Monday, April 28, 2014

What IS Free Comic Book Day?

Free Comic Book Day is Saturday, May 3rd (right before Star Wars Day, May the Fourth [be with you]).

Maybe you've seen the signs or heard the title tossed around, but do you really know what Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) actually is? You should -- it always happens the first Saturday in May, and has since 2002.

In case you were wondering, this isn't a day when stores give away any random comic away for free. It is a day when participating comic book stores offer brand new issues that are made special for the day (you can find participating stores here, its a good amount!). Many companies publish special issues for FCBD, including the Big Two (Marvel, DC) and smaller companies. These are generally promotional in nature -- you'll get a special Spider-Man story that isn't set in whatever current storyline Spidey's in, or maybe you'll find an prequel issue to an upcoming comic series. Or whatever a company wants to publish. Find the full list for 2014's FCBD here!

^That's the easy part. Now the trick is to figure out how your Local Comic Shop (LCS) handles giving out these free comics:

-The best allow you to get one of each FCBD issue.
--My current LCS, Rubber Chicken Comics (Bellingham, MA), has done this in the past.

-Others will pre-package the comics and give them away in targeted groups.
--Joker's Child (Fair Lawn, NJ) offered a 'kids' pack and a 'regular' pack last year. You didn't necessarily get every comic this way, but you were generally able to avoid getting issues you really, really wouldn't care to read anyway.
---If you want all the comics anyway, just bring a friend who isn't particularly interested in comics, or at least not the issues you want. They can get whatever pack you don't and trade after. I'm fortunate enough to have The Wife. She loves me enough to attend events like FCBD but has zero interest in comics. Perfect!

-Some set a specific limit of FCBD comics per customer.
--Comically Speaking (Reading, MA), while one of my all-time favorite stores, only allowed customers to get two select comics from the FCBD selection. A restriction such as this could be especially hindering if you want more (which I always do). Technically, this would promote you to visit another store, I suppose, but that's not what I'm interested in.
---The only way around this would be to bring along folks who don't mind grabbing the other issues for you. Or, you know, find another store to finish your set.
The table setup is popular, if potentially a bit messy. Make a list of what you want beforehand!

Stores determine individually how/when they give out the FCBD issues. Some just leave 'em on the stacks or a table that you can choose from at any time. Others, like Joker's Child (mentioned above), create a path through the store that allows your to to browse the store as you wait for your turn to pick up the FCBD items on your way out. Feel free to ask an associate if you're not sure. Also, if you're stuck in a big line (Joker's Child, again, had a line that would circle outside of the not-particularly-small store), ask a fellow nerd! You'll find some folks that are old hats at FCBD or a similarly new attendee you can rely on for moral support.

Alright, that's the general run down. I do love me a good FCBD for several reasons. The first one is the books! You'll be surprised how many interesting books get the free treatment. Next up is the unrivaled livelihood in the store. Sure, it may be crowded, but that almost never happens in comic stores, so enjoy the novelty! You're surrounded by experienced and inexperienced folks who are interested in many of the same things you are. The last is the business FCBD brings to the stores. Many don't stop at the FCBD offerings and pull non-free titles or items from the shelves.

I myself will be looking for these titles from the FCDB list:
 Futures End - it may be missing an apostrophe, but it sounds ominous and awesome for Batman Beyond.
Guardians of the Galaxy - I haven't been keeping up with the NOW group after the first couple issues, but FCBD issues are generally don't punish you for being out of the loop.
Rise of the Magi - No clue what this is, but the cover looks interesting. Probably a tie in with other Top Cow lines, but that's ok!
2000 AD Special - I've been dying to get into the Judge Dredd comics, this may be a good place to see what's good in current times.
All You Need is Kill - No clue, got me on the title.
Armor Hunters Special - Same, title has me interested.
Entropy - Cover is interesting.
Grimm Fairy Tales - Never read anything from this series, but would like to give it a shot.
Archaia Hardcover Anthology - It's free AND hardcover, and also has some Farscape in it. Oh yeah.
Showa History of Japan - Yes! Been looking for some historical Japanese comics!
Steam Wars - Steam Punk Star Wars? Yes yes yes.
V-Wars - *Shrug* A vampire war comic? Why not?

... As you can see, I'll have a hard time with any stores that set a limit. Fortunately, my town is supported by two shops: Rubber Chicken Comics (mentioned above) and Friendly Neighborhood Comics.

The Nerd's 5 steps to a great FCBD:

1. Call your LCS to see what their process is for FCBD. Also ask if they have any limits or additional sales.
They are all here for the same reason as you!
2. Bring a friend or more. There's never a better day to try and get someone interested in comics, so feel free to invite friends who would normally never go to your LCS with you. Also, if you're a parent, bring your kids! A lot of the FCBD titles are marketed towards them and it is a very friendly atmosphere.
3. Arrive early. This will help avoid any lines. Depending on how popular your store is, arriving an hour before opening will be your best bet.
4. DON'T PANIC! There will be PLENTY of FCBD books. I've never heard of a store running out.
5. If you DO get stuck in line, enjoy it! You're surrounded by fellow nerds or nerds-in-the-making. Ask folks what they're coming for, or how many FCBDs they've attended.

Beyond that, enjoy it! You can make it a short or a long trip, you can hit multiple stores or just the one closest to home. It's a good day to be a (comic) nerd!

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