It shouldn’t surprise you at all that we love Kate Leth here at Panels. If you don’t know who Kate is, she’s a comic book writer extraordinaire, Twitter maven, and all around goddess—and she’s also the cofounder and Director of the Valkyries. The Valkyries are a group of female comic book shop owners and employees (including LGTBQ+ people), and they’ve become an important force in the comics industry. When the Valkyries like a comic, publishers, comics press, and fans alike take notice.
Now, the Valkyries are expanding to Valhalla, and we’re thrilled to have a chance to talk to Kate about this new initiative and why it’s important.
Swapna: Let’s talk about the Valkyries first—why are they important?
Kate: For a lot of reasons. I started the group as a tool for networking and making friends with other women working in the same environment, but it’s become much more than that. Within the group, we exchange resources – help each other with events, brainstorm ideas for displays, help each other find back issues or give advice on signings, etc – but outside of it, the Valkyries have given a powerful voice to an often underrepresented group. Publishers and creators listen to us and engage with us, which is something that hadn’t happened before for members who weren’t store owners. It’s really neat to see that evolve over time.
Swapna: The Valkyries are a real force to be reckoned with. Are you surprised by the influence the group has achieved?
Kate: Absolutely. I started it kind of on a whim several years ago with about twelve members, and now we’re at nearly 500. It still astounds me when members of the group tell me they met a creator and got a hugely positive reaction. It means a lot to them, which means a lot to me in turn.
Swapna: Why did you decide to start Valhalla, a group that is open to female-identifying, nonbinary, and transgender bookstore, library, and museum employees who work with comics?
Kate: We had been asked dozens of times over the last year if we’d consider opening up membership to folks who work with comics in other capacities. To break it down, our agreements with various publishers and creators who provide us with previews and exclusives mean that we can only allow currently-employed comics retail workers in the main group. Valhalla already existed as a space for former employees to go when they wanted to continue the conversation, but when two of our Valkyrie administrators, Steenz and Ivy (whose webcomic you can find here – http://archivalcomic.com/about), left their comic shop jobs to become librarians, they took the idea and ran with it. They’re now running that site, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to do it.
Swapna: What are your hopes for Valhalla?
Kate: Like the Valkyries, I think it has the potential to be an amazing resource. Librarians and booksellers work with comics and graphic novels in all kinds of ways, from book clubs to recommendations to events, and I think Valhalla will be a great place to discuss ideas and learn from both current and former retailers. I think we can all learn from each other, really, and that network makes us all stronger.
Swapna: What’s been the biggest surprise since starting the Valkyries?
Kate: Mostly how big it’s gotten, but it’s also a composite of smaller things that have happened. Girls have helped each other move, travel, find apartments. Members have hosted their first Ladies’ Nights or expanded their Free Comic Book Day celebrations with help from each other. The friendships that have formed are so great to see. Ivy and Steenz met in the Valkyries and started making a comic together. It’s amazing to me, and very reassuring.
Swapna: What are you reading right now? (Inquiring minds want to know!)
Kate: Ha! I’m big into Squirrel Girl, Howard the Duck, The Spire, Monstress, Paper Girls, Welcome to Showside, Gotham Academy, Spider-Gwen, WicDiv and Southern Bastards. I’m all over the place.
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