Or should that be disapproving of The Big Bang Theory?
Yesterday, we ran an article on the trailer to tomorrow's episode which seems to give a rather female-unfriendly impression of comic stores. And also a comic store-unfriendly impression of females.
Living in London, shopping at Gosh, Orbital and Forbidden Planet, there certainly seem to be plenty of female customers and staff members. The MCM Expo Comic Cons here have a larger female than male attendance. And as for the comics festival scene, London en masse in equal gender atends.
Memes such as Women Reading Comics In Public doesn't exactly fit in with the Big Bang Theory portrayal of comics and geek culture either.
But is this just me? I asked a few people to share their experiences and of their favourite comic stores ahead of tomorrow's show. Consider it a pop cultural pre-emptive strike. I started with Bleeding Cool's very own Grace Randolph;
I took to Twitter.
@richjohnston I've been going to The Silver Snail in Toronto for almost a decade now, I freaking love that place @richjohnston I go to the only one local to me have done for 10+ years. Abstract Sprocket in Norwich UK. Brilliant, many girls go there > @richjohnston Now that I live in Montreal, I love the Drawn & Quarterly here, but I need to find a superhero shop, too. @richjohnston it is called Outer Limits. Cosy and local and very interest-savvy staff. Have been a loyal patron since highschool. @richjohnston Comix Experience in San Francisco because they are old school comic book nerds and stock EVERY new title, from kids to indie.
And checked my inbox. Janna Levitina writes;
I shop at Amazing Fantasy Comics in Littleton, Colorado. The owner is really good at managing my pull list and the store is organized. Otherwise, I wouldn't spend my money there.
Lynn Hardy writes;
My favourite comic shop is Page 45 in Nottingham. I've been shopping there for well over a decade now, and for a variety of reasons: the staff have always been friendly, helpful & knowledgeable and I've never felt judged by my comic selection as I was in my home town comic shop (Forbidden Planet in Newcastle, where the staff used to make disparaging comments about my choices as I was handing them the cash). Add to that the fact that Stephen is always happy to try and track down missing issues or hard to find graphic novels, and you have the reasons why I'm still prepared to travel 130 miles to buy my comics, even though Newcastle now has it's own properly friendly comic shop in the form of Travelling Man.
Amber Love writes;
My favorite shop has been Comic Fusion in Flemington, New Jersey (USA) for years (comicfusion.com or @comicfusion). After several shops treated me badly or simply brushed me off by not being helpful, I found Comic Fusion and co-owner Stacy Korn. She runs the shop with her business partner Bill Meccia. Stacy is responsible for helping me buy comics off the wall and setting up a pull list. I had no idea there were "methods" to shopping for comics other than a pharmacy spinner rack. I immediately began helping organize and promote events at the store like Free Comic Book Day and Wonder Woman Day. To date, we have raised over $40,000 for domestic violence charities through our Superhero Weekend/Wonder Woman Day auctions. The shop expanded a few months ago and is now better than ever. It's more than twice the size and has a room of tables devoted to gaming. It's fantastic when any shop employees get to know the customers well enough to suggest titles in the genres they like. We have our Ellis people, our Whedon people, our Marvel- or DC-only people. Stacy and Bill get to know all the personalities of the shoppers and gamers and treat them with respect. Not only that, but the shop is dedicated to supporting the community of small businesses at all times. They cross-promote and offer shopping discounts to neighboring stores.
Traveling Kudos go out to Phantom of the Attic Comics in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. My short stay there, the entire staff treated me like family.
I started reading comic books about a year ago. I'm a middle-aged mom and the first few times I walked to the "New Comics" back wall at Harrison's in Salem, MA, I felt like I was walking the halls of my junior high school with a new haircut. But after a few weeks, I realized that feeling was entirely my own.
Everyone wanted to talk comics, and no one cared that I was the only middle-aged housewife in the store. Now it's like all the enthusiastic geekery of junior high minus the mean girls. I love it. Love comics, love Harrison's – the staff, the clientele – and I love being in a room full of metal shelves lined with three-dollar art.
I love Harrison's.
