Every Wednesday I like thousands of other comic book fans head to their local comic shop and pick up new comics and graphic novels. Yet for many people and mostly women it’s hard to find a friendly comic shop in their area. A recent study put the number of female comic readers at nearly 47%. With a figure that high you wonder why women are nervous about going into comic shops. Lets face it, most comic stores are run by men whose social ineptitude is pretty bad. Comics in general have always been a bit of a boys club atmosphere. The other problem is that a lot of comic book stores are dirty and dark and not very inviting. A lot of comic book store owners started a store because of their passion for comic books. Some of them have very little business sense and do not understand that they should make their store much more attractive to everyone. If you go into a dirty and poorly lit Best Buy would you go back to it again? Hell no you would go to another one or another store. This problem is why both The Simpsons with Comic Book Guy and Big Bang Theory can regularly make fun of comic book shops and therein lies one of the problems.
The other day Noelle Stevenson poster a strip showing the horrors that a lot of women face going into a comic shop. (Find the full strip HERE)
While I admit that sometime we all turn into raving nerds on parade with discussions at a local comic shop about our passions and thoughts. Every customer should be treated equal when they walk into a comic shop. The thing that make comics so great is that it spurs your imagination and appreciation for art. While Marvel and DC are content to feed the same old superhero stuff to the same demographics (18-24 males) and yet most regular superhero readers are probably around the age of 35 and male. I find it fascinating when going to conventions that a good percentage are female and if you go to an anime convention men are easily outnumbered 10 to 1. I am lucky to go to a comic store that the staff is super friendly to everyone (Metropolis Comics in Bellflower CA) and also has two female staff members too. The store is nice and clean and well-lit. While as with most shops it’s a bit heavy on the superhero front, they do carry a nice selection of smaller publishers and has a really nice kids section too. There are a lot of good shops out there that do make going to a comic shop a much better experience.
The other big problem is how the general public perceives comic shops. The AMC show Comic Book Men that sadly reinforces the poor stereotype that comic book shops have long suffers from. If I didn’t read comics and saw that show I would be afraid to step one foot into a comic shop. There is also a lack of female comic book creators in the industry that is not helping the situation either. While I don’t think that the boys club comic shop is the entire issue, it’s certainly not helping. There are tons of female nerds out there that love the exact same stuff that I do. From television shows like Hannibal, Fringe, Chuck and Walking Dead to movies directly from comic books like Avengers, Iron Man, Superman and Batman. So why can’t we get comic shops clean up their acts? I don’t think that there is any real incentive for them. Most stores are content with catering to the same regular base of customers. While a lot of comic shops get some minor bumps in new customers from films and television shows based on comic books they seem to not put stock into keeping them. The way that you keep them is to get them interested in more independent books and graphic novels because then they might not be the weekly superhero zombies but they might just spread some word of mouth and get even more customers into their store. I want to know what you think of this issue and if you are a woman how have you been treated at your local comic shop?