The concept of having a “Ladies Night” at a comic book shop is not necessarily new, but in 2012, Hannah Chapman decided to start her own version in downtown Chicago. The first Wednesday of every month, women gather at Graham Cracker Comics to discuss a little bit of everything, especially comics. The event has taken off, spawning a comic book anthology written and illustrated by Ladies’ Night attendees.
It’s a digest-sized paperback that’s about 50 pages long, but it’s packed with not only comics, but essays and a tutorial on how to create your own comics. The first volume is called “Chicago“, and covers a bunch of different types of stories, all set around the city. Several of the creators included had never been published before. It was such a success that they’ve started an IndieGoGo campaign to put out a second volume, called Death & Prom.
At their C2E2 panel last month, they explained that, perhaps because they’re all nerds, there was a lot of catharsis with themes like death and prom:
“The variety of the stories, the variety of the characters — it’s really cool to see, when given free rein with a very loose theme, what a really diverse group of women come up with.” – Caitlin Rosberg (Editor)
One of the editors and hosts of Ladies Night is Lauren Burke, co-author of P.I. Jane, and a friend of mine that I met while working on a much larger all-women comic anthology, IDW’s Womanthology. I asked her a few questions about the event: (cont’d)
How did you first get involved with Ladies’ Night?
Lauren Burke: I started going to Ladies’ Night because I was friends with the organizer, Hannah Chapman. Hannah is a British comic-maker and founder of Comic Book Slumber Party. Comic Book Slumber Party was actually the name of Wendi [Freeman, another Ladies’ Night contributor]’s old podcast before Double Page Spread, but Wendi gladly let Hannah use it.
What exactly happens at Ladies’ Night?
The discussion at Ladies’ Night is moderated by Megan Byrd, who is a part-time employee at Graham Cracker Comics. She often has to use Thor’s hammer to quiet everyone down, as we do get overexcited and talk over each other. Some nights we have a broad theme like “best indie comics”. But generally we have a few hot topic issues to discuss, anthology business to go over, or just go around the group and talk about what everyone is reading and watching. We talk a lot about tv—Supernatural, Doctor Who, Hannibal, Sleepy Hollow, Teen Wolf, you get the idea.
We also have secondary events like artist talks—we’ve had Dan Dougherty, Jenny Frison, and Tony Maldonado. Lettering and writing workshops for those working on the anthology. And a drink ‘n draw. We actually had a drink ‘n draw this month at Rudy’s—home of the milkshake martini.
So how wicked popular has the Ladies’ Night phenomenon become?
Our Ladies’ Night is super popular. Our Facebook page has 210 members, and while not everyone in that group is a regular member, I’d say 80% of them attend meetings. Part of the reason for our popularity is our location. Downtown is ideal. We have a ton of students from Columbia and the Art Institute, and lots of professionals that live in the loop.
Another reason for this is the staff at Graham Cracker Comics. They advertise our group pretty heavily, and pull in a lot of new members with a 10% discount. They curate selections of books for us, and really pay attention to what we are buying to make some spot-on suggestions for other titles we might like to try. Also, it’s a really low-key, friendly environment. And our parties are pretty awesome.
Have you considered starting Ladies’ Night events at other stores?
I’ve actually had other stores approach me after we finished the first Ladies’ Night Anthology, and ask if I would spearhead LN at their store. It’s a lot of work, and something I really think should be managed by a staff member, honestly. Especially if you want to mimic our group. I mean, in addition to our monthly discussion we organize events (drink ‘n draws, screenings, workshops), run the anthology, and table at cons. Megan Bryd does the majority of the work, but Caitlin Rosberg and I take on a lot as well.
I’ve never been to a Ladies’ Night event at another store, but I’d be interested to see how other people do it. I’ve heard great things about the Aw Yeah Comics LN, and was really happy to meet their moderator at our panel at C2E2. I think it would be cool to get a super group for Chicago going and do one giant meet-up.
We’ve had people from all over the country contact us and ask for advice on how to get a group going. We always refer them to this page on our site, and encourage them to join up with Beware the Valkyries.