I don’t know everything about comic books, but I don’t have to.
When I was a kid, the only comics I was really aware of were Archie Comics, and the only one that interested me was Betty and Veronica. I used to pick them off the racks at grocery stores or newsstands (back when there were newsstands), and the selection was pretty thin. I was canny enough to realize I got more of my money’s worth when I tracked down a Double Digest rather than a single issue, but it was a pretty rare purchase.
Someone once suggested to me that I should check out Golden Apple Comics which was located less than a mile from where I lived. It had been there longer than I’d been alive, but I’d never been inside, viewing it as a place for older people, and men in particular. Not the sort of place a ten-year-old girl wants to go by herself.
My memory of my one trip to Golden Apple at that age is pretty fuzzy. I can’t imagine now that anyone was rude to me – and I could be a shy kid when I wanted to, which probably accounted for some of the anxiety – but I definitely didn’t find the community I associate with the store now. I got the impression then that entering a place of superheroes and supervillains and asking about Archie was tantamount to heresy. Not only was I a kid, I was a girl kid, and therefore an alien in that sacred space.
Eighteen years and one store relocation later, and I’m an employee at the very shop that intimidated me all those years ago.
It’s because of Morning Glories that I found my way back to Golden Apple, since I needed a place where I could buy single issues instead of the trades that had been my gateway into comics. With a single tenuous memory, and internet tales of women being poorly treated in the comic world, I was nervous when I stepped into the shop, still a relative newbie. Fortunately the employees were welcoming, and the other customers, if not ‘chatty’ were never unfriendly. I never felt strange or alien in that place again, and the owner was even nice enough to let me film in front of the store for my web series.
So when he mentioned they were looking for someone to help on the administrative and organizational side of things, I jumped at it. The intimate size of the comic book shop means I get to interact with customers, and though on my first day I was awkwardly hit on, so far no one has tried to suggest I don’t belong. I’ve only been working there a month, and I feel at home. (We’ll see how I feel after working Free Comic Book Day.)
Knowing now that the store has been owned and operated by the same family for 35 years, and seeing first-hand how far out of the way the owners go to make Golden Apple kid-friendly, I have to assume ten-year-old me blew things out of proportion, uncomfortable stepping into an unfamiliar world, especially at a time in my life when my exposure to all things geek was minimal. The world of comics is more omnipresent now than it was in the 90s, and I look forward to doing my part to make everyone feel welcome when they come in, whatever it is they’re looking for.
For an ever-expanding list of comic shops with female employees who are proving stereotypes wrong one issue of Saga at a time, check out: Beware the Valkyries.