- Posted by Johanna on June 24, 2010 at 8:46 am
- Category: Comic News
Comics is a bizarre industry in so many ways. The close, almost non-existent boundary between fan/consumer and pro/creator … the sheer number of weekly products retailers are expected to handle, from a distributor that refuses to treat them as adults and ship material before the day it goes on sale … the never-ending stories with ancient properties and brands that value continuity over entertainment … but one of the weirdest, to me, is how some comic stores are still gender-segregated.
From the inappropriate behavior of staff and/or owners — who obviously view women as “other”, not like them or any of their buddies, there to be stared at, not served — to decor that’s off-putting to anyone who’s not an adolescent male, some dedicated comic stores seem to want to be man cave clubhouses more than temples of commerce. (I like to believe, in this modern era, that there are fewer of them than there used to be, but I don’t know if anyone’s actually figured that out.) That’s not a new concept to any woman who’s done comic shopping while traveling, but a few recent pieces have made some great points on the topic.
Jennifer de Guzman started things off with a piece that began:
Like many women who read comics, I have a “girl in a comic shop” horror story. When I first started working in the comics industry, I told it a lot more often than I do now. I’d since pretty much retired it, thinking it wasn’t relevant anymore, not in this age of manga and young adult graphic novels. But it seems I was wrong…
She attributes it to an over-developed sense of wanting to find and be with people “like you”:
Comics have thrived, in their own way, on being insular and appealing to a closed circle of fans. Comics isn’t just a medium for many people — it is a community. And, unfortunately, a community whose largest faction is very much a clique. … They don’t want to stop using their comic shop as boys-only clubhouses.
de Guzman’s solution is for women to create their own alternatives: comics they like, shops that are friendly. That’s a fine idea, but it doesn’t protect the girls with no other choices, the ones where the only comic stores for miles are run by a troll. How do we educate them?
In response to de Guzman’s piece, Brigid Alverson dreams of an ideal store, one that is clean (sad that we have to start there, isn’t it? but low profits in comics means fewer options available and a willingness to settle for dingy spaces) and staffed with helpful people and not creepily decorated. Actually, Brigid’s suggestions work for most consumers, including adults of all kinds. Except the chocolate — I’m not sure foodstuffs and paper products mix.
I’d add to her suggestions that a store should have enough room for customers to move around and browse without having to touch or brush by other patrons. Nothing disturbs shopping more than being butt-bumped by someone who doesn’t realize how much room they and their backpack are taking up. Also, think about shoppers in wheelchairs or with other assistive devices. Room to move helps them as well.
Note that a shop that concentrates on material with a better profit margin is more likely to have funds to do this kind of design and maintenance. That means a store that carries book collections and well-selected merchandise may be a better choice than one chasing bottom feeders by offering high periodical discounts to capture customers who want to keep their collections complete for the lowest price possible.