“This one time, on Free Comic Book Day…” or Philosophical Musings on FCBD

Yes, today is that day; the day when all comic book fans needn’t pull out his or her hair for the exorbitant price of $2.99 per comic; the day when steely veterans find themselves smelling newbies from miles away from their local comic shop (from here on, referred to simply as LCS); what day is that? Free Comic Book Day (from here on, referred to simply as FCBD)

Anyone who can honestly call him or herself a comic fan knows about this day, nay, DREAMS about this day. He or she may have the FCBD website as his or her main page upon start up of the internet web browser, may harass his or her LCS proprietor in advance of the date in order to get any juicy inside information, and may even offer his or her services as an escort to anyone high enough up the totem pole of any number of comic publishing services…

Why is this day so popular? Does it help the LCS? Does it help the actual publishers? I’m here to offer my opinions on such questions, as well as my personal experience of the day.

Agree or disagree with my thoughts? Comment below!

I woke up on this beautiful Saturday at 730am, showering, laundering, eating some Raisin Bran, reading some Friday Night Fights, and diving into some Plautus so that I could go to my LCS around when it opened at 1200pm. Having had my fill of Pseudolus and his tricks, talk of minae, and the subjunctive, I donned my Hawkwoman shirt, slipped into my ‘Stang and was off.

The excitement of FCBD was thick in the air. You could see it: the proprietor of my LCS, who literally looks like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, was wearing a black polo shirt with the FCBD logo rather than the standard tie-dyed shirt; you also immediately noticed that there were several people there whom you had never seen before…newbs. You could smell it: the LCS has their doors wide open, allowing you to waft in the scent of new comics. You could feel it: the excitement…

My first problem: there are limits. One person is only allowed five free comics; a family ten comics. Now, I don’t need ten comics, by any means, but these limits depress me. If I were just starting out, I would want to pick up as many different comics as possible to get a sense of what I like, what fits me, what could change my life. Instead, I’m playing the lottery and have a 5/32 chance that I will have a destiny-changing comic in my hand. I’M fine with that chance, but what about a newbie?

My second problem: the people. The LCS is like a community, one which I have never been able to break into. Yes, I have a good relationship with the proprietors (after they realize I’m not a ditz and actually know what’s going on) but the people? Now, whenever I see someone stare at me, or glance up and down, I either think there’s something on my face which I may not have noticed upon final check when leaving my house, or it’s the stare of territory, telling me I do not belong. I’ve been gifted with an extremely strong peripheral vision so I can see things while looking straight ahead. Apparently, I just cannot be a normal looking girl and fit into the comics’ world! I get the up and down glance from a girl and then a delayed glance from her significant other. Quid malum? I guess my Hawkwoman shirt does not seem to break the illusion that I am a normal girl who has no idea what she doing…

FCBD brings out EVERYONE (Hello? FREE COMICS!!!), and while I am usually lucky and encounter one to two people on my trips there to get my comics, I basically find all these other clients who seem to believe that I’m encroaching on their territory. Is comic reading a secret club to which I will never truly belong?

My third problem: the volunteer/the coming of Walmart. Now, I cannot comment on any of your LCSes, but mine had a volunteer walking around the store asking, “Are you finding everything OK?” She came to me not one…not twice…but THRICE! Three times I seemed to be eradiating some aura of confusion which brought her my way. First of all, this is annoying. I hate it at the mall, I hate it here. Secondly, this once again leads me to believe that my appearance makes people assume (ASS U ME) that I don’t know comics at all. At one point I’m looking through a GL TPB that I was considering buying my friend (if Kevin Cushing is my Kyle Rainer, this guy is my John Stewart!) and she asks (this is number two, mind you); “Can I help you with anything?” Five minutes later, I turn around and start looking at an X-23 TPB and here she comes, “Are you still finding everything OK?” Three.

At the mall, sales representatives are paid to check on guests/customers. Heck, I worked at The Disney Store for three years, I KNOW this, but you ask ONCE! Whom else was she helping? The mother with her child, the families…did she ask any of the men, the woman and man with the stinkeye? Not that I recall…apparently she thought they knew what they were doing!

My main problem with this (besides the general gypsy-aspect) is the fact that FCBD has almost turned into a commercial nightmare like Walmart. When someone starts stalking you around the store, the next step is to ask for a key to the back room so you can figure out if X-23 is a good fit for you as a comic reader. LCSes, to me, are places for people to discover things on their own; pick up a comic, flip through it, explore the vintage comics to find back story, and ask questions WHEN YOU HAVE THEM!

Enough with the drama, I’d like to briefly go through the comics that I picked up, taking on the persona of someone who knows little to nothing about comics.

Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom/Magnus: Robot Fighter from Dark Horse Comics:

Doctor Solar was a pretty solid story, giving a brief history of the character in the present rather than back-flashes, and nice art. The dialogue, at times, seemed like it was written by someone who just immigrated to America, and Solar himself seems to exhibit schizophrenia, making a decision then doubling-back on it.

