Only the naive, the jaded, and the unethical can easily say, “I’m going to get into comics and not spend a lot of money.” Therefore any chance to save money or help narrow down what you want to follow is extremely valuable. Free Comic Book Day is the next best way to find what to read outside of a generous friend with a sizable and eclectic collection. Every year it is a great chance for new fans to dip their toes in the water and see what they like as well a prime opportunity for fans who have been out of the game for a while to see what has changed since they left.
If your lucky enough to have multiple comics stores in your area you can hit them all up and get a nice selection of titles to read. Living in NYC let us make a long day trip of our journey but even having one store in your neighborhood that participates will let you get a handful of titles to peruse for nothing at all. (Good and generous souls will also pick up some items at any store they visit to make the day worth it to any owners participating in the event.) Either way it lets you expedience some comics you may not have read otherwise and broaden your horizons.
I think the most interesting thing for me with FCBD with the wide variety of titles you can sample. There was your standard titles from the Big Two and some other smaller superhero comics of course. That is always what you think of when American comics come up. But there was a wide variety of titles that came along with any standard pack for FCBD as well and some unique titles that individual stores gave out. I read everything from classic comics like Prince Valiant and Buck Rogers to more offbeat titles like Marble Season, Old Soldiers, and The Steam Engines of Oz. It is interesting to see what people show you when they put their best foot forward (theoretically at least.)
I was fascinated to see how differently all the titles read in relation to each other. Prince Valiant and Buck Rogers were COMPLETELY unlike anything else in the lineup. They were clearly from eras of storytelling that just don’t exist anymore. The panel layout and narrative pacing exemplify the period that each of them was pulled from. As Narutaki said, “These are compressed stories in ways even beyond modern comics.” At the same tim, a story like Marble Season has a stream of consciousness storytelling that reads more like someone telling you a story in real life as opposed to reading a novel or watching a movie. At the same time Old Soldiers and The Steam Engines of Oz read like standard American comics but have content that was wildly divergent and don’t contain Capes.
Also all the free comics made me realize one thing. Judge Dredd can be a REALLY goofy series. Like you have to do a double take goofy. I’m sure he is a Batman like character that is very dependent on who is writing him and when they are writing him but that does not erase the fact that he was like clown shoes in the version I read.
FCBD should be when you drag your friends along and pull them into reading comics for the rest of their lives (or for one day). I’m sure few people take part in the event if they don’t have friends already in the hobby, but maybe I’m wrong. And I also wonder how often it sticks for new readers. However, there is one group of people this seems ideal for comic readers who also have kids.
When possible, it is encouraged to spend a little at the places you get free comics. As little as buying a floppy issue is enough to show support and, hey, a lot of places have a sale on FCBD making it even easier to do so.
I will admit that FREE FOOD very easily grabs my attention. So when Manhattan Comics said they has snacks I was very curious what they had to offer. I was not expecting much but was secretly hoping for something good. What I got was VERY good. They had homemade Twinkies and Oreos and those on their own were amazing. They also had the biggest selection of free comics with some titles you did not see anywhere else. If you are in Manhattan for FCBD next year they are THE place to stop. Carmine Street Comics was pretty small but the staff was extremely friendly and that is always a plus.
I will say that if you’re in Manhattan the places to avoid are the big named stores oddly enough. Midtown Comics and Forbidden Planet basically gave away a fairly standard packet of comics with little to no choice of what you got. The problem is that since they are the well-known sites they are also the most frequented shops. So their selection quickly drops to next to nothing and their sales are usually the less than the smaller stores. It is not that those stores are not worth going to but I would skip them if you are pressed for time. You going to get more treasures for your effort if you go to the more overlooked stores.
A random side note for any manga fans. All the stores we went to had a greatly reduced manga section than they had last year. If you wanted a simpler sign that the manga boom is over it is that.
If you are going to head to one store then make it Manhattan Comics, they pretty much having it all in terms of FCBD event store. They have a huge selection of comics that doesn’t run out early in the day and they have a bunch of additional free comics to choose from that aren’t the “official” issues; they have a big sale on comics and trades, this year it was 40% off; they have creators doing signings throughout the day; and they have free treats. Their location is also a prime spot since it sits across from Madison Square park a perfect places to go read your comics and grab some lunch at Shake Shack.
Of course what everyone wants to know is what we enjoyed the most from our selections. OK. What everyone REALLY wants to know is what we hated the most but as always we tend to focus on the positive on the site. Hopefully you would check out what we enjoyed the most and not what bored us. (You can always ask us what we hated on Twitter if your really curious.)
I had never heard of Ernest and Rebecca before FCBD but it was quite enjoyable. I picked it up mostly because of the cute little cover but was glad to see the content matched as well. The story is about a sickly girl named Rebecca who befriends a magical microbe named Ernest like she was in Moyasimon. We did not see a lot of Ernest in the sample story but Rebecca was quite rambunctious and adorable in her story. A real hidden gem.
Mouse Guard was probably the smartest sample comic I read. It wisely told a standalone story that introduced you to the world of Mouse Guard but was satisfying in its own right. It showed the strong artwork and storytelling of the comic while feeling like a complete story. Sales wise a story that shouts “If you want the full story buy my comic” might work better to bring in new readers I felt a bit more pleased with this approach. I liked its soft sell. In a way it seemed more confident of its product that way.
Princeless was a comic I had heard a bout a few times before. I know Narutaki talked about it in the past if nothing else. I was pleased to see that it was a fun story with some good humor and lively artwork. A comic to read if you’re tired of comics without strong female leads.
For some, FCBD is a day to grab special issues featuring characters or series that are beloved. For me, FCBD should ideally introduce me to new titles that I’ll be running out to read more of. Some years it works out and some years is doesn’t, 2013 worked out quite well!
Adventure Time comics have been doing really well and now I know why. They aren’t just a quick grab at a popular television property, these comics are actually hilarious providing humor in sync with the show. Plus, this little story was a fun take on the “choose your own adventure” genre. As I rarely get to enjoy the show, I may start picking up the comic to fill the void!
I remember someone complaining on Twitter that they saw no reason to care about FCBD since all they hear is people complaining about how comics are sexist and dumb. Oddly enough I think that is the PERFECT reason to go to FCBD. Why? Because nothing will dissuade of that notion quicker than some well-chosen comics. You can go with the standard DC and Marvel samplers. They are usually competent but boring and are mostly there to either tie into the latest movie coming out from the studio. But if you want something different or unusual than there are usually about half a dozen titles outside the norm. You get some of the smaller presses who usually do more inventive things with superheroes to stand out as well lots of titles that have nothing to do with anything you normally would think of with American comics.
We all started reading comics once we got home and then promptly forgot to do things like record a podcast and eat, whoops! There were actually so many titles to choose from that I didn’t even get to the ones I was most looking forward to until the next day. I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend.