Breaking: A comic shop in this day and age is staffed by customer-repelling losers

Noelle Stevenson aka Gingerhazing is the model of the modern cartoonist. While still in her early 20s (very early) she’s built up a huge following via Tumblr and other social media, leading to a two book deal with Harper Collins for her webcomic Nimona, while continuing to pursue her online ventures, working on Adventure Time comics and so on. Thus reading her report on what happened when she went to a comic shop to pick up a copy of a comic with her work in it is depressing in the extreme. This did not happen in 1977 or 1985 or 1992 or 2001, it happened in the recent past. As shown in the above comic, the clerks made disparaging comments based on her gender, and in general treated her like a freak.

I hate to say that I’ve been there, but I have. It didn’t stop me and it never has but it’s so so so unnecessary. And how, in this competitive day and age, can any business tolerate workers who repel potential customers?

It’s insane.

I would also note that this comic racked up more than 50,000 shares un Tumblr in a mere 11 hours. That’s juice.

While commenting on this story, several people linked to a different tumblr, Hater Free Wednesdays, that has a list of comics shops that friendly to new customers and don’t insult women who come in. It also has reviews of bad shops, like this one of Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, of Comic Book Men fame.

NOT friendly to women. The guys behind the counter openly ogle and discuss female customers, often loudly enough to be overheard. What may make good TV makes for really shitty service.

Rude about small purchases, always trying to sell “just one more thing.” Will ignore small purchase customers over those making a larger purchase.

Openly mocked an out Lesbian and Gay man while I was in store. Then they started to mock my weight and hair. Until they realized I could hear them. No apology (or Chase) was made.

Not handicapped friendly. Not friendly to anyone except “dudebros” or people they know.

Just to wash the taste of that out of your mouth, here’s the review of The Laughing Ogre in Columbus, OH

I’ve been going to this shop for three years, and never had a problem nor witnessed one.

The staff is polite, very helpful and knowledgeable, and more than willing to order a trade or anything else if they do not have it in stock. They often take the time to chat about your purchases and will recommend other books by the same authors and artists or in the same style, or chat about the authors (they organize a lot of signing days and events, a lot of big names came here). I’ve seen two guys who are, I think, the managers, and two women.

The store is pretty quiet and very big— plenty of space between the shelves to walk through. While I do not know if it is handicapped accessible or not, the shop opens directly on its parking lot and there are no steps, high sidewalks or trickery involved to get in, and it’s right on the bus line number 2 on High Street.

They have an amazing amount of back issues in the back of the store, from 3 months old ones to 30 years old ones, an amazing amount of current issues and trades, manga, statues and models, staff picks (they have good taste), local comic books, European comics, a few artbooks, and my favorite part, the front of the store is specifically for children. There is a nook of the front store filled with children’ illustrated books and comics, and I’ve seen parents leave their kids there while they stocked up on ‘grown-up’ comics.

Plus there’s an ice cream shop on the other side of the street.

Just to throw in a plug here, my locals, JHU, Forbidden Planet and Midtown are all exemplary stores, and while I haven’t been in Midtown in a while, I know FP and JHU both employ a number of women.

It’s a shame that the dudebro culture of Comic Book Men remains the icon of comic shop ownership as far as AMC and some medieval retailers. I didn’t want to jump into gender wars again so soon, but we keep seeing these things. I’m sure the jerks who worked at the store Stevenson went into are rude to customers in other ways—it isn’t even just a gender thing. It’s called customer service and a friendly store.

It’s 2014 for Christ sake. We can’t tolerate this.


  1. David Gallaher says:

    >>It’s 2014 for Christ sake. We can’t tolerate this.>>


    It’s unfortunate that a sexy Russian woman is undulating in the banner next to the article, inviting me to cut off her swimsuit with a pair of scissors. [The ad takes me to, btw]

  2. Christos Gage says:

    I get a WWE Superstars ad. Clearly I’m doing the internet wrong.

  3. I got two different autoplaying video ads. Ugh.

  4. This is basic, Chamber of Commerce, small business marketing stuff, Heidi. What’s even more frustrating is some small shops’ rejection of my friendly advice (I’ve helped business and industry with their marketing for over 30 years, among my other graphic artist and writer employment). It’s sad when shops fail, but painfully obvious why in some of these boy’s clubs. Many, many comic retailers are friendly, super people and I wish them the best overcoming this kind of press.

  5. Sam Thielman says:

    I get an IDW takeover.

    And FP, JHU and Midtown are all great, as is Roger’s Time Machine. There’s one out in Queens that shall remain nameless where I’m absolutely never taking my wife again, though.

  6. Good to see Laughing Ogre get some press — GREAT store.

    What about stores where the clerks are good but they let patrons get away with equally gross comics talk? I love comics shops, but if you do this, I will not weep for you when you fail. Comic Book Men isn’t helping, nor is Big Bang Theory — their shop is portrayed as great, but when a young woman shops there, it becomes an entire plot point because everyone points at her. Great.

  7. The Laughing Ogre is the best.

  8. Aaron Ragan-Fore says:

    My ComiXology app has never once ogled me, nor made a disparaging remark about me.

  9. I’ve only watched one episode (the first) of Comic Book Men, and my first impression was “If someone had never been in a comic book store, and this was their only point of reference, they would never go in one at all.” Subsequent advertising for later episodes has reinforced my opinion.

  10. I don’t think we ever need a break from discussing ways to expand the comics audience and be more inclusive. Let’s do it every day.

    The Tumblr reactions to the comic are pretty amazing, especially the one from a self-described “male nerd” whose argument boils down to, “No one ever liked me and I now center the meaning of my existence around consumable pop culture artifacts. You can’t just show up one day and ask to be included!” I think that anti-social pain is the underlying reason for every knee-jerk negative reaction to the idea or reality of women enjoying comics: he didn’t see women involved growing up and is now suspicious/defensive about it. It’ll wash itself out after a generation or so; comics are no longer exclusively for misunderstood outcasts.

