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The stereotypical image of a comic book store customer is a male adult who still lives at home with his parents and may not have entirely grasped the need for regular hygiene. It’s an idea that’s even perpetuated by shows that celebrate geekdom, like The Big Bang Theory. Every time the attractive blond female lead walks into the comic book store, she’s gawked at and hit on. One Houston comic book store seeks to change perceptions and be a welcoming environment for a new, diverse generation of comic book readers.
In fact, 8th Dimension Comics & Games’s co-owner Jeremy Bulloch says that close to half of the store’s customers are women. Women are such an important part of 8th Dimension’s success that the store hosts a quarterly Ladies’ Night (the web site says anyone who “identifies as a woman” is welcome).
Jeremy says his wife and business partner, Annie Bulloch, “wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Annie has been reading and collecting comics since 1998, a hobby she started after graduating college. At the time, there wasn’t much of a community for female comic book readers or gamers. “It was something I always wished existed,” she says. “In the early days, a lot of shops just weren’t friendly for women. A few were and that was nice but I felt like it would be good if people would make more of an effort — reach out and say, ‘Hey, comics are for everybody!’ It’s not just about making a statement. It’s [a] fun way to meet people who have similar interests. That’s what ‘community’ is all about.”
As an unexpected side effect, 8th Dimension’s welcoming environment has even helped reassure girls that there’s nothing wrong with their interests. “I had a friend who brought her kindergartner in. She has Star Wars shoes and had been told, ‘Those are for boys,’” Annie recalls. “Well, no, Star Wars is for everyone and it was good for her to see a place where that was the case.”
The Ladies’ Night themes vary and all types of women manage to find enjoyable activities that suit their personalities. Jeremy says the extroverts play card games (think Cards Against Humanity, not bridge) and the introverts bring in sketchpads and draw or read. Other nights are for crafts. Sometimes outside vendors are invited to the store. One night, the store hosted Dancing Dog Dairy, a goat farm that makes pop-culture themed goat milk soaps. Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean evokes tangerine and patchouli while Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly smells like bay leaves, spice and lime. Sounds about right.
Women aren’t the only group who have found a warm welcome at 8th Dimension. Independent musicians who travel the country need places to perform, and the shop has become a regular stop for pop-culture savvy acts like The Doubleclicks, Marian Call and nerdcore rapper Adam WarRock. 8th Dimension’s success means it was recently able to acquire the bigger space it desperately needed to host gaming nights and concerts. In the new shop (right across the street from the old one) there’s a large back room able to support both.
“We try to make it a nice, inclusive place for people,” says Annie. “We have a kids section and are family-friendly. We’re LGBT-friendly. We try to be a jerk-free environment. If you’re a dude who lives in your mom’s basement — I don’t know where you found a basement in Houston — but yeah, you’re welcome, too.”