Today (Saturday, May 4) is Free Comic Book Day.
The event has always been held on the first Saturday in May, which has happened to coincide most years with the release of a major Hollywood blockbuster movie based on Marvel Comics superheroes. (This year it’s Iron Man 3; last year, The Avengers; year before that, Thor. Year before that, the previous Iron Man…) But Free Comic Book Day does not rise or fall on the fortunes of Marvel geeks. It welcomes all publishers.
If you’ve never partook of Free Comic Book Day, you should be aware that we’re talking about new comics here, freshly produced one-of-a-kind special editions meant to tantalize new readers into reading a lot more comics. This is not about a stack of yellowed Casper the Friendly Ghost comics with their covers ripped off in the back of your neighborhood barber shop. While some of these Free Comic Book Day titles do indeed leave something to be desired—reprints of previously published stories, or teasers which require you to buy other books for the pay-off—many publishers really do rise to the occasion. This year, over 50 Free Comic Book Day titles are offered, from a dozen different publishers. Not all those titles will be found at all stores, and the give-aways are technically limited to one comic per customer. But it just shows you the variety that’s available here.
Among this year’s offerings: a Superman: Last Son of Krypton special edition to prime fans for the upcoming feature film; World of Archie Digest #1, which while reprint-filled offers a lot more pages than the other free comics on hand; the animated series tie-in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.; the fairy-tale thriller Damsels, published by Dynamite; reprints of the Prince Valiant comic strip from Fantagraphics; Marble Season, by Love & Rockets co-creator Gilbert Hernandez; and everyone from Smurfs to Sonic to The Tick to Pippi Longstocking with their own free editions.
What else is distinctive about Free Comic Book Day? It’s not a collectors’ frenzy in the way that National Independent Record Store Day (an annual April affair) has become. Yes, there are comics that certain comics collectors salivate for and which appreciate in value the moment they are unboxed and made public, but those comics don’t come with a premium price the way collectible records on IRSD do. The comics are free. At many stores, Free Comic Book Day is accompanied by sales and discounts, not wallet-gouging excess.
In Connecticut, a major difference between Independent Record Store Day and Free Comic Book Day is the number of stores which participate. None of the largest cities in Connecticut even have a record store anymore, and less than five keen participants in the entire state. On Free Comic Book Day, on the other hand, there are six different stores listed within 20 miles of New Haven. (That includes the two Alternative Universe stores in New Haven and Milford, DJ’s Comics in North Haven, Richie’s Comic Cabana in Waterbury, Legends of Superheroes in Middlebury and Rogue Comics in Bridgeport.)
For a complete list of stores where you can find free new comics today, not to mention the free comics you might find there, see http://www.freecomicbookday.com