There’s only one day each year that I look forward to more than Christmas and it comes the first Saturday of every May: Free Comic Book Day. The idea originated from Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics, a comic-book store located in Concord, Ca. Free Comic Book Day was to encourage the awareness of graphic novels and comic books to readers outside of the regular fanbase, while calling back former readers and to thank current comic book readers for their continued support. This year marks its 10th anniversary and nerds around the world couldn’t be happier.
FCBD has been linked to related comic-book movies coming out around the same time, the most current of which is The Avengers, which helped to promote FCBD. I don’t know about you, but I rushed out bright and early to several of my local comic-book retailers to celebrate this day that I’ve drawn a red circle around on my calendar since May of last year.
Collector’s Paradise, located in Pasadena, CA, had a great turnout from people of all ages. They promoted a “buy three get one free” deal for other merchandise, which was met with great zeal from their customers. I was extremely delighted as I overheard a young girl ask her mother for “Hello Kitty comics.” Granted, there was none in the store and her mother ended up buying her three Toy Story comics, nonetheless I was ecstatic to know FCBD wasn’t just reaching out to only current readers. One of my biggest concerns is that although FCBD gets massive press coverage, it is only on the radar of those who already read and collect comics. I have several friends who buy the occasional graphic novel and to my horror, can recite the exact date and time on their Avengers movie ticket but have no clue as to what a “Free Comic Book Day” is. When many years have passed and wonderful people like Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns and those two adults down my street who collect comics have passed away, I would want a whole new generation to take over for us old folks. So it was gratifying to see that it was a cute little girl who will grow up to join the many other geek girls around the globe. After years of worry, I see that FCBD is finally achieving one of its main goals.
Comics Factory, also located in Pasadena, California, had a line going OUT THE DOOR AND SPILLING INTO THE MCDONALD’S PARKING LOT. I squealed in delight and quickly parked my car to join my fellow nerd buddies. It was a madhouse in there with folks wide-eyed to the great selection of free comics this year.
House of Secrets in Burbank, California, had two cute female comic-book clerks helping out at the register and introducing new titles to readers. They even let a little girl be their “special helper of the day” by letting her stamp the free comic books with their store address and logo. It was an ingenious way of making kids feel important and wanted, while insuring that she will never forget that day and grow up to be a lifelong comic book reader. Outside of their store were cosplayers that helped attract curious people driving by to make a U-turn and stop by the store.
Emerald Knights (located in the same city), gave out lollipops to children and I could tell this year was the year for kids. Even our own Blastoff Comics event at NE1 Skate in North Hollywood was a success with kids and teenagers.
FCBD was a success to me this year, not because I factored in good weather and I knew that I’d be watching The Avengers soon, but because I am finally witnessing a larger and larger turnout of children and women. After 10 years of success among those that already are current readers, FCBD has now begun to break out of that bubble.
It’s Christmas in May!
Now that Free Comic Book Day has come and gone, what did you look forward to grabbing at your local comic book store? Every year, on Free Comic Book Day Eve, I go online and print out their list of what publishers will be promoting.
Here is that magical page I’m talking about:
Note: Some books are not shown on the site but are part of a flip book.
Like everyone on the planet, we always have a few things that we look forward to more than others in any given event. In no particular order, I made sure that I grabbed these first and read them with the detail of a lawyer reading the fine print of a contract.
HOLY COW!!! And yes, this book from Archaia is deserving of three exclamation points. Not only is Mouse Guard an Eisner award-winning series but also it is the first hardcover comic ever given away for free on FCBD. It is 48 pages of full-color and glory. The stories included are Mouse Guard, Labyrinth, Return of the Dapper Men, Rust, Cursed Pirate Girl and Cow Boy.
For those who love David Peterson’s Mouse Guard, the short story in this anthology will give you a brief look into the life Saxon. Labyrinth is beautifully drawn and Return of the Dapper Men bring us more of Jim McCann and Janet K. Lee’s brilliance. Rust and Cow Boy introduce us to a unique look behind the scenes of two very different boys. I cannot emphasize enough how much one must get a hold of this anthology and devour it.
Top Shelf Kidsclub free comic is also another must.
