Nerding out at ladies' night

Comic bookshop Strange Adventures hosted a night just for women, so that they could feel welcome in the comic book scene.

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Girls peruse the aisles of comics and graphic novels at ladies' night at Strange Adventures. (Photo: Sunni Vann)

Two girls bundled to the brim in winter coats, duck through a door after teetering down the steep sidewalk. In the little comic book shop they're greeted with a gurgle of laughter and soft conversation. Between the stacks of comics and graphic novels, Batman figurines pose valiantly and spaceships hang from the ceiling.

In the crowd mingling through the skinny aisles, there's not a male face in sight. Everyone who slips through the door and stomps the snow from her boots is a woman.

It's the first ever ladies night at Strange Adventures, one of Halifax's largest comic book stores. This ladies' night isn't about tequila shots and short skirts. Instead, it's about creating a community, and a welcoming one at that. About 100 people came during the two hours that the event was held.

There's that stereotype of the typical comic book culture, of dingy dark shops and men who live in their mothers' basements. The boys club of an industry. In that stereotype, it can be hard to see where women would fit.

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A collection of photos from ladies' night. (Slideshow: Sunni Vann)

"Things that have a history of being male dominated, they keep being male dominated," says Tiina Johns, an employee of the past five years at Strange Adventures (the extra ‘i' stands for "invasion" says a drawing hung up in the store.) "Because men have always been doing this, they always keep doing it. Women don't have a lot of role models. There's nothing to bring you into it unless someone starts to."

"Generally, we still live in a patriarchy, and that feeds into comics."

But things are changing. More female comic book creators are coming to the scene. Not that the results are hugely different, says Johns, "You're not like, ‘Oh! It's about ponies, or bras! I just feel like there are subtle differences that make it awesome." 

Having women work at comic book stores is also encouraging change, she says. On a very basic level, it's more welcoming to see another woman working.

"[Customers] get to see not only that they read comics, but that they're also in a position of authority that comes with being behind the counter," said Johns.

Faith Erin Hicks is a comic book writer and illustrator living in Halifax, currently writing her fourth graphic novel. She says comic book culture has changed from what it used to be seen as.

"I guess I sort of feel like what people think of as comic book culture, going back to the whole comic-book -guy Simpsons persona, I don't really feel like that exists anymore. Maybe in certain pockets or small towns, or maybe certain stores in some corner somewhere, but not in Halifax," said Hicks, clutching a piece of red licorice.

Not to mention when you're talking about business, these women are half the population.

If you're going to sit there and exclude half your audience just ‘cause they got boobs, now that's just ridiculous," said Hicks.

Places like Strange Adventures that have worked to foster a sense of welcoming have made it so that people like Hicks can "...not ever think that I'm a girl reader, or a girl that does comics. I'm just someone who reads, and someone who does comics. It's not about my gender."

Strange Adventures can see from anywhere between 100 and 300 customers bustle into the store every day. On a Saturday, the shop is almost always full. However, only about 30 or 40 per cent of those customers are women.
Johns says that it's not that Strange Adventures really needs a ladies' night. Calum Johnston, the shop owner, has always had women on staff since the store opened, and doesn't buy a lot of the "creepy comics" that are out there.
"The weird porny stuff, that would make some women uncomfortable," said Johns.

"It's like coming into a bookstore, as opposed to coming into an enclosed club," said Megan Fildes, one of the women who came to ladies' night, and a friend of Johns'.

"I come here often as it is," says Ivy Jones, currently studying at NSCAD for a fine arts degree to work in comics. "And when I come in it's mostly just me, maybe one other girl and Tiina if she's working...and boys. It's nice to come in here and see it full of girls, other girls my age coming in who are interested in the same things I am."

Comments

slide 3 is rather manipulative. The Bettie Page books are not displayed like that.

Posted by calum Johnston | Feb 1, 2022 7:36 AM AT

Gotta love 'the press',eh? Its like she didn't even read her own article if that was indeed staged like that.

Posted by randy g | Feb 2, 2022 5:36 AM AT

I would delete my earlier comment if I could. I spoke with the reporter and she said it was not her who put the book there, it must have been misfiled by someone else. My mistake and apologies to unews. Sorry to have jumped to the conclusion, but it's happened before by other media folks.

Posted by calum Johnston | Feb 2, 2022 5:53 AM AT

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