Last week, at Strange Adventures (the comic shop that keeps this blog knee-deep in Superman), we held our first ever Ladies' Night. Thursday evening, after regular store hours ended, Ladies' Night began. No dudes were allowed, and anyone who considers themselves a woman was welcomed in. It was only lady staff members working, and even the owner, Cal, was sent to near by bar to read comics and hang out with any dads, boyfriends or brothers who were dropping ladies off at the store.
The idea behind this event was that, I've found, when talking to women about comics, a lot of them tend to be super interested and excited about comics, but unsure where to start, and nervous about going into a shop and asking for recommendations. I love comics, and I work in comic shop, but I've still felt weird, uncomfortable and frustrated going into other shops. Why would I want some douche talking down to me about comics—something I love, and something that's supposed to fun? While I think Strange Adventures works pretty hard to be a welcoming place for anyone, all the time, comic shops on the whole tend to be unpleasant places for women. So we wanted a night where women could come in and browse, and ask myself and the other lady staff members for recommendations.
Besides introducing the uninitiated to comics, we also wanted a night where women who are big comic fans could hang out, eat some snacks, get some freebies and buy some stuff on sale. Strange Adventures has quite a few women customers, and we thought it would be fun for them to get to meet each other.
So we bought snacks (chocolate—'cause ladies love that stuff, right?), made up a bunch of gift bags, did up a display of comics by female creators and comics that might appeal to women, sent the dudes away, opened the doors at 7pm and....
IT! WAS! OFF! THE! HOOK!
The first hour, the store was wall to wall, full of people. Our shop isn't huge, but you literally couldn't turn around without bumping into someone. We had over an hundred women in the store during this two hour event, and, if you're interested in bottom line, we made about as much money as we do on a busy Saturday, in a quarter of the time. It was insanely awesome.
People were seriously so stoked, to the point where one lady was shaking my hand, thanking me excitedly, saying, "I'm forty-five years old and I've never been a comic shop before! I love this stuff, but I've always felt too scared! You ladies are amazing!" I felt like someone paid her to come tell me exactly what I wanted to hear.
After the first hour, the crowd settled into a busy-but-less-insane level, and I was actually able to make recommendations and have some good talks with people. We sold tons of stuff by women creators—lots of Alison Bechdel, and Faith Erin Hicks, who was at the event, hanging out and talking to ladies. Lots of Brian K. Vaughn, Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon went too, and then all sorts of other stuff—almost as much variety as on a normal day.
It was nice to see solid proof of what I already know: women like comics! They like all different kinds of comics! They want to buy comics, so stop actively discouraging them! The masses of women that came to this event really showed how much it was needed. Everyone kept asking when the next Ladies' Night would be.
I know the comics industry is still a total sausage fest. It's changing, for sure, but it needs a big push. And as someone on the retail end of things, I'm trying my best to help.