Many forget that comic books are not limited to only panels that include dialogue. Comic books are a form of sequential art, and can be depicted without text. Owly by Andy Runton never fails to tug at the heartstrings of the reader and Korgi by Christian Slade is also no stranger to that reaction. Owly finds a silver lining to the great day planned for his little friends after rain unexpectedly befalls them. Our ever-courageous corgi friend reminds us why it’s important for us to never lose our head. Dragon Punch, Pirate Penguin vs. Ninja Chicken, also accompanies Owly and Korgi Upside Down and Okie Dokie Donuts to complete their FCBD issue.
Drawn and Quarterly is a Canadian periodical that focuses on graphic novels and underground or alternative comics. Since its first issue, it is no stranger in the United States among sequential art lovers. FCBD allowed Drawn and Quarterly to give us Moomin by Tove and Lars Jansson’s famous comic strip and Anna & Froga by Anouk Ricard in flipbook format.
Anna & Froga is whimsical and completely unique. There are moments where it catches you off guard and may go over the head of some kids even though it is labeled a children comic. If an adult can be left both humored and disturbed, I cannot imagine what a child would think.
Th3rd World Studios’ Stuff of Legend is described as an adult (as in content not sexual circumstances) Toy Story. It puzzles me why this isn’t a film yet. The main plot centers around a boy taken by the Boogeyman, and his faithful toys, along with his dog, who journey into a dark forest in the style of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, in order to rescue him. Previous volumes have been highly regarded by Brian K. Vaughn, Mark Waid, Gail Simone, Frank Quitely and John Layman. FCBD gave us a preview of Volume 4’s “The Toy Collector” and I cannot wait any longer for the entire book.
I noticed that focusing on children is only one of the major themes this year. 2012 was also hit with the intrigue of giant reptiles and dinosaurs. Children and puppies may soften us but it’s the dinosaurs and robots that make us spend our hard-earned money at movie theaters. Jurassic Park and the Godzilla franchise knew what they were doing to us!
Dinosaurs vs. Aliens by Grant Morrison says it all. Any of the three nouns will send a nerd running to their local retailer to find out more. The preview doesn’t give much away, but we should look forward to more of the gorgeous art by Mukesh Singh. Dinosaurs vs. Aliens is published by Liquid Comics and created by Barry Sonnenfeld, the director of the Men in Black films. I am anticipating a summer blockbuster hit in the very palm of my hands soon.
Silver Dragon Books debuted their comic Jurassic StrikeForce 5. Jurassic StrikeForce 5 is a concoction that I suspect was Silver Dragon Books successfully reading fanboys’ minds: dinosaurs in enhanced robotic suits. With the tagline on the cover being: Earth’s Original Heroes, a cheer involuntarily rises from my throat. Like a Michael Bay film, I am excited but have no idea why other than I just experienced something cool. The FCBD comic itself gave only the tip of the iceberg for what the series will be about. We read about a velociraptor in his full armor fighting androids with what I can only describe as a lightsaber. The preview ends with a cliffhanger and I immediately felt impatient. The next thing I knew, I was on the internet to find out the release date of issue one.
Red 5 Comics is best known to many for their Atomic Robo series. Atomic Robo is a robot built by Nikola Tesla in the 1920s and now leads Tesladyne, an organization that saves the day using a combination of science and Atomic Robo himself. The FCBD story involved Atomic Robo making an uneasy truce with his arch nemesis Dr. Dinosaur. What drew me into Atomic Robo is the idea of a modern vs. archaic conflict. It is a concept we are all too familiar with when digital cameras started to become popular. I imagine this is what Steve Rogers felt like after he was thawed out. Atomic Robo will forever be at odds with Dr. Dinosaur. but how they hash it out is always unique. Filled with humor, science and impressive character development, Atomic Robo is a greatly underrated title.
Seeing My Favorite Martian on the list of free comic books caught me completely by surprise. A popular 1960s TV show on CBS, the series also spawned Gold Key’s comic book tie-in. Hermes Press now reprints many of classic comic book titles, including The Phantom and Brenda Starr Reporter. The My Favorite Martian free comic book also included publicity photos and supplementary essays. I am a fan of the show and although it has been long off the air (one might catch it on TV Land), I am glad to still be able to experience it digitally remastered in another medium. Fans of sci-fi, cult classics or of an older generation will enjoy Hermes Press books.
As much as I love DC and Marvel, I am glad to see so many indie publishers to mix up the overwhelming majority that is superhero comics. What are some genres you guys would like to see more of?
Free Comic Book Day is always fun and I look forward to it every year. Now, go and circle next year’s date!