Magnus had zero back-story and basically was Ka-Zar in the 41st century with a Shanna who likes to wear high heels and a cocktail dress while on a mission. The robot dialog was tedious and I skipped half of the word balloons.

Green Hornet: Year One, Green Hornet Strikes, Kato, Kato: Origins from Dynamite

Now, if I were the publisher of a comic company, this is what I would produce for FCBD! There were four, six-page previews of different comics all surrounding Green Hornet. All of them kept me attentive and excited.

Iron Man/Thor from Marvel Comics

Maybe I should summarize: Iron Man who makes a weapon which he should have known would have been dangerous and should be used by no one + Thor cannot seem to control the weather and seems as incredulous of Stark as I am + politics

One of two teamups found at FCBD with Iron Man—the other was Iron Man/Nova. It is obvious the purpose of this is to promote Iron Man 2. Good art, though! (John Romita, Jr.)

War of the Supermen #0 from DC Comics

This seems to lead directly into War of the Supermen, giving back-story from Lois Lane’s perspective, and pushing the story forward via Superman. It held my interest.

So, if I weren’t so stingy on my comic pull-list, which comics would I invest in? Green Hornet and War of the Supermen, for sure. Dynamite did something that EVERY publisher needs to look into, namely giving multiple previews of stories that actually have impact. War of the Supermen #0 also contained a story that had IMPACT. Yes, it had some back-story, but it also contains elements you know some people will miss not having picked this up.

Basically, I believe that, while I cannot comment on the other 28 comics that were put out, that ones that actually have story progression (Amazing Spider-Man did this right after OMD a few years prior) for each respective character will lead people to start to buy that particular comic rather than just some random Al Gore…I mean, Iron Man/Thor story. I assume that publishers choose stories (repeats or new ones) for the sake of gaining new readership, and decide that it is easier to get people into comics by having a watered-down story that KIDS can understand. To Hell with the older readers!

But, do you know what these companies are doing to the kids and parents picking these books up? THEY’RE LYING! There were several families that came in asking where to find the grade on the comic. The Marvel stuff was actually wholesome, for once, WotS had some violence, same with Green Hornet and the Dark Horse comic; no Psycho Pirate in Infinite Crisis, by any means. Thinking about it now, ASM from a few years ago was really innocent as well. Is that how ASM is now? You’re joking, right?

One mother and her son were looking through some vintage ASMs, but the kid didn’t like them. It’s understandable. There are few who really look forward to the yellowing pages, the actual feel of paper, the stories which were well-rounded and solid, etc. Kids now want shiny, bright pages…new! A man tells her that she can go to the racks and get Spidey issues from now to a year back. AHHHHHH! “DON’T DO IT!” I wanted to yell, “This is not wholesome Spidey! Stay with the vintage issues!” But, I’m not one to intervene like that. She later asked the proprietor about the ratings system and he says they are either All Ages or Teens.

My point? My word, I do have one! Is the Spidey that I picked up on FCBD a few years back the same one as this?

A parent will be fine with the FCBD comics, but the real things that are not like that. Publishers, Marvel at least, is lying…Tony Stark did not sleep with one person in my Iron Man/Thor…that seems strange!

I think that FCBD helps the publishers to a certain extent. We all know that comics are for kids and nobody else reads them, so it makes sense that publishers are going to push really hard to get new readership from this day. Veterans not allowed. I am happy that FCBD really seems to help LCSes. People use this chance to pick up free comics, check out the old and the new comics available, and hopefully invest some capital in a store which always seems to be teetering on the edge of closure. FCBD = Support Your LCS Day!

Conclusion: FCBD is a fun time of year, but I’m scared for the future. If comics prices are rising, there may come a day when all the issues that are free will be repeats of stories that have no impact on the respective character, and stories that are as G as they can make them because mask-sex is really quite common and not amoral at all! Is my harassment by the gypsy a scary glimpse into the future? Will there be a time when I can no longer flip through a book, but have to only tell if I’m going to like something from the cover? Certainly that would not work for something like ASM #605! Or worse! Will comics all be behind the counter and you have to ask for something?

Yes, it’s frightening, and yes, I could be really off-base, but these are mere musings, I am not Apollo! Overall, I did enjoy my time at the LCS! I got four free comics, bought Brave and the Bold #166, and found two TPBs that I will soon invest in. I won’t apologize for not looking like a comic fan. I love Babs, Spidey, and a whole host of others, just like a lot of people out there. The judgment is getting vexing, and I don’t need to be quizzed, (“Would you like an issue of The Flash from Marvel?” true story). If you don’t think I belong, sorry, you’re stuck with me.

Happy Free Comic Book Day!
Ex animo, Spider-Girl

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