My wife and I consider Free Comic Book Day a tradition, an annual date of sorts in which we road-trip around Indianapolis, sample the publishers’ wares, and make extra purchases as a thank-you for each shop’s service to my lifelong hobby. I cross a few items off my trade-paperback want list and pick up a few extra singles, whatever titles I’m missing or curious to sample. She fills the gaps in her own Star Wars collection.
Our 2012 rounds will have a somber tinge to them. Comic Carnival, the oldest chain in town, closed three of its four locations in 2011. One of them was my regular shop back in high school, but had the misfortune of watching the neighborhood around it turn ramshackle over time. One was next to a Wal*Mart and should’ve had plenty of nearby warm bodies to lure inside, if only they were willing to read, or at least buy their Pokemon cards there instead of from the big-box competition. One had just been recently relocated to new digs that I never even had the chance to visit. Given the state of the print market and the precedent set by Borders’ collapse, the closures stunned and unsurprised me at the same time, if that makes any sense. The last Comic Carnival is itself a transplant of their flagship Broad Ripple store, still flying their banner high in a part of town I rarely visit.
Other than them, we’re left with three Downtown Comics locations, Comic Book University (always the best FCBD selection when it comes to indie company representation), and a couple of mom-‘n’-pop joints with whom I’m out of touch. I know of Dee Puppy Comics only by their frequent appearance in Google results. I lost track of Collector’s Paradise when they moved out of the Liberty Bell Flea Market to somewhere I failed to find even when I had Mapquest directions in my hand. Last winter we stumbled across a hole-in-the-wall joint off the Martinsville town square, but we could only peer through their locked door because it was Saturday morning and their day wouldn’t begin till 2 p.m.
That we have any comic shops remaining at all is a blessing, far as I’m concerned. As I understand it, more than a few major American cities (not just small towns) are now without benefit of brick-‘n’-mortar service. Despite what some six-year-old Google results claim to the contrary, such shops are nearing endangered-species status. I’m sure the Internet reaches those lost, diehard souls just fine and the digital revolution has brought comfort and supplies, but I’m not convinced it replaces the physical community, or the leisure and surprises to be found in shelf-browsing.
This year’s titles are listed here, and are aimed at various ages. Genuine newcomers will be more interested in Marvel and DC. Those are all yours. I’m aiming to nab copies of Atomic Robo & Friends, Buffy/The Guild, Star Wars/Serenity, Image 20, and samples from some of the upstart indie companies to see what they’re up to. Hopefully we’ll see them around next year, celebrating their first year of success.
Get ’em while you can, I say. Keep my hobby alive!