They Have Issues: Tales From Comic Book Stores is an anthology of 10 feel good mini-comics. Each comic touches on issues faced by femme and non-binary comic store owners, readers and creators. In an industry long dominated by white males, it’s definitely hard out here for those of us that don’t fit into that category. Written by 18 women and non-binary cartoonists, They Have Issues, celebrates the joys, the sadness, and all the nuances in between.
The first comic in this anthology is All Dogs Go to Comic Shops by Megan Christopher and Haley Boros, the main character and corgi, Missy loves to visit her local comic store with her human. She always receives belly rubs and treats, but best of all she gets to look at all the pictures of the super dogs. Then one day, a dachshund named Bruno shows up at her store. Eager to meet another doggie comic lover, Missy is quick to introduce herself only to be hit with, “Those aren’t for you…It’s a male thing, Muffy. You wouldn’t understand”. Missy is sent on an existential puppy crisis, thinking to herself “…everything I saw said I didn’t belong, I really thought I could be more than a ‘good girl’. But I guess heroics are for the boys”.
Not only are females the fastest growing demographic in comic readers but according to recent Facebook data, we might be close to catching up. The data, analyzed by Brett Schenker of Graphic Policy was based on likes and key terms from FaceBook users profiles, suggest that in April women accounted for 48.65%  of comic readers but that number fell this month to 34.14% . Since these numbers aren’t based on purchases, it’s hard to say how many comic readers are actually female/femme. Bleeding Cools, Tim Hanley , reported that as of February 2017, 16.3% of DC’s creators were female while Marvel had 17.1% female creators .
Chew on that Bruno!
Everytown by Heather Kenealy and Zoe N. Sugg begins in an average LCS, kids look through boxes of comics when their quite banter is interrupted by an angry customer. “You don’t understand! There’s no reason to make him black. The character was white from his creation, and he should stay white! It’s how he’s always been!”
“You don’t understand! There’s no reason to make him black. The character was white from his creation, and he should stay white! It’s how he’s always been!”
“Why?! Why do I have to have diversity shoved down my throat?!”
“But why in my comic books? Why change what worked for sixty years in order to appeal to the vocal minority?”
The comic store owner fights back saying,
“Look, just because something worked for a long time, does not make it right. Comic books were written for the audience of their time, and yeah, sixty years ago, it was white men. There’s more to the world than that. Comic books are epic poetry, man. It’s like painting on a cave wall or telling stories of your ancestors around a campfire. They have to be relatable, they have to adapt to the times. It’s time they evolve. It’s time you evolve.”
“Race shouldn’t matter-”
“Then why does it matter to you? Shouldn’t it be more important what we tell them?” motioning to her young customers.
I’m sure most of us are familiar with these comments in one way or another. Hopefully, we all agree on how ridiculous they sound!
Out of 29,000,000 estimated comic readers in America about 15% of those are African American, about 10% are Asian and about 20% are Latinx. Meaning that “vocal minority” accounts for 45% of all US comic readers. In addition, the western world is relatively new to the world of comics, with the first ‘American’ comic book being printed in 1897. However, comics and cartoons have long existed outside of the US. Manga, a Japanese comic or cartoon, has existed since the 12th century, Mexican-American intellectual, Ilan Stavans , argues that Latin comics/cartoons took their earliest form in pre-Columbian codices .
Keep your outdated ideas to yourself!
The last comic in this anthology that I’ll be reviewing is Career Choices by Zoe N. Sugg. Our story begins in Head Canon Comics where a customer has just arrived to sell some of their comics, among them a 1950’s comic covered in ectoplasm. From the comic, emerges not so famous cartoonist of “I Go Possum!”, Wally Kelter. Ghost cartoonist Wally, cries and whines, throwing a poltergeist pity party. Saying:
“What a miserable afterlife this is, forced to haunt the last remaining copy of my work, wandering the globe in search of recognition… a warning to any who would follow in my path!”
Wailing Wally goes on and on about the pointlessness of being a cartoonist, “this career is not for the faint of heart…or slight of wallet”.
Discouraged, our main character, cartoonist/comic shop employee, enjoys a meal with a friend, confiding:
“I’ll never be a real cartoonist with a paying job and everything is terrible cause nothing I do matters”
I’m sure we’ve all felt this way. In a society where success is measured by income and titles, it’s easy for us to feel that our lives/careers aren’t ‘enough’. Especially with the ever increasing income gap.
We’ve created a climate of “I’ve been so busy”, LinkedIn connections, American grit, and pull yourself up by the bootstrap mentality but the “American Dream” of success and wealth is quickly fading for younger generations. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, “The fraction of children earning more than their parents fell from approximately 90% for children born in 1940 to around 50% for children entering the labor market today” . Jobs are paying less and according to Forbes, “the millennial unemployment rate stands at an unfortunate 12.8 percent, compared to the national average of 4.9 percent” .
Being the friends she is, our main characters buddy calls out the negative thinking.
“Look…I work in accounting. After a long, stressful day, no one ever goes, ‘man, I need to hit the office and blow off some steam’. But you, you provide that space for people, you give customers a playroom, a safe space to excel and share their passions in a judgement-free zone. It’s a place to meet others with similar interests, to build up your own skill…to belong….
and just because your calling isn’t financially backed by the fiscal majority of this country, doesn’t mean it’s not important”
Researchers at Princeton found that “the positive effects of money had no effect on people’s happiness and moods after a level of $ 75,000.00 was attained”  and although almost 50% of comic creators make less than $12,000 , be confident that what you are doing IS important.
In the eternal words of Bill Watterson, “From now on, I’ll connect the dots my own way”.
So, fly your dreams, babes, like the superheroes and anthropomorphic tigers you are!
For more cartooning inspiration from Bill Watterson, please visit Zen Pencils!
Thanks for reading and join me next week for an all-new comic review!