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a little Free Comic Book Day manifesto

May 4, 2015

This past Saturday was Free Comic Book Day.   As I understand it, Free Comic Book Day’s purpose is three-fold:

1. It is meant to encourage new readers to try the medium, read a comic, and possibly become a regular consumer.

2. Secondly, it is meant to encourage current comic-book readers to come to the store, support the shop that they refer to as their Local Comic Shop (LCS in twitter speak), and buy a few comics, books, toys, shop-local  etc.

3. Lastly it is a celebration of the rich history of the four-color graphic sequential art form known as comic books.

This all sounds great, right?

The Local Stores that I call home in the fine state of NJ both did a great job.  They both had half-off sales, and as a result I picked up a ton of books that I have wanted for some time.

Also, I brought my son!  This was his second Free Comic Book Day.  He dressed as Batman and remained in character all morning!  In a gravelly voice he asked “Where are the free comics bub?”

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And here comes the problem—–> Free Comic Book Day is not for children.  You’d think it would be, right?

Nope. Not for kids.

Free Comic Book Day is for grown men that get in line at midnight the night before Free Comic Book Day.  Free Comic Book Day is for men who don’t have set bedtimes, or need a good night rest.  Free Comic Book Day is for men that like to grab as many of these free comics as they can and flip them on Ebay.

My son, I’m sorry, I mean Batman, and I, arrived at our LCS at about 9:15AM.  They opened at 8AM.  To Batman’s dismay pretty much all the free comics were gone. One of the employees said “Yeah, Man. It was nuts.  They were all gone in 15 minutes.  There was a line at 5AM.” Another person chimed in and said the line began at 3AM.

My son, (dang it, I keep doing that) I mean Batman, was not happy.

Batman and I entered anyway. We wanted to check out the sales.

The sales were so good, that the store was handing out short boxes (Each holds about 200 comics) to carry your comics in, which were 50% off!  The store was packed with grown men carrying heavy boxes, one of which immediately hit Batman in head.  There was an instant apology.  The man asked Batman if he was “okay?”  Batman was fine, because, y’know, he’s Batman.

We found a Joker figure, I grabbed one comic, and we got on the very long line.  My… Batman waited patiently.  The line ran along dozens of bins of comics.  After 20 or so minutes we were two people from the front of the line.  A full comic-box-carrying-grown-man in his late 50’s/ early 60’s shoved past my son, and at least three other super heroes in training, as he lumbered to the front of the line and placed his booty on the counter.

Comic Book fans have a tendency to be a little, shall we say meek?  I, however, am not going to be meek when I’m Batman’s dad!  I opened my mouth, and lets just say this pillager of Free Comic Book Day was shamed to the back of the line.

Batman and I left.  I asked Batman if he had fun.

Sadly, in his gravelly voice, he replied “Batman did not have fun.”

We had about an hour until Batman had to be at a Birthday Party, (which as a tangent was a lot of fun!) so we decided to stop by a LCS that was even closer to our house and opened at 10AM.  There was a small line as we pulled up.

I unbuckled Batman from his car seat and he hopped to action!  This second store was organized, had a large collection of kid friendly books, a policy of one copy of each free comic for each customer, and a very friendly atmosphere.

Long story short, Batman was able to enjoy some lakeside comic book reading later that day while sitting in a lovely Tipi.

Photo Credit Apryl Lee https://instagram.com/aaaprylleee/

So, I don’t want to whine about this, but something is rotten in fandom.

Who is Free Comic Book Day really for?  Kids or grown-up fan-boys? Both?  Can it be for both?

Should retailers dissuade fans from lining up 24 hours before the doors open, so there are enough books for all the fans?  Or should we all accept the state of things and encourage this mob mentality culture which I’ve seen at the cons too often, where the fans just shove, grab, and scream for all the freebies that the publishers offer.  Anybody who has attended NYCC on a Sunday and wandered past the Marvel Booth knows exactly what I’m talking about.

A Solution: (?)

Digital Redemption codes.  My son—- Batman, finds it completely natural to read on an iPad or other mobile device.  Publishers could distribute codes at Free Comic Book Day participating stores to get the free content on your mobile devices.  To get the code, you would still need to visit the physical store on Free Comic Book Day, celebrate the history of comics, perhaps pick up a toy or book, thus supporting your LCS. Everybody wins!

It’s just an idea.  Digital distribution is the future for all entertainment.  There is no denying that.  Well, I suppose you could, but you’d be wrong.  Free Comic Book Day should get on board and embrace it, even as it encourages us all to get up off our $@#%s and shop locally at our LCS.

Thanks for reading.

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