    Also, Jeni’s, the Columbus ice cream shop mentioned in that Laughing Ogre review, is worth the cost of a plane ticket to Ohio by itself.

  11. Wallace Ryan says:

    I always found the folks at St. Mark’s Comics in NYC to be great!!! The owner, Mitch, is one of my favourite shop owners in the city! He comes right out to chat with that great smile!!!

    AND they’re open until 1 AM on weekends!!!!

  12. Chris Hero says:

    The Laughing Ogre is one of the best stores in the country. Columbus is an amazing comic book city.

    I’ve been to more stores like the one described in the article than not. Comic stores have a real problem there. I feel like people who live in huge cities like NYC or SF are shocked and appalled when they hear this, but it’s the way it is.

  13. Silly But True says:

    With recent discussion of demographics of comic fans, I’m reminded of DC’s New52 survey “Category 1″ results. Cat 1 was the physical, in-store survey of comic shops. That’s the one that identified 7% of its respondents as females.

    Chicken or egg, this is all most the problem of the comic shop businesses themselves. Do women not go because of this? Yes. Does this happen because there’s no women shopping there? Yes. Conclusion: You guys are screwed.

    Never mind the lack of respect towards a professional, most of these shops are small businesses in a changing industry. One would think at the very least that managers of these stores have some remote sembelence of the importance of making sales and not pissing off one’s clientele.

    Silly but True

  14. Good to see The Laughing Ogre not only mentioned as a positive example in the post, but also all the folks in the comments section who are familiar with it. Add me to the list of Columbus residents who have been shopping there since its first days….gosh, i don’t even know how long ago…mid 90s?

  15. There are still lots of baaad comic stores around. That’s the reason that Big Bang Theory is so funny, it relies on cliches that we can all relate to.
    But how do you get comic store staff to change their behaviour when they don’t want to? Lecture them?
    Just shop somewhere else, and spread the word. Tell people the name of the bad shop in Queens, and the good shop in Columbus. That bad shop might eventually fail, but at least it will lose YOUR business.

  16. Seth Hollander says:

    Hey Jesse Post:
    Your reduction of that argument (I have not read the original thread) struck a cord. It is an argument I used to make when I was younger and more hormonally charged.
    I long for the days before your kind liberated comics from us “misunderstood outcasts”. Economics mandate that all industries strive to expand their markets, and thus the core demographic that nurtures an industry or product eventually gets pushed to the wayside by expansion. I remember getting into The Grateful Dead in ’86. For a while it was a great scene of likeminded people. Then the pop hit happened and the scene disappeared in a sea of mainstream consumers…
    I really wish I lived in a world in which popmedia mavens stuck to that mass-market shit that is Hollywood and TV. I wish hipsters would stay in coffee shops and dance clubs. The wounded part of me even wishes comics were still anethama to women, as they were in my prime mating years.
    Eventually the only friend of “misunderstood outcasts” will be the NRA.

    I AM GLAD MORE AND MORE COMIC SHOPS ARE NOT SLEAZY! I haven’t been a fan of T&A wall displays since I passed my 17th year of age.
    But I do wish comics fandom was still a ghetto, and not something I have to share with mainstream people. Marvel long ago turned it’s back on me to pursue the Bro market, and now DC is leaving me behind as it pursues the TV-viewer market. With Grant Morrison’s grand weirdness boxed out by this pablumization, my comic fan years are coming to a close…

  17. JoeC_Mommy says:

    I’m a thirty-something married stay-at-home mother of one preschool-aged son. That is to say, I’m not the stereotypical comic-book reader.

    Our community has two LCS. I’ve never shopped LCS No. 1. It seems to have inconsistent, irregular hours and its no-window, weathered storefront looks creepy.

    I have shopped LCS No. 2 from time to time. It’s dimly lit. Its displays and shelves are arranged so that the aisles are narrow and you enter and exit through a very narrow channel right beside the checkout. Its back-issue bins are usually covered with bedsheets. (Is it all right to peek under them? Dunno.) It hasn’t participated in FCBD. When I have shopped it, I’ve really felt like I’ve inconvenienced the one employee on duty at that time. And I’ve felt too uncomfortable to take our preschooler there because of the sign that states, No Unattended Children. (Yes, he’s attended, but I wonder whether he’s really welcome.)

    Bottom line? I shop online. It’s a shame.

  18. chris says:

    Its not just women that get trash talked on. When I first got back into comics I bought several trades of well loved and important stories from the decade I missed. Sometimes I even bought a *gasp* Deadpool TPB because it was fun. I once had a staffer say “Seriously dude, this is a piece of garbage. You must be n00b” as he tried to push things on me i didn’t want and other things like that. Or the elitist “WOW, why don’t you already own this, you must not have much of a collection”. Or even eye rolls and “hmphs” at stuff in my stack. This wasn’t one person at one store. This was different people at different stores. The elitism of comic shop employees is one of the best marketing weapons online retailers like Amazon, DCBS and Comixology have to take business away from the LCS.

    Here’s the rub comic shop owners. I never made a stink about it. I was too embarrassed to talk trash back. I just stopped going to your store. You saw me every week for a few months, and then never again. You literally told this customer that i wasn’t welcome in your shop, and pushed my business away. Hire some good people, pay them a decent wage and train them how to manage their nerdy opinions.

    Don’t get me wrong, i’ve seen my fair share of women in shops get harrassed, objectified and made fun of. Its all awful stuff. I think a lot of Comic Shops have real fundamental problems with “Running a retail business 101″ type of stuff.

  19. I’ve been mocked about my pull list at points in the various shops I’ve been to. I’ve never understood why it’s acceptable at a comic shop to disparage any of your customers or their choices.

