For female fans of comics and coffee — and those who love them — Burbank got a whole lot perkier last week with the opening on Magnolia Boulevard of The Perky Nerd. Buoyed by a tweet from "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." star Ming-Na Wen, and in-person sales of drawings by "Deadpool" movie-credits designer Justin Harder, the female-friendly new establishment drew crowds out the door ... of all genders.
The store, which serves bottled cold brews and coffee beans because selling hot coffee requires an entirely different set of permits, is the brainchild of Tiffany Melius, an actress who came to comic-book fandom when the Marvel movies prompted her to investigate what female characters existed beyond Black Widow and Catwoman.
She got hooked on Ms. Marvel (the Carol Danvers iteration, she stresses), but was intimidated by many of the comic stores out there, which often live up to the stereotypes seen on such TV shows as "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Simpsons."
"'You can't come in here! You're not good enough, you're not worthy of this comic!'" she says, imagining out loud what she presumes many male proprietors she's encountered think. "They don't say that, but that's just kind of the internal feeling that I get when I go into some place, and I'm like, 'Oh God, please don't ask me any questions, because I know a certain amount about this character, but obviously I don't know everything.'"The Perky Nerd plans to be different, the "kind of that place where you can go if you're a newbie and you don't have to feel like 'Oh no, I don't know everything about comics!' Because I sort of feel like when I got into places, and I'm like 'Oh god, they're going to expect me to know everything about this one character,' like, their origin and everything, and I just want to read this comic."
The official store website's claim that it's "one of four (that we know of) female-owned comic shops in the entire country!" seems overblown — when pressed, Melius says her husband wrote that, but regardless, "the number of women-owned businesses in American anyway is a drop in the bucket."
Her initial plan was to open a cat cafe, where people could drink coffee and play with cats, possibly adopting them later, but the health department laws for those are even stricter than for coffee shops. A self-described Cat Lady, to the point that she toured a one-woman show on that topic, she has rescued many, but won't say just how many — like many a collector, she's worried people will judge if they know the number.
Among the unique amenities the Perky Nerd offers are many tables and chairs toward the back for game-playing or just relaxing, a large selection of "Star Wars" X-Wing and Armada miniatures, and the all-important bathroom. And while she can't sell hot coffee, Melius and her staff can brew a pot or two to share, to give customers a free sample of some of the beans they sell.
She also plans a monthly reading club for woman that can take place before the shop opens, so that they can share some other types of beverages with their graphic novels — "a mimosa type thing, to talk about lady superheroes."
And the feline dream is not dead.
"Maybe once I get the shop up, then maybe I can adopt two cats from a kill shelter and like name them stuff like Steve Rogers and Dexter Morgan and Thor and Loki, and then I could have that cat cafe," she says. "Because in the back there is — that's not going to be open to the public to start out — there are two rooms. So I could totally have two cats, and then they could be shop cats that I put up on the website and stuff, and people could come in and visit them and adopt them. That would be the ultimate. Comics and cats!"
Right now, the only kitties are of the stuffed and hybridized variety — Tentacle Kitty plushes adorn the shelves and a large bowl, ready to be "adopted" by customers who have the cash. Right next to them is an artillery box into which customers can place comics they purchase for donation to military servicemen overseas.
In a climate where print media of all types has been taking a hit — including comics, which have gone digital via apps like Comixology, Melius says the retail business is still strong, based on her investigations.
"I'm actually running into lots of people that are just opening them," she says, "because it's a booming market with all of the movies, and so many things happening in the books, and new books coming out. They have, I think, it's five new titles for kids that are coming out in May, that are going to be like Captain Marvel — existing characters, but it's going to be more geared toward kids."
Comics for kids. Now there's a concept.
What: The Perky Nerd
Where: 1606 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank
Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; closed Mondays.
More info: ThePerkyNerd.com, (818) 823-7511