I would be remiss in my comics fandom if I didn’t take a moment to plug the heck out of the twelfth annual Free Comic Book Day. And no one likes being remiss. No one.
Each year since 2002, American comic book shops participate in the hobby’s largest outreach effort, to alert the world that comic books are still being published, aren’t all terrible, and would be even better if more people bought them so that they could afford to make even more comics, or at least afford to make their current comics even better and prevent their writers and artists from being lured away by other, better-paying media. To that end, comic shops nationwide hand out free comics to any and all visitors — not all their comics, mind you, or else they all go bankrupt and Free Comic Book Day defeats itself. Rather, all the major comic book publishers, an impressive number of semi-major publishers, and a crowd of eager indie startups each publish their own FCBD specials for the occasion — usually all-new stories available nowhere else, except for a couple of Scrooge-like companies who serve lukewarm reprints, under the impression that newcomers will be none the wiser.
FCBD is (almost?) always the first Saturday in May, and (almost?) always timed to coincide with the release of the latest major motion picture adaptation of a super-hero comic. This year’s lucky cross-promotional summer action blockbuster behemoth is Iron Man 3, starring the same cast as last time plus Academy Award Winner Sir Ben Kingsley as an eastern-hemisphere warlord of ambiguous ethnicity who loves tyranny and jewelry. In an unsurprising display of wise corporate synergy, Marvel Comics will be well represented with not one, but two offerings: an all-ages one-shot based on the Avengers Assemble animated series called Hulk and the Agents of SMASH; and a prologue to their upcoming summer crossover event, Infinity, which will focus on the strange purple Big Bad you saw during The Avengers‘ end credits.
The official FCBD site has the complete list of participating comics. Not every comic shop will carry every single comic, but you can bet the best shops will carry a wide spectrum of possibilities. Longtime FCBD fans will recognize recurring participants such as the Simpsons, the Star Wars galaxy, Archie, Superman, Atomic Robo, Finding Gossamyr, and Mouse Guard. Kids and sci-fi fans will find plenty of licensed comics based on the likes of Sesame Street, Spongebob Squarepants, the Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Buck Rogers, Tinkerbell, and NBC’s Grimm. For diehard comics enthusiasts who need no persuasion, options will include a new Walking Dead short story, the premiere of Christos Gage’s creator-owned Absolution, and a sampler from Jamal Igle’s Kickstarter success Molly Danger. Some shops may also have their own specials, freebies, and surprise guests hanging out for fun.
Full disclosure: I wrote a piece about FCBD last year, but it was pessimistic and grieving for comic shops our city had recently lost. The wounds were still fresh. This year I’m a little more heartened because our local shops that weathered the recession up till last year are still with us today. Indianapolis residents can check out Free Comic Book Day festivities at Downtown Comics (off Monument Circle, near Castleton Square, and on the west side by Ben Davis High School), Comic Carnival on North Keystone, and Comic Book University not far from Greenwood. (If any other comic shops are still open for business within fifty miles of my house, I’d love some feedback from locals on that.)
If you’re not in Indy, the official FCBD site can also help you locate shops near you, even in other countries. (Dealbreaker caveat: many shops outside the U.S. do not participate in Free Comic Book Day because the overseas shipping costs reportedly negate the intangible benefits. At the very least, hopefully it can find you a nearby comic shop anyway, free comics or not.)
If you’re still skeptical, then please enjoy the following personal endorsement from Academy Award Nominee Hugh Jackman, who has given his personal super-powered blessing to the Free Comic Book Day festivities. And be sure to check out his next major motion picture, Stabby Guy 2: Stabby Goes to Japan in U.S. theaters July 26th. See you at the shop!