    It’s one thing to ask why I might enjoy it, but to just say “that book sucks” as if you’re doing me a favor isn’t acceptable. It’s one thing if I ask your opinion, but to be judged for my taste…. The shops that do that online through Twitter, etc., blows my mind even more.

    I remember working at a GW store over a decade ago, we had weekly training in how to deal with customers and went through scenarios in how to create a professional, friendly, and fun experience for them.

    I actually was having a discussion about shops here in the DC area and how a woman didn’t want to go into any of them because of her past experiences elsewhere. Thankfully, there’s many to choose from here and I recommended a few she’d find good service.

    But yes, I’d think this is partially why comiXology is having a surge in female users.

  20. @Seth — I didn’t mean to take credit for liberating comics into the mainstream. I’m an old-fashioned Jim Shooter-era superhero comics guy who grew up drawing Batman in my schoolbooks; the first thing I ever read in my life was a Spider-Man comic and I never stopped since, not even for the usual high school/college comics break. For all my good qualities, saving comics from people like me me isn’t one of them; I’m the old guard. The new guard, to me, are the SVA students who discover the art form and recognize its potential for expression instead of its encouragement to compulsively study fictional universes. It’s the sales VP at one of my last jobs who had a collection of comics business texts on his desk, or my friend in a soul band who proudly displays Ed Piskor’s hip-hop book on his coffee table, or my girlfriend’s scientist father who read his first graphic novel last year and is now halfway through Jim Ottaviani’s entire body of work. This is all good news: being the only guy in the room who knows how much the Hulk can bench-press (70 tons, if I remember right?) has its pleasures, but having more people to interact with and share a love of comics with is even better.

  21. @chris — That’s exactly right; the “us vs. them” (or, really, “me vs. the world”) elitism of the outcast-turned-nerd is withering and non-discriminatory. I think there’s a special variety of it aimed at women because they have an outward identifier as an “other,” but if a dude shows his hand as any way out of step, or as a casual fan rather than a die hard, they catch it, too. When you construct a world where your extensive knowledge of a thing is your value, it can lead to, at best, annoying mansplaining, or at worst, the kind of reverse bullying that Noelle calls out in her Tumblr post.

  22. man, all these horror stories. I guess I’m just lucky, the comic shop I go to has no problem with the books I read (or the books anyone else in the shop reads), always treats the customers with respect, always try to find what the customer is looking for (and if they don’t have it, will recommend where to find it), treat women with respect (regulars and walk-ins), and are even polite to rude customers ( “what do you mean my spawn #1 isn’t worth at least $200. go to hell” , I actually witnessed that little meltdown, the shop owner politely repeated how much spawn #1 is going for these days , in which the customer said “f@%@!K you” and stormed out. the shop owner didn’t get pissed, he just took it as another day in paradise. now while this shop is not in the neatest condition (think comic shop/flea market), I feel that they more than make up for the messiness with the friendly and cool folks that work there. I also agree with the post above that says st.marks comics is a cool store. it is . so is forbidden planet and I’ve never had or seen any trouble at midtown comics either.

  23. chris says:

    @jesse post–oh i can’t even imagine the treatment women get. But i’ve seen enough to realize it must be awful especially in the geek/nerd communities.

    Every comic shop should make an investment and hire secret shoppers randomly throughout the year. Every media market has them, or just get a friend to come down and report back on the shopping experience for you.

    I think it comes down to basic social skills, and the fact that so many of these comic employees have awkward at best social skills. You’re on their turf…they want to be the kings, the tastemakers, the gatekeepers. I do think its a real problem for the industry. These aren’t clubhouses, they are retail businesses and your employees represent it. They are your brand. I’m just shocked at how many small comic shop business owners don’t seem to care about that.

  24. In my long tenure in this business, I believe we now have a higher percentage of accommodating, welcoming, forward-thinking shop owners and staff than ever before.

    It’s sad that “customer-repelling” gets the headline when there are so many other shops— I’ll say a strong majority of shops— that really do a good job of being welcoming to all potential customers.

  25. Bunnicula says:

    @Wallace Ryan: Glad to hear you’ve had good experiences at St. Marks. For the most part, the staff there is helpful and friendly, but Mitch has definitely been patronizing to my girlfriend on a number of occasions when she’s been in there. Of course, we all have our off-days…

  26. Joe, in general I agree with promoting the good above condemning the bad, HOWEVER, I think it is important to point out to coastal folks who are blessed with more than one good store that horrible stores still exist and are still dragging down the medium. I think the Hater Free Wednesdays tumblr is a great idea though and I made sure I included a GOOD store at the end.

    BUT, we also need to let the bad stores know that they suck.

  27. Serhend Sirkecioglu says:

    Comics shops are kind of like bars, they have personalities all their own and if you ddon;t mesh with one you go another….but that is pretty difficult given how spread out they can be in certain areas(the closest comics shop i like going to is a 2 hour bus ride away in North Hampton, so i seldom go anyways. i buy my books from amazon). so for people in areas with few to only one comics shop where they feel like they are not welcome i have to say, then go online. you have no right coerce a business to give you a certain form of service if they don’t want/care to. spend your money elsewhere and tell other like-minded folk to do the same.

  28. Seth Hollander says:

    Jesse Post: I wasn’t calling you out, just your summation was the right assembly of words to trigger a coalescence of some of my feelings.
    And I do agree with pretty much everyone here is saying. I live in San Francisco, so I can choose my shop. Where I used to live in the 80s/90s, there was only one shop every 20 miles or so.
    While I don’t condone the behavior being condemned here, I do think that the expansion of the comic-buying community is what makes such behavior a real problem, and I have conflicted feelings about my “safe space” being changed for people I view as newcomers/outsiders, and who I feel have plenty of entertainment options they enjoy already.
    Obviously, audience expansion is financially good for the comic industry and an industry withers without growth, but….
    There already comic shops I avoid because of the “Cool people” quotient (Isotope!), perhaps I will be the one driven to shop exclusively on-line in the future.
    I’m down to only Saga and 3-4 other books anyway…

  29. Heads up for anyone in the Sacramento area: check out Empire and A1 comics. They’re completely friendly and safe areas. Empire even have a mini-women comic con in which they showcase local talent!

