My wife and I are pleased to report that Free Comic Book Day 2013 was certainly a success at Downtown Comics on Indianapolis’ northside location. Not only were the costumed heroes out in full force as shown above — not to mention villains such as Harley and Ivy, and sometimes Catwoman –but in all of FCBD’s twelve years of existence and outreach, this was the first time I’ve had to wait in line for over half an hour to enter the shop.
I’m used to seeing crowds every year at just about every store in town, but the last time I encountered a store implementing crowd-control conditions was in 1992 when Superman #75’s “The Death of Superman” set off a media conflagration that drove a curious American population into stores in unprecedented droves. If fire marshals had known, that Wednesday would’ve been an even grimmer day than it already was.
Full disclosure: I neither live nor work near Downtown Comics North. For all I know, maybe they’ve been FCBD Campus Party Central for years and no one told me. Then again, Marion County used to have twice as comic shops as it does now, thus allowing locals plenty of choices for their goodies. Between the recession and the poor choices made at all levels of the comics business, fans are forced to share browsing space in their local shops with former customers from their now-closed competitors. Maybe I should be a little less surprised that my fellow collectors have fewer places to shop and huddle.
Regardless, I’m grateful I live in a city fortunate enough to have brick-‘n’-mortar comics providers still in business at all. Not every city does, sadly. This week Downtown Comics announced on their site that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard had issued a signed, sealed proclamation that May 4, 2013, had been designated an official citywide event, as an acknowledgement of comics in general as a reputable gateway artform, and of Downtown Comics’ own education and literacy efforts in the community.
Today was no easy competition for this attention, either. Most geeks know (if not technically recognize) that May 4th is considered “Star Wars Day” in some circles because of an awful pun. Commoners no doubt are seeing more Star Wars-related tributes and memes in their Facebook feeds today, while comics are left out in the cold if they haven’t Friended enough of us comics fans. Imagine a world where you have no idea comics are still being published, have no idea that kid-friendly comics are an increasingly marginalized segment of the total publishing spectrum, and have no idea that Marvel and DC are still in business and aren’t even the same company. Those people are out there, left behind and unreached. But “May the Fourth Be With You”? Yeah, that corny message probably penetrated their social boundaries.
Beyond my own humble hobby, today Indianapolis also hosted the 37th annual OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, in which 35,000 runners compete through our downtown streets for prizes, for health, for bragging rights, and for something to do with “500” in the name until the Indianapolis 500 kicks off on Memorial Day weekend. Though the Mini-Marathon has broader appeal and commanded larger headlines this week, I’m pleased to know that Free Comic Book Day wasn’t drowned out and ignored, at least not in Indianapolis.
My wife and I underwent our annual tradition of visiting more than one shop in town, filling a few gaps in our respective want lists (she with her Star Wars, I with my Fables), and giving our money and gratitude to those shops that expend tremendous effort to foster excitement in this event every year. (The comics may be free to patrons, but the shops have to pay pretty pennies for all this.) Even better, we got to see plenty of parents bringing their kids to the shop for a chance to experience the joy of reading hard-copy print publications. Best of all: several companies thought of the children and aimed their titles at them. Plenty of titles, in fact. I wouldn’t mind seeing that happen all year long instead of on just the one weekend.
And yes, we also pick up a few free comics to enjoy and compare. (Not all of them, mind you. I’m not a freebie addict with the mindset of “free = MINE”.) I’ve barely skimmed the surface of my reading pile, but rest assured MCC will review the results next week, hopefully discovering a few new companies and talents to watch in the process. Until then, enjoy your own reading and Happy Free Comic Book Day!