Megan Schmidt writes;
I practically grew up in a comic shop! Myself and all of my GIRL friends frequented our local one on a weekly basis! The crazy part is we would go to our dance classes (we were all in dance up until at least the age of 18) and on the way home we would stop in for comics, CCGs and collectables! We would play ST:TNG CCG and MTG before and after dance and constantly talk about comics, Star Trek, Star Wars and many other "geeky" topics. We were all big geeks and proud of it! I still go to the local comic shop at least once a month and yes, I usually go with my husband (who is also a big geek), but that doesn't mean I am there against my will or only for him! I love the medium and always will. It is ridiculous to think that just because of my gender I cannot appreciate these things that have shaped who I am today.
Arienne Crossby writes;
I'm a woman, and a group of (mostly female) friends, do a weekly expedition to my LCS, where they know me by name and hand me my pull stuff without my ever having to ask. And I've been doing this since I was about… eleven? "Where no woman has gone before" is insulting in a particularly unpleasant way, because I'm a life-long Trekkie. Just. Why would you do that, BBT. This is why I don't watch you.
Sarah Bell of I Am Giant Woman writes;
I'm female. I read comics. I go to my LCS, Uncanny Comics in Worthing, every Wednesday like clockwork and pick up anything from 5 to 20 new books per week. The folks in there know me, sometimes I pop in on the weekends just to hang out, drink coffee, talk comics. It is only a small shop, but it has a fairly loyal little clientèle, and gets a few creators popping in on occasion to say hello to folks. I'm not saying I feel comfortable there, but one more than one occasion people have mistaken me for a member of staff, and I've ended up selling them books they didn't know about, just by chatting to them about the things they do like. Not that girls like comics.
Not all comic shops welcome us ladies though. In a nutshell, I went in to Dave's Comics in Brighton (a shop I've been to a hundred times before) and picked up a couple of Preacher trades, some Power Girl, and some Unwritten. There were two chaps at the counter, one laughed when I put down Preacher and said "who's that for then". When I told him it was me, he incredulously declared that I couldn't possibly read Preacher, because I'm a girl. Now, I appreciate the flattery of the term girl, but at 30 years of age and 5'10, I'm not exactly a wee slip of a thing that couldn't cope with the nasty words or hideous religion based violence. In fact, I'm fairly sure no comic has made me laugh as much as the "you're gonna go fuck yourself" pages from Preacher. Anyway, getting back to the root of my anger, I had a friend with me at the time who didn't read comics (The Unwritten was for her, to show her it's not all capes and cowls), and after that comment, she was understandably put off going back in there. Never one to let something like that slip, I explained – slowly, and using small words – why it was my gender had about as much reflection on my ability to read a book as, say, my religion, race, colour or creed would have done. Luckily for the guy who said it, the chap who runs the store made the sensible decision to come over and try and placate me. Not that it worked. I left, in a very bad mood, and proceeded to vent that anger via twitter and facebook, declaring to all and sundry that Dave's would not get any more money from me. Except of course when they had a 1/6 scale Comedian in the window at a bargain price… Luckily when I went in to look at it, the other chap that had been in the shop that day told me his friend no longer worked there, as his comments to me weren't the first time had said something like that, and they had enough of him working there. Whoops. Good thing girls don't like comics.
The good thing that came out of it was that my ranting online led to some good conversations with comics people of twitter, and one guy, Rob / @Dusk1020 mentioned that he runs a comic shop, Tor Comics on Long Island, and that he would never talk to customers like that. He was even nice enough to invite me out to see for myself. The husband and I were after a holiday anyway, so booked some flights to NYC, and made sure that we would be there in time for New York Comic Con. Rob could not have been more welcoming if he tried, opening his house to us and introducing us to lots of other wonderful folks, including a chap I'd been emailing, who was good enough to show me his Fantastic Four #1, signed by Kirby and Lee. First day in America; visited three comic stores. Out of our ten days there, four were at NYCC. Anyway, girls don't like comics.
Also, whilst out there we had our wedding anniversary, and I gave the husband tickets for us to go to London Super Comic Con that I had got from our local comic shop, in return for the offer of my help on their stalls there. We've booked hotels with the guys from the shop, and will be cosplaying as some of our favourite character whilst there. On one of the days, I'll be cosplaying a male character. Not a "sexy" version of him, because that would be silly. Just the character, as he is. You know, because sometimes girls actually read comics and don't just see costumes in films and copy them to show off some T&A and cop off with nerdy boys. Sorry, had to drop that one in there.
But hey, it's not that girls like comics or anything…
So yeah. I'm a woman. Not only have I been IN a comic book shop. I own one.
