Here’s Francene Lewis’s prescription for the comics industry:
“I began by thinking of two of my local comics stores. Store 1 is an old-school comic books shop, long boxes abound, along with racks of current comics. But everything is organized by publisher, and it carries primarily super-hero comics. They charge a membership fee for special orders, for a pull file or even to pay for your items via check. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman in the store and any manga the store carries fits on two small shelves. I rarely go there even though it’s less than a mile from where I work.
“Store 2 is in my opinion the polar opposite of Store 1. Over the past 15 years, it has changed its focus from the big two super hero comics to more independent and smaller comics publishers and now at least half of the store is for manga. They also offer the largest selection of anime for rent or sale in the city. They will special order anything for no extra charge and call you when it’s in. Every graphic novel and manga comic is always 20% off. Women and teens frequent the store as well as men. Even though it’s farther away, I make the effort to drive there at least once a week.
“More stores like this are needed if comic book shops as we know them now are to survive.
“As a middle-aged woman who loves comics and manga, I’m not really excited by the run-of-mill super hero stuff, but my kids are interested. I’ll buy books for them if they aren’t overly violent or filled with gratuitous T&A. As a mom of three boys, I want them to read about strong women characters as well as heroic male super heroes.
“I work for an academic library where I’ve lobbied for a graphic novels collection. It supports a class or two, offers reading to our students and I try to purchase books that show the wide range of subjects, artists and ideas that are available in the comics field.
“Use the web to provide free content to get me hooked and then offer me a decent priced, well-made graphic novel to purchase. Offering stuff via the web gets me interested in the characters and story, and gives me a feel for your art. But I find it hard to enjoy reading longer stories on my computer, so I’m usually happy to pay for a collection.
“So we need better stores, a wide variety of great stories and artists/writers, books that are not just for teen-age boys and middle-aged men but look to the other audiences that are excited and interested in the comics medium.”