Five years ago I went into a comic bookstore in the South Bay and emerged from its shadowy depths with a sexist Lois Lane comic book from the '60s and the sense that I was definitely underrepresented and unwelcome. So when a female friend asked if I wanted to go shopping for comics in Santa Cruz a few months ago, I braced myself for the worst.
Our first stop was Comicopolis, a small storefront with bright windows near the rear entrance to Bookshop Santa Cruz on Front Street. Even though its location was off the beaten path, its doors were flung open to welcome any curious passersby.
Co-owners Troy Geddes and John Arnold welcomed us from behind the counter they share in the back. My friend struck up a casual conversation with them about the feminist reboot of Ms. Marvel as she picked up the most recent issue. With their proximity to UCSC, I was relieved to see we were not the first feminists they had encountered.
These comic book guys celebrate the fact that approximately 55 percent of their clientele are women. Arnold explains, “The traditional comic bookstore was definitely a boys club with a dungeon-like, dank feel to it,” but they strive to make their store open and friendly to everyone.
I now know that many comic bookstores cover windows with posters to protect their comics from sun damage, which can make them feel scarier than they really are. But even sunny comic bookstores can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.
Decoding missing issue numbers, different story arcs and trade paperback collections was tricky at first. Luckily, Geddes and Arnold make their customers feel comfortable enough to ask questions.