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.