If you have a dad (or uncle, or grandfather) who loves to rehash the sad tale of how he used to collect tons of comic books as a kid, only to have a fed-up-with-clutter mom eventually toss them out – and which would “totally be worth something today” – well, tell that poor fellow to break out the cello bags again, because every first Saturday in May is Free Comic Book Day!
Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) was created in Concord, California in 2002 by Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics. He made the connection between comic book sales surging in popularity in conjunction with superhero films also becoming more popular, both after years of stagnation. Field proposed FCBD which was embraced by publisher Jim Valentino, who then suggested having the first of these giveaways coincide with the release of the film Spider-Man. Since its inception (except in 2004), FCBD has taken place the first Saturday of every May. While promotion of a blockbuster film is not the point of this celebration, it doesn’t hurt that a major superhero flick almost always does get released around this time. (And in case you’ve been living under a rock, this year summer officially starts with the release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1st. Never mind what the calendar says about the actual start of summer.)
Couldn’t care less about superheroes? Never fear, because the comic book industry has exploded to embrace an incredible number of genres. Along with traditionally American comics, you can pick up hugely popular Japanese manga, comics for romantics, for lovers of history, for very young readers and many more. And if you’re loath to give yet more money to the monster publishers like Marvel and DC, this is an excellent time to support all of the smaller press and/or indie comics that have sprouted like mushrooms in the past decade or so.
The official FCBD website is not only full of suggestions about what you can read, but it will also tell you how to find your local shop(s). Watch video testimonials from your favorite celebs, check out official FCBD merch, see what companies sponsor these events, learn about contests and tips on how to prepare for the big day…Seriously, if you’ve even for a second 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 unflagging support. Within just the first six years of its existence, FCBD gave away more than 12 million special-edition comics worldwide! I attended my first FCBD last year, patronizing no fewer than half a dozen comic book shops within two countries. (Full disclosure: I live all of twenty minutes from the Canadian border, so visiting one of the most amazing comic book shops I’ve ever seen – which has sadly closed its doors since then – was a labor of love.) So while checking out the free stuff, make sure you support your local comic shop by buying something as well, to ensure they’ll be around for next year’s FCBD. Go in costume, go with your friends, or just see what’s new in comics. And if you’re really nice, maybe bring back something for Dad (or Mom) and get that collection re-started!