So, here I was, trying to think of something interesting an introspective on the ol’ Marvel Universe when I realized this is the start of the rescinding of the tide. Since the Civil War books will be delayed, we’re going to start to see a slow series of empty spots on that new comic rack, only to be overwhelmed by the deluge of books that should have been out in the aftermath of Civil War #4′s release.
Which got me on another topic entirely.
When I register jockey-ed for my first comic shop job down in Los Angeles, the manager got a little pamphlet in the mail entitled ‘How to Get Women into Your Comic Shop’. It was a little maybe 6-10 page thing, it was pink and, while it did also have a little asterix in the title that suggested it was more for how to get your books out to a broader audience, it was the title that sticks with me. He gave it to me to see if any of the suggestions inside would do well and as I perused their ideas and opinions, I realized that almost all of their tips were things that should probably be a good idea anyway, new customer base or not. Things like ‘Make sure your store is well lit’ and ‘welcome customers into the store’ and ‘keep things clean’ seemed rather obvious to me and were less ‘girl attractants’ than ‘common sense’. Maybe I’m the lucky one and have only gone to stores that have had helpful staff and ‘well lit’ stock, maybe I’ve been deprived of a real ‘Android’s Dungeon’ experience, maybe I’m not picky and know that the large, long-haired gentleman in a Slayer shirt behind the counter doesn’t hate me personally, but might have other things going on right now that do not warrant me a cheery grin or witty banter, but I am pretty sure that the majority of comic shops out there are indeed well-lit, clean and helpful.
And, hold on to your hats, but why do you want women in your stores so badly anyway? Is it to respond to the stereotype that comics are a male dominated industry? You don’t have to cater to specific interest groups, in my humble opinion, to get a more diverse customer base in your local comic shop. In fact, it’s probably better than you don’t. It’s kind of demeaning in a way to have a section on the shelves that says ‘Recommendations for Women’ (and if you do have one, don’t make it pink. Come on.). I’m not even sure that I’m all that for a permanent ‘Female Creators’ section, as it seems to separate them from the rest of the books. Maybe a highlight now and then, along with an ‘Asian Creators’ section or a ‘Left Handed Creators’ section… but I think I’m getting away from my point.
It doesn’t matter the gender of your customers, what matters is that they are happy. Highlight the books that you and your staff can recommend at the drop of a hat and feel safe guaranteeing satisfaction with. Stock popular stories and interesting titles that have a wide audience appeal. And for the love of Pete, don’t just give the girl a copy of Strangers in Paradise and assume you’ve done your job; ask about movies or TV shows they’ve seen recently or interests in history or what have you. Like I said last week, there really is a book out there for everyone,it’s just a matter of putting it in their hands. Let people browse, give them room to do so and answer questions when needed. Again, I live a sheltered life that sees a woman in a comic store on a daily basis when I look in the employee washroom mirror, but with the growth and breadth of popular culture, I don’t see chicks in comic shops as some timid deer approaching the watering hole anymore. And they aren’t looking for books that cater to them, they are customers like anyone else just looking for some great stories with great artwork.
And if you are one of the proud, the few, the comic shop employees, you know some of those.