series). I still have the nagging feeling it was because I was a foreigner. I’m white and male, but those guys never warmed up to me and I felt it was the accent. Perhaps they just didn’t want to be friends and I’m being to harsh. But there sure weren’t many other foreing clients, or women clients, for that matter…

The problem with prejudice and discrimination is that it is in the system, so when it happens, it almost seems as if nothing happened, as if it was a non-event, most of the times. Only in the smallest amount of times some one will do or say something to show explicitly that “you are not welcome here”. But when you are not welcome you can always tell.

I’ve only seen this reprehensible behavior in stores located in smaller towns and/or suburbs.

Stores in major cities would get destroyed with this kind of “customer service”.

Kelly, I’m happy you took the time to single me out. The fact that you so quickly tossed aside the idea that there could be two sides to a story, that it couldn’t possibly ever be anything except somebody else’s fault, that any discomfort a woman would feel in a comic story has to be sexism, makes me think I’m on the right track.

Your use of the word “mansplainin'” in the second paragraph shows you’ve already made up your mind and have an agenda. And you’re calling me sexist pisses me off. Maybe you’re the one being sexist – I’ve seen you many times write columns about men wronging women – I don’t think I’ve ever seen you mention a woman mistreating a man. What a one-sided world you must live in. If you’re constantly looking for something to complain about, trust me, you’re gonna find it.

Kelly, I’m happy you took the time to single me out.

Obviously. Isn’t that the whole point of trolling? To get attention?

“I went to a store once where the guys seemed kind of jerky and ignored me, and I never went there again.”

“how much of that is you projecting something that’s not there?”

I’m really really sick of these kinds of articles. And I’m sick of these claims that this is a “widespread” issue. You met a dick at your local comic shop. Your point? Here’s the simple truth and one I’ve observed from going to numerous comic shops all through the U.S. and it’s this. Comic shops don’t give a shit. They don’t care about your passion for a title, they certainly don’t care about your opinion on comics, they’re not interested in having a topical discussion on comics. They are 99.999999999999% of the time there to sell you comics are related merchandise. They’re a business like any other. Man, woman, transgender, gay, white, black get the hell over yourself because the simple truth is comic shops don’t give a crap and all the people who write articles like these are more often than not looking to inflate there minor experiences to project attention on something that not only isn’t there but is done for selfish reasons to create problems that aren’t there. CBR please stop indulging this crap

“I’m sick of this anecdotal crap. Based on my anecdotal evidence, this isn’t an issue.”

Well argued, Max, well argued.

Hey Brian…look at the comments. Most of them that relate to experiences in comic shops are. Oh the employ was dismissive, Oh the man behind the counter was kind of a jerk. But no Brian please regale me with the nonexistent comments like. And that employ was being “sexist”. Anecdotal Brian? Bite me!

Smashing those who don’t agree with you on your own article and trolling the entire comments section…Bravo, very professional

So if comic shops are in business to sell comics and merchandise, and the proprietors skeeve out 50% of the human population when they merely come in the shop, what kind of job are these shops doing at being a business?

@Max
It was in quotes. It was a circular joke boiling the less intelligent comments down to al line. Re-read it.

Hey Brian…look at the comments. Most of them that relate to experiences in comic shops are. Oh the employ was dismissive, Oh the man behind the counter was kind of a jerk. But no Brian please regale me with the nonexistent comments like. And that employ was being “sexist”. Anecdotal Brian? Bite me!

“Look at the comments from people detailing incidents or events from their life!”

Yeah, that’s not anecdotal at all. Besides, you know, being the actual definition of anecdotal.

You are not very good at making points.

On a casual sexism tpoint, when I was a teen, (back when Kelly was first braving the stores,) I always assumed women were buying Sandman for their boyfriends. Anecdotally it was often true but it was a shame I even felt the need to to justify their presence. Especially as the store was run by a woman.

Brian. Nothing in the comments or in this article are “anecdotal” Even the article is based on personal experience. Not facts. But I see I have to spell it out for you. Since you cant infer from my comment that all of this is anecdotal. Maybe you need to re examine the definition

@Max
It was in quotes. It was a circular joke boiling the less intelligent comments down to al line. Re-read it.

Well, to be fair, it was specifically a circular joke boiling down Max’s less intelligent comment down to a line.

Brian. Nothing in the comments or in this article are “anecdotal” Even the article is based on personal experience. Not facts. But I see I have to spell it out for you. Since you cant infer from my comment that all of this is anecdotal. Maybe you need to re examine the definition

Of course it is all anecdotal. Which is why it makes no sense for you to then say “Here’s the simple truth and one I’ve observed from going to numerous comic shops all through the U.S.” So you’re complaining about an article based on anecdotal evidence by giving a response based on anecdotal evidence. It was a terrible point. And that’s not even getting into the “Businesses need money, so they wouldn’t treat people poorly” point. That was an awful point, too. Like I said before, at least based on what you’ve shown so far, you are not very good at making points.

@Kelly:
quote: “Yeah, but you guys don’t “take the shame” for buying Grimm Fairy tales. I’m sure NOBODY gives you shit for that. We had an industry half built on “sexy barely clad bad girls” for AGES and we’re still struggling to climb out of it, clearly nobody was being given shit for buying that kind of thing.”

Well, it may be accepted by the masses but its not accepted by me personally. It took me a long series of recommendations to dare buy Palmiotti/Connor Power Girl because the entire character reeks of cheese. I wouldn’t want to be caught dead with something like Grimm Fairy Tales. I don’t get how guys can buy this stuff without blinking. Like your example about guys not wanting girls to see them buy porn. I constantly find myself excusing the way some books look by telling them that the story is actually really good/funny.

My girlfriend has no background on any of these characters at all, it makes for a very different perspective. To her Wonder Woman is the same as Vampirella and frankly I have to agree with her in a lot of ways. None of my friends read comics but we’re all geeks so we know these characters one way or another if only in the vaguest terms but she absolutely doesn’t. She does like Spider-Man, from the Raimi movies of course.

