Most intellectuals agree: comic books aren’t just for kids anymore, and they haven’t been for a very long time. To celebrate this truly American art form, Free Comic Book Day (or FCBD, as those in the know call it) was born in Concord, California in 2002 after retailer Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics made the connection between the resurgence of comic book sales and the multiple superhero films hitting the big screen. Field was writing a column for a trade magazine and proposed FCBD, which was then embraced by the publisher, who suggested having the first of these giveaways coincide with the release of the new Spider-Man film. Since then, FCBD has taken place the first Saturday of every May (except for 2004, when it tried July on for size and found May fit better). While the point isn’t to necessarily promote a blockbuster film’s release, it doesn’t hurt that a major superhero flick almost always gets released around that time.
But if you don’t care a bit about superheroes and their ilk, rest assured that the comic book industry has exploded to embrace just about every genre imaginable. Those who are unimpressed with American comics might swoon over Japanese manga. There are comics for romantics, for history lovers, for very young readers and many, many more. The official FCBD website is not only full of suggestions about what you can read, but it will also tell you where your local shop is to pick up free goodies, video testimonials from your favorite celebs as to why comics are so awesome (including Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman; and the most recognizable face in comics the world has ever known, Stan Lee), what companies sponsor these events (such as DC and Marvel!), contests, and tips on how to prepare for the big day. If you’ve thought about picking up a new title or getting into comics for the first time, this is a great place to start.
FCBD’s three main purposes are to introduce everyone to comics, lure back those who have strayed from comics, and appreciate current customers for their support. Within just the first six years of its existence, the event gave away more than 12 million special-edition comics worldwide and is seen as a contributor in reviving the industry from the lagging sales of the 1990s. So support your local comic shop by getting in line early this Saturday and buying something fun, in addition of course to picking up your freebie. Go in costume, go with your friends, or just see what’s fresh in the world of comics – you could just discover your new favorite offbeat holiday!