Kate Leth makes comics. She’s good at it, too. The 23-year-old Haligonian has self-published three collections, contributed to several more and works her day job at Strange Adventures, Halifax’s claim to comic shop fame.
“It’s still kind of unusual,” she says of being a woman working in a male-centric industry; out of six employees at Strange Adventures, two are women. “But it’s a bigger community than you might think.”
Out of that community was born Ladies’ Night. On Feb. 29, Strange Adventures will showcase local, female talent. And for that one night, no boys are allowed in.
Leth is organizing the event, which will include giveaways, prizes, trivia and a signing by a local artist, Faith Erin Hicks, whose book Friends With Boys is debuting the day before. Local illustrator Jordyn Bochon will be signing the new graphic novel Spera as well.
Leth says the point of the night is to celebrate females in comics and to get women involved with a culture that can be a bit intimidating.
“It’s basically a bi-annual event at Strange Adventures, where for two hours we only open the store to women. It’s all female staffed. We don’t let the guys in and we highlight women in comics and comics that are aimed at women or might appeal to women,” she says. The event has been going on for the past few years, and Leth says between 40 and 100 women come through the shop in a night.
Leth is one of the many female comic artists in Halifax’s comic culture—yet, she says, some people still think she’s something of an oddity.
“Generally the topic always comes up: ‘What’s it like being a woman in comics?’ she says. “And what it’s like is that people still ask that question.”
Though the stigmatizing of women in comics is getting better, she says, there’s room for improvement.
“I don’t find it as bad, or at least it’s getting better,” she says. “I think the barriers are hopefully being pushed down as time goes on.”
Jessica Perrie, a comic artist in her third year studying computer science and math at Dalhousie, has mixed feelings about the event. “In some ways, for the female comic artists that don’t usually get that promotion, it’s probably a good thing,” she says in a phone interview from Moncton, where she is on a co-op work term.
“It’s just in mainstream comics, there’s a lot of, ‘Girls shouldn’t read this because obviously the poses of the female comic characters are so not targeted at females.’ So they’re kind of blocking out the female readers. And now we’re blocking out the male readers. So it’s kind of like, ‘Yeah, same thing back at you.’ I do see what they’re trying to do though. They’re trying to diversify it.”
But Leth says the night is more practical than political. “A lot of women think that it’s a very male-dominated thing, and that it’s a boy’s
club. So we try to make it a little more inclusive and open it up to people who might be sort of intimidated by the atmosphere and by the sort of stigma around comics as being mostly for men.”
Perrie, the creator of the comic AM, which is published in the Gazette, says she sees that gender difference just from observing and participating in Internet web comic forums.
“I think the female web comic artist forums are more friendly, in some ways, whereas the male one is maybe more competitive than the female forum. So there’s more competitiveness in the male world, but I don’t know,” she says. “I don’t know what a male comic artist experiences, so I’m not sure.”
Perrie also says she can see the gender ratio becoming more equalized in the next few years. “Nowadays, in the mainstream comics, you get more female fans getting really angry at the male writers for writing certain things,” she says.
“So I think publishers and web comic artists will be more aware of their female readers, and in turn that will translate to more female comic artists.”