Free Comic Book Day 2016: A Comic Fan’s Holiday…

I’ll say it again…I LOVE Free Comic Book Day.  It’s my favorite holiday of the year.  Comics are a big part of my life.  I wouldn’t have a collection of over 102,000 unique comics (and I’ve read almost all of them!) if I didn’t really love comics.  So a day when they give away FREE comics…  What could be better?  Answer: Not much!

2016 was the 15th year of Free Comic Book Day, and I’ve been there for every one.  Every year I have tried my best to collect up and read every one of the FCBD offerings.  I usually succeed, but Have to go around to a bunch of shops to do so.  For the last few years my task has been made much easier by local shop Nuclear Comics, because owner Kenny Jacobs does not limit the number of comics to 2, 3, 5…whatever.  He lets customers take as many different FCBD book as they want, with the stipulation that they actually READ them.  This makes for a bit of a line of people wanting a big pile of books.  This year it started at around 3am with a few dedicated comic lovers.  I usually would get there around 7am and be 20 or 30 people back in line, but the line would grown and be VERY long by the time the shop opens at 9am.

Nuclear FCBD setup

Free comics table setup at Nuclear Comics; Laguna Hills, CA

This year I didn’t need to hit any shops to get my FCBD comics fix.  Diamond sent me a full set of the 50 books for review purposes, I got them a couple of weeks ago.  I have read and reviewed ALL 50, and the reviews are posted on the ComicSpectrum review Blog.  Here’s a quick run-down:

I started on Thursday May 5th (the earliest day that I was allowed to post reviews by Diamond) with reviews and guidance on all ages comics:
FCBD 2016: All-Ages Gold Comics – Bob’s Burgers (Dynamite), Simpsons (Bongo), A sampler including Lumberjanes, Goldie Vance, Mouse Guard and more (BOOM!), Camp Midnight (Image), Pokemon (Viz Media)
FCBD 2016: All Ages – Younger Kids – Grumpy Cat (Dynamite), Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie), Spongebob (Bongo), Strawberry Shortcake (IDW), DC SuperHero Girls (DC), Hilda, Akissi, & Fantasy Sports (Nobrow), Pink Panther (American Mythology), Dream Jumper (Graphix Spotlight)
FCBD 2016: All-Ages Adventure, Humor, Science…Something for Everyone – Awake (Action Lab), Dark Lily & Friends (Space Goat), Howard Lovecraft & Stan Lee’s The Unknowns (Arcana), Oddly Normal (Image), Junior Braves of the Apocalypse (Oni), Science Comics (First Second), Legend of Korra & How to Train Your Dragon (Dark Horse), Sanjay and Craig & Harvey Beaks (Papercutz)

On Friday, May 6th I focus on comics for older (Teen+)  readers:
FCBD 2016: Gold Books – Serenity, Hellboy, & Aliens (Dark Horse), Doctor Who (Titan), Rom (IDW), Suicide Squad (DC), Archie & Jughead (Archie), and a sampler of titles, including a prologue to 4001 AD (Valiant)
FCBD 2016: Something A Little Different – A sampling of stores focusing on free speech (CBLDF), Mooncop and other comics from Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly), The Stuff of Legend (Th3rd World Studios), We Can Never Go Home & Young Terrorists (Black Mask), Love and Rockers (Fantagraphics), March (Top Shelf)

On Free Comic Book Day, May 7th I finished the 50 with:
FCBD 2016: Action/Sci-Fi/Fantasy – Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises (Darby Pop), a sampling of comics from the lab, all ages to more mature (Z2 Comics), Spectrum, from the web series Con Man (Automatic Publishing), Lady Mechanika (Benitez Productions), and a look at the future in the World of Aspen (Aspen Comics)
FCBD 2016: Costumed Heroes & Anti-Heroes – Civil War II, Avengers, Captain America, & Spider-Man (Marvel), Grant Morrison’s Avatarex (Graphic India), Mercy Sparx, The Badger, & Squarriors (Devil’s Due/1First Comics), The Phantom (Hermes Press), The Tick (New England Comics), Judge Dredd and more (2000 AD)
FCBD 2016: The Final Five! – Assassin’s Creed (Titan), Street Fighter V (Udon), Attack on Titan (Kodansha), One-Punch Man & My Hero Academia (Viz Media), Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace (Gemstone)

