Comic Shop Girl Confessions: Girls in Shops

You might not know it from watching Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men or The Big Bang Theory but girls in comic shops aren’t actually that big of a deal. But maybe I’m biased; after all of the four people employed at my shop only one is a guy.

Frau Totenkinder of Fables aka Bellflower aka Biggest Baddest Witch in Fabletown HistoryThere was a point in time during the last comic boom that maybe girls weren’t a standard in every store but News Flash times have definitely changed. You can always tell who only casually collected comics back in the day (“I have eight copies of Spawn #1 still in the bag”) and never looked back after ’95 because they seem like they’re having a coronary when I greet them from behind the register. As if it’s bring-your-daughter-to-work day and I’m just shadowing my dad. After almost five years I’ve learned to not to care but the problem is I should care.

The most disheartening aspect of this job is when people (not just men) don’t believe I’m interested in comics because I’m a girl.  I understand that not everyone is passionate about their job but you would think in a time where Hilary Clinton ruled the world, Summer Glau can demolish 3 dozen Reavers, and River Song is a future Doctor it shouldn’t come as a shock that I have a knowledgeable and emotional attachment to comic books.  I’ve been reading comics for most of my life and quite honestly I read more than my co-workers. I’m not boasting, I’m laying out facts.  I spend far too much of my time researching and thinking and talking about these fictional worlds.  The night Patrick proposed to me we went straight to dinner and gushed about Fables for an hour. THE NIGHT HE ASKED ME TO MARRY HIM WE TALKED ABOUT FRAU TOTENKINDER FOR THE ENTIRETY OF DINNER.  Really let that sink in.  I suppose it is one thing if you work at Best Buy and someone asks you if you actually know about televisions or if you just work there; but I dedicate my life to this place.  To take one look at me and think, “She’s wearing a dress and lipstick! This must only be a job to her” is insulting.Iceman aka Bobby Drake by Olivier Coipel from Avengers vs X-Men #11

Do you walk into a Dunkin Donuts and ask the guy behind the counter if he actually cares about donuts or if his girlfriend got him into baking? No because that seems ridiculous, even if baking little circles of pastry heaven was just a way to pay the bills you wouldn’t ask him. However, not only do we have people disparage comic books to our faces but then they scoff at the idea that any part of this industry fascinates us. Maybe because I’ve been neck deep in this world for too long, but I’m confused as to why it’s strange at all.

To be quite honest, this is a great time to be a woman who enjoys comics.  We have some awesome superheroes to look up to: Captain Marvel [Carol Danvers], Hawkeye [Kate Bishop], Batwoman [Kate Kane], Ms. America [America Chavez].  There are some phenomenal female creators; just to name a few: Gail Simone, Amy Reeder, Emma Rios, Amanda Connor, Sara Pichelli, Marjorie Lui, & Fiona Staples. But I’m forgetting one of the best reasons: THE EYE CANDY.

Nightwing aka Dick Grayson by Trevor McCarthy in Nightwing #3 New 52I think it’s easy to forget that women aren’t alone in being drawn over sexualized and unrealistically.  Pick up any recent book with Olivier Coipel’s art and try to tell me he doesn’t draw the most gorgeous men on earth.   Trevor McCarthy’s Tim Drake pushed Red Robin from a 10 to an 11 for me and his guest issue of Nightwing was borderline pornographic . Men not your thing? Disgusted by exaggerated anatomy? Take a look at Tim Sale’s Gwen Stacy from the heartbreaking Spider-Man: Blue.  Terry Moore’s Echo, or more recently David Marquez’s adorably sexy Kitty Pryde in All-New X-Men.

When people come into the store completely in awe of the world they just entered I don’t mock them for their Gwen Stacy by Tim Sale in Spider-Man Bluenaivete  I encourage their wonder. If they want to learn everything about Iron Man I’ll walk them right over to the bookshelves and point out Extremis and gush about Rescue and possibly even confess my love for Tony’s signature ‘stache. However, I’m not going to help this potential customer any less if they are female.  And by that logic, just because I am a young woman (albeit a married one at that) I won’t help an adorably overwhelmed guy any differently because of what he’s packing downstairs.  There is an honest to god spark in people when they find the magic in comic books and I like to think I’ve become a master at spotting it.  So who am I to turn someone away because of their gender, or age, or crazed enthusiasm levels.  I know I hate it when people write me off when I’m behind the counter so why would I do that to someone on the other side?

Luckily I have been blessed with a big smile and wide eyes that charm most of our regulars seeing me as a younger sister or step-daughter, they listen to me rant and rave about the way J. Scott Campbell draws hair or how I cried during “War of the Green Lanterns”.  These might seem like over-reactions to 24 pages of speech bubbles and jack boots but that’s what makes me who I am, it has nothing to do with my gender.  In fact my co-worker lovingly ridicules my habit of always crying when reading or watching, well, anything (but in particular Young Justice—R.I.P.) She reads very different books than I do, we enjoy vastly different genres of movies, but we both have this store keeping us together.  And the same goes for any woman who might walk through our doors; maybe you are only buying the newest issue of Angel & Faith because you’re a die hard Buffy fan or maybe you just want to start reading Walking Dead because you finally caught the show on Netflix, or maybe you’ve been reading comics for as long as you remember—the point is you’re not alone.   The “token female” joke isn’t funny or accurate anymore, it’s dated and at our store it’s just embarrassing.   I see the same things you do and I’m not here to judge you, I just want you to read Hawkeye dammit.

Denise Francesca

About Denise Francesca

For five years Agent Denise has been working undercover on the front lines at Comics Unlimited. It is in this store where she reads, sells, organizes, and acts out comic books new and old. You can track her capricious thought process and love/hate affinity for shitty television on Twitter: @ironpissed or on Tumblr: www.immortalironpissed.tumblr.com