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My Free Comic Book Day 2018 Results: The Best and the Least Best

Maxwell's Demons!

A boy and his toys go to war. From Maxwell’s Demons #1, art by Vittori Astone.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on May 5th I once again had the pleasure of once again observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. Each year, America’s remaining comic book shops (and a handful in the UK that can afford the extra shipping charges) lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration.

This year my Free Comic Book Day involvement took on a different form. My local shop offered a special deal that sounds crazy on the face of it: for a fair sum of money, we could pre-purchase a bundle of all 52 Free Comic Book Day comics that their stores planned to order. Normally these would all be free, but you’d look like a schmuck for casually walking in, picking up all 52, and walking right back out. Instead they set aside copies of all those comics, bagged ’em up, and let buyers pick them up late Saturday afternoon, once all the furor and hubbub had subsided. I went for it. I liked the idea of playing the role of patron, donating extra cash to help facilitate Free Comic Book Day for other folks in town, in a way that would help my shop offset the costs.

I spent the rest of Saturday night and nearly all of Sunday reading all 52 and then posting my impressions on Twitter after each comic, along with photo excerpts from every single comic. I took photos rather than scans because (a) our scanner sometimes ruins the hard work of comics colorists, (b) I wanted to capture the feel of comics on actual physical paper, (c) I wanted to test my new phone, and (d) snapping pics was faster than scanning. This reading/photography project took until 11:30 p.m Sunday night to complete, and would’ve taken until sometime Tuesday if I hadn’t cut corners somewhere. I had to put this entry off for a few days because I needed a break after spending so, so much time with them all.

This entry, then, is a condensed version of that epic-length tweetstorm: my ranking of the twenty best books of the bunch, followed by my six least favorites of the entire stack. I never trust a comics reviewer or website that shares nothing but relentlessly glowing opinions — nor, conversely do I trust a critic who hates all comics and can’t be pleased — so this is my way of not becoming that which I disparage.

Up first: that happy Top 20. On with the countdown!

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Happy Free Comic Book Day 2018!

Free Comic Book Day!

One-third of this year’s FCBD reading pile.

It’s that time of year again! Today marked the seventeenth Free Comic Book Day, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. It’s one of the best holidays ever for hobbyists like me who’ve been comics readers since the days when drugstores sold them for thirty-five cents each and Jean Grey had never died before.

Each year, America’s remaining comic book shops (and a handful in the UK that can afford the extra shipping charges) lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration. It’s easy to remember when to pin it on the calendar because it’s always the first Saturday of every May and virtually always coincidental with a major movie release. Some folks were concerned about a break in tradition when Avengers: Infinity War moved up a week, but millions of psychologically devastated viewers still have it fresh in mind and haunting them to this day, so there’s no danger of anyone forgetting about superheroes in the near future.

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My Free Comic Book Day 2017 Results, Best to Least Best

Spectacular Spider-Man!

Spidey and the Vulture, both older than they’ll appear in the next film. Art by Paolo Siqueira, Frank D’Armata, and one of the four credited inkers.

On May 6th my wife and I had the pleasure of once again observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all. Readers of multiple demographics, thankfully including lots of youngsters, flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and dozens of indie publishers. This year’s assortment saw a metric ton of all-ages comics far outnumbering the adults-only options, served up by a plethora of publishers great and small, hopefully many of whom will still be around a year from now.

I never grab copies of everything, and this year I restrained myself a bit more than usual. Sometimes reviewing comics can be fun, but I wasn’t in the mood to read that many kids’ comics in a row. Also left behind were a few books based on cartoons and movies, reminders that some publishers see comics more as a second-tier merchandising stream than as a literary medium unto itself.

The fifteen comics in my FCBD 2017 reading pile came out as follows, ranked from Totally Not For Me to I Would Pay Monies For More, complicated by the fact that several of these contain two or more stories. I considered concocting some sort of system involving grade-weighting and averages that would even up the scores, but ultimately I’ve decided to base everything on subjective non-math and internal whims instead. As most listicles are.

