Jun 1, 2010

Hope Larson Interview, and the Boys' Club Attitude at Comic Book Stores

About a week ago, I posted my thoughts on a survey Hope Larson held about girls and comics.Today, She Has No Head! has an interview with Ms. Larson about her survey, and what she would do if she were in charge of mainstream comics.

It's well worth a read, and notable that Hope Larson recommends still pushing Archie - all these years later, and it's still the default comics for girls to the point that they don't even consider reading it as reading comics.

Another point that Hope Larson brings up is the organizational problem within bookstores.

For shopkeepers, "all-ages" is not a category. Comics are ridiculously disorganized in any bookstore I've seen, in the Philippines or in the United States. There's, without fail, a "graphic novel" section, which then divides comics based on if they're Marvel, DC, indie, or manga, and then by characters. In some Borders or Barnes & Noble branches, it's a subsidiary of the science-fiction/fantasy section - which is just plain wrong, period. And almost without fail, if you want to find Herge's Tintin books or Jeff Smith's Bone books, or other similar pieces, they're in the kids section - as if kids were the only ones who were capable of enjoying these books.

One would think, therefore, that the easiest way to find a comic book is in comic book specialty stores, which, when it comes to girls, is part of the problem to begin with. I was drinking with Peachy and some friends, and one of them, a girl who does read comics, said that when she goes into a comics store, she gets condescending looks that say "Oh, how cute, a girl, trying to get into comics," or other such patronizing sentiments. It reminded me of a time when I was in New York comic shop and I heard some of the storekeepers talking about whether or not the Hulk's penis was green. There's definitely an exclusionary boys' club atmosphere in comics stores, which I've seen attributed to a passive-aggressive desire not to be made fun of - make fun of them before they can make fun of you.

It's a shame that that kind of attitude would prevail, especially since girls are getting more and more into comics now. Perhaps, in addition to getting more female creators and adding more female protagonists, comics stores should be hiring more female employees as well?


Kat said...

Ironically, I think a lot of times when people are part of what they consider a sub-culture, the first reaction for lots of people is to be exclusionary rather than inclusive. It probably is a defense mechanism of some kind, or that they're protective of something that they think they've discovered and can therefore own and hold over other people's heads.

I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions, and lots of happy-geek personalities that want to invite other people into the worlds that they love so much. I think you especially see this at big public events like Comic Con... maybe precisely because the whole point of it is about sharing your excitement in a public forum? And I love those kind of fans, who give and enthusiastically want to talk about their passions and share their favorites rather than horde for themselves so they can feel superior.

But I feel like you do see the exclusionary snobby attitude more often with people who live with this day to day, like people who work at comic book stores, or indie music stores (ie. John Cusack's staff in "High Fidelity!"). It seems kinda counterproductive since these are the people that are supposed to be selling the stuff, you'd think they'd try to get more people to feel like they can be part of it as well... hahaha

Duy Tano said...

You have a point about Comicons, but one thing is that people pay to get in there, so the assumption is if you're inside Comicon, you're already "part of the club." Different thing when you're going into a comics shop.

Plus, when you go into a con, the girls are typically dressed up - and I'll go on record saying that a bunch of the guys there are just so happy to see a woman dressed up like Zatanna that they're not going to ostracize her.

That having been said, when I went to the NY Comic Con, there was definitely more than a spattering of "Comic Book Guy"s around.

Kevin Smith did admit in Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked that it is a defense mechanism. No one wants people coming in and saying "What is this shit? This is silly."

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