The June edition of Women's Comics Night Credit: Andrea Thompson

When the owners of Challengers Comics decided they wanted to put on more events, they knew they wanted some of them to focus on women, but they had no idea what that would look like. But when they asked for organizers, Samantha LaFountain volunteered. She knew what she wanted to see.

“I wanted it to be like a party, that was the main idea,” LaFountain said. “And to build friendships between women, nonbinary individuals, however you identify. Between people who aren’t normally seen.”

“Party” is certainly the vibe I got when I attended last month’s Women’s Comics Night at Challengers. The theme is “slumber party,” and many of the attendees are in onesies. There’s a good-size crowd, with about 15 or 20 people in the small store, so the organizers ended up having to attach another small table in addition to the two larger ones already set up. The attendees are mostly women in their 20s (and one guy), but there’s a diversity of races and sexualities.

Everyone, though, has a passion for comic books. Some attendees write comics themselves, or have podcasts and are here to see if anyone wants to come on as a guests, while others are fans who decided to come out. There’s a relaxed vibe, and the kind of relief felt among those who are traditionally seen as the Other when they are finally among their own.

“I connected with a lot of the gals,” said Cristina McCrystal, who lounged on the floor in a Wonder Woman onesie. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to, to connect to. There’s no shock and awe. I don’t have to explain why I like comics.”

Yes, in the age of the nerd, people are still somehow shocked to find out that women make up a large portion of nerdom. It’s probably why most of the women here cite the sense of connection as the most important factor in why they attend. Women’s Comics Night seems to satisfy a kind of deep-seated need that arises when your fandom also comes with a whole lot of rejection. LaFountain certainly doesn’t seem to get any financial gratification for her work here. She has a full-time office job, and she does all the social media for WCN in addition to working for Challengers every now and then.

Organizer Samantha LaFountainCredit: Andrea Thompson

“They pay me in comics,” she says with a grin. Her onesie is a shark.

There’s a special guest this month: Gabi Mendez, the author of Lemonade Summer, a Kickstarter-funded graphic novel about LGBTQ youth. Nerdist called it the “all-ages LGBTQ graphic novel you need.” Mendez wrote it in reaction to the terrible things that happen in stories about gay people. She wanted to show kids who identify as LGBTQ going on fun adventures, without the jaded outlook adults often have.

“Kids aren’t born prejudiced.” Mendez said later. “They learn to hate other people, and themselves.”

Women’s Comics Night is the second Monday of every month at Challengers Comics, 1845 N. Western. The next event will be July 9—tonight—and will have a speed-friending theme. Participants will be paired up for five minutes and get to know each other, then be partnered with someone new. Suggested questions will be provided. More information can be found here.