FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: The Origin
If you have even a little bit of geek in you, you will know that the first Saturday in May is a special day around the country...it is Free Comic Book Day. It is a day that we, the comic geeks of the world can bring our non-indoctrinated friends into our favorite local comic book stores and be able to hand them an absolutely free comic and in doing so, maybe, create new readers for the industry. It is also to re-introduce comics to those who have gone and in general, it is a huge thank you from the industry to the comic buyers. As with every holiday, or comic character for that matter, there must be a beginning, or in the parlance of comic books, an origin. This is the origin of Free Comic Book Day.
The idea for Free Comic Book Day came from one man: retailer Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, CA. Mr. Field writes a column called "Big Picture" for the Comics and Games Retailers magazine and was brainstorming the idea in its August 2001 issue. Major comics distributor Diamond Distributions ran with the idea and coordinated the first FCBD to fall on May 4, 2002. There are now special FCBD comics from most of the major publishers like DC, Marvel and Image, kid friendly fare from Disney. Boom! Studios and Archie, a variety of manga outlets and in recent years, an increasing number of independent publishers.
Many retailers have taken the opportunity turn this day into a full-fledged event, with media guests doing signings and taking photos with fans, local creators setting up tables to promote their own titles and give aways not only of the comics but also other promotional materials like posters, cards and most recently the multi-colored Lantern rings from DC's Green Lantern series. A definite effort is made to cross promote FCBD with a genre related film that has been or is to be released around the same time. For the first FCBD, it was the opening of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. For 2012, it is Marvel's The Avengers. Only two years, 2005 and 2006, did not share its day with a comic related film.
One of the least discussed secrets of Free Comic Book Day is that they are not free to the retailers. They must pay anywhere from 15 to 50 cents per copy for the comics that they give away. Add to that the cost of having media guests and refreshments at some stores and you can begin to understand just how important a day this is to the retailers. Faithful regulars are great and appreciated of course but as with any industry, it is the growth of it that benefits all who are part of it.
In my humble opinion, it may be time for a second comics holiday that thank the retailers of our local comic book stores for making comic books and everything related to them as accessible to us as they are today. They should be thanked for their personal and financial sacrifices, their efforts to find the "hard to find" and for being there for every vein of comics fan from the casual reader to the issue number quoting fanatic. As someone old enough to remember having to buy his comics from that squeaky red rack in the corner of the grocery store, you can bet that I will be the first person on line to shake their hands.
John Wilson- John Wilson is Co-Owner of Comic Related and Online Editor for Sketch Magazine. He is also a writer for the website Pandoracon.com and writes several comics for Ringtail Cafe Productions.John also does his own pen and ink sketching and creates multimedia art. In his rare free time, he reads multiple magazines and torments his beautiful wife and their goofy dog.
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