Now back to FCBD in the shops.  I have heard people say “my shop does not participate because they are a small business and cannot afford to give away comics or have a sale”.  It’s certainly true that FCBD comics are not free to the shops.  Each free comic you take is something that the shop you got it from had to pay a small amount for.  Not as much as they pay for a regular retail comic, but it was not free to them.  Discounts for shops will vary based on the number of FCBD books ordered and other factors, so there is not a set price every shop pays.  Every small business person needs to decide how to run their business and that includes how to promote their business, how to drive sales, and how to manage their working capital.


Nuclear Comics; Laguna Hills, CA

Shops can leverage FCBD and turn it into their best sales day of the year.  Get people in with creator appearances, sales and free comics.  Build good will, create new customers, and blow out dead stock turning it into working capital.  The closest shop to my home, Nuclear Comics had a huge blow out this year.  In addition to the FCBD comics, the owner, Kenny Jacobs, gave away 31 long boxes (comprising over 9000 comics) of dead stock he had accumulated over 20 years of business.  This is stuff that normally could have been in a 25 cent or 50 cent bin, but he would have gotten rid of a fraction of it.  Instead, he moved a TREMENDOUS amount of comics into the hands of fans, freed up a LOT of storage space for things that he can actually sell, and built up a bunch of customer good will.  There was a lot of stuff still in the boxes when I got to them around 2pm, but the 31 boxes was down to about 10 at that point.


I focused on comics that either didn’t look familiar to me or I knew I didn’t have (Brutal Planet, Highway 13, Nuos, Lethargic Lad, Wildflower, and more) and then I also grabbed some comics I knew were good reads and knew that I’d be able to give them to people who would enjoy them (Bad Dog, The Field, Barry Ween, Knights of the Dinner Table, Finder, and more).  I ended up with about 100 comics from the “free” boxes.

They also had the cross-promotional idea to give out coupons for a free slice of pizza at the pizza place in the same strip mall.  Customers got a free slice and probably bought a soda or 2nd slice while they were over there.

And then there were the sales with stuff from 25% to 75% off.  I went right for the $1 comics, which were all indie comics that were no longer moving in his shop.  These had their initial sales and the number of people who were asking for these after the initial sale period was very low, so if not dead stock, at least on life support.  I picked up comics I had skipped the first time around from Avatar (God is Dead, Code Pru, Providence), BOOM! (Big Trouble in Little China, Bill and Ted Go to Hell, Klaus, Lantern City, Lumberjanes), Dynamite (Blackcross, Swords of Sorrow, Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris), Oni (Blood Feud, Hellbreak, Stumptown), Valiant (Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, XO Manowar) and more…. I ended up with 138 comics in total.  Even though these were $1, as I browsed these racks for about 90 minutes making my selections, only a handful of people even bothered to browse these comics, since most were not familiar to them.  Every now and again a person would look at a comic and then put it back.  I engaged a few in conversation…”What kinds of stories do you like to read?”  I pointed people at Mouse Guard, Bob’s Burgers, various Valiant titles, some Conan or Red Sonja, and more.  Several of them then went away with some $1 comics in hand, but left alone, the indie rack was a lonely place.

But there was brisk business in the super-hero and Star Wars comics that were mostly 25% to 30% off.  And the Collected Edition shelves were in constant use, being restocked constantly the entire time I was there (a couple of hours).  I saw lots of people buying copies of the Civil War TPBs and other familiar properties.

And creators….They had different ones cycling in all day.  When I got there Amy Mebberson was doing cute drawings for little kids.  In general, there was a festive atmosphere and I saw LOTS of kids and families in the shop and almost everyone was buying something.  The entire time I was there there was a line at the register, sometimes longer, sometime shorter, but they were ringing up sales all day.

A comic shop owner might say “How can I afford to give away comics on Free Comic Book Day”?  If you do it right, how can you afford NOT to?

So, another FCBD is in the history books.  I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the good folks at Diamond for sending me a set of comics for review.  I’d also like to thank Kenny Jacobs of Nuclear Comics for being a shining example of how to do FCBD right.  You did a great job and made a lot of people happy, Kenny!

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