@BC:
It basically comes down to imagining a world where every time you see a guy depicted in anything he’s only half dressed, looks like a character from Twilight and is looking at you with eyes that remind you of porn (also, half of all porn is male gay/bi porn). Try it sometime and then tell me there’s not a problem or that its all in the womens’ heads.

Not to get off track from Brian’s excellent and hilarious “conversation” with Max, but…I suspect, given your “thesis” (quotes because MAN do I use that word lightly) that you didn’t actually read the article, which was filled with my (admittedly anecdotal) but nearly entirely POSITIVE experiences at GREAT STORES.

Hmmmm.

Is that what you call a “fantastic comic”? A couple of quasi stick figures, no background, no panels, handwritten and without balloons?

I call that something i might do on a sketchpad on a lazy sunday morning, and even i caould do better than THAT.

Really uninpressive “comic”

More at hand, why are you always complaining without ever doing anything? I mean open your comic shop, make your own comic, make it girl friendly and stop complaining, do something.

And that’s the answer i’d give to a boy too (provided he complained as loud and as often as you do) and it’s the same answer i’ve been given from time to time (usually when i reach your levels of annoyingness).

Plus in 5 years working in a comic book shop i never, even once, been asked by a girl for a marvel or DC comic, always bloody mangas… i’ve been trying to educate some girlfriends to some “higher” form of comics (like everything written by alan moore or neil gaiman) and they wouldn’t go past the “but it’s about a dream made human, it’s not real”, proving only they didn’t read a single Sandman issue i lent them.

You complain with us, but you should really look at your brethen and talk to them, ignorance is not something men put into you…

I cannot believe the ignorance and wilful blindness in most of these comments, even here on a well-respected, female friendly site like CBR. How utterly disappointing. But sadly not surprising.

I’m a 35 year old woman who has been reading and collecting comics for more than two decades, I *work in a comic shop* and I am still talked over, dismissed, and generally treated like I inherently know less than nothing about my chosen profession, simply because I am female.

You say things like that woman was ‘obviously buying for her child/boyfriend/whatever’ but you don’t KNOW that. Nothing is *obvious*, even when someone is bewildered and wanting assistance. You agree that women shouldn’t have to prove their geek cred, and in the same breath say fake geek girls are real and need to be stopped. You say ‘that manager’s probably a dick to everyone’ like that excuses ANYTHING.

Gingerhaze’s comic not only broke my heart, but made me absolutely furious, because it is 2014 and this nonsense should have stopped long ago. Because I adore my shop and am *so proud* of it, and the misogynist attitudes that still plague our industry are preventing people who might want to visit from giving us a chance. And offering pointless, dismissive anecdotal evidence that it’s all no big deal only confirms the idea that women are not welcome in your perfect comic book world.

Wow, thank you Brugos, for posting just before me and proving all my points about how people like you are the problem, not women like me.

‘Never once in five years’ is some of the most outrageous hyperbole I’ve had the misfortune of reading, well done sir. I wonder if *your* shop is where Noelle Stevenson received such pitifully insulting treatment, because I certainly pity anyone who has no choice but to shop at your establishment. If you dared to have this attitude in my shop you’d be fired on the spot. And y’know what? Those ‘bloody mangas’ are a FANTASTIC way to get non-comic readers into an ongoing comic. Manga fans love Saga, they read Pretty Deadly, Alex + Ada, and The Walking Dead. Or is Image not ‘hardcore’ enough for you? How about Batwoman, Hawkeye, Deadpool, Batman: Black and White? Pretty much the entire current run of Vertigo titles are great gateway comics for manga fans. There are so many ways encourage people to enjoy comics, and clearly you are squandering them all.

I’m sorry you view ‘pointing out the obvious’ as complaining, I really am, because you seem to be under the misapprehension that wanting to affect change by actually *talking about the problems* is a bad thing. I feel so sorry for you, that you can’t understand why people might want to be more inclusive, want to encourage more people to share in the things they love. If the way you try to ‘educate’ your girlfriends is anything like how you describe your feelings for the women who visit your shop it’s no wonder they don’t want to read even the most accessible graphic novels like The Sandman.

‘You complain with us, but you should really look at your brethren and talk to them, ignorance is not something men put into you’

And how, exactly is anyone supposed to talk to their ‘brethren’ when discussion is equated to ‘complaining’ and any opportunities to lift the imaginary wall of ignorance is shot down before we can even begin? How are women supposed to approach you, when you clearly don’t want to talk to us? Can you not see how you’ve invalidated your own ‘argument’ here? How can you, and so many like you, choose to be so willingly ignorant yourselves?

Brian –

Forget about it, man. I’ve seen Max’s tactics many a time, whenever I ventured into a libertarian/conservative site. Whatever Max says is “facts” and “rational”. Whatever other people say, particularly females, is “personal experience” and “emotional” (ironically, guys like Max seem to me like they’re brimming with “emotion” themselves, but they’d never admit it, I suppose because emotion isn’t manly).

@Kelly, I´m a white guy, but I never cared about being accepted into geek, comic or nerd culture. I just wanted to read great stories (which sometimes leads to disappointment). All these guys pushing this false narrative of you have to be a nerd or have geek cred is B.S. I know it easy for me to say don’t let it get to you, but don’t let it. People tend to want to drag others down. Be proud of what you want and don’t let others define you. After all stories are for all readers to make their own, to enjoy or hate, to confound or enlighten. Just my opinion as an amateur writer.

@Rene , please don’t lump libertarians/conservatives in with how trolls like Max debate. Some of us hold to our beliefs be understand that no one should impose their beliefs on others.

I suppose I was lucky in the shops I frequented from the late 80s on here in NYC. My choice of comics got a smile and sometimes a swoon from the guys at the register.

That continued on through my early Midtown comics years. Midtown are still amazing.

I never minded.

