written by Isaac Kelley
Free Comic Book Day! To a comic book reader there is perhaps no more exciting day. Every year, on the first Saturday in May, Free Comic Book Day is celebrated across the land. (FCBD to you and me.) It is exactly what it sounds like, a day where anyone can visit any comic book retailer worth their salt and be gifted with free comics.
FCBD is a fourteen-year-old tradition, this year falling on May 2nd. Each year thousands of stores in dozens of countries give away millions of comics with no strings attached. The comics handed out are a crop of books put on offer by every major comic book publisher in the industry and many small-press publishers as well. This year about fifty titles are being made available, but it is up to the individual store as to which titles to make available and how many each customer will be allowed to take.
Some FCBD titles are reprints, while many are comprised of stories written specifically for the event. Some are first chapters kicking off larger stories, while others are self-contained stories. Some are anthologies, providing a sampling of the range of a publisher. Most are your standard twenty-four page floppy comic book size. but magazines and hardbound books are not unheard of. Whatever form the books take, all are created with the intent of catching the attention of new readers.
Every major comic book store in the Akron area participates in FCBD. That includes Kenmore Komics and Games, Newsstand Comics, JC’s Comics and Cards and even Books-A-Million!. Kenmore and JC’s will be running sales in addition to the free books, while Newsstand Comics will be hosting local artists and holding an art contest for children.
I’ll be getting my books from Kenmore Komics, as I do every year. John, the store’s owner, has a deal available wherein customers can pre-arrange to donate twenty dollars to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and in return John will match the donation as well as providing the customer with a copy of every single FCBD book. As the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is my charity of choice, this is a no-brainer for me, although it does create a scenario where my free comic books end up costing me twenty dollars.
Free Comic Book Day is a kid-friendly event, with about half the titles on offer being aimed at children. However, the other half is aimed at adults, and with superheroes it has become hard for an untrained eye to tell the difference. Scanning the list of this year’s titles, I’d suggest Gronk or Avatar for kids, and Savage Dragon or Hip Hop Family Tree for grownups, but the exciting thing for me is that I don’t know what expect from most of this material. I get to go on a little voyage of discovery this weekend.
Every year I spend FCBD weekend reading my entire stack of free comics and it is a truly special thing, really, the closest thing I have to a sacred rite. In spite of the fact that I spend some part of most days reading stacks of comics, this particular stack of comics will contain the books that my entire beloved industry chose to share with the public. It is the entire American comic book industry in an single stack,. As I read my stack, every book in that stack is a book that might well be at that moment being read, not only by any comic book reader in North America, but by any potential comic book reader on the continent. There’s an invisible thread connecting us all with these books.
Free Comic Book Day is a marketing stunt to be sure, but it is a remarkably purehearted one. This is an event where anybody within travel distance of a comic book store will be gifted a small stack of books. These books are given with no intention more sinister than a desire to share a love of comic books with anyone willing to give some comics a try.