    Back to subject in hand: I really wish the bullshit that new readers and females– especially females–face in comic shops didn’t exits; but it does and it further pushes and reinforces the stereotype that comics is a white man’s club only.

    My girlfriend has experienced some of the shit people have talked about here: from ogling to sexual harassment. It happens when I’m there too and with other people, no fucking respect what so ever; and this shit is tiring!

    I’ve too been been the victim of some racist sayings in shops. So it’s always great when you find a shop that’s open and friendly and clean! But those might be few and far.


  30. Seth — in other words, shy introverted male nerds need a safe space too?

    Not trying to put words in your mouth, but trying to get a grip on this notion.

  31. Jason Mason says:

    Really don’t get the shops guys who mistreat women in their shops. Isn’t having girls in your shop a good thing? Or am I biased because I think women who read comics are sexy?

  32. Torsten Adair says:

    Wow. I’ve been fortunate.
    My first shop was Dragon’s Lair in Omaha. It’s an 80s type of store… lots of back issue bins, cards, gaming room… but it has carpet, and Bob and staff have always been nice.
    Krypton Comics is another great store (they compete in the Diamond retailer awards annually) near my parent’s new home. It’s large, spacious, and while I’m not a regular, I’ve never had a problem shopping there.
    When I lived in DC, I trekked to Big Planet Comics in Bethesda. Joel and staff were great, friendly, and offered great service. (There was a Ben & Jerry’s across the street, and Ouzo Burger (a Greek burger joint) on the way to the subway. And a brew pub, which I never visited. And an antique diner, which I took Heidi and company to during an SPX many years ago.

    Now I’m in NYC. I’m not a regular comics shopper, but I do recommend JHU, Midtown, Forbidden Planet, and Bergen Street. Roger’s Time Machine is old school retailing, but he’s a nice guy, and offers an amazing variety of merchandise.

    And unfortunately, there are still a few “lingerie” retailers out there…

    To quote from the introduction:
    “There are comics stores out there which are simply boys’ clubs, owned or run by people who’ve never been much good at talking to or being in the presence of women, and for that matter, have never quite mastered basic women-friendly skills, like washing, changing their tee-shirts, or sweeping the floor. Women feel as uncomfortable in these places as most men do when inexorable circumstances cause them, blushing, coughing and staring nervously at the floor, to spend any amount of time in the lingerie department of a large department store.
    This is not good.”

    That was published in 1997. SEVENTEEN years ago.

  33. Torsten Adair says:

    BTW, Yelp does cover comics shops, and even has a “best of” listing for most cities.
    And you can sort by reviews, as well as see the distribution of ratings.

  34. Jeff Dickinson says:

    I’ve been a customer at the Laughing Ogre since it’s opening and it really is an example of how a store should be run.

  35. I used to work at The Comic Box in Surrey, B.C. The owner wanted us to talk to any Moms that were there with kids and try to get them to take a free self improvement workshop next door, which was really a cult. I didn’t work there very long.

  36. M.E. Baz says:

    Comics Factory in Pasadena, CA is also an excellent comic book store. I’ve always been made to feel welcome there and I never hear any employee making fun of anyone.

  37. Jay and Bobs is pretty cool, they have always been polite to my whole family when we’ve visited, wife and daughters included. The show isn’t breaking any new ground but it’s still fun enough.

  38. As long as we are praising the Ogre (the best comic shop in a great comic town), I should add they also have a full display rack of self-published and small-press comics right at the front of store so everyone walks by them. They even pay upfront for those books as opposed to consignment.

  39. Seth Hollander says:

    Heidi: pretty much.
    I think today most such people resort to on-line gaming for all their social needs. Maybe the internet is all people born into a post-internet world need, but I cling to the belief that people need real world relationships and environments too. And I think the terribly shy or emotionally crippled or socially disabled need “gathering the wagons” as part of that environment or they don’t feel safe being themselves. They have felt brutalized by the “others” to the point that they need the protection of isolation from those “others”.
    Also, as I believe it is illustrated in The Bible (by which I mean the movie “Heathers”) and “Y The Last Man” (ad nauseum, in that instance), the aftermath of great social change tends to be new faces assuming the old roles. Thus, the bullied and rejected teen males who find solace in comic stores are likely to become bullies and snubbers when they are in control of a comic store. Feel free to say I am just grossly nihilistic with this point, as it is a terribly disenheartening opinion….
    Anyway, I am hosting this years Telethon To End Life Sucking For Dweebs, so get those tweets going! If we get enough money, and you all wear the puke-colored ribbons we sell, we can end this terrible condition in our lifetimes! Join us!

  40. It’s absurd that this is still happening. At the steep risk of tooting our own horn or sounding as though I think we deserve a pat on the back for offering basic politeness and customer service, I’d like to take this opportunity to share this heart-melting Yelp review from one of our favorite customers, Ruchi Gupta.

    “As a child, my family owned a 7-11, which meant some of my best days were spent sprawled out on the gross linoleum floor with a Slim-Jim and the latest Spiderman in hand. I can remember the glee of getting a new issue of something I’d been waiting for with bated breath–the latest Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner was my first cartoon crush besides Peter Parker, oops) or the most recent X-Men. That happiness was almost incandescent–it lit me up, nerve-ending to nerve-ending. And as I grew older, farther away from that world of superheroes and stories, the light dimmed a little. Eventually I was a fully grown adult and content to keep my indulgence limited to television and movies–Whedon, Marvel’s latest fare, etc. Comic book stores have always been alienating to me, which is probably why I didn’t keep up with comics much after growing out of grubbing on the floor of our family’s convenience store. I always felt condescended to, always felt that the people who worked there looked at me like I was an interloper because I wasn’t as well-versed or able to fanBOY so much as fanGIRL.

