So far, we've published an intro post, a terminology post, a post on comics creation, a piece on managing your budget, and some starter comics. Today we're going to talk about the Local Comic Shop experience.
Part 5: The Local Comic Shop Experience
Learning to love your LCS, avoid the haters, and order comics.
This post is going to be really subjective and is geared toward women and marginalized individuals. Comics has not been a welcoming place for many, particularly geeks of color and those of us without enough visible “geek cred.”
I want you to know two things:
- You belong.
- If they tell you that you don’t belong, I promise there is a place for you. You just haven’t found it yet.
All of this advice comes from my own experience with two very different comic shops in very different cities, so take it with a whole barrel of salt. If you ever have questions or need to vent about your LCS and the customers there, the internet is here for you. (Find us on Twitter.)
You would think, since comics has been shunned by the literature community for decades, that the readers and creators of comics would be welcoming and understanding. If anything, it’s often the opposite. As with other maligned groups, the comics fandom can be exclusionary and reactionary. Anyone and anything that doesn’t cater to them isn’t “real comics.”
I’ve experienced everything from weird looks (sometimes ogling because OMG there’s a GIRL in the store) to store clerks who ignored me. I’ve stood at the checkout desk with a question for long enough that I eventually gave up and left. The clerk was sitting there talking to a friend and refused to even acknowledge me. I’m sure I didn’t look like a real customer to him.
I’ve been hesitant to special order comics, particularly anything with romance, because of the same reactions romance readers get in the rest of the world. (The internet is the most excellent.)
Despite hordes of angry fanboys, the comics industry is slowly changing. It’s becoming more welcoming to female readers and creators and local comic shops are changing, too. After all, if white women and people of color no longer have to physically shop in your store, you don’t have much leverage to make them deal with the toxic environment there.
Odds are, your experience will not match what you’ve seen on The Simpsons.
Once you find your way past the initial awkwardness (if there is any), you’ll probably find that the staff at your LCS is great at connecting you with classic comics you’ll like, as well as upcoming releases. As with most things, it’s all about the relationship.
They want to sell you comics, you want to buy comics. Therefore, they have a vested interest in connecting you with comics that you’ll like. Be clear about your preferences and they’ll eventually be able to suggest things to you. I’ve found some great comics that way.
Need some inspiration to visit your Local Comic Shop?
- The staff at my LCS greets my 6 year old daughter by name when she visits with me.
- They check my subscription folder when I come in the door, or if my husband stops by.
- They helped us get a Magic: The Gathering poster for the 6 year old, which is harder than you'd think.
- When Wonder Woman came out, they gave out tiaras and bracelets and we (the book club) went as a group on opening night.
- They held a DC Super Hero Girls day and opened two hours early so girls could come in and draw and do Super Hero Girls activities.
- Most of all, they don't make me feel embarassed to order the comics I love. When I started Moonstruck, they started stocking it in the store. Same with Sleepless. We buy everything from My Little Pony to Sex Criminals, with nary a strange look.
What to Do:
Check out their website, reviews, and word of mouth if you’ve never been there before. Sometimes you’ll see events that are open to the public, such as Free Comic Book Day, which are great, stress-free opportunities to stop in to the store and get a look around. If you’re there in a crowd, you won’t have to worry about the one creepy dude down the aisle who keeps making sounds and staring at you. (Yes, it’s happened to me.)
Big events like this are also a good time to see who works on staff at the store. Are there any female employees? Employees with disabilities? People of color? A diverse staff isn’t a guarantee of anything, but you’ll be more likely to feel welcome if the store isn’t entirely staffed by white heterosexual men who love Spider Man.
Take a look at the selection in store. Are they stocking female-led comics that aren’t all T&A? That means you’re not the only female customer. If they’re stocking kids comics, that means they have families that regularly stop in. Stores don’t stock merchandise that doesn’t sell. If it’s on the shelf, that’s because they have customers who’ll buy it. Don’t lose hope!
Start or join a reading group. I know of a queer book club that reads lots of comics. My own LCS has a “League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen” that meets once a month at the store. We get a special discount and a space of our own. We read everything from horror to fantasy to the Flintstones. Your LCS might have reading groups, too. If they don’t? Ask if you can start one. It’s a good way to create a community and find your people within the world of comics.
Bring a friend.
A Few Notes on Ordering Comics:
- Ordering comics is different from ordering other books. There are several distributors with different shipping schedules, and it can be confusing to navigate. It's pretty nice to hand that part over to your LCS, but it may mean you have to be patient.
- You can subscribe to monthly comics that publish as issues, which means you get them on New Comic Day (that's Wednesday), AND you can subscribe to trades! This helps the store to make sure they have enough stock on hand and helps you to ensure you get your comics right when they come out.
- If you have a subscription folder, you need to go to the store regularly and buy what's in your folder. The shop is out that money until you pay them and it's not cool to let it all pile up.
- If you're pre-ordering a graphic novel or a comic trade, make sure you know whether you'll get a call or an email or no notice at all when it comes in.
With both of the shops I frequent(ed), there's been an adjustment period. Once we all figured it out, though? I love my LCS and I hope you have one you can love, too.
Buying comics in person not your thing or not an option? Next week we're going to talk about new ways to buy and support comics.
Part 6: What Are All These New Distribution and Funding Channels?
Kickstarter, Patreon, Gumroad, and ComiXology Unlimited. How to navigate new-ish channels of distribution and funding.
Part 7: Dirty Comics
A guide to comics for the 18+ crowd, with an emphasis on sex-positive, LGBTQ+ and female-friendly content.
Part 8: Comics for Kids
AKA, what to buy your niece/nephew/child/local library to get kids reading.
If you have any questions, please feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll gather questions as we go and answer them at the end if they aren’t covered in a post. Happy reading!