Comic Book Men: are they all still men?

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comics book men Comic Book Men: are they all still men?
The arrival of this Comic Book Men recap reminded us of something from long long ago and the time known as 2011. Back when the show was announced, there was much complaining that a show called Comic Book Men did not reflect the actual world that we live in, where almost every comics shop has female employees, and women make up nearly 50% of con attendance. The program, as it exists, consists of four men who hang out and run Secret Stash in Red Bank chatting about comics and then chatting more with show producer Kevin Smith.

In response to the hullabaloo, Smith tweeted last year

Via @TheNerdyBird “Why No Women in COMIC BOOK MEN” Saving them for season 2, to have somewhere to go story-wise. Season 1, we meet the guys.


And, if we recall correctly, there seemed to be a consistent suggestion that eventually a female would join the cast.

While we are not allowed to watch Comic Book Men at Stately Beat Manor for various reasons, from reading the recap, it still seems penis-focused, c. 1998:

Kevin Smith holds a book signing at the Secret Stash, and Jason Mewes works security. Ming tells Jason that there are over a thousand people that showed up for the signing, so he needs to cap the line. During their podcast, the Secret Stash guys talk about the Star Wars Holiday Special, which introduced Boba Fett.
A customer comes in looking for some of the original seventies KISS comics. The first issue was famous because KISS members poured some of their own blood into the ink used to print the comic. After some negotiation, Walt agrees to sell the first two issues of the KISS comic for $200 total.


So for those who are allowed to watch the show—or maybe those who have some insights into the workings of the show—we ask: where are the women we were promised!

Comments

  1. Nope, still all men.

    The series’ running time also went from an hour long show to a half hour; it’s possible that change had a ripple effect in the decision to add another character.

    It seems to me that we see a lot more women shopping on the B-roll, and there have been a number of female collectors coming in to make deals, who tend to be treated with more respect than in Season 1. (There’s a Legion collector in one of the early episodes this season who Walt was trading trivia with.) But the cast of store employees is still all male.

  2. The show is merely a Kevin Smith promotional vehicle. Every week you see his store, filled with posters of comics he’s written, stocked with figures of his movie characters, hosting a weekly guest visit by someone from his movies, featuring commentary throughout by his podcast. This week’s was the worst, featuring 1,000 people waiting in line for him to sign their tattoos. I expect better from AMC than the self-promotional pablum I could get watching Celebrity Apprentice.

  3. If you like all the jabs made at POC, you’ll LOVE what they say when a women joins their cast.

    I cringe at what they’ll come up with.

  4. Well, this is about Kevin Smith friends and store. If there aren’t (m)any women there, that just means he’s one of MANY comic shops in which women are, unfortunately, absent.

    Complaining about that is like complaining about the lack of men on Stage Moms.

    I mean, ideally, yes of course it’d be cool for more women to be into comics, and for the ones who are into comics to get more exposure (of a non-“OMG hawt cosplay chick!” nature). But the actual world just doesn’t represent that, and this is a show that supposedly reflects the actual world of Smith and his shop.

    I also find the notion that “nearly 50%” of convention-goers are women to be quite an exaggeration…

  5. @LT, have you been to a convention lately? Nearly 50% women is entirely accurate. No less than the various con organizers have reported a consistently even gender split. Not to mention, I can’t remember the last comic shop I went to that didn’t have at least one woman on staff, so it is a noticeable omission to me.

  6. @ Alexa – at a con you might have 50%ish women, but factor in that cons generally cover all levels of nerdom, not just comics. So you have more female friendly fandoms like Potter/Trek/Star Wars/Twilight/Anime etc lumped in with comic fans. If you attend a strictly comics panel, the ratio of women to men becomes much smaller.

  7. It’s not the lack of women on the show that irritates me, it’s the entire show. Just to demonstrate that I can be talked into watching a GOOD program, I will watch ONE episode from the new season. My expectations are very low.

    These fellas need to get dusty, get in a van together and go comic huntin’ across America before I would consider this show to be entertaining. THEN we’ll see the real Comic Book Men, Honey Boo Boo!

  8. SniktSnakt says:

    I lost all respect for KS a long time ago and I refuse to watch/read/buy any of his work.

    The fact that people don’t recognize him for the HACK that he is continues to boggle my mind. But I guess no matter how bad something is, someone out there must like it…

  9. @ Zach,
    Having participated in some comic book panels in the last few years I can attest to how not true what you’re saying is.
    Why is it that when a woman who reads comics points out that yes, we read comics in large numbers that some guy somewhere always has to go “Nuh UH!”? I’m getting VERY sick of that.
    @ Alexa,
    Say, since we have Arisia coming up in January, why not take that opportunity to do some polling on the women who show up at the panels we’ll be on? If that goes well, maybe we can do some more polling at Boston Comic Con in April! Whaddya say?

