I’m a hard core comics enthusiast and I’ve said it before: Free Comic Book Day is my favorite holiday of the year.
I have friends who like comics but invariably end up having other things to do on the first Saturday in May and they miss FCBD. For me that would be like having something else to do on Christmas and missing the holiday altogether. For me, FCBD takes priority. It’s the OTHER commitment that gets cancelled in favor of FCBD.
I love FCBD on several levels:
- I love getting my hands on all those comics. I read them all. I like seeing what publishers choose to spotlight and HOW they choose to spotlight it. I like seeing if the FCBD comic makes me feel like getting more issues of what they are pitching to me.
- I love seeing how the stores put on their “show” for FCBD. In my opinion, smart shops make an event of the day. They have a sale. They have guests. They have something fun to get people into the shop and make them remember it as an inviting place to visit. It’s not just about making a sale that one day. A lot of people just grab some comics and blow out the door, but it is the impression the shop leaves on them that can make them want to come back.
- I love seeing how the fans react. There are the hard core fans like myself. I love the day, but it’s not primarily for me; I try to look at it from that perspective. FCBD is meant to bring in new fans. How well a shop makes it perform on this level is reflected in how good a time the fans who are not at a shop every week to get their comics like it. My favorite thing is seeing how younger kids react to it. They’re the future of comics.
I started my FCBD early. My favorite shop for FCBD is Nuclear Comics in Laguna Hills, CA. They open early on FCBD (9am) and I got there around 7:45. They promote the day in the community so people, know about it. Best of all, they don’t put a limit on the number of comics you can get. They just ask that you read the comics you take. Kenny (pictured above) explained how they were going to run the show to everyone in line. They let in groups of 10-15 people at a time to grab comics to keep things from getting unmanageable. After you got your free comics, you exited, put them in your car and returned for the sale. Some people didn’t return, I’m sure, but that’s OK. The sale was great. Tons of $1 comics, 50% off all new comics except stuff that came out in the past week. 30-50% off on all back issues, 30% off TPBs & HCs. A great sale.
They had artists doing sketches (Amy Mebberson did an Uncle Scrooge for me). While waiting in line, I loved that lots of kids were there getting sketches of heroes or My Little Ponies. A young girl in front of me got Pinkie Pie with a unicorn horn and she was pleased as punch! The main thing was everyone there was having a good time!
Checking my haul from Nuclear Comics, I got ALMOST all of the FCBD comics, except 7. The ones I missed: Bob’s Burgers, Transformers, Tales of Honor, Mercury Heat, Hip Hop Family Tree, Hatter M, Worlds of Aspen.
This was the largest FCBD event I’ve ever gone to. It was just up the street from Comic Bug’s Culver City store in the City’s Teen Center. There was a LONG line when I got there (I got there at 11am and was about 150 people back in line). The event strated at noon, by that time the line was IMMENSE. The only detriment to the event for me was the glacial pace of the line. Since they limited people to 4 comics each (2 for kids 10 & under) every person spent a really long time browsing all the books decided what they want. I didn’t get up to the free comics table until 1:15. An hour 15 minutes is just too long to process 150 people.
That said, standing in line was not bad because it was in the shade of some big trees and there was a nice breeze, it was a beautiful day. They had vendors moving up the line handing out free “Kind” energy bars in 2 varieties and I met a friend of mine, Andrew Sanford, so standing in line a long time gave us a chance to catch up. There were cosplayers working the line in some really impressive costumes. They had a Spider-Man who jumped up and perched on a parking meter with the easy of the genuine article.
Inside they had a LOT of creators. I got an exclusive Siya Oum cover to Edge of Spider-Verse #2 and both Siya and Robbie Rodriguez were there to autograph it. I got to chat with Elephantmen’s Richard Starkings, Joshua Dysart, and many more creators (check out the full list here).
We walked up the street to the Comic Bug shop where I bought a cool Concrete statue I had never seen before. Part of a limited run of 500 from 1991 and it was $25 on sale! Successful score! We had lunch at a chili place next door that while good, was criminally over-priced for the tiny portions they doled out.
I left this event around 3pm, extremely well done show and LOTS of people having a good time for the whole time I was there. Lots of interaction with creators and people learning about comics. Kids were entertained by the cosplay and comics targeted at younger readers. This being at a venue that was not a comic shop and being adjacent to a city park pulled in a bunch of people that might not have otherwise checked it out. A great quote I overheard in the crowd:
“I didn’t realize they made comics that didn’t have super-heroes! These look like something I’d enjoy.”
I wish I had been able to see what specific comic(s) had evoked that quote, but the speaker was lost to me in the crowd. I picked up a couple of the “missing comics” here, though. I got Transformers and Bob’s Burgers.
I rounded out my 4 comics with a couple of variant covers to Valiant’s Delinquents series I had not previously gotten that were comic shop exclusives. I picked up the Worlds of Aspen FCBD book from the Aspen table inside the con. I was still missing: Tales of Honor, Mercury Heat, Hip Hop Family Tree, Hatter M (but my regular shop was holding a couple of these for me, so I wasn’t worried).
Next it was time to head back to Orange County. On my way to Comics Toons’n’Toys (my final stop on the Bretall FCBD tour) I made a couple of extra stops. I hit Beach Ball Comics in Buena Park, but this late in the day they were pretty wiped out. The shop was mostly empty, you could take up to 4 free comics, but all they had was overstock from FCBD 2014 on the racks. I had all of these so skipped it and moved on to Phat Collectibles in Anaheim. Theyh still had a decent selection of books (limit 4) and a fairly short line. 10 minutes in line and I was able to score Mercury Heat and a couple of duplicates I plan to give away to someone I know who was less able to forage up as many of these FCBD book as I was. I also picked up an Orange Lantern ring for a kid I know who is a particular fan of the Orange Corps. It was about 4:45 at this point and mostly winding down. As an aside, Phat Collectibles is a pretty impressive shop for people into collecting toys & statues. They apparently gave away 1000 free sandwiches as part of their FCBD event, but I missed that. They were on final cleanup when I got there.
Comics Toons’n’Toys was still going when I got there around 5:15pm. They were down to only 2 different free comics left: Marvel’s Secret Wars and the Spanish language Marvel book for “Dia Del Comic Gratis” (which had the new story content from Marvel’s Secret Wars and All-New Avengers comics). They had saved me copies of Tales of Honor and Hip Hop Family Tree, so I knocked those off my list and I made it through FCBD missing only 1 comic: Hatter M. This marked my 1st year in the past 4 that I didn’t get every comic offered on FCBD.
They still had a big tray of free cookies by the door, artists doing sketches (including Todd Nauck) and the Burger Monster food truck was still there! I normally love to hit this shop in the main part of the day, but chose to hit the convention up in Culver City with Andrew instead this year. Comic Toons’n’Toys is my favorite shop in OC on a regular weekly basis and they do FCBD right. They make it fun for everyone in attendance! One of the cool things I saw when I got there was the “throwback” back issue pictured above. They uncovered about a hundred of these in a back issue buy and were selling it on the rack for the original cover price of 40 cents! Fun!
Total score: 5 shops, 10 hours, 52 FCBD 2015 comics, 8 other free comics, lunch with a friend, some nice line conversations with new people, and LOTS of fun.
Bob Bretall: firstname.lastname@example.org
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