    And then Locust Moon came into my life.

    People. You don’t even know. Let me wax poetical. They’re like a soothing cup of tea on a cold morning…or a nice glass of whiskey when you need something bracing and warm. The guys here make you feel at home, they welcome you into the store like it’s an extension OF your home, like it’s the basement where you and your best buddies hang out, like it’s an attic where you can find all kinds of cool treasures and they’re eager to help you rifle through each dusty box (disclaimer: nothing in here is dusty.)

    There’s cats to pet (Rooster is literally the snuggliest and silkiest cat EVER) and friendly people to talk to and all kinds of fascinating and interesting titles to peruse in addition to the usual suspects of DC and Marvel fare. Most importantly, there is no attitude to be found in these walls. They are there to HELP you find the books that will speak to you best. They will remember your name. They will point out things you might like that you never considered before and your life will be changed. They offer cool programs and festivities and are truly a community store–I’ve never seen a place this without ego in my life. I think I love it most for the people who will unpretentiously, enthusiastically, and wicked-wittily engage with me, and second-most for the selection of cool stuff, and third-most for the way it is always doing something new and FOR its customers.

    Anyway. Long story short. Locust Moon is worth it. Whether you plan on being a regular or just a visitor, they will treat you right and chances are you will find exactly what you’re looking for–even if you weren’t sure it was what you wanted in the first place!”

  41. i live in the portland, oregon/ vancouver, washington area and i can’t say for all the shops in the vicinity, but most of the shops that i’ve been to are very friendly for anyone…some have girls working there…there of course is the occasional “dude-bro” but i think the clerks that run the stores around here are pretty decent…

    we have I Like Comics in vancouver, which is run by a couple, who are just great to do business with

    Oddyssey Comics near Vancouver is also a great business…often run by the daughters of the owners/managers…i’m not sure who’s related to who, but they’re all nice

    Cosmic Monkey in Portland is quite a shop…nice clerks great selection and the occasional event…awesome shop

    Bridge City Comics in Portland has pretty much everything you’ll ever need for current comics…they have girls working there most of the times i’ve been there, so no “dude-bro’s” right?

    it makes me sad to hear that anyone would alienate girls at a comic shop…i usually go into the shops with my two young children, as not everything in comic shops are kid-friendly, last thing i want to hear is the clerk speaking offensively.
    i wish all the girl comic fans the best…hang in there…
    don’t give up on comics because of the clerks…
    comics are really coming around for women in terms of creators, writers, artists and topics in the books themselves…i think things are gearing toward diversity and tolerance…we have a ways to go, but i think we (the comics community) are moving towards that goal of acceptance for all


  42. TruthShirt says:

    This is absolute garbage. I’ve been to Jay and Bob’s with my girlfriend and we were treated with the utmost of respect. They even recommended that I purchased a trade paperback that cost less than the two I had picked up, because the single book contained most of the content that was in the two.

    Then again, I guess we didn’t go in looking to be offended so we had some source material for our sad little “OH PLEASE LIKE ME I’M SO DIFFERENT AND FRAGILE” Tumblr account, unlike some. Still…guess this gets her book a lot of free coverage, huh?

  43. ComicBookGuy says:

    It’s ridiculous that you point out Comic book Men on AMC. The people that point out that they are “horrible” to women have obviously never seen more than a snippet or heard it from someone else. Every episode they talk about EVERY customer that is featured, not just the women. They are suppose to! Otherwise the show would be “that’s $129 for tomb if Dracula 10… Thank u”. They always paint women in a very positive lighter as well. If you watched the latest episode you would see that even further. The only time I remember them commenting more harshly on a female was when the weird horror lady came in tryingn to sell chucky, and that was because she was garishly dressed and was generally very odd. You guys should also listen to TESD podcast then you would know these guys don’t have that kind of mantality at all. In fact they are paranoid of people thinking that because everyone in so damn touchy and wants to yell about their perceived injustice right away. I know there are some comic shops like that but you guys that say jay and silent bobs secret stash is like that have seriously never been in there or paid attention to an episode of comic book men.

  44. In the words of Popeye: “Disgustipating!” My wife and daughter do not feel comfortable in many comic book shops–heck, I don’t either. Thankfully there ARE customer–female and male–friendly ones. You can’t go wrong with–number one–polite and helpful staff (hopefully of both genders) and also clean stores, good design, good lighting, not to mention classy books, comics and product.

  45. TruthShirt: Defending your store while putting down a comics creators with a huge following and a two book deal is not a very good defense. Sorry.

  46. @Seth — I think you’ve hit upon the Catch-22 of the phenomenon you describe, where the bullied become the elitist bullies of others, even if only in the small realm of their comics shop. The impulse to seek solace in the shared love of a fictional world or the culture around it is to find like-minded others to have friendships with, as you point out. But the defensive exclusionary behavior — the kind that keeps women out of some comics shops — actually has the opposite effect, leaving people out and diminishing your newfound social circle. Imagine how awesomely fulfilling it would be if, once you got there, you actively invited others to discover it and enjoy it with you.

  47. Chris Hero says:

    Maybe I’m all wrong, but it seems like any store that’s accommodating to any customer regardless of race, gender, age, or number of Deadpool purchases would also be a place accommodating to shy male nerds.

    I’m so happy to see all this Laughing Ogre love. I’ve only visited Columbus, but the Ogre is on par with Copacetic Comics in Pittsburgh and Desert Island in Brooklyn. Those are easily the three best stores in the country.