  10. This whole “Women aren’t really as into comics as they say they are” wave that seems to be rippling throughout fandom at the moment MUST be a sign of something bigger.

    It’s probably as simple as “If there’s so many girls as into comics as I am – why won’t any of them date me?”. I hate to say that, but I’m willing to bet that’s not far from the truth for a lot of these guys.

  11. LT said:
    >>>>But the actual world just doesn’t represent that, and this is a show that supposedly reflects the actual world of Smith and his shop.

    It’s a world that reflects the actual world of the producers of the show’s minds and expectations, I’m sure. The show, from what I can see, is increasingly modeled on the PAWN STARS model, which is mancave centric—although a cute female clerk was introduced so that Chumley could have a crush on her.

    Zach, I was just at the NC Comicon last week which was 100% comics and it was no less than 60/40 m/f…maybe 55/45.

    Also see this:

    http://comicsbeat.com/women-make-up-40-of-comic-con-attendees/

    Donna M. — well said and sounds like a very cool project.

  12. Chris Hero says:

    Regarding women in comic stores….

    In Chicago and NYC, I see women in comic stores all the time. I see them working there. There’s nothing unusual about it. When I go to a store in Ohio or KY or IN, or the store I stop in when I’m in Honolulu, there aren’t any women. I think people in very huge cities (NYC, Chicago, SF, or LA) don’t understand how much comic stores in the rest of the country lack diversity. In the rest of the country, the only people reading comics are aged white men.

  13. MBunge says:

    “women make up nearly 50% of con attendance.”

    What data is that based on? And how many of those women are just there with their boyfriends as opposed to guys just there with their girlfriends?

    Mike

  14. @Chris — It might also have something to do with the kind of store it is. I’ve almost never seen a woman working or shopping in the kind of store that looks like a little boy’s cluttered closet in the late ’70s (and I have one of those nearby in NYC that I go to every now and then). But the more bookstore-like shops are always full of women on both sides of the counter.

    And then there are the Forbidden Planet-like pop culture megastores (Kevin Smith’s store looks like it’s in this category). Those tend to fall somewhere between the other two in terms of the gender split.

    I wonder if it’s like that all over the country.

  15. Jay & Silent Bob’s is unusual in that, while it seems a fairly standard clean, well-maintained store, there’s also a entire section devoted just to Kevin Smith movie merch — or at least there was the last time I was there, a couple of years ago — which brings in a different subset of customer.

    The place seemed well laid out and inviting to me when I was there last, though the prices always seemed a bit high on back issues. With my pull list at another store, I never actually made a comics purchase… though we did get a nice Monroeville Zombies shot glass.

  16. @Donna M: I’m not sure where you get the idea that the comics devoted stuff is even close in demographics. I went to the giant Avengers panel at NYCC this year and it was maybe 10% women. Ditto the Legion panel at Baltimore in 2011. While there are certain comics/creators that attract a more balanced audience (BKV/Fables/etc), comics themselves tend to have a more male audience. I’m not saying this is a good thing (nor a bad thing), nor am I trying to excise female fans from cons for being “non-fans” or something.

    @ The Beat: I’m not sure what the MC Comic Con is, but if it’s Motor City Comic Con, a cursory view of their 2013 website has The Boondocks Saints cast as their 2nd guest, second only to Stan Lee. Hardly “100% comics.”

  17. The show is awful.
    I watched 20 minutes of the first episode and that was enough to turn me away from it. The show certainly does nothing positive for the comics community at large.

  18. @ The Beat: alternatively, if you meant NC instead of MC, a quick view of the North Carolina Comicon site shows that there are numerous non-comics aspects to the show: DeLorean from Back to the Future on display, screenings of non-comics based movies, gaming, and a costume contest. Again, hardly “100% comics.”

  19. Chris Hero says:

    @Jesse Post

    A very good point and well said. I definitely think the type of store goes a long way in determining the clientele. I think a more bookstore-like store would be more inviting to a broader audience than a clubhouse-like store.

    I was also thinking my comment over some more and I hope I didn’t imply I think only women in very huge cities read comics. I just think very huge cities can support stores that carry a diverse range of comics and, therefore, have more appeal. I know a retailer in rural Ohio who reads all sorts of stuff but can only afford to have two stands which are dedicated to superhero comics. It’s just the reality of the market he’s in.

