My path to comic books shops started with a simple love of superheroes, and converted into a love for comics somewhere around my college years. But even as I came to love comics, I never spent enough time in a comic book shop to really read comics regularly.
Because comic book shops intimidated me.
Why? Because I’m a girl. Because at first glance I look pretty, erm, mainstream. Because if a “true” nerd were to pop out from behind a shelf and start quizzing me on geek culture, I would not have all the answers. And because for some reason I was really afraid of that actually happening.
So I contented myself to love comics from afar.
Until I found out that someone at my office was passing around the Scott Pilgrim books. I’d borrowed #1 from a college friend, and I’d seen the movie, so I knew I loved it enough to insist the boys from the web programming crew put me on the list of people to pass the books on to.
And suddenly, I found I had a group of people to talk comics with. They were kind and nonjudgmental about my lack of comic knowledge, and were even eager to recommend other books for me. One of them was so sure I’d love Fables he loaned me very single issue of the comic from his personal collection. Every. Single. Issue.
When I was caught up, he told me where to find his comic book store so I could create my own pull list and never miss an issue.
I was out of excuses. And I was too curious about what came next in Fables to let a little fear stop me any longer. So I bit the bullet and did it. I went to his comic book shop.
And it was fine. It was actually kind of … awesome. Full of all the books I wanted to read and figurines of my favorite characters.
Even so, I still felt like an intruder. And to be honest, I often felt the eyes of “true” (and yes, always male) eyes on me when I was in the shop, and they didn’t seem to like that I was there. Not even the employee I was handing my money over to.
So I’d get my pulls and leave as fast as I could. It went on like this for about a year. And then I moved to Washington, D.C.
And that’s where I found a totally different kind of comic book store.
At first glance, my new D.C. comic book shop seemed about the same. The same shelves of the latest issues, the same figurines strewn across the counters, the same “true” geeks in the aisles. But I slowly started to realize, this shop was different.
To start, the employee behind the counter was a woman more often than not. I also gradually came to realize that the leering glances from guys in the shop simply weren’t there anymore. I started breathing a little easier when I went to get my comics.
But the pivotal moment was a few months later. Some guy was chatting with the employee at the register when I came in for my pulls. As she took out my file and sorted through my latest issues, I could feel his eyes skimming over my titles.
And then he turned to me. Oh God, I thought, he’s either going to think I’m a complete tool if he doesn’t like my choices, or he’s going to think I’m an imposter who has no business reading this stuff.
“Hey,” he said. I braced myself. “Your pulls are practically the same as mine!” Then he gave me a big smile.
And that’s when I knew this place was different in a major way. I started letting myself get comfortable in the shop. I talked with the employees and counted on them for tips on new and upcoming releases that were up my alley (I may have never found Nameless otherwise) and geek it up over my favorites like Bitch Planet.
Of course, now, I’m about to move again. Which means I have to leave my beloved D.C. comic book shop behind and start all over.
Will I love my new shop in Florida as much as I love my D.C. shop? To be honest, I don’t know. (There’s just something about your first love, amiright?) But at least now I know how to love a comic book shop and enjoy the community the have to offer.
And this time, I’m genuinely excited to go find it.