“I can’t speak for every member of the Valkyries or Valhalla, but for me personally, it means to be dedicated to sharing, innovation, diversity, and excitement when it comes to comics. It’s the antithesis of gatekeeping.” –Ivy Noelle Weir, Valkyries Valhalla Co-Admin and Librarian in Philadelphia, PA
Comic creator and podcaster Kate Leth was once a comic book shop employee in a small town. In an industry seemingly dominated by men, Kate wanted to network with among other women in the comic retail business. After realizing a formal community was non-existent, she decided to take matters into her own hands and form a group called the Valkyries.
Her humble beginnings started with only 12 members, but their mission to provide a formal place for women to fellowship, brainstorm, and to challenge sexism and gatekeeping in the general nerd community resonated with women worldwide. Now, the group has amassed almost 500 members and it’s growing very fast. Although current employment with a comic shop is a firm requirement to obtain membership, the Valkyries are otherwise inclusive. Many members are women of color, LGBTQ, and have a wide range of ages and life experiences. The diversity in membership isn’t an intentional push, but rather a reflection of the comic book world as a whole. Annie Bulloch, a Valkyrie Co-Admin/Social Media Head, says diversity not only brings interesting perspectives to conversations, but it pushes Valkyrie women toward personal growth:
“Getting perspectives from people with different backgrounds and viewpoints is important. You learn about concerns and interests beyond your own. It’s good for you as an individual, good for society, and helpful for customer service! When I know more about other people, I can relate to them better. This can be helpful when recommending comics to someone or just interacting with your fellow humans. I’ve become more aware of issues that I hadn’t had to consider much before, and it has enriched my life and made me more prepared to support diversity in my own shop so it’s a welcoming place for everyone.” –Annie Bulloch
With several co-admins spread out across the United States and members in various countries, the Valkyries find strength (and new members) primarily through social media. The group’s active Facebook and Twitter pages keep everyone engaged with live-tweet parties and regular updates on social gatherings. Valkyries, better known to each other as “Valks,” often coordinate plans through social media to come together at local events and big conventions like SDCC. This photo of Valkyries coming together for breakfast at SDCC in 2015 is one of many mini-gatherings during the year.
Photo Credit: LCS Valkyries Facebook Page
But, social media interaction is more than lively chats and loads of fun. When comic book events (like prominent title releases) are quickly approaching, the ladies keep each other encouraged and motivated to deal with the tough day(s) ahead. And, comic workers in the same vicinity work collaborative events to further cement the solidarity among Valkyrie women.
“…Our local Valkyries regularly visit each other for casual hangouts and collaborate on store events. It really builds the sense of community rather than competition, on a broad, global scale and a small, local one.” Juliette Capra, Valkyrie Co-Admin and Retailer at Fantastic Comics
Photo Credit: BewaretheValkyries.com
The rapid growth of the Valkyries recently led to a new “branch” of the organization, known as Valhalla, in November 2015. Anyone who currently works with or has worked with comics in some way – including librarians, curators, general bookstore workers, and former comic shop workers – can join Valhalla and enjoy the same community aspects offered by the Valkyries. The fledgling organization has already added 200 members to its roster. Christina ‘Steenz’ Stewart and Ivy Weir, both Valkyries Valhalla co-admins and librarians, recognized the need for a bridge between librarians and comic retailers to ensure that anyone can have access to comics. Many of the ladies who were already Valkyries have joined Valhalla and as both groups expand, word-of-mouth has proven to be a viable tool to pique the interest of new members. Based on her experience, Weir knows that libraries are a perfect medium to usher in a new generation of comic lovers.
“What I particularly love about being in a library is that there is no economic barrier to access — so by collaborating with a comic retailer, we’re able to provide a little bit of the comics experience at no cost, but the retailer still gets the sale from us. This has helped me especially when it comes to teenagers, many of whom were reluctant readers who are now speeding their way through our graphic novel section.” – Ivy Weir
The positive effects of the Valkyrie community have created a ripple effect in the comic world which extends far beyond the group. Both Valkyries and Valhallas are a testament to the fact that women not only enjoy reading comics as a leisure activity, but they are actually working in the business and focusing on bringing more women toward comics. Ladies Nights, book clubs, and even Twitter recommendations on Wednesdays (under the hashtag #ValkRecs) are a few ways the Valkyries are continuing to build membership and establish new friendships.
Kate Leth’s grassroots efforts have exceeded her wildest dreams. Right now, her main focus is continue to build the Valkyrie community by focusing on why the community was started in the first place. Being a Valkyrie means being an agent of change in comics through fostering industry connections. It means showing pride and passion for comics through promoting awesome series and attending/organizing events. The most important aspect of the group, however, may be sense of “belonging” that is shared by all of the Valks.
“It means having a network of people who have your back, and that you aren’t alone.” –Kate Leth
If you are interested in joining the Valkyries, head over to their website to fill out a membership request form. Or, if you want to check out some of their comic recommendations, be sure to follow the #ValkRecs hashtag on Wednesdays!
Feature Photo Credit: LCS Valkyries Facebook Page