There was a time not too long ago when you could fit all the “women in comics” at a big table in a coffee shop. Now there are more than 300 women who work in comics shops ALONE. That’s the membership of The Valkyries, a private organization for female comics retail employees. And it turns out the group has been instrumental in promoting a couple of books that have had great success this year, namely Saga and Lumberjanes. Janelle Asselin interviews group founder Kate Leth for all the details:
CA: One thing I think people don’t necessarily understand about the Valkyries is that it goes beyond a support network – you actually have an effect on the way shops are run and the ultimate consumer experience. I know that there are a few books the group has specifically supported – can you tell me about what you do when you think a book needs your advocacy?
KL: Sometimes it’s that a book might need our support, and other times it’s just titles we love. Our first “campaign” was for the Lying Cat t-shirts, from Saga. It happened really organically, because we all realized we had pre-ordered them, and so we decided to wear them on the same day and post photos. It became a way to show the comics world who we were, and what we were about – supporting the titles and creators we love. Saga doesn’t need our help, god knows, but we wanted to make a statement on how much we appreciate such an amazing title with a female artist and great, diverse female characters.
When we did Lumberday (we all wore plaid and tweeted photos for Lumberjanes) that was more of a push. The book is indie, and creator-owned, and we wanted people to check it out. That book was extra-special to the Valkyries because of the all-female cast not only in the book, but making it. We all bought those Batgirl boots, too. We wanted to show how excited we were that DC was taking note of and tailoring a title to their younger female audience. Also, those boots rule.
As suggested, Saga doesn’t exactly need a ton of support, but Lumberjanes has been a genuine sensation this year, and is now Boom!’s best selling non-licensed title, with more than 10K copies per issue sold.
There have been a few other retailer organizations that worked directly with creators to promote their work, but several have dwindled. (ComicsPRO remains strong, of course, but it seems to work directly with publishers most of the time.) The Valkyries seems set up to be a fantastic retail asset:
CA: Do you work with creators at all – beyond the breakfasts and general book-selling – in your work as Valkyries? Like, do you ever give creators advice or receive information from them to promote books?
KL: Yeah, we have! We do get advance copies and promos from time to time. We actually have a girl in the group now who manages all of the previews and promotes them when we get them. We’ve had some creators run things by the Valkyries for feedback, which is really, really cool.
CA: If a creator wanted to do that, how would they go about contacting the group?
KL: Send an email to email@example.com! We’re always on the lookout for things that are lady-friendly, all-ages, and/or feature things like LGBTQ+ and POC representation.
You can learn more about The Valkyries at their tumblr.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.