The only time I got some negative comment about women and comics was at my 5th showing of X-Men locally I had a Wolverine button on my jacket. This clown said ‘Wolverine is not for women,’ thinking I was a noobie (and/or just threatened.) I opened my jacket to reveal my aging Barry Windsor-Smith Weapon X t shirt. I said “Wolverine has been for this woman for almost 20 years now. Deal with it.”

[…] – She Has No Head! – “Johnny Come Lately” Has Another Name – […]

I’ll never forget one particular visit to my LCS (Newcastle, UK) the back of which is devoted to comics and front is almost entirely dedicated to toys and such, which means you get a lot of very young children browsing shelves either with parents or on their own. Anyhoo, on this particular day one of the regulars was in a deep discussion at the back of the shop with a senior member of staff about the uncut version of Caligula, they were discussing very loudly and in explicit detail what was included. I was shocked and when I was leaving I told the manager on the checkout that I thought it was very unprofessional that an employee was talking about vaginal penetration within earshot of children and I had witness one mother take her child out of the store in disgust. The owner laughed it off and said they only sell the kids stuff for the money. Needless to say I haven’t been back since and now spend my money at Travelling Man 10 doors down.

really enjoyed your column

Al –

I’m sorry, Al. I guess I got carried away.

@Neverwhere: I really don’t see the problem, to anyone his or her own, i like my comics some like mangas, i have a distate for mangas some have a problem with superheroes or (since i’m not american nor i do live in the u.s.) nobody has a problem with anything.

If there is a problem, is with people who wants to find a problem, you want more girl friendly comics and more firendly comicbook shops? Fine, it’s your right, you can A) camplain about it or B) do something about it. Make your own comic, change things, you say i disregard discussin the obvious, and maybe i do, but it’s obvious that the best way to change something is by doing something, no one ever changed anything only by discussing.

More so if the argument in question is as fun and fresh as a dead horse.

Pardon me but, in my personal experience and while i worked as a clerk in a CBS, it has never happened, no girl has ever asked me where the back issues of spider man or x men where, for that matters no girl has ever asked me about dragon ball, ushio & tora or hokuto no ken either… it may baffle you but some girls (even thou they might read comics) don’t read american comics. It might happen you know?

I had all kinds of requests for other shojo mangas, to which i always answered with the location of the material in question inside the store (or the booth at comicons) but, really, i had no idea about specifics nor i was (or am) willing to waste time talking about it story wise, “i’m really sorry if it’s not in the bin/container/section of the shop, we probably don’t have it, but give me title and numbers and i’ll see what i can do” (money comes first)

and if that’s not enough politeness i really don’t know what to do, maybe you’re better off in another CBS.

And now, since so far i’ve been too kind, and surely you will need something to keep your rage on, if the majority of female readers aren’t interested in superheroes how can you blame a clerk for thinking you might be just interested in girlie comics? I mean, all the other girls are.

And when i wrote about ignorance i was talkin about people like you so…. at least you got that right.

And a good way to approach the discussion with me might be

“I got an idea for a comic i’d like to make”

I just went into The Amazing Spiral in Baltimore yesterday with my wife and two kids (oldest is 2). I was just reading parts of this article to my wife, and the first thing she said was that she’s felt so welcomed at our local store. Yesterday, the guy behind the counter struck up a conversation with me, asked my wife how she was doing, asked if he could help me find anything, and even called me Sir and my wife Ma’am a few times until we introduced ourselves by name. I’m not in love with their selection (they don’t have back issue boxes!), but I’ll be going there for new issues as long as I live in the city.

Everybody has to prove themselves all the time, quit asking for special treatment. Everyone gets treated like crap unless you have someone else wants, and then they’re fake about it. Quit milking the victim mentality to feel special and draw attention to yourself.

Life’s tough get a helmet.

Brugos, please tell me how many men you have ever asked to start their own comic. I fail to understand at all how you can believe this is an adequate answer for your rampant and disgusting misogyny. How does that *help*? Why should anyone feel obliged, or as you seem to think, *honoured*, to ‘start a conversation with you? How can they when you already want to shut them down? Pathetic.

Do you REALLY work for a comic shop? I am desperate to know which one, so I can tell your manager to fire you for gross negligence, as you appear to be the poster child (and I do mean child) for absolutely everything that is wrong with the comics industry.

I am not American or live in the States either. What does that have to do with anything? Other than once again proving your own selfish ignorance? You’re clearly not going to listen to a single intelligent word anyone says to you, so I will just laugh at your petty attempts to belittle me and those you supposedly seek to ‘help’. You’re vile, and I wash my hands of you. I only wish the poor female customers forced to be your presence could do the same. Ugh.

And Sappy, it’s not special treatment to be seen as HUMAN, to be treated like everyone else. There’s no mentality to be ‘milked’ when the proof is everywhere. JFC how is this hard for people to understand. Get off your entitled soapbox and let other people enjoy what they love for a change. It’s not bloody difficult to be a decent human being. Get over yourselves, spoiled manchildren, the world isn’t tailored just for you anymore.

It’s almost hilarious how stereotypical these straw man ‘arguments’ are, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, as an attack against women and minorities every single time we dare to speak up against the injustices we face every damn day. Some people will never, ever learn. And that’s why we have to keep fighting. However we can.

@Brugos:

Listen, your comment is a freaking nightmare, as are your thoughts and the way you clearly process these things.

And nobody that wants to talk about issues should HAVE to “be proactive” in a way that you deem fit (opening their own store, doing their own comic, etc. – all HERCULEAN TASKS BY THE WAY).

That said, I *DO* write comics and books (which if you knew anything about me or this column you would know) – and I also WRITE THIS COLUMN, which again, if you did anything other than a drive by on, you would know is not a place for negativity, but a place for discussion, and one that is frequently positive, drawing attention to the awesome. Also, if you’d even bothered to read THIS ONE, you’d know that I spent the bulk of the time talking about MY own experiences which were almost ENTIRELY POSITIVE. In other words, trying doing a little reading and research before commenting.

TL;DR – You should probably stop talking out of your ass. It’s embarrassing to you, to us all.

