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Free Comic Book Day Frenzy

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  • Free Comic Book Day Frenzy

    Free Comic Book Day 2018There are certain dates you spend all year waiting for: Christmas, Halloween, St. Crispin’s Day for an excuse to do that speech from Henry V to your English Lit students... but as a card-carrying nerd, there’s a day that has stood out to me for several years now as THE day, the one I’m waiting for, the experience around which the whole geek year revolves. The first Saturday in May, tomorrow, is Free Comic Book Day.

    It’s a simple enough concept: every year the comic book shops, distributors, and publishers of North America collaborate to give out thousands of free books to anyone who walks into a shop. Some of the books are new, some are reprints, some are samplers of a publisher’s various wares, some are used to launch upcoming titles or storylines. It’s a nice no-risk (for the customer) way to get people to try things out and see what’s what. Aside from the bigger titles that everyone knows about, over the years FCBD has helped introduced me to future favorites like Atomic Robo, Love and Capes (courtesy of my wife), Shrugged, and many others.

    But for me, at least, there’s more to it than that. Comic books are the blood that drives the industry, obviously, but comic book stores are the beating heart that keeps us alive. They’re more than just distribution centers. A good comic book store is like having a favorite bar, a place where everybody knows your name. It’s a place where fans can gather with like-minded people, talk about favorite characters and stories, discover new worlds they may not have been exposed to otherwise, and allow their universe to expand. Over the many years FCBD has been going on, the best shops have evolved to meet an increasing demand. The first year, at every shop I visited, there was basically just a card table with stacks of comics for people to pick through. Now it’s an event. Many shops have transformed FCBD into a miniature one-day comic book convention, with creator appearances, book signings, contests, sales, and cosplay. It’s all of the things that make a convention worth going to without the staggering admission price and a very low chance of Kato Kaelin being called upon to MC the main stage.

    For someone like me, who’s a part-time creator in addition to being a voracious reader, it’s even more than that. My local shop, BSI Comics in Metairie, Louisiana, has been gracious enough to give me a table where I sell my books for several years now. I’m small time, guys, I don’t have the cash to shell out for tables at the big conventions, and even if I did I’d be overshadowed by people with flashier booths and bigger displays. But on FCBD I get a chance to talk to people, not just about the stuff I make but about the things we all love. I typically sell more books on FCBD than I do any other time of the year.

    I’d go even if I didn’t make a little money, though, because I’d get to hang out with my friends. The New Orleans comic book scene is pretty robust for any place that’s not New York, California, Chicago, or Seattle, and thanks to FCBD I’ve met and gotten to know a lot of people who do great work. I’ve made friends with artists who work for IDW and Image, people who have written licensed comics for rock bands, professional colorists and well-known performers. I’ve been given pep talks from people who drew issues of Superman and Ghostbusters. Last year, I not only got to meet an actor from one of my all-time favorite TV shows, but he bought a copy of one of my books from me. A couple of years ago, when DC put out an open call for submissions to their writer’s workshop, I had a letter of recommendation from an artist I befriended through FCBD whose work can best be described as “more than meets the eye.” (I obviously did not make it into the writer’s workshop, but I don’t blame the letter writer.)

    FCBD, if you’ve got a great shop to go to, can be way more than just getting a few freebies. It’s a chance to bond with people, to expand your horizons, and to get a taste of the enormous, wonderful world of pop culture that we all love. If you don’t know where to go, visit www.FreeComicBookDay.com to find the participating store nearest you. And when you’re there, remember that the store has to pay a small amount for those “free” books you’re picking up, so help them out by doing some shopping as well.

    I’ll be able to. It’s the only day of the year I can walk into a comic book store and come out with more money than when I went in.

    Blake M. Petit, who is pretty much exactly what meets the eye, has been pontificating about pop culture online for over a decade. You can follow him at BlakeMPetit.com and, if you're feeling generous, check out his books on Amazon.
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