Author: Ariel Landrum
Free Comic Book Day is a grassroots celebration of the pop culture industry, where creators and fans gather every first Saturday in May. These festivities always occur at the hub of the community: the local comic book shop. This annual jubilee aims to foster new readers into these independent comic book stores.
The unofficial holiday was the brainchild of Joe Field, retailer of Flying Colors Comics. He wrote about the idea in Comics and Games Retailer magazine in his “Big Picture” column. The next year Diamond Comic Distributors coordinated the first event. Fast forward 15 years later, and the nerd collective finds a gathering of over 2,300 participating shops, cosplaying contests, and over 12 million free comics.
The 2017 year brought over 20 original comics from major publishers, including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, and Image Comics. Devotees of many ages and franchises were able to find books from a variety of genres. To grab all these goodies, People of Con visited four comic book shops in their SoCal neighborhood. We met independent creators, got to know our local shop owners, and enjoyed a food-truck frenzy.
The first business on our list was Njoy Games and Comics. Outside welcomed guests with a table that held a variety of comics and posters, all free for the taking. Local volunteers came to face paint and give away free posters and masks, and prized graphic novels. They allowed each patron, young and old, to grab 5 comics of their choice. Additionally, the line they established to receive these freebies was well organized. We were able to be in and out without a struggle.
We then ventured to a comic book shop called Collector’s Paradise. This larger venue, complete with an artist’s gallery, provided attendees with the chance to take pictures with a cosplayer who looked EXACTLY look Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. They even had freelance artists Evan Burse and Kiernan Sjursen-Lien creating free custom sketches for kids. Both gallery and main room were packed throughout the day.
Moving to our next destination, we typed into our GPS Paper Hero’s Games; this gaming operation, littered with materials to create and paint figurines, engaged in the hoopla. In the middle of the room, where they usually set up for RPG gaming, had tables of comics. The owner told visitors they could have one of each comic on the table! We had reached the motherload! A huge thanks to this store for completing our Free Comic Book Day collection!
Our adventure ended at Galaxy of Comics, this author’s favorite comic book emporium. Every year, for the past 9 years, they close the parking lot in front of their establishment to expand their nerdy blowout. Those chasing free comics were welcomed with the wafting smell of delicious taco trucks and a tent with handmade pupusas. Walking around the event, people were entertained by hearing the geeky tunes from fan-run Krypton Radio. Galaxy took over the building next door to offer free drawing lessons by local artists Bobby Breed and Abel.
Before even stepping foot in the shop, guests were surrounded by tents full of backstock discounted comics. Also in attendance outside of the shop was the company Mission Never Impossible, a locksmith that, on the spot, could make house keys for almost every franchise. Franklin Webb, Creator of Crosses & Silver Bullets, was present to sign and answer questions about his story.
Inside the shop, in front of the giant Silver Surfer statue, was a table stacked so full of comics to grab that it was surprising the table was still standing. Creator Jared Morgan of Nickelodeon’s Loud House spent the day signing comics, including the free comic he made especially for Free Comic Book Day. Every year they offer the option of choosing 5 comics or donating to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which allows them to choose 8. The CBLDF is a non-profit that provides legal aid to protect the First Amendment rights of the comic art form and its community.
After making donations, chatting with the employees, and stuffing our faces with food, we returned to the car to call the quest complete. The day ended with POC members tired but satisfied. Basking in our spoils, we were already mapping our stops for next year.