For my own mental health, I’m not going to read the comments here and see a bunch of guys being defensive a-holes. Instead, I want to mention that my childhood shop, FUN 4 ALL in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area of Michigan, was always super welcoming and inclusive. I think it helped a lot that the owner, Richard, has a daughter himself, and that one of the longest-working employees, Rose, is a woman. They’re super new-reader welcoming and the female friends I had who read comics always bought them from there. When I went to college in NYC, I even kept buying them and my mom would ship them. They practically saw me grow up, and it was always fun hearing how they’d explain story stuff to my mom.

On the opposite side, I live in NYC now post-college and am super close to FORBIDDEN PLANET, which I have had constant poor experiences in. I now order all of my comics through Midtown’s Previews section to avoid having to go to the NYC stores. The ultimate breaking point was when I asked for the latest issue of ADVENTURE TIME and the clerk laughed in my face, told me to look in the kids’ section without telling me where it was located, and turned around to his friend while mocking the comic’s fanbase. And I’m a white male who has been reading seriously for over a decade! I got my start with the 90’s X-Men Animated Series too! I love comics, but I can’t stand the NYC store atmosphere and dread the days when I need to actually go into one.

Great article.

I too started out on the 90’s animated Marvel series and my obsession grew from there.

Nothing to add but a shout out to Florida Super Comics, Games, Anime + More in my old hometown Davie, Fl. I went in over Christmas to buy a gift for someone and the clerk working at the time was incredibly helpful to an older woman trying hard to shop for a gift. He was very patient and even walked her to different sections of the store looking for items. A one-off experience but I like to think I’m wrong that it doesn’t happen often there.

Also, Tate’s Comics a little north of there. My sister loved to shop there before Florida Super Comics opened closer to home.

@kelly/neverwhere: Everybody is entitled an opinion, that’s yours and i respect that, i wouldn’t mind you doing the same, but since it’s your column you can do what you darn please so… i’m not even gonna argue anymore, you just wouldn’t accept an opinion different from your own, we find each other embarassing so… goodbye.

Just a quick ps, it’s not so herculean when everybody does it on the net (webcomics and whatnot) and the comic in your article was everything but herculean, all you need is a pencil and a sheet of paper… coupla hours tops? With inking…

Sylv Taylor

February 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Yeah, but Own, considering that the majority of comics are T&A, you don’t hear cracks like that about books they’re selling to their bros. Especially when that life-sized Zatanna display is falling out of her spangles right next to the counter. It was out of line.

Kelly Thompson

February 19, 2014 at 4:17 pm

@Own Your Shame:

Yeah, but you guys don’t “take the shame” for buying Grimm Fairy tales. I’m sure NOBODY gives you shit for that. We had an industry half built on “sexy barely clad bad girls” for AGES and we’re still struggling to climb out of it, clearly nobody was being given shit for buying that kind of thing.

And that’s kinda the ENTIRE POINT.”

Bullshit. We do take the shame, and we are given shit. Not me, personally, because I don’t buy Grimm Fairy Tales, but I enjoyed Lady Death at one point. Dudes ALWAYS give their friends shit about stuff they like. That’s what dudes do. Next time a lady is given shit by a dude over a retail purchase, slam the money on the counter and say “yeah! you got a problem with that?!” You get the respect you’re so desperately seeking by owning your shame. Nobody should be so distressed about the sorts of comics they choose to read. Take a cue from women who read romance novels. Lots of women read them and most own that shame and aren’t all that bothered when given shit about it because that’s what they’re there for. Relax. It’s just comics.

Saying that my argument is poor because it’s anecdotal is a lazy way to try to dismiss it. And honestly I’m tired of debating the authenticity of a statement I’m already agreeing is anecdotal. Something being anecdotal doesn’t make it right or wrong It like anything else is an opinion. A concept that seems to allude you over and over and over. All I was saying is that the article listed didn’t align with most peoples experiences in the comments as they said them anyway which makes me question how “widespread” it really is. Please save your breath in saying that this to is anecdotal. Since yes it like anything you have ever on a comments section is anecdotal.

Saying that my argument is poor because it’s anecdotal is a lazy way to try to dismiss it.

It’s poor because you used your anecdotal evidence to state that your position was the “simple truth.” That was stupid.

And I’d say it was an efficient way of dismissing it – because it was a stupid point right from the get go.

Some good, even if obvious, points. Not bad, in general. That said

“Well I have news for you, you people that think this way are fucking dinosaurs and you WILL die out. It’s just a matter of time.”

100% wrong. Unfortunately, there will always be people like that. It’s simply part of the nature of fandom. Just like there will always be ignorance and stupidity in this world. Basic human nature.

“And let’s even ignore the less direct ways that women are told comics and comic shops are not for them – with what is featured and how it’s displayed, a lot of it loudly proclaiming, before anyone says a word, that this is not SUPPOSED to be for you. ”

This is something I’ve heard many times before, particularly in relation to women and comic shops. And it’s a silly argument. I’ve been in millions of places that weren’t very welcoming for me. I’m not saying comic book shops / guys shouldn’t improve their environments and make them more welcoming to their prospective clientele. I’m saying why should that stop me in any way from finding what I’m looking for. I understand some people have a weaker personality, a more vulnerable psychological make-up, whatever. I totally get that because I’m a severely screwed-up person in more ways than I can count. The whole world is an unbelievably hostile environment as far as I am concerned. So it really pisses me off when someone complains about posters on a wall or a moronic sexist guy making comments and dumb jokes.

The confrontational tone is obnoxious. What author decides to call his or her readers “absolute idiots” (using the second person, no less). Combine that with CAPS LOCKED words being SPRINKLED throughout, and I felt like I was being YELLED at and SCOLDED.

What author decides to call his or her readers “absolute idiots” (using the second person, no less).

If you think the author was referring to her readers as “absolute idiots” in that section, then you did a poor job of reading that section.

