Grim_Noir’s POp/Ed: FCBD – FTW!

Save-The-Date logo

Every year, like the changing of the seasons, when I am about to despair that all comic books are about muscular people beating each other up to prove that their philosophical ideals are more intrinsically sound than the other guy’s, Free Comic Book Day rolls around again. It is always the first Saturday in May and it always makes the rest of the Summer seem brighter. (This year, that would be this Saturday, May 7th, 2011.)

Free Comic Book Day (or FCBD) started about ten years ago as a grass roots movement by retailers to get more people into comics by giving away the issues that they couldn’t sell and taking a tax write-off. It has since become a corporate happening, controlled by Diamond Distributors. Special issues are put out by the publishers and distributors for the reading public to have for free.

You would think that such an orchestrated event would be a shallow and fallow marketing ploy, however you’d be wrong. Sure, there are the expected crass commercial tie-ins to movies or merchandise, but, overall, something interesting, and rather unique, occurred somewhere along the way. Namely, Free Comic Book Day became similar to the Fall TV pilot season: All the iffy, weird, or sketchy ideas or characters were trotted out and given “0” issues, or one-shots, or a chance to team-up with a more established character and show what made them different in their respective universes. Since no one was judging FCBD stories on how much profit they brought in, writers were really able to go crazy. And publishers began to see how this day was a risk-free way to give special characters and events a “run-up” before officially launching them.

But, I’m not here to give a primer to the n00bs about what Free Comic Book Day is, but to remind the more experienced fanboy of some unspoken moral obligations generated by this self-styled Geek Christmas:

  1. First, and foremost, it has the word “Free” right in the title. Go get yourself some free comics that you wouldn’t normally try!
  2. If you have a friend or relative who has seen every Batman, X-Men, Iron Man, and Spider-Man movie, but still insists that they either have outgrown comic books or never really liked comics, take them with you.
  3. If you are lucky enough to live near a comic book shop that does not limit how many FCBD titles you can take, do not treat it like a Las Vegas “All-you-can-eat” buffet. Even though we are getting the books for free, your friendly neighborhood retailer has to pay for every single issue. “Consume” everything you put on your “plate” or put it back.
  4. On a more personal note, make arrangements to donate any FCBD comics that you aren’t bagging and saving to your local hopital’s Pediatric Ward. It still costs you nothing, and what may have been a “meh” moment of comic reading for you, could be the brightest spot of the week for a kid stuck in a hospital bed.
  5. If you find something you like, subscribe to it, either through your online service or your retailer. It sends a direct message to the publisher that something is liked and we want more of it. (It sounds so obvious, but few people do it.)
  6. Finally, support your local comic book shop. I’m not saying you have to buy everything there, but throw ’em a bone every once in a while. Without them, where would we go to socialize F2F with other geeks?

Now, my sermonizing may seem like a lot of work to some of you, but I have found great joy in my finds from Free Comic Book Day and I just want to make sure that it will be around for years to come. It was FCBD freebies that got me into Scott Pilgrim, Mouse Guard, The Umbrella Academy, and even Casper and the Spectrals (hey, it’s no Dark Knight Returns, but for an all-ages miniseries, it is a serious boot-in-the-pants reboot of Casper, Wendy, and Spooky). On top of that, Bongo Comics puts out a solid Simpsons Free-For-All issue every single year.

So, what about the rest of you? Any titles that you distinctly remember picking up due to Free Comic Book Day? Any other fond memories of FCBD, past or present? Was anyone lucky enough to get their sweaty paws on the official FCBD Minimate back in 2009…? (And E-bayers DO NOT count…)

Minimate 2009

* GRIM_NOIR is:  A) Mad, B) Bad, C) Dangerous to Know, D) Now with 50% More Follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter

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