  48. TruthShirt says:

    Heidi MacDonald: Indeed. But I wasn’t defending MY store. I’ve been there maybe four times in total. Also, a two-book deal doesn’t mean a damned thing unless it sells. I could have a two-book deal that results in 10,000 of the 10,000 print run of the first book being fired back to the publisher on sale or return, or 10,000 units all being sold at firesale prices.

    One person claims that someone saying “All the women want this book because it has a sexy male character in it” is somehow offensive, which it isn’t. Unless you think that women are incapable of having sexual urges, or that sexual urges are offensive, that is. Then she goes on to rip apart the store staff and make everyone feel terribly sorry for her with her cutesy little “But…but…but…*sniff*….I just wanted to buy a book and then the bad men were MEAN TO ME!” illustrations. Then everyone ignores the waves and waves of evidence and experiences posted by hundreds of people that say that if that happened, it would be TREMENDOUSLY out of character for the store staff at that particular establishment. Alongside literally hundreds of hours of podcast material that the staff have put together where people can pretty well get to know that the guys that work at the store are misogynistic idiots. Or alternatively, how about the 20 or so hours of their TV show where time and again, people can see the staff talking to women respectfully, and discussing comics with them on the same level as they would with men.

    Why does it all get ignored? Old story, really. Female accuser plus internet = Instant “guilty” tag for the store staff, and a billion and one white knights running in to defend the “poor girl” without having a shred of evidence and without them having ever actually visited the establishment in question. What they don’t realise is that defending in that manner is more sexist – where they’re suggesting that she can’t defend herself because she’s a woman – than the “offensive acts” that may or may not have occurred.

  49. TruthShirt says:

    And that should have read:- “Alongside literally hundreds of hours of podcast material that the staff have put together where people can pretty well get to know that the guys that work at the store are NOT misogynistic idiots.”

    Egg all over my face.

  50. You know, you could always speak up in the store instead of sheepishly hearing the comment and tip toeing off to your blog. If more people who were easily offended stood up for themselves at the scene of the crime you might not have as much trouble in the future.

  51. I call bullshit on the secret stash account. I’ve been in there when it’s quiet, and when it busy and they never ever take large purchases over smaller ones. It’s absurd and Mike, Ming, nor Walt would engage in such behavior. I’ve known them for years and would think they are savvy enough to not engage in that type of banter. The handicap accessibility is a) bullshit because there are no steps leading to the door and the floor ramps up to the store. And b) that’s not their responsibility. They don’t own the building(but the point is moot because it’s not an issue anyway). But hey let’s take a tumblr account’s word for it.

  52. If you’re wondering – the comic book men cast tweeted this article, which is why the comments have taken this sudden turn against Noelle Stevenson and Heidi MacDonald

  53. As it should. Unless you’ve been in the store you’ll know it makes no sense. Shouldn’t they be allowed to defend themselves?

  54. >>>>Then she goes on to rip apart the store staff and make everyone feel terribly sorry for her with her cutesy little “But…but…but…*sniff*….I just wanted to buy a book and then the bad men were MEAN TO ME!” illustrations.

    Yep a real reason based non sexist defense there.

    BTW Noelle Stevenson DID NOT ACCUSE SECRET STASH! SHE DID NOT NAME THE STORE! I am the one who used the bad review as a (possibly erroneous) example of bad buzz on a store.

  55. Fisty says:

    @SteveMorris If you’re wondering, there IS an actual issue with the boys club mentality. The problem is the way she addressed it and called out stores she’s never been to based on what is effectively a Yelp review.

    I mean, it’s not like there aren’t enough Kevin Smith haters in the world. Especially those who love to post things on blogs & tumblr.

  56. TruthShirt says:

    @SteveMorris No, that’s not right. The comments have taken a sudden turn since everyone realised that this is the work of someone with an ax to grind. Now she’s running to the Comic Book Men’s Twitter accounts to tell them that I’m using misogynistic language to defend them and that they should make me stop.

    I don’t actually see where I’ve done any such thing. Unless someone disagreeing with your point of view – which isn’t based on any sort of facts at all and that now appears to be a mish-mash of unrelated things that have all been put together and fired at an innocent comic book shop – is considered to be misogynistic, of course.

    Which, let’s face it, given the tone and goal of the “article”, it probably is.

  57. TruthShirt says:

    Oh, and Heidi – well done on picking one thing out of my entire post to rally back against. And yeah, it was a non-sexist defence. The cartoons were drawn in a way that depicted her as the weak, put-upon female who had no options other than to stand there and take it.

    *I’m* not the one being sexist by pointing that out.

  58. Dave Hartley says:

    Great thread – there’s some valuable lessons in comic book marketing and public relations right here.

    Dear Mr Beat,
    Grrr this makes me SO MAD. I take my girfriend to the comic shop every week and they’ve never laughed at her ONCE. The owner is a REAL GENTLEMAN about her being there. He even says ‘excuse me’ every time he farts.

    yours faithfully
    A. Hitler

  59. Seth Hollander says:

    In my opinion, Noelle Stevenson and Truthshirt are both right! And I want both of them to be comfortable. And I want a place were a guy can use that “Edward Cullen Lobo” line without anyone getting hurt. It’s a good line that deserves a better public face than the “mean men” setting it ended up in.
    How about we follow the example set by the culture of public restrooms? Many places of business or governement, etc have pairs of bathrooms: A “Men’s Room” and a “Women’s Room”. The Men’s has urinals, the Women’s has more toilet stalls and more counter space.
    I know, the economic and physical/geographical world can’t support twin “separate but equal” consumerculture distribution systems, but these “delicate flower” situations won’t go away until either we have such a system or female and male cultural identities are unified. In the general heterosexual population, I haven’t met many women who really want to “man up”, nor have I met many men who want to “feminize” themselves. So I don’t see identity unification as a likelihood either.
    So life goes on.
    Every couple of months, Heidi runs one of these “mean men” pieces. The comment thread flourishes with “you are SO right” comments until some guy latches on to a loose thread that can unravel the tapestry. After that a bunch of other guys step up to agree with him, a free for all ensues and Heidi closes the comment thread.
    And life goes on.
    I want to say that Heidi should just quit it. BUT, 1) it is her webspace to use as she chooses, and 2) you CAN make something from almost nothing. My wife and I have a 10 day old child that started from a few cells coalescing! And there’s a cool Nelson Mandela quote about change seeming impossible until it happens.
    So, Heidi, your efforts bother me and provoke me to speak against you, but I actually support your making the effort.
    Truthshirt: Enjoy what you like about the world while you can. As time passes “our” worlds keep changing. By the time we are old it won’t be “our” world anymore. I very much agree with your statements here, but you and I have less to lose than Heidi and Noelle have to gain.

