As it has been since the idea was dreamed up back in 2002, the first Saturday of May (May 5th this year) brings comic fans (and those who like the word "free"), out to comic shops worldwide for the annual Free Comic Book Day event.
Like many devoted comics fans, I have taken part each year. I used to work for one of my long gone local comic shops on the day, but for the last few years I've basically been going out as a fan and writing up these articles about my adventures on the day.
Over the last few years, I've added the notion of doing something that was "new-to-me" as it relates to comics on this day. Whether it is going to a new store or a signing, as long as it was something I haven't done previously. I have to say that for the most part I was rather lazy in looking for that something this year. It almost didn't happen.
I went out the night before to a Star Wars Day party and the late night meant I was pretty tired. I had thought about driving to the Somerville (Ma.) Public library for their all-ages Comix Con that my friend Jennie Wood (the sensational author of the Flutter graphic novel series) was taking part in. However, I just wasn't up to the drive so I had to pass on seeing her this year, which is a darn shame.
Instead, my first stop of the day was at the North Dartmouth (Ma.) location of Newbury Comics. The store had moved into the North Dartmouth Mall a little over a week ago and this was their first event in the new spot. I got there after the store had opened but when I did walk through the doorway the store was inundated with customers. This meant that employees like Mike (directing traffic) and Koop (watching over the free comics set up and answering customers questions) were busy while the other employees on duty were kept on their toes as they processed the customers at the registers. Normally I am a frequent visitor to the shop because they carry music as well and do a pretty good job of getting albums I want that big box stores would never stock. This saves me the wait of ordering online. You can check out their Facebook page here.
The store let people pick three titles from the books they had to offer and were running a couple of sales as well. I picked my three titles and then added a Betty and Veronica issue that had been released this week by Archie Comics as my purchase. For those who haven't read my previous Free Comic Book Day articles, I always purchase something from the stores I visit as a kind of offset to getting the free stuff. It's never a big thing but every little bit helps.
After checking out, I stopped on my way out the door to talk to Mike and mentioned that I wasn't able to figure out something "new" to do for this year. He helpfully pointed out that the Toy Vault shop in the mall was also doing Free Comic Book Day. Feeling more than a little stupid for not thinking of that shop, I thanked him for the tip and made my way down to that store.
The Toy Vault is a shop that I've visited from time to time since they opened up in the mall, but I don't typically do much actual shopping there. I've picked up some packages of old trading card series as a nostalgia thing for people in my life but that's about it. So you can probably understand why my stay at the shop was relatively brief. Toy Vault was allowing customers to take two books and I quickly grabbed up a couple of titles. I added three packs of Rugrats trading cards as my purchase from the shop, who's Facebook page you can check out HERE!
I should mention that pretty much all of the free comics and small items I pick up end up going into a big box of comics that I put aside for Halloween. I pass them out to the kids coming to my door along with the candy. I also drop some off to the local barbershop and my dentist. While at the Toy Vault, I did look for some small toy to add to the box but didn't find anything that struck my fancy.
Because this was Saturday I also had some regular weekly errands to run. One of them I stretched a bit to tie it into the main purpose of my day and thus include it in this piece. I stopped at my local Barnes and Noble bookstore where thanks to some hefty discounts and three nice coupons I was sent, I picked up four new books including one by author Ace Atkins, who's second Nick Travers graphic novel came out last week. Remember, I did say it was a stretch. The other authors I picked up were Jon Land, John Sandford and Kristen Lepionka.
My last stop of the day was at my regular comic shop, New England Comics, in New Bedford (Ma.). Like years past, I didn't actually have to rush to get there because I'd pre-ordered a bunch of copies of the various FCBD titles to stash away for Halloween. Palmer and new employee Scott were covering the store on the day and they were pretty busy when I walked in, carrying some pizza that I picked up for the shop for lunch. According to both of them, the store was busy and while I was there I could see how the traffic ebbed and flowed. Just as one rush ended, you'd see the store empty out for a few minutes and then suddenly, it was packed with people again. The customers ranged from store regulars to new people and from old to young.
The shop had one of their regular display racks set up with all the free comics and you were allowed to pick up two books from there. You could also get two more books from the store's bargain boxes.
As for me, I checked through the box of pre-ordered comics that Palmer had set aside for me, added my regular weekly stash of new comics and a trade that I had ordered.
To that, I added a blank sketch cover of Action Comics #1000. This was to cover my extra purchase notion as well as to get a sketch from the returning special guest artist Mike Lilly. He's been appearing at the shop the last few years and it is always a good time. When I first walked in and he remembered me and said hello.
Unsurprisingly, he was pretty busy doing sketches for customers. I knew I would have to get into the sketch queue sooner rather than later if I wanted to get one this year. I missed out last year because I did get to the store very late in the day.
It's fun watching him work at creating the various characters people ask him to sketch. This year some of the sketches I saw him do included Spider-Man (both the classic and Iron Spider versions), Wolverine, Black Panther, Shadow Man and Thor. I keep threatening to ask him to draw this ridiculous character I dreamed up, but instead I asked for my favorite villain Deathstroke. If you go to his Facebook page, there will be a gallery of his day's work sooner or later as he took photos of each sketch when he finished them.
Later in the day, he was joined by artist inker Bob Almond. They've worked together on some projects and Almond did a lot of work on the Black Panther comic series from a few years back as well as numerous other projects. He's also the founder and driving force behind the Inkwell Awards. At one point towards the end of my time at the store, Bob was talking to a father and son about the character and it was a fascinating talk to listen to.
Because I was in no rush to go anywhere and I had to wait for Mike to have time to do my sketch, I was at the shop for a few hours. In that time, I talked with both Mike and Bob and listened as they talked about Don McGregor's work on the Black Panther comics, Stan Lee and other comic related topics.
Of course, at some point I had to leave and go home. I was pretty wiped out around 5pm so I said my goodbyes and went home, thus concluding my 2018 Free Comic Book Day adventure.
Now the next step is to read the various books I got so that I can figure out what's appropriate for the age ranges of kids that come to my door on October 31st. There's also the hope that I will find a gem among the slightly less kid friendly books that will make me want to add something to my regular order of new comics.
So that's a wrap and we'll see you next year. Oh, and if you'll pardon the blatant, but acknowledged, stealing of a legend's catch phrase, "Excelsior!"
Nice read TR. I should have tried to check out FCD this year, but honestly, I'm not even sure if anyone around here participates. I have a neighbor who is a recurring extra (one of the Saviors) on The Walking Dead, I'm sure he can steer me in the right direction.
Anyway, sounds like you had a good time as usual, and I'm sure the kids will enjoy the comics on Halloween.
Thanks for reading. As for finding a store near you, you can always check out the Free Comic Book Day website, I'm pretty sure they have a store locator search function there.