Interview With Kate Leth

Kate Leth is a renaissance woman of the internets: cartoonist, comic shop employee, trendsetter. Now she's adding retail crusader to the list. Between creating comics and working a regular gig as an employee of the Strange Adventures comic shop, Kate Leth has been quietly recruiting. A few tweets here, a Facebook post there; nothing that

Kate Leth is a renaissance woman of the internets: cartoonist, comic shop employee, trendsetter. Now she’s adding retail crusader to the list.

Kate Leth and Wonder Woman, Beware the Valkyries

Between creating comics and working a regular gig as an employee of the Strange Adventures comic shop, Kate Leth has been quietly recruiting. A few tweets here, a Facebook post there; nothing that would raise any eyebrows. Just a simple request asking other women working in comic shops to contact her about joining an online group. So what are Kate’s plans for this exclusive gathering? It may be a while until we find out what these joined forces of female retailers can do, but Kate tells us a little about what to expect.

Megan Byrd: You’ve recently put out a call to arms for women working in comic shops to join a “not cult”. What are your plans for gathering this top secret group of retailers?

Kate Leth: I wanted to gather and organize women who work in comic shops worldwide, because while there are many of us, we are often far apart. It’s a unique retail experience, and not as densely populated by women as many other sectors. It seemed like a pretty swell idea to bring back together these awesome geek girls through the power of the internet!

MB: Have you chosen a name for this league of local comic shop ladies?

KL: We are the Valkyries, and we are mighty.

MB: It’s kind of surprising that there aren’t other similar groups for comic shop workers in general; what made you create this group specifically for women as opposed to any comic shop workers?

KL: There are some groups for comic shop owners… But no, it didn’t seem like there was a girl gang for geek babes, and that seems like an oversight. While it’s more and more common to find girls working in comic shops (and in the nerd world in general), it can still sometimes feel isolating, and we have a unique perspective in some ways. It is sexist? Exclusive? Maybe, but it’s still pretty darn awesome, and the ladies of the group really seem to love having a space to be themselves. Nobody has to explain anything. We just get it.

Kate Leth Comic, What My Job Is Like, Kate Or Die, comic book retail, women in retail, Beware the Valkyries

MB: Was there a group or website centered around another industry that inspired this group? Some that come to mind include I Hate Starbucks and the ever depressing and hilarious Clients From Hell.

KL: Ha! No, not specifically. I was more looking at the groups for retailers, for cosplayers, and just saw an untapped kind of niche. Why not brings together all the lovely ladies of the LCS world? It’s a different kind of customer base than many other jobs.

MB: Many of those previously mentioned sites do tend to have a focus on venting frustrations but also serve as an outlet for employees to discuss topics anonymously without fear of retribution. Have you seen a focus on the types of discussions amongst the comic shop employees you have gathered thus far?

KL: We’re not just complaining about the customer who asks where the “girl” comics are, we’re organizing rides to conventions, swapping Lying Cat t-shirts, talking retail strategies. Sure, it’s a place to vent, but I’d like it to be positive overall. We’ve been talking a lot lately about t-shirts, how Diamond* offers so few Juniors and Women’s sizes. Every Wednesday we talk about what we’re reading. We all swooned over the solicit for the new Batwoman statue. Stuff just seems to come out pretty naturally – there’s always something going on in geek culture to discuss. It varies pretty widely. There’s a cool thread for showing off your geek tattoos.

* For those that are not part of the industry, Diamond is the largest distributor of comics. They are technically not considered a monopoly because they carry other products like t-shirts and toys where they face many competitors, a fact that makes their apparel offerings quite dismal. For mom and pop stores, Diamond may be their only choice for placing small orders for these non-comic book items. – Megan

MB: How many individuals have joined your group thus far? Have you recruited any female store owners?

KL: So far, are group has about 65 members. Not too shabby! There are a few store owners and managers in the shop. I’m wary of inviting bosses because I want employees to feel more comfortable sharing, but most shops with multiple ladies seem to be very much like a family and get along well. I work with another girl, Natalie, and our Fredericton location has a few girls as well.

MB: Currently you have limited the group to traditional comic shops. Do you have future plans to include hybrid stores such as gaming or book stores that sell comics? What are the criteria for joining?

KL: There are a couple of ladies who work in comic-heavy bookstores, or comic shops that focus on gaming as well. I do want to keep it comics-focused, though, and have had to turn some people away. I actively encourage people to start their own groups if ours isn’t quite the right fit! Right now the criteria is flexible, but I just ask that you’re a girl who is employed by a comic shop. Some are full-time veterans, some work weekends, a few are event organizers. We’re all hard-working dorks.

MB: In our previous correspondence you have mentioned that this group will eventually have a public face. Will this be used simply for further recruitment?

KL: I think so! I’d like us to have some sort of vaguely intimidating presence… Hah. A website with the basic info about the group, an invitation to contact us. Then, naturally, silk jackets. And patches. Motorcycles.

MB: Do you plan to organize events once these workers are mobilized?

KL: I’d like to start with meetups at conventions – I think a couple of girls are going to get together at SDCC. Some day I’d love to do a meeting at a castle or something. I have lofty ambitions. We are legion.

MB: Are you planning an invasion of some kind and will it be too late once it is revealed?

KL: I’ll never tell.

MB: One last question, until there is a public site how do potential Valkyries join up?

If people are interested in joining and feel that they qualify, they can contact me on twitter (https://twitter.com/kateleth) or tumblr (http://kateordie.tumblr.com). The group operates on Facebook, so they need to be on there and able to be found.

Since this interview, Kate Leth’s organization has gone live at Beware The Valkyries – join the ranks today! If you are not part of the world of comic book retail, you can still check out Kate’s comics at Kate Or Die. You can also catch up with her in person at the upcoming Dartmouth Comic Arts Festival on August 18th.

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