Not quite sure how I'd send you proof….answers on a postcard. Or you know, email.
Oh, and I run Melksham Comic Con as well. (www.facebook.com/melkshamcomiccon)
So yeah. Comics. Girls. Woo!
Sonia Harris writes;
My absolute favorite comic shop, the one which changed my life and so many other people's, is Isotope Comics in San Francisco. The sense of community and love of the medium is overwhelming. The signing parties are like actual parties, people dress up, new people meet, and many, many great stories are exchanged. I've spent many afternoons curled up on a couch reading my purchases, and seen many people do the same. Owner Kirsten Baldock has a knack for knowing what kind of book I'll like and only recommends rarely, so you know that when she does, it's worth checking out.
Now that I've moved to Los Angeles, my new comic shop is Blast Off Comics. Owner Jud Meyers has created a very comfortable, well-laid out, aesthetically pretty store. Every staff member I've encountered there has been friendly and well-informed about the books and the industry. The store is involved with a broad range of community and charity works which they give customers an option to participate in. I've also had a lot of fun attending signing parties at Secret Headquarters and Golden Apple.
Every year or so I visit London, and I visit the first comic shops I used to frequent as a kid; Gosh! Comics and Mega City. The great thing about Gosh! is that it is opposite the British Museum, so when I was in art school I could go there to draw the marble nudes, then duck out early and hit the comic shop. Both comic stores still have a friendly and knowledgable staff. More recently I've been to signings at Orbital Comics and just loved the decor and sense of fun around the books.
Whenever I travel to a new city, for work or fun, I try to visit a comic book store. Whether it is in Europe or the States, I find it a great way to get acclimated and I love talking about comic books with the staff and customers. Once in a while the staff in the stores don't know much about the books, but then I can still browse an unfamiliar stock and often find things I might have otherwise missed.
A few weeks ago I was visiting Atlanta, where I'm moving soon. I spend an afternoon at Criminal Records, opened a pull box so I'd have all of the next month's comics waiting for me when I moved down, and came back to my friend's apartment for comics, tacos, and beer. Great day.
I am a woman and these are just four samples from my comic shelf that I bought after walking into a comic book store of my own volition
My friend Julie and I go to Greg's Comics in Mesa AZ. It actually is a drive but we make it very wed and are greeted like people and not an Alien unknown form searching for shoes. They have a great prices a decent selection and are always helpful. Also I will mention eyes are on my eyes during conversation and not my chest… Always a plus.
Angela Williams writes;
My favourite comic shop is the huge Forbidden Planet in London on Shaftesbury Avenue. Whenever we go to London, I make a beeline there because it is HUGE. Shelves and shelves of beautiful trades? What more could you want. I love that I can always find what I'm looking for on the shelves rather than having to order. The only thing that could make it better would be a few comfy chairs like Waterstones has taken to doing.
I should also add that I love my FP in Bristol. All the staff know me–we've been going there as a family for years now–and no one has ever tried to steer me towards "girly" comics. The London store just wins out for the sheer volume of comics available on tap!
Alva C, who works at Third Planet, Houston, writes;
Well, I'm a full-time employee here at Third Planet, my boss is really awesome in that he puts customer service above "geek cred" so he really frowns upon anyone working for him being like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, ie, no giving customers crap about what they're reading. I can tell you I hated the ending of Amazing Spider-Man #700, if you ask my opinion, but no being a jerk to customers.
We're in kind of an old building, so we're not the prettiest comic shop (I saw in the forums for your article about TBBT that someone said LCS with women = super clean and brightly lit. That's kind of a silly stereotype about women, I'm probably the least likely to clean the store here!), but I feel the guys are very female-friendly without having to *try* to.
None of my coworkers leer at women and we even have a system set up in case one of the customers gets creepy with me, but to be honest, I needed that system more when I was working at Gamestop than I ever had here. In fact, I got "Do you play video games or do you just work for a discount for your boyfriend" more than I ever get people questioning my comic book knowledge, which is next to never in the three years I've been here.
I don't really know what to say, because my store is ran very customer service-oriented I think we're just a friendly and welcoming store in general, not just to females.