No, she uses the second person throughout, deliberately addressing the reader directly. For example:
“So don’t try to make this about something else…
…In addition to whatever comment you were already planning to leave…”

She’s arguing with her readers in this piece, but the way in which she does so a) assumes her readers are going to disagree with her and b) is incredibly insulting.

It could be argued that she qualified the readers she was addressing when she said, “Well I have news for you, you people that think this way…” but this was several paragraphs earlier. I felt like I was on the defensive almost the entire time, despite the fact that I agree with her. I felt defensive since the second paragraph, which ends with the term “mansplainin’,” a rather condescending, gender-biased term if ever there was one (as it implies that men should, or at least think they should, explain their reasoning by virtue of their being male).

She comes across to me like a street preacher telling us we need to repent for our sins. But the odd thing is that the overwhelming majority of her readers (myself included) likely concur that every person should feel welcome in any comics shop. I think it’s difficult to argue against that point.

The topic is interesting and worthy of discussion. It could have been handled better.

It took way longer than usual for the butthurt masculinists to come out of the woodwork for this post. Get it together, fellas; you’re letting us down.

@OWN YOUR SHAME:
The fact that you think this statement:

“Dudes ALWAYS give their friends shit about stuff they like.”

Is the same thing as being shamed by an employee in a customer service related field astounds me. But it shouldn’t since I read your whole comment and the whole thing astounds me in its absolute wrongheadedness.

@Aaron Davidson:
You’re not a fan of the occasional CAPS LOCK words, I get it. It’s a style that not everyone appreciates. In this case it was sometimes used for humor and sometimes just for emphasis. Regardless, I didn’t write this piece JUST FOR YOUR SPECIAL FEELINGS, so I feel okay about the fact that you don’t like it.

I’m not actually here to cater specifically to you and what you feel works, I’m not going to waste a lot of time worrying about how you feel this piece “could have been better” by changing me, and changing my opinions, and the way in which I relay them in a freaking op-ed. Yeah, that’s not keeping me up nights.

More importantly, you should really put more consideration into things you read before you comment. You clearly don’t know the definition of mansplaining (and it’s fine if you take issue with the term, it is absolutely an aggressive and gendered term) but your definition of it is incorrect (here’s the actual definition, took 6 seconds to find, you’re welcome: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mansplaining

More importantly, as Brian stated above – and as none of the other 100+commentors seemed to think (even the ones that hate me) I wasn’t in any way, shape, or form calling the readers idiots. Well, not ALL of them.

ANNNND BOOM! HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM CAPS?!

I’m not to change you or your opinions, Ms. Thompson. I believe your confrontational rhetoric hurts your argument, and I detailed why. I think your point is valid, but I explained how your post came across to me. The strongest parts are when you’re simply talking about buying comics. There, you build a rapport with the reader where I can relate to you one comics-reader to another. However, I constantly felt jolted back out of that rapport by the harsh tone you have throughout the piece.

You detailed how some comic book store owners and clerks make customers feel when they talk down to them. I explained how your op-ed made me feel by how you talk down to your readers. I am, after all, just a reader giving your website a hit so you can raise some advertising revenue. Given your continued condescension and hostile attitude, I won’t make that mistake again.

Good day, Ms. Thompson.

The idea of the My Little Pony thing even being potentially helpful is mind-boggling to me. I can’t even begin to fathom the mindset that you can just lump the tastes of half the population together that way.

“Excuse me, sir, I notice that you’re male. In addition to the Tolstoy novel you’re buying, might I interest you in a book on NASCAR?”

And a GOOD DAY to YOU, Mr. Davidson.

Prince Bubblegum

February 20, 2014 at 5:38 pm

The existence of so many shady, disreputable comic shops is truly disheartening. Because of my anger at this sort of shop, I no longer feel guilty pondering whether or not the existence of comic shops, in general, is truly necessary anymore. In the past, the better shops were beacons of solidarity and kinship, where comic fans could gather to discuss what they had read recently, debate the merits of those books, and discover other books that they might enjoy. I realize that there were some less-than-favorable shops in those days too, but today, comic shops have largely become exclusionary to perceived “outsiders”, while simultaneously failing to bolster the previously held sense of community among their “accepted” cognoscenti.

As a native of Savannah, GA, I grew up frequenting the shops that Kelly and Iola mentioned, and even as a white male, the reception I received at these shops often discouraged me from becoming a bigger fan of comics. The Comic Box (despite its name) was largely a gaming store, and while it had a couple of friendly employees, the shop was run by some exceptionally bitter men (one in particular). The general consensus among their non-gaming customers was that even when in there to make a large purchase, or even simply purchase your pulls each Wednesday, the staff would treat you as if you were a nuisance and an inconvenience. I’m shocked that it remained open as long as it did. Also, the Home Run Video, downtown, near SCAD, has primarily been a video store that had an adequate selection of trades and an inconsistent selection of newly released comics. Frankly, I will not miss it when it finally closes its doors in the upcoming weeks. Hopefully then, the owner will focus more on his other location, the last remaining comic shop in the area, Comics & More. This was the shop that I typically frequented on and off during my youth, and I always saw it as a necessary evil. The staff that were actually informed and knowledgeable were always unhelpful. It didn’t matter how knowledgeable you were concerning comics, or even if you had similar tastes as them in comics, none rarely ever seemed interested in interacting with their customers. They were often quite vocal about their distaste towards people browsing the back issues, and perusing the merchandise, as it often interrupted their cigarette breaks. Not until about two years ago did the owner (who openly admits to NOT being a comic reader) actually hire a good employee. For those of you (Kelly and Iola) who have not been to the store in a while, the new guy has helped to drastically improve the overall atmosphere of the store. He’s enthusiastic, passionate, and very knowledgeable. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of DC Comics, and even though I only like DC in the smallest of small doses, I can’t help but appreciate his commitment to the books he loves.

