From Humble Beginnings
Once upon a time, I dated someone who was really into comics. Compared to other areas of geekery, comics seemed so vast and impossible to start. Do I have to read from the very first issue ever onward? Do I really just jump in? It seemed especially intimidating to be a girl interested in comics – every time I’d gone inside a comic book shop, it had been full of dudes who were sometimes cool, but sometimes made comments about me being a girl. I didn’t know the lingo, the store layout, when new issues came out… Even if I knew what I wanted, I was too terrified to ask where it was, lest I be deemed a fake geek. When I dated my comics-loving partner, he introduced me to the world of comics. I slowly started reading trades (paperbacks that collect story arcs spanning several issues) and eventually started picking up a few issues every week. Then The New 52 happened, all the stories I was following were cancelled, and, betrayed, I quit reading comics for a few years.
In the past six months or so, I’ve been getting back into reading comics again. There’s a lot of great stuff happening now – the first-ever Muslim superheroine, Ms. Marvel, saw her first issue sell out completely, there’s an openly transgender character in Batgirl, artists and writers are speaking out about mistreatment, and there’s a push within the industry to be more transparent and more inclusionary overall. While the comics industry itself is still very much a boys club, now’s a great time to get into comics and prove there’s simply no reason to be exclusionary.
Oh Yes, It’s Ladies Night
One of the great comic book shops here, Austin Books and Comics, hosted a signing by Canadian comic artist and writer Kate Leth, followed by an after-hours Ladies Night. I went to the signing despite my own anxieties about going to an event alone – because really, when is Kate Leth going to be in Texas again? – and after talking with some of the employees, decided to stay and see if I could make any friends at Ladies Night. Plus, Kate Leth was going to be hanging out, and I was hoping to chat with her a little without being such a nervous mess.
My experience was nothing short of incredible. I met some faces in person that I’d only known online (hi Lori!), chatted with amazing ladies about everything from favorite comics to experiences with sexism to musicals to sexuality. It was a giant collection of geeky women, all of whom were friendly, approachable, and super cool. I felt so comfortable in the store, a total contrast from how I felt when I first arrived for the signing. I drove home with a Wonder Woman tote bag full of previews of classic, essential comics and coupons, and, most importantly, a full heart.
Why Focus on Women?
When Ladies Night was starting, someone asked why he was getting kicked out of the store. One of the employees responded that they were hoping to create a safe environment for women who were interested in comics. Although the man who asked wasn’t too pleased with this answer, I think that Ladies Night is a welcome change in the comics world. Depending on sources, comic book readers are over 40% women, so we aren’t some small minority. But there are few women in the comic book industry, and while there are female leads, many of them are written for male audiences or their male counterparts get far more attention. (Take a look at any of the recent comic book movies – how many of them have a female lead?) Moreover, the pervasive myth of the Fake Geek Girl makes it intimidating to be a newbie in the comics world. Simply put, there are female geeks out there who read comics or want to read comics, and the industry is blocking their entry into the hobby.
This is why we need to create safe spaces for geeky women. Instead of being ignored by comic creators and comic shops, events like Ladies Night welcome women into the genre and allow an easy jumping-on point. I would gladly bring any friend of mine who wants to get started with comics to this kind of event. It’s a casual, no-pressure way to get familiar with your local comic book shop, meet like-minded ladies, and pick up a few issues or trades to get started.
The comics industry needs events like this to stop alienating its female fanbase and start welcoming it with open arms. Personally, I am much more likely to shop at a store that has made efforts to be inclusive to females – I’ve had too many bad experiences at comic shops based on my gender. Events like Ladies Night bring geeks and creators closer to realizing that it is more valuable to welcome every geek into the community than to exclude.
If you are interested at getting into comics, here’s a few resources for you!
- /co/ recommendations, Beginner’s Comics Guide for Total Noobs
- Amy Dallen Talkin’ Comics: Where To Begin
- Best Comic Books of 2013
- Batman for Beginners
- A Guide to Start Reading Comic Books
- Valkyries and Their Shops – The Valkyries are a network of ladies who work in comic book shops run by Kate Leth!
- Women Read Comics