One of my co-workers at the library worked part-time at a local bookstore until very recently, and one of the things she was in charge of while she was there was coordinating bookstore events. Things like summer activities, storytimes, and book clubs. Before she left the store, she came to me and said that they were interested in starting a new book club, for teens, focused on comics, and would I run it? It could be themed around whatever I wanted, they planned to meet once a month, and I could pick any books I wanted as long as they were in print and easy for the store to get.
Do I have to tell you how fast I said yes?
I decided that, since superheroes are really chic right now, that I wanted to focus on tights and capes books, but that every title we read would star a female character. New Thor, Batgirl, Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl…I told them I wanted to explore the lady side of the Big Two, and the store loved it, and last night we had our first meeting.
I was a little anxious about it, since there were some snafus getting the Thor book in (I picked Thor: Goddess of Thunder to start us off because I felt like the controversy surrounding the switch from classic Thor to Lady Thor would be a good way to introduce some central themes), but after a quick discussion with the store owner we decided that the first meeting would be more of a meet-and-greet to introduce ourselves, talk about what the club would look like, and introduce ourselves, and to also let me get a sense of the teens who’d be coming and what topics were important to them. Luckily, we got the books in, so everyone could grab a copy to read for the next time we meet.
It went GREAT! I had seven girls, who had varying degrees of exposure to superhero books, but who were all enthusiastic about trying something new. Most of them had been watching the Marvel movies, and a couple were tumblr users, so even though they hadn’t read much in the way of comics they knew who the characters were and had some great things to say about comic culture, representation, and which characters they already had an affinity for (all of them wanted to know why the heck Marvel hasn’t made a Black Widow movie, which, right? That was the moment I knew we’d all get along just fine).
One of the best things about having our first meeting not be about a particular book was that it gave me a chance to bring up what I think will be the central questions of our meetings (representation and diversity for diversity’s sake vs. thoughtful character choices, mainly) and it also gave the girls a chance to let me know what’s going to be important to them to talk about (costume and character design came up a lot, as did questions about family and support structure. Also the “fake geek girl” fallacy, which made me sad that they were already running into that so young).