  60. Seth:

    It isn’t a “mean men” thing — it is making this an inclusive, broad based medium. And driving away customers is not the way to do that, whatever race, gender, or species they are.

    To be honest, I hadn’t really thought of the “Safe space for men” idea of comics shops, and I am sympathetic to it. HOWEVER, as a strategy for expanding the audience for comics and strengthening the future of the medium, it is NOT a good idea.

  61. Hardy Gilbert says:

    Gender politics aside, Stevenson relates instances wherein she AS A CUSTOMER was openly belittled and mocked, and that’s bullshit. If you want to demean your customers, fine, but don’t cry or play the role of apologist when called out in public. Please note that she clearly states these instances are not the norm, nor does she name the shop(s) in question. Which is a lot nicer than what I would have done.

  62. Hardy Gilbert says:

    In all fairness, I in no way ascribe these instances to Secret Stash. What little I have seen of the show has never depicted instances such as these; however, as a 43-year-old collector, I have been to more than my share of comic stores, and many a time have I witnessed “regulars” and employees adopt haughty airs while telling any one who will listen what they would do if THEY were writing fucking “Thor Corps.”

  63. I could not be more excited about the prospect of my generation taking over comics

  64. Dan Ahn says:

    I’m always amazed at these LCS horror stories. Sure, one of my LCS’s has always been incredibly poorly organized, and the other one is small and inept at ordering things. But both staffs are polite. I can’t imagine being ridiculed for my pull-list. That’s just insane. I have to speculate (and it is pure speculation) that maybe some people are just over-sensitive? If you buy Superior Spider-Man and the guy at the counter gives you a good-natured “Ah, I just want Peter Parker back *chuckle*”, does that count as “harassment” in some people’s books? I dunno.

    About Comic Book Men: Well, on the show they all seem like awkward douchebags. I don’t really have any sympathy for them and I’m amazed that the show wasn’t canceled after four episodes. That said, I can’t really sympathize with anyone calling them repellent losers, either.

    “Openly mocked an out Lesbian and Gay man while I was in store.”

    I don’t know what this means. Were they mocking two people, or is there some category now in which one individual human being can call himself a “Lesbian and Gay man”? Besides that, the capitalization is unnecessary and leads me to believe that a lot of the complaining comes from the complainant’s own overly sensitive sense of self. I don’t really care if that sounds harsh or not. The endless cycle of “poor me victim victim waah wahh waaaahh” needs to stop. There definitely ARE legitimate grievances that need to be redressed as far as sexism in the comics industry goes. DEFINITELY. But for all I know the person making these accusations just happened to hear someone twenty feet behind her snicker about something and automatically assumed “They are hatefully bullying me for gayness!” I’m sorry but lack of details and constant over-the-top victim mentality justifies others being somewhat skeptical of all this. It’s to the point where the obvious fact that “comic shops can be awkward dingy rude places” has been usurped by “comic shops are dangerous to women”.

  65. Hufnagel0 says:

    @ Seth Hollander – Gotta call BS on the safe haven idea. I could get awkward folks wanting a “circle the wagons” place to hang out with like minded peers, but some of the venom discussed here goes beyond that. I’m guessing a lot of regulars I’ve talked to at my shop were bullied at some point when they were growing up, but none of them give me shit because of my selections or assume my fiancee only wants My Little Pony because she has a vagina.

  66. Charles says:

    If you want a safe space for men go literally anywhere on the planet.

  67. Michael P says:

    Laughing at hypothetical women who buy Lobo because they think he’s sexy is really rich coming from an industry where the “Bad Girls” trend is a thing that happened.

  68. Cole Schenley says:

    Wait, is Seth calling for segregated comic shops? That doesn’t even sound close to legal (or practical, or, uh, ethical in the slightest). Noelle was in the right to call this stuff out. If you’re running a comic store as a “boy’s club” you deserve to go out of business. As a man, I feel no sympathy for other men that feel like their “safe-space” is being encroached on by women (or anyone else the fan-boys fear). Avoiding a comic book store because the “cool” quotient is too high? That doesn’t even make sense (and hell, you’re probably missing out on getting some good comics). I get the appeal of being part of a subculture (I’m very much into hardcore punk and extreme music, so I’m not unfamiliar with the uncomfortableness that comes along with sharing my passions), but at the same time, I want to be involved inclusive spaces. The arguments being made by Seth and TruthShirt are the same kinds of stuff you see in MRA forums. You’re aren’t the oppressed, you’re the oppressor with crocodile tears in your eyes.

  69. Chazz says:

    For a truely customer friendly store with a broad customer base
    (Men Women, Kids Families) and a variety of material, I haven’t yet come across a better place than my own local comicbook store in Austin Tx
    (Austin Books).

  70. I like how you quoted a “source” about the secret stash without verifying that the person existed or had ever been to the shop. For all the author of the story knows, it could be someone who didn’t like the TV show. Also I’d like to point out that the offensive person on the TV show does not actually work at the store and is not present on most days. This is the problem with internet news. A source has to be verifiable before you quote them: Journalism 101.