Forgive my trip down memory lane, but as I said earlier, comic shops, for me, have always been a necessary evil. As I was transitioning from a young casual, on-again, off-again reader into a much more serious and consistent adult reader, I honestly preferred to buy my Marvel floppies and various trades from Media Play. They had a great selection, frequent sales, a manga/anime discussion group, an awesome action figure and merch section, among other perks. Looking back, it makes me think (dare I say it?) that a big corporate comic shop may not be such a bad thing (… ugh, that notion makes me shudder, lol).

Forgive my verbosity, but overall, I think that comics shops will eventually go the way of the music store and the video rental shop. The only difference is that I will miss the latter two, lol ! Between Comixology, book stores, online retailers, ect… there are plenty of ways that we can get the books that we want. My local book store has an exceptionally diverse selection. Meanwhile, my local comic shop has plenty of sooper hero stuff :p Also, as far as a sense of community goes, I have experienced a greater sense of community by joining comic discussion clubs, than I ever have while hanging out at one of these local shops. My participation in these groups (which meet at coffee shops, book stores, restaurants, etc…) has helped to bolster my love of comics, while the shops themselves have only been detrimental. I say, good riddance to all of the sub-par shops closing across the nation. The industry and fandom will live on, and possibly thrive, without you.

Sorry, about the bitterness here, lol. I’m typically not such an angry or self-righteous person :)

As a part of the generation that got into comics as a result of licensed properties (in my case GI Joe, Transformers, and He Man) I find it somewhat absurd that anyone would look down upon a reader who came in through original comics properties that were licensed into other media. I’d also like to point out that many people who will complain about fake geek girls who is wearing a superman T-shirt because she liked the movie will say nothing to the 200 lb man with tattoos who has Punisher mud flaps on his pick up truck because they look ” hard core”


Kelly Thompson

February 20, 2014 at 2:37 pm

@OWN YOUR SHAME:
The fact that you think this statement:

“Dudes ALWAYS give their friends shit about stuff they like.”

Is the same thing as being shamed by an employee in a customer service related field astounds me. But it shouldn’t since I read your whole comment and the whole thing astounds me in its absolute wrongheadedness.”

That’s just not the case. I think it’s important to note that you’re telling me what I think rather than pointing out something I said because I clearly didn’t say anything to support your ideas about what I’m thinking. Ideas you seem to have projected onto me and your opinion of my “wrongheadedness” indicate your desire to perpetuate an argument rather than reading my whole comment and attempting to grow as a person. I even offered a way for women to find empowerment in similar situations, and isn’t that what feminism is about–female empowerment? So in order to dismiss things out of hand rather than understand them, you get to tell me what I think and how I’m wrongheaded about it because you just can’t be bothered to understand them.

Just to clarify what I SAID so that nobody can continue to think for me, you said “you guys don’t “take the shame” for buying Grimm Fairy tales. I’m sure NOBODY gives you shit for that. clearly nobody was being given shit for buying that kind of thing.” At no point did you specify “in a retail setting.” In retrospect, I understand that this may have been implied as this is mostly about terrible retailers. Regardless, my point stands in stating that your comments were incorrect. We do take the shame, people do give us shit, and lots of people got shit for liking the bad girl books…yes, even from their retailers. However, most of the time they were regular customers with a jovial relationship to their retailer. This behavior may at times bleed over to new customers, and the retailer can then be labeled a jerk or a snob for it. Being able to spout off opinions about comics is one of the perks of the job. I prefer to avoid that behavior, and it seems like a lot of female readers feel that way as well. I stand by my comment that this isn’t gender-specific behavior, as you attempted to insist on labeling it. Also, owning your shame goes a long way toward shutting up the folks who are a little too free with their opinions.

It’s not wrongheadedness. It’s just not what you want to hear. Everything doesn’t have to be turned into a cause in need of internet mobilization. And when it’s a guy making the same complaints, it DOESN’T.


buttler

February 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm

The idea of the My Little Pony thing even being potentially helpful is mind-boggling to me. I can’t even begin to fathom the mindset that you can just lump the tastes of half the population together that way.

“Excuse me, sir, I notice that you’re male. In addition to the Tolstoy novel you’re buying, might I interest you in a book on NASCAR?””

Your comparison is faulty. It would make more sense if the Tolstoy fan was offered a Hardy Boys novel because the retailer has noticed that a lot of male customers have been buying the Hardy Boys books. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It seems that there’s really only a very specific easily-insulted group of people that get up in arms about stuff like this. It can be potentially helpful because suggestive selling is an integral part of a retail business. If the comment is made derisively, then it’s just dickish behavior, but if it’s made based on sales data and trends and demographics, then it’s just good business. The way it’s presented in the cartoon, it’s derisive, but that’s a one-sided representation from a person that has already been insulted by it and is consequently biased.

Instead of becoming apoplectic about these things, attempt to engage folks in a dialog about why you’re the exception. Internet rage doesn’t help anything except making you feel better about yourself. Coming right out and saying, “I’m looking for this book because my friend worked on it” will most likely result in a more positive outcome than attempting to “get” these people through internet rabble-rousing.

I don’t set out to get into these arguments that go nowhere and inevitably spiral down into internet civil war, but folks are just being ridiculous sometimes. And I don’t mean that the artist was being ridiculous for making the cartoon. I mean it’s ridiculous to say things like “NOBODY gives you shit” in reference to men liking anything, because chances are SOMEBODY has given him shit at SOME point. We just don’t care because we own our shame. Own your shame and everyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter because you already know you could be given shit for it and don’t care. This is why there is such a divide with gender issues. So much wasted time over nothing.

@Brugos –

Really? You’re seriously dismissing Noelle Stevenson’s experience just because she didn’t bother to ink and color this little comic, and are telling her to “start her own comic”? She *has* her own award-winning comic, and another starting this spring What comics have you published, that lets you get up on this high horse and judge people for not doing enough?

Own Your Shame –

C’mon. No retailer would offer a random guy a specific novel because lots of guys are buying it, and you know it. In our society, males (particularly if also straight and white) are considered the “default” group and don’t stand out. If you’re a guy, chances are you will almost always be considered as an individual instead of being lumped with the other guys.

