Saturday was Free Comic Book Day! I feel like this day goes by without much note to the general public each year, and that’s a shame. FCBD is an happens each year on the first Saturday in May. Well, this year it was May 5th so if you didn’t go you just missed it. I’m sorry I didn’t get to you in time to sell you on it this year. However, I would like to stress that this day isn’t just for comic book fans and maybe give you a push to check it out next year.
It may seem counter-intuitive but hear me out. Normally a comic store can seem either uninviting or uninteresting to non-comic readers. It’s such a niche media shopping experience that it’s not the sort of place that people wander into unless they’re there for a reason. But on FCBD the world goes a little mad and anything is possible. Or at least, you should stop by your local comic shop no matter what.
For that day many publishers put out special issues made to be given out for free. Depending on the comic shop there may be anything from just a table to take from, to sales, to all day activities. The free titles can be anything from stand alone stories from a series (like a one-shot short story), prologues for upcoming titles, or short anthology collections. Again, all free.
The openness of the store combined with the variety of the available comic issues means that even if you’re not a comic reader it’s the perfect time to wander in and try something new. Things are literally free. They hope you buy something as they do have to pay for the issues they are handing out, but there’s no better way to try new stories than with a no-strings attached free issue. This holds true even for casual and devoted comic readers. I read tons of comics but on FCBD this year I picked up, in addition to a few titles I really wanted, a couple of semi-random picks.
Each year the offerings are different, and availability will vary from shop to shop. Quantities are also limited, so while I haven’t seen too many shops run out completely some titles will go faster than others. Check out https://www.freecomicbookday.com for details. That site will tell you when the date is each year, as well as let you search for local comic shops. When it gets close enough to FCBD, they’ll also list the comics which will be available.
Comics can seem like a strange thing to get into. Knowing nothing about them can make it feel like an impenetrable medium, but it’s really not. My local shop has women’s nights and LGBTQ nights. The staff there doesn’t have the regular retail regard of fawning over customers so they can sometimes seem aloof or standoffish, but as soon as you ask a question they’re happy to answer it (in as thorough or cursory a manner as you want). For women that don’t want to deal with sexist situations, I’ll point you to the Valkyries. They’re a community of women comic shop employees who aim to make a female-friendly comic community, as well as shooting out recommendations and advice.
Here’s a list of everything that was available this year. My shop had many, but not all of, these set out. Below is what I picked up, just as a sample of options.
This all ages anthology is from the publisher First Second. Most of their titles are geared at children and many of their titles are excellent. The only problem with this issue is that the stories are excerpts from graphic novels, and the excerpts are very short. There are a couple in here that I’ll check out, and the cut-off for Zita the Space Girl makes it seem darker than it actually is, but the endings didn’t just leave me wanting more; they came across as jarringly abrupt.
This anthology was one of those random picks. I recognize the title from the TV show Community, and a number of the contributing authors jumped out at me. Namely Dan Harmon and Patton Oswalt whose stories were the standout of the bunch. Your mileage will vary from story to story, but the issue is worth if for those two alone.
I’ve heard a little buzz about this upcoming title. This issue by Brian K. Vaugh is prologue to the series “Barrier” and I am definitely intrigued. Besides being a scifi title that delves into issues of immigration and racism, the horizontal format really plays around with movie tropes in a way I haven’t seen before, from using the page as a letterbox format down to stylized title scrolls.
Another long excerpt, Berlin is an historical fiction book from Drawn & Quarterly, known for being a dense/pretentious publisher. The art looks good and this excerpt from the story was a perfect way to test the waters before investing time and money into the Berlin books.
This is a little one-off story in the Korra line of comics that take place after the cartoon ended. It’s a cute little slice of life that actually touches on some real world implications of the aftermath of a mass evacuation.
The disappointing thing about it is that it was half as long as I thought it would be. The second half of the book is a prologue for an upcoming comic series based on the Nintendo fighting game Arms. Meh.
One of my favorites from this year’s haul. It’s a whole issue devoted to a complete Street Angel story. Street Angel is a series about a homeless skateboarder. In this issue she gets into trouble and finds a dog, the former de rigueur for her. I like the art, character, writing. This is a total win for me and while the Street Angel title has been on my radar for a while, I’m absolutely going to check it out now.
And sometimes you just grab a favorite title. Tank Girl sampler with a cover by creator Jamie Hewlett? Yes please. It’s a series of flashbacks during a conversation, and each flashback is done in a completely different art style. It’s jarring, disjointed, and a perfect microcosm of Tank Girl’s style.
Zim was the other grab based on how much I love the show. This FCBD issue is actually issue #20 with a new cover. Getting an entire comic is pretty great, and the stand-alone story is really funny. Whether you just know Invader Zim from the show or the comics, it’ll be familiar and hit that sweet spot of darkness and absurdity. All in all, a damn fine haul this year.