I remember when it started way back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and names like Bendis and Johns were only just beginning to take over everything. It was only four years ago. My girlfriend and I popped in to Robot Boy Comics to watch some Anime and the owner (a grumpy asshole named Dean) just slapped a bunch of books on my lap.
“Here, take these too.”
“Wha? What’s this? I already have this,” I replied.
“Don’t care, just take it,” he barked, before adding “Free Comic Book Day.”
I thought it amazingly cool that I could pick up a bunch of free stuff that I would not normally read. Turns out I ended up just keeping the reprint of Ultimate Spiderman #1 anyway to cut up and tape to my bedroom walls. It looked awesome to walk into my room and see my hero plastered everywhere. Oh, the memories.
It’s funny and scary to think how much I have changed in those four years. Different friends, different jobs, different study, different hobbies and interests. It has all changed dramatically since then. Comics too have evolved significantly with the constant rotation of writers, artists and editors, not to mention the massive boom in comic book movies, toys, cards, computer games and more. But has much changed since that first time? Has Free Comic Book Day updated itself with the times?
Well, not really. It’s much bigger now, and trust me that’s a good thing.
This Saturday the 6th of May marks the fourth Free Comic Book Day in as many years. Each year almost 2 million comic books have been handed out from 1,850 retailers across the globe. Ever since a Mr. Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics had a bright idea and decided the best way to get people interested in our books again would be to give them away (go figure!), we have seen increasing support from fans, creators and publishers to make each year bigger and better. And why not? Most retailers can get a piece of the action for as little as $50 for the base books, the added sales during and after more than make up for it. And it’s fun. So what’s lined up for this year?
With a brand new selection of comics up for grabs this year, with its usual nod to the kids, the standard sets feature a mixed selection for all ages. First up is an Archie Anniversary Bash from Archie Publications, followed by the Bongo Comics Free-For-All from the Bongo Group and a Donald Duck from Gemstone Publishing and Disney. That’s just kicking off, but already you can understand the sentimentality of these titles to old and accessibility and fun to the new. These titles for a Superhero fanatic like me are not what I would normally have in my weekly grab, but that’s the point, a chance to check out all the books I know nothing about. I encourage you all to do the same.
Of course, there are plenty of free titles from the major publishers too. Dark Horse delivers a Star Wars/Conan Flip-Book, IDW produced the Transformers/Beast Wars Special, Image Comics Future Shock (with an interesting cover), DC Comics Justice League Unlimited #1 (and a Superman/Batman #1 reprint as well I’m told) and finally Marvel has an X-Men/Runaways flipbook (something else I am particularly looking forward to). After the cancellation of my beloved JLU animated series, I am quite keen to check out the comic, along with the Conan if for any reason then to give to my friend (who is also named Conan). Runaways is also something which I have stupidly missed out from the beginning. If there’s nothing here that peaks your interest, don’t worry, there’s plenty more from independent publishers and surprise additions, so keep your eyes open.
In addition to that pile a few retailers will also be stocking a Wolverine Heroclix and/or a Stargate O’Neil Action Figure. Two items which I know will have more than a couple of my friends geeking over.
But such a plentiful bounty of free comics and more is not all that this event is about. Indeed, Free Comic Book Day has more in common with Christmas than you might imagine. Sure, there are the gifts, but it’s not an event without meaning. In fact, for many of us this event is something of a holy mission given form. It’s about revitalising the industry and getting people interested in comic books again. It’s about the children! It’s about promoting a fantastic medium and returning Comic Books to their rightful place in history. And to help with the process there will also be a host of happenings at the stores themselves with signings taking place all over the globe. Let me throw some big names at you and see if you recognise them: Ed Brubaker, Brian Azzarello, Tony Moore, Michael Lark, Daniel Way, Steve Dillon, Scott Kolins, Mark Waid, Brian K. Vaughan (faint!), Ron Marz, Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone, Scott Kurtz and many more. You could spend all day doing nothing but running between stores meeting the pros and getting things signed. Check out www.freecomicbookday.com for a complete list of events and locations. Even if the local store down the road could not pull a name like these, that’s no reason not to get excited; many retailers are offering specials and having celebrations of their own to keep with the spirit. I know that the boys at my store are dressing up for the occasion and plan to troll the streets handing our flyers and scaring old people. What fun!
So this Saturday get out there and have some fun. Run around, don a cape, put on your favourite comic t-shirt for a day and wear your heart on your sleave. Promote Free Comic Book Day. Promote Comics! Together we can make a difference and change the world. The kids need Superman, Spidey and Cap. We all do, and with these great titles and big names, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a hit.
What will I do this year? Well, I am just going to drop by my store in the morning and get this week’s batch, along with a few free tasty extras. In the spirit of things I might buy my little baby brother the first Essential Spider-Man book, or even get my Ex the first Fables trade. Who knows? Maybe it will rekindle something 4 years after.
Best Free Comic Book Day ever.