I say this as a white, straight, male guy. We are not “easily insulted” because we don’t know how it is to be stereotyped every day. In the rare ocasion I’m singled out (one day a guy tried to sell me a sports car magazine), I’m able to smile and chuckle about it, because it happens so rarely. That is our “bias”. And yes, everyone is “biased”.

Even at the height of the bad girl craze in the 1990s, men weren’t blamed as a group for it. There were qualifiers in the criticism. “Hormonal teenagers”. “13-year old guys that don’t know better”, etc. Consequently, I rarely felt that criticism directed at me.

When I lived in Pittsburgh, Phantom of the Attic Comics (on Craig St in Oakland) was my LCS because it was an inclusive and intelligent store that made everyone feel welcome! I’ve been to shops all around the country, from Arizona to Massachusetts and everything in between, and Phantom has by far the best staff and customer service.

Speaking of Arizona, Drawn to Comics in Glendale is a terrific store. Run by a husband and wife who love what they do, they’re the friendliest shop I’ve been to other than Phantom.

And speaking of Massachusetts, I was also really impressed with The Million Year Picnic in Cambridge. Smart and professional while being laid back and inclusive. Plus, they bought a bunch of my self-published comics from me! BONUS POINTS!!!

As for bad shops and negative experiences, I can’t even count them all on my fingers and toes. As a white male, I’ve experienced an inordinate amount of dismissive and rude treatment from comic book retailers. I can’t even imagine how bad it is for people who don’t fit into the “assumed demographic”!

The worst experience I ever had was in a Pittsburgh shop called Comic Book Ink (now closed). I was digging through their $0.50 longboxes one day after work and the two young guys working the counter were spouting the most hateful and inappropriate shit. They kept complaining about their friend who was a “whore” and even when female customers walked into the shop, they would keep going!!! It was insane. No wonder they closed down.

@Sappy: “Everybody has to prove themselves all the time”.

I’ve certainly never had to “prove myself” when going into a comic book store (maybe there are some where I would have had to, but those are the kind where I walk into them, see they have both kinds of comics (DC and Marvel) and walk out frowning).

And @Brugos:
“I call that something i might do on a sketchpad on a lazy sunday morning, and even i caould do better than THAT.”

Put up or shut up, dogg, post some drawings.

@Jake: I promised meself i wouldn’t answer to another comment on Ms. Thompson column ever again but, it’s nice to own an idiot.

Here’s something i found with a quick search of what i already have on line, no new scans for you, also idk if i can post them directly so… here’s various url feel free to check them and shut up :)

https://scontent-a-mxp.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash2/t1/s720x720/253050_4325165734888_1256757708_n.jpg

http://i62.tinypic.com/b88uw5.jpg

http://i60.tinypic.com/2ufg2dl.jpg

http://i62.tinypic.com/29dk8j9.jpg

https://scontent-b-mxp.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-frc3/t31/s720x720/621172_4327982325301_1739786150_o.jpg

https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc3/t1/168723_1747798502318_834406_n.jpg

https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc1/t1/3899_1140112190540_2199075_n.jpg

As much as I want to stand against a creepy subset of our hobby which I’m sure does exist, I have a lot of issues with this column and the referenced comic itself. These are very specific replies to the column. I would take the side of anyone complaining about misogyny on the internet, including the cries of “Fake Gamer Girl”. I have always found those puzzling and shameful.

Now, I don’t know if Noelle was dealing with different cashiers at her stores, or if they may have even been the owners. Either way, I find her ultimate reaction really cowardly. Of the three examples she gives for her breaking point with the “gatekeepers of comics” (read: random cashier stooge who may be an ass), I find all of them so painfully minor to illicit such a reaction as swearing off comic stores.

They suggested she read “My Little Pony”? I’m sure plenty of women DO read it. If the implication is that she’s a girly-girl who doesn’t belong, she should stare him down or tell him to keep his opinions to himself. Maybe ask them why such manly guys are selling My Little Pony in the first place.

That women buy a comic because a guy in them is sexy? It’s not news to anyone that sex sells, regardless of gender. No one doubts the popularity of Vampirella or Red Sonja for decades has to do, to some degree, with their skimpy costumes. I realize the idea here is that for guys it’s acceptable and for girls it makes them fools, but that’s just self-delusion. It’s the cashier’s problem, not Noelle’s.

There are posters on the walls of scantily-clad female characters? This is the one where I need more context. Are we talking Zenoscope girls or X-Men and Wonder Woman? The two are very different. The superhero industry has been covering up its female characters for years. But let’s consider older, bikini-style outfits. That was what the comic book industry was offering. Would it be less sexist to not put up posters of any female characters? The Zenoscope quasi-porn stuff would be totally over the line, from my perspective.

And to support Noelle’s complaints about feeling unwelcome, Kelly replies with all her experience of NEVER HAVING A BAD EXPERIENCE. *facepalm* What the hell, ladies? You realize how bad these kinds of overreactions and baseless suppositions make REAL discrimination look? You have states telling gay people they can’t get married and be afforded the same protections under the law as heterosexuals because, as everyone knows, if you’re gay it’s an affront to god. Did all gay people flee California, the “gatekeepers of marriage”? You had water hoses and dogs turned on protestors during the civil rights era. Did all minorities flee the south? But a “Sexy Lobo” comment is enough?

Maybe it’s the death of a thousand cuts. I can appreciate what it’s like to be considered less human than someone else, less deserving of basic dignity. But is this how things change? By running away from such pathetic and minor comments? Good guys are on your side, ladies. Regardless of how it may feel, they ARE the majority. But you have to stand up and be counted here. All abandoning a store does is ensure the next woman is also alone in that shop. You change things by not backing down, by refusing to go away.

[…] “Johnny Come Lately” Has Another Name She Has No Head! explains why you shouldn’t look down on people who haven’t been into your chosen fandom as long as you and therefore don’t know as much: They’re NEW READERS. […]

@Tom:

Your comment goes so very wrong, and quickly too, from its classic “I’m not [insert thing here] BUT [insert offensive comment about exact thing]” opening.