    Anyway, I’m not comfortable with the binary nature of this subject on the whole. It shouldn’t be “women are the only demographic that matters” or “stay out of our comics, you stupid girls.” Women can enjoy comics and be under-served by the market. There are stores out there, whether by choice or market pressures, without female customers.

  20. The Beat says:

    Zach — WERE YOU THERE? I was. The Delorean was sitting outside and I saw mostly men in line for it.

  21. @Zach – hey I went to a Women of Marvel panel at NYCC and I’d say 80% of the audience were women! But you know maybe they were just overflow from girly comic panel or they were confused and thought it was about Marvel paper towel or they were there with their invisible boyfriends. What do I know?

  22. TonyJazz says:

    Sorry to other posters, but I am a fan of the show. It’s different from anything else I’ve watched, and the hokie stories are silly but entertaining.

    Yes, there could be a woman added to the cast.

    So much humor on the show is silly anti-manly putdowns (but not homophobic). At least it is an attempt at something different, yet familiar to our community….

  23. If women end up in the cast of the show it should happen organically and honestly — it should not be forced.

    There is probably room on TV for another comic book reality TV show. Why not feature a shop that has women working there already like The Comic Shop of Wilmington, Delaware?

  24. J. Wilberforce Wise says:

    “I rebut your anecdotal evidence with my own anecdotal evidence!” God, I can’t believe I read this post all the way to the bottom.

  25. *cough*

  26. @dan – It’s a reality show – what about it isn’t forced and non-organic?

  27. @ Sue – I honestly don’t get why you’re doing the sarcastic “women can’t be fans of comics” routine. Read what I wrote, I never suggested that women can’t be or shouldn’t be fans of comics. Merely that the evidence (anecdotal, perhaps, but the evidence I’ve seen) suggests that they aren’t as large in number as the male readership. I never said this was a good thing, and I’d be happy if women en mass joined the readership (much as I’d be happy if any demographic en mass joined the readership).

  28. What is worse, when women come into the shop on the show they are either a) selling dolls or b) looking for something for their boyfriend. Beyond having a woman be an employee or guest, they are perpetuating stereotypes. Really disheartening. Even if it doesn’t “represent the demographic” why not do something good for the world and make a role model rather than perpetuate the Robot’s Dungeon model of comicbookdom?

  29. Rich Harvey says:

    Chris Hero:
    “In the rest of the country, the only people reading comics are aged white men.”

    racist remarks like this are uncool.

  30. The Beat says:

    In all the airing of personal visions of the world, we’ve really gotten away from the central question: whether women comics fans are teeming like lemmings or scarcer than Greg Land life drawing sketches, Kevin Smith himself once said that they were thinking of adding women to the show, and the original casting indicates they were considering it. Has that plan been ditched for all time?

  31. @Zack – You didn’t just present “your evidence” though. You editorialized – specifically “While there are certain comics/creators that attract a more balanced audience (BKV/Fables/etc), comics themselves tend to have a more male audience.” What evidence do you have to make that generalization? I stated that I was at a NYCC panel that wasn’t on BKV or Fables that was mostly women (and it was a big room). You suggested the attendance numbers of women at NCCC were because of movie props because of Back to the Future, Heidi was a that show and stated that it appeared that wasn’t the case.
    Repeatedly when women suggested other evidence contrary to your position you went and found anecdotal data to push back.

  32. Boner says:

    I think the show has always been 30 minutes. I actually think this season has been pretty good; it was the first 6 episodes of the first season that were garbage. Bryan Johnson was pretty irritating/unlikeable in those episodes and he has come a ways since then, I actually find him humorous now.

    It is a Kevin Smith vehicle to promote his stuff, realize that going in and adjust expectations accordingly.

    Lastly, I don’t see how they could fit women into this cast w/out making it seem very forced and unorganic.

  33. I’d love to know what the guy with the beard does. Does he work there? All he seems to do is sit around, sketch and insult Ming. I’ve seen him enter act with customers, and he’s nothing but rude to them. I’d never go back to that shop again.

  34. Anecdotally, I have visited Strange Adventures in Halifax Nova Scotia, where females work, and females buy comics. Have seen it, and not just once.

  35. @ Sue (btw, it’s Zach, not Zack)
    As I said above, I’ve been to multiple cons and I would describe the comics heavy panels as being very skewed towards men. Every comic store I’ve been to (mostly in suburban NY, but also shops in NYC, Philly, and Canada) as being very skewed towards men. Whenever I’m at a Barnes and Noble, the people hanging out by the graphic novels are almost always men (with a higher percentage of women checking out manga). I’d be happy to have a giant secret population of women reading comics, but I just don’t see any evidence of that.