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10 Tips for Having a Super Awesome Free Comic Book Day

Free Comic Book Day 2017!

Harley Quinn, Spider-Gwen, and Ms. Marvel welcome you to a whole wide world of whimsy and wonder!

It’s that time of year again! Today marked the sixteenth annual Free Comic Book Day, the one official holiday in my lifelong hobby when comic book shops across America lure in fans and curious onlookers with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration. It’s easy to remember when to pin it on the calendar because it’s always the first Saturday of every May and virtually always coincidental with a major movie release (in 2017’s case, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). It’s also easy to notice if you live near a comic shop and the parking spaces are much scarcer than normal.

I’m too late for this entry to be immediately useful, but for future generations who might be considering participating in the joy of reading and/or the rush for freebies, we offer the following ideas for maximizing your graphic storytelling holiday to the fullest extent, whether you’re brand new to comics collecting or a savvy peer who likes nodding along with solid reminders.

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My Free Comic Book Day 2016 Results, Best to Least Best

Deadpool!

Our annual Free Comic Book Day tradition saw us once again at Indianapolis’ own Downtown Comics North, where cosplayers are always on hand to greet kids, accompanying adults, and regulars alike. Naturally for pop culture’s Year of Deadpool there was Deadpool, so please enjoy Deadpool because Deadpool.

On May 7th my wife and I had the pleasure of once again observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all. Readers of multiple demographics, thankfully including lots of youngsters, flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and dozens of indie publishers. This year’s assortment saw more all-ages comics than ever, so this wasn’t just an outreach to longtime fortysomething collectors who need no further enticement.

I never grab copies of everything, but this year I got a little more grabby than I thought. This entry was procrastinated days past its relevance expiration date because it took me that much longer to find the free time to read them all, even those I could speed through in three minutes flat. In my mind, regardless of total consumption minutes, each issue ought to be a satisfying experience for any new reader who opens the cover without any foreknowledge. Historically, each publisher’s offerings tend to fall into one of six story levels, ranked here in order from “Best Possible Display of Generosity and Salesmanship” to “Had to Slap SOMETHING Together, So Whatever”:

1. New, complete, done-in-one story
2. Complete story reprinted from existing material
3. A complete chapter of a new story with a proper chapter ending
4. Partial excerpt from an upcoming issue that will also contain all these same pages
5. No story, just random pinups or art samples
6. Disposable ad flyer shaped like a comic

Surprisingly, none of this year’s samples settled for option 5 or 6. Good show, publishers.

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My Free Comic Book Day 2015 Results, Best to Least Best

Secret Wars FCBD 2015!

Valeria Richards addresses her troops in Secret Wars #0. Art by Paul Renaud.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife and I observed Free Comic Book Day 2015 this past Saturday. Readers of multiple demographics, thankfully including lots of youngsters, flocked to our local stores and had the opportunity to enjoy samplers from all the major comic companies and dozens of indie publishers. As an incentive for the younger recruits, the shop we visited split the all-ages material apart from the rest and put up “KIDS ONLY” signs discouraging greedy adults from hoarding everything and leaving nothing behind in their wake.

I never grab copies of everything, and this year I took even fewer items than usual because I don’t really have the time or inclination to be the guy who thinks he’s obligated to read and respond to everything. I came away with a dozen comics of varying interest levels and finished reading the last of them the next morning. In my mind, each issue ought to be a satisfying experience for any new reader who opens the cover without any foreknowledge. Historically, each publisher’s offerings tend to fall into one of six story levels, ranked here in order from “Best Possible Display of Generosity and Salesmanship” to “Had to Slap SOMETHING Together, So Whatever”:

1. New, complete, done-in-one story
2. Complete story reprinted from existing material
3. A complete chapter of a new story with a proper chapter ending
4. Partial excerpt from an upcoming issue that will also contain all these same pages
5. No story, just random pinups or art samples
6. Disposable ad flyer shaped like a comic

The twelve comics in my FCBD 2015 reading pile came out as follows, from least favorite to definite favorite:

Right this way for the countdown!

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