#1. It’s simply not your job to dictate how someone behaves as a reaction to being ridiculed, laughed at, disrespected, harassed, etc. We are all different and we all have different reactions to these things, different levels of ability when it comes to defending ourselves or not. Regardless, blaming the victim (you’ve heard of victim blaming right? this is a classic case of it) for how they respond to inappropriate behavior, rather than criticizing and calling out the initial inappropriate behavior is one of the hallmarks of how pervasive issues like sexism are…how ingrained they are into our culture. “Well, you should have stood up for yourself.” vs. “Well you should not have said/done such and such inappropriate thing.” Can you really not see the difference?

#2. There’s plenty of fantastic non-hypersexualized female art/books/etc. to feature in 2014 (I’m happy to say) – shouldn’t be too hard to be inclusive of women and not have it be all of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales/J.Scott Campbell variety. That said, if Stevenson had been treated better, I doubt the product displays would have bothered her so much (or at least that’s how I interpret it in her comic).

#3. You should read back again if you think I’ve never had bad experiences in comics shops. I absolutely have and I say that outright. I don’t detail them each out, but I talk about at least one shop that I opted to stop going to and it in part being responsible for my not reading comics for a time. I also talk about the fact that because of my initial positive experiences (and in part my own personality) when I encountered these things it was reasonably easy for me to stand up for myself/give back as good as I’ve gotten. But that doesn’t mean other women should have to experience such things – shaming, harassment, proving themselves – nor does it mean that they should have to react to these things as I did. We are not a hive mind, people have different personalities and abilities and just because one person comes back aggressively does not mean that is the right decision for someone else just that it was for me. It also doesn’t make an aggressive/defensive reaction necessarily possible – some people are not capable of that. And again we’re back to victim blaming, it shouldn’t be about how it is or is not handled by the victim of the abuse, instead the abuse should NOT BE OCCURRING. It’s true that I DO focus on good shops, and talk about how lucky I got in the lottery of finding shops, and why my specific experiences gave me advantages that not a lot of women have/had. The point of all of that being that you shouldn’t have to BE LOTTO LUCKY and/or HAVE ALL THE ADVANTAGES I had in order to buy comic books. You should just be able to do that without being shamed, without having to prove yourself, without being harassed. It’s pretty damn simple.

#4. Oh, goody! We got the classic, there are “more important things in the world to worry about” bit, which of course always comes along with its bff “by talking about this you are really setting back those who face REAL discrimination” Oy. I doubt anyone would disagree with you that we have far bigger social injustices, of course we do. But this is not a POLITICAL WEBSITE OR COLUMN. This is a COMICS COLUMN on a COMICS WEBSITE. This is where we TALK ABOUT COMICS, AND THINGS RELATED TO COMICS.

That said, a lot of this systemic stuff is related to bigger and more serious (non-comics) issues.

Seeing women as less than, seeing their experiences as unbelievable unless first proven (while others are taken on face value), finding it acceptable to treat them as something other than human, even if just in a “silly comic shop setting” all contribute to things like the idea that you can pay women less for the same job, that you can sexually harass them at work, or rape them, cause, y’know, they pretty much asked for it by not wearing appropriate clothes or having appropriate reactions to inappropriate things that happened to them, right?

C’mon.

So my comment got moderated, i immagine cause since i linked some of my work i rendered some of the accusations against me null and void, and you can’t have that on your column, men HAVE to be the bad guys.

And here i thought you yanks loved freedom of speach… oh, i guess not all americans do

Bye bye

@Brugos

Hahaha. Riiiiight.

Yeah, I hate to burst your conspiracy bubble, but your comment went to moderation simply because it was filled with links, and those kind of comments are often spam, so they automatically get flagged.

But you know, I’m sure that doesn’t track very well with your victimization and conspiracy theories.

Nobody should have to prove their “worth” and nobody should be required to pass some kind of creator or commitment test in order to love comics, read comics, or buy comics…so I never would have asked for you links. But the fact that you think those few links prove you superior to Noelle Stevenson (who has a traditional book/publishing deal, an award winning web comic, and a massive online following)…well…I just don’t know how to let you down that easy. Show me your comic that spoke to people so powerfully that it got 73,000 reblogs in a week and then we’ll talk. In the meantime, good luck to you…with all of that.

Ugh. Tom’s post has brought bad memories.

You know, I always heard that when I was a kid or a teen, whenever I was bullied. “You should have defended yourself, you should have fought back, etc.” On top of the humiliation of being bullied, you also had the humiliation of being made to feel like a coward and so that you deserved the bullying in the first place.

It took me years and years to realize that that is bullshit. Bullies always attack from a position of strength. Bullies are no example of courage. Bullies are almost always physically stronger and taller than the kids they bully, and they also have allies when they attack. THEY are the cowardly ones, not their victims. Bullies never try their antics when they’re in a situation of weakness. And if you ever find yourself in a position of equality with a bully and fight back, then THEY will resort to cheating to re-establish their advantage.

So people expect the bullied to show “honor” and “bravery”, when the bullies are NEVER examples of honor and bravery.

And whenever a majority group bullies a minority, it’s the same thing, the same pattern all over again. YOU are expected to be the brave hero and fight an uphill battle and never hesitate or else it’s your fault. While THEY would never try their antics if they were in a position of social inferiority.

And I also realized why victim blaming is done. So that all the people that could have stopped the injustice could sleep better and not feel guilty about it.

I’m not trying to prove to be better than “whoever she is” i don’t even know her and have heard her name before, i was proving i’m better than you, and a couple commenters, not a big deal, my fish could do that.

I don’t bitch about comics, i like what i read but still i’m proactive enough to do my own stuff, you can think on that crybaby

“HERCULEAN”

Holy crap! I come back to read comments and find people engaged in the Douchebag Olympics. A small tip: if you ever, EVER, feel compelled to show people you are better than them, you are probably pretty crappy…

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives