Wednesday was a busy night at Strange Adventures Comix & Curiosities. For the fifth year in a row, they held Ladies’ Night, and the venue was jam-packed.
“It always turns out to be just a crazy night,” said Calum Johnston, who owns the store.
His small shop was full of women buying comics, talking about their favourite series and browsing the collections. Local artists, including C.K. Russell and Jordyn Bochon, showcased their artwork and spent time chatting with the people there.
Johnston came up with the idea for the event five years ago, after hearing a radio ad for a women’s night out at a bar.
“I loved the idea of a ladies’ night where we can focus on women in comics, women getting into comics and try to introduce more girls into comics,” he said.
According to Johnston, female interest in comic books is booming, despite lingering stereotypes that paint readers as nerdy men.
— Strange Adventures (@strangeadventrz) March 9, 2016
On Wednesday, Mackenzie Belfour was working with Johnston. She says that there hasn’t always been such a large gender divide.
“Back in the day, it started out with a lot of women both reading comics and working on comics, and then it became a boys’ club,” she said.
“But now, there’s definitely an incline in women reading comics, women writing and producing and being behind the scenes, as well as women being featured in strong roles within the comics themselves.”
Belfour says they’ve been selling more comics that feature female leads, such as Miss Marvel, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and Squirrel Girl.
Examining sexist stereotypes in the industry
One of the artists who attended, Laura Kenins, said independent illustrators are still bearing the burden of years of sexist stereotypes.
Kenins has been self-publishing her work for 10 years and, for the past year and a half, has been working with the Chicago-based feminist organization, Ladydrawers.
They are working on a study about how gender and race influence publication and wages amongst comic book creators.
“Surprisingly,” she said, “it’s mostly better with the more mainstream publishers like Marvel and DC than it is in Indie comics, which is not what they were expecting to find.”
Marvel published all the comic books that Belfour mentioned.
“The older I get, the more I’m seeing it’s similar to the challenges that women are facing in the workplace everywhere – just recognition and, you know, equal pay for equal work and being heard,” Kenins said.
Johnston agrees with this, and says that showcasing local cartoonists is one of the many goals on Ladies’ Night.
“There’s so many of them. And so many of them are women too,” he said. “They don’t always get the recognition they deserve, because like with many things it’s some kind of male-dominated thing.”