  71. Ronald Venus says:

    I’d just like to share my experience in Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash to provide a little perspective.

    It was a rainy wednesday evening, and I felt a jonesing for a some obscure Daniel Clowes comics preferably involving masks and rivets. I happened to be in Red Bank visiting a parrot shop when my eyes passed across a poorly painted sign “I assure you we’re open” in one of the store fronts. Could it be? Yes! It was the Clerks sign… and this was some kind of Clerks store.

    I walked in and was surprised to find the store decked out in pink and green, stacked with wall-to-wall people decked out in their finest. It was apparently some kind of wedding. A short Asian man with huge arms asked me if I was with the Groom’s party or the Groom’s party. Then he laughed and said, “Sorry, I’m still new at this”… the he asked me if I was with Bryans party or Walt’s party.

    I thought to myself, man, I bet there will be free cake here. So i lied and said “Walt”. I was escorted to the back row and took an open seat. Up at the front was an enormous man with the biggest beard I have ever seen. He was decked out in an amazing purple tux with huge ruffles that would have made Prince drool. On the other side was a meek looking mousy kinda fellow, whom at first I took for some kind of page or usher. But it turned out that he too was decked out in the finest of finest tailored suits with an ultra expensive pink shirt.

    I couldn’t believe it, here was a Gay Wedding happening right in a comic book store! The preacher was hard to understand, he sounded like Rosie O’Donnell if she had stuffed a bunch of marshmallows in her mouth. It was also a bit unprofessional, I felt, for a Man of the Cloth to be wearing a jaunty little English driving cap, tilted at a rakish angle. Anyways, the ceremony got on and the vows were read.

    The Kiss was a bit extreme, I have never seen a man grab another man like that “Sailor Kissing Nurse” scene that they played on in the front of Watchmen. Of course I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little turned on, even though I am 99% sure that I am straight. I couldn’t help but wonder what that gigantic, scruffy beard must feel like against the smooth, cool skin of the young, smoothly shaven, fit man. There was no doubt who was going to “wear the pants” in this relationship.

    After the ceremony the Karaoke began. I was surprised to see the preacher begin pounding down Pabst Blue Ribbon and singing drunken Wu-tang duets with the Usher. But I forgot everything when I saw the cake.

    It was huge, at least 4 feet tall, but the best part was the top. Lording over the ceremony were two, huge, gigantic phalluses, each dressed out in a top-hat, cape, cane, and matching Warby Parker monacles, almost like they were dual Mr Peanuts. As I wolfed down piece after piece, I could swore I heard someone saying “and they had it shipped in from Colorado! Cost a fortune”

    Anyways, as the night went on, I started dancing and drinking a bit myself, and having a wonderful time. I know that I said I am 99% sure I am straight, but I went home with a wonderful man named “Sal Volcano” or something like that. Honestly I was too blottoed to remember…. but like they say. It’s not gay if there’s no penetration.

  72. george says:

    Heidi MacDonald said: “To be honest, I hadn’t really thought of the “Safe space for men” idea of comics shops, and I am sympathetic to it. HOWEVER, as a strategy for expanding the audience for comics and strengthening the future of the medium, it is NOT a good idea.”

    There are already plenty of Internet message boards (like Captain Comics) that have run off 99.9 percent of their female posters and are clubs for men to chat about the superheroes of their youth.

    And now comic shops are going to become man caves, too? I hope not.

  73. Bxtorr19 says:

    I know I’m late but I would like to add my opinion to this debate. I have collected comic books for over 20 years now. I bought my first book at college and have tried several different shops over the years. I have found that generally the shops are friendly to women if you are friendly to them. However, there are exceptions. One shop that is down the street I work from is not new person friendly at all. After 2 different attempts to shop there, I decided it was not worth my time.
    As a native Long Islander I would like to add my 2 cents to the “Secret Stash” issue. I have been active in the local Con scene since my High School Days in the late 80’s/early 90’s. In the late 90’s the Stash was opened and started attending our local shows. The merch was heavy on the View Askew memorabila but there was a solid selection of back issues at a decent price. The booth attendent was helpful and friendly. They eventually stopped coming all the way out to local shows because the commute was a bit much and the prices for a booth were high for them. After the store moved from Monmoth St my best friend and I decided that for her birthday we would go to Medieval Times and the Stash. On our way to MT we went to the Stash for the first time. I will admit that person at the counter did give us a couple of sideways glances. However, a group containing a large muscular Puerto Rican wrestler and 2 women dressed in full ren faire finery including corsets does deserve a stare or two. The person at the counter was very friendly and helpful when I asked them about a specific book. Based on that experience I have been back several times over the last 10 years. The only time I ever saw any frustration or questionable behavior on the staff’s part was at a Kevin Smith/Degrassi book signing. I wonder if the person who posted the review on Hate Free Wednesday was an actual customer or an internet troll that enjoys stirring the pot.
    Heather’s big mistake in this article is not the tone but is linking to an unsubstanitated review of a high profile shop. I can’t speak for the shop that the artist went to because I never shopped there but I have seen people being jerkburgers everywhere so a comic book shop is not immune.

  74. Morningstar says:

    LOL, I find this funny, considering this webcomic page comes from someone who once said that the reason guys enjoy reading comics is so they can perve on women with big tits. Funny how men are meant to accept that shit when we say it, but when they say something equally as silly we jump up & down & announce SEXISM!


  1. […] what it’s like to be a woman in a comic book store. And then I’d like to direct you to Heidi MacDonald’s post about Stevenson’s strip at The Beat, which also links to some first-person accounts of what it’s like to be a woman […]

  2. […] / sister / wives had never been treated that way in their shop. As Heidi MacDonald points out in her reaction piece, those of us lucky enough to live in cities with multiple store options might find it hard to […]

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