Jasmine Pinales writes;
I live in Virginia, USA and I happen to be really lucky to have a small shop that is incredibly female and child friendly. It's called Local Heroes here's their site it's a small space and it's run by a really nice dude, his name is Greg and he works to know the names of the people who frequent his shop. Whenever he's in I have been greeted by name and thanked for shopping there. I'm not a fan of superheroes, I like knowing that a narrative will end eventually and that it won't go on ad nausem, and there is an broad collection of non DC/Marvel titles Top Cow, Fantagraphics, OniPress, Red5, Dark Horse and a number of other imprints are on sale. Local artists who have printed mini comics are on sale there too. I have never felt uncomfortable in this shop from the employees or the other customers. A comic based movie or show, animated and live action, is usually playing on a TV in the back and there's music playing pretty much always. I have walked in and with no shame bought comics and asked questions about non-superhero comics without being criticized for what I've wanted to read. I've gotten some fantastic suggestions and picked up books I might not have because of talking with the owner and employees about the types of things I've been interested in reading.
FCBD is becoming a community event with a locally owned bagel place providing bagels and coffee in the morning and a pizza place donating pizzas in the early afternoon. There have been a few signings with writers there and midnight release parties for books. The shop is clean, well lit and I'm not bombarded with a million posters of comic covers whose sole purpose of to put tits and ass on display. There are posters for a variety of series, featuring men and women as leads, along with non-superhero comics. One wall has racks for monthlies the back and side walls have trades and double sided bookshelves were added to put more books on display in the center of the store. In the middle, near the register, are all ages displays with plush toys and child friendly media.
I have told numerous friends who don't often go into comic shops to go into this shop so they can see what a good shop is like. I have told parents of young children local to their area to take their kids to this shop to buy them comics, along with suggesting libraries where they can find more kid oriented books and not worry as much about their kid seeing something questionable. I'm glad I found this shop in my formative years of being a comics fan and I now have a high bench mark for customer service and being respected when I go into a shop to buy books.
Karen Hughes writes;
Following your tweet, here is my experience. I am from rural Cumbria in the UK and first got into comics (Batman specifically) before the advent of the internet, when a shop was your only link to the wider comics world.
I discovered Imagination Station run by Tommy Hoodless, as mentioned in the linked article after a long search and have shopped there ever since. Long enough that we now exchange Christmas presents!
He provided a non judgemental, thorough and excellent service and introduced me to many other comics by the likes of Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison and Art Spiegelman among many others, which I would never have had access to without his knowledge.
I have never encountered any problems/discrimination shopping for comics. That has always tended to happen in the wider world, where narrow minded idiots are never in short supply!
I don't know what bygone century the Big Bang Theory writers are living in, but both my current LCSs have multiple women on staff, not to mention female customers walking through their doors on a daily basis. I myself once had a life-time membership at another comic shop near my old workplace, which fed my habit for years until I finally broke up with DC.
Why are the Big Bang Theory writers so ignorant?? Or rather, why must they go for such a cheap joke that clearly perpetuates sexist ideas about what women can and can't do. Ugh.
Excuse you, BBT. Color me un-amused. I'm not a viewer (though lord knows, I tried) and this kind of sexist malarkey is (one of the reasons) why.
Lest anyone doubt that we know our shit – We've made it through the entirety of Avengers V1 (that's Avengers from 1963-1996) and have read almost all of the big events since the mid-90s. We can each name our favourite artists, favourite characters, favourite arcs, favourite writers (although that one varies a lot depending on how they're doing writing whatever characters they're doing). We can't stand Hank Pym, but we love Scott Lang. We know the identity of Red She-Hulk, and have a vendetta against Onslaught (even if he probably doesn't exist anymore… we hope). And yeah, we're mainly Marvel girls, but we also know all the Robins (including oft-left out Stephanie Brown and not-main-universe Carrie Kelley), have favourites of the Birds of Prey, and stay away from DC mainly because our paychecks can't afford to add to our substantial pull list.
I know I don't need to convince YOU that women like comics, but god damn, it feels sometimes like I have to lay down my street cred in order to be taken seriously as a comics fan, and it doesn't even always work. We're very lucky to have a LCS that employs girls and that I've never been looked at oddly for entering, but not everyone is.
See? Plenty of women in comics stores, buying comics, working there and making them their own. So whatever you see on Big Bang Theory tomorrow, just remember, it ain't necessarily so.
A Christmas card from Challengers Comics + Conversation in Chicago, featuring the store staff.