    As for the NC con thing, my point was that no Con I’ve been to is “100%” comics, much less that one. As comic fans, you and I both know that comic cons aren’t just attended by comic fans. There are people of all stripes of fandom, plus gawkers/wanna be journalists/etc,

  36. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike says:

    Female fans may seem invisible because they don’t seem as outspoken as their male counterparts. Among female creators, there seems to be considerably less self-promotion and chest-beating (no pun intended). Gail Simone doesn’t self promote or market like Mark Millar does, for example.

    Just my two cents.

  37. The Beat says:

    Zach:
    I guess we need some kind of empirical survey, eh?

  38. @Boner: It was after the first six episodes that they changed format to a half-hour show. I suspect that’s when the idea of adding to the cast was scuttled (or set aside for the time being), but there’s never been any official word to that effect. But I agree that the first episodes were a bloated mess, and the new season’s shorter eps are much tighter and more fun. But still very few women, regardless, except in the B-roll of random people shopping.

  39. @The Beat: To settle this topic, perhaps.
    @ Saber Tooth: I dunno if it’s accurate to say that female creators self-promote less than male creators. No one self-promotes like Mark Millar. It’s not like Cullen Bunn and Dustin Nguyen are out there self-aggrandizing the way he does, and they’re both dude.

  40. *dudes

  41. Torsten Adair says:

    On my recent comics tour of Omaha, most stores were staffed by one person, the manager or owner. One store, Legends, had a female clerk (and one of the owners is female). Two stores were staffed by just men.

    It doesn’t matter what women do, a store should be welcoming and encouraging to women, if only to get them to buy stuff. Yeah, maybe it’s something for a friend. Maybe it’s a media tie-in, like a t-shirt. Maybe it a board game. Or maybe they are active participants themselves, and most likely weekly/monthly customers who will drop $20+ a week at your store.

    Women read comics. More women are reading comics now. Does it matter what the percentages are? They. Are. Here.

    I’ve never seen the show, and probably wouldn’t watch.
    At least Storage Wars has the couple of Jarrod Schulz and Brandi Passante to keep things interesting.

    The beard guy? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryan_Johnson_(filmmaker)
    Former LA employee.

  42. J. Wilberforce Wise says:

    I put up a bitchy post in this thread last night and I apologize for that. But I think this controversy that gets ginned up all the time now is silly. This is why the world hates you, nerds. This is why you get sand kicked in your face is because you are a bunch of adults having heated arguments about whether women dressed in homemade costumes of corporate superhero characters are getting enough credit while there are dozens of female cartoonists producing actual comics that can’t get arrested because they don’t feature people with exaggerated physiques and melodrama. Well, maybe sometimes melodrama. My understanding of why a grown woman would get so invested in adolescent male power fantasies is only slightly less than why a grown man would, but the energy I see invested in this topic is completely out of proportion when there are so many cartoonists, female and male, producing work that has appeal to all kinds of audiences we could talk about but don’t.

    I know this post makes me sound like a jerk and probably doesn’t further the discussion, but I had to get it off my chest.

  43. I think what Sabin said is right on — all these reality shows pick and choose what they show (they have to) to result in a specific vision for the episode, like any director does on any TV show.

    On “Pawn Stars” you don’t see a lot of people pawning their wedding rings for drug money, or people sending their dogs after Mike and Frank on “American Pickers,” because they think that will make for bad TV. So, for whatever reason, the people behind this show think it won’t be entertaining or useful to show any interactions other than the ones they do — dudes talking comics and haggling with other dudes.

  44. @ Torstein – “does it matter what the percentages are?”
    Not really. But if the internet only discussed stuff that mattered, it’d be a pretty dry place. Talking about comics, other nerd stuff, entertainment in general doesn’t “matter”, but it’s why we’re here. I guess we could just talk about national security and advances in healthcare technology, but that seems a little boring to me.

  45. @jwilbeforcewise – well at least you know you’re a jerk.

  46. Andrew says:

    @jwilbeforcewise- Last I checked, one person didn’t speak for the rest of the world. So that’s really just your opinion.

  47. Caitlynbk says:

    Oh come ON. The guys on the show didn’t audition, they weren’t brought in to make the show. Walt runs the store, bri’s his best friend. Ming and mike have worked there for years. That’s why they have chemistry. You’re mad that they didn’t bring in a woman? They didn’t bring in anyone from outside their regular lives. Not having a woman on Comicbookmen is not a reason to get butthurt.

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