Mike Gold: Free Comic Books, Now!
This is Wednesday, so perhaps you have finished reading all those free comic books you copped last Saturday – in time for today’s new releases, of course. I hope you tried some new stuff; that, after all, is the purpose of the exercise.
I hope you got your free comics at all. Fans are limited by their proximity to a comic book store; despite the (slow) growth in outlets, finding a store remains a trauma exacerbated in less urban environs. Of course, if you are within distance of a comics shop, your friendly neighborhood retailer has to participate in Diamond Comic Distributors’ Free Comic Book Day program – and that’s a fairly expensive proposition.
No criticism is intended here: it’s a good program, and all Diamond is asking is that retailers pay their share of the expenses. Nonetheless, some retailers find the cost is prohibitive. Running a comic book store is a scary proposition: every month, the owner stares at the order form and literally bets the rent on his non-returnable choices. If you’ve made some bad calls, you might not have the coin for this promotion. And if you’re doing okay, you might know from previous experience that there is an insufficient return on investment. That’s called “business.”
One of the benefits of the convention circuit is that I get to see friends from all over the country. In the two weeks prior to Free Comic Book Day, I was at AwesomeCon in Washington DC and C2E2 in Chicago. Several retailer friends told me in Washington that they weren’t participating in FCBD, usually for the reasons I noted above. Hmmmm, I said.
The following week I was in Chicago and I asked several other retailer friends if they were playing in. Their general response was “What? Of course I am! Do you think I’m nuts?”
Well, I just might, but not over FCBD. It’s each retailer’s decision, and he or she makes that decision based upon the balance sheet and prior experience. If, ultimately, it expands their sales it’s a good idea and if it does not expand their sales, it’s a bad idea. It’s just that simple.
I like FCBD because it gives me, as a reader, the opportunity to sample stuff that I have overlooked. There are roughly 500 new comic books published each month, not counting direct-to-digital, and even if I have the Sultan of Brunei’s bank account I don’t have time to read even a small fraction of the total output. Plus, I’m an old newspaper strip fan and, as Mark Wheatley says, this is the golden age of newspaper reprints. Let’s face it, I’ve got a life. And that life has a television set.
The coolest part for me is coming across something unexpected. For example, the 2014 FCBD edition of 2000 AD contained a Judge Dredd story by my pal Chris Burnham, who neglected to tell me he did this job when I saw him the previous week. I forgive him, and respect the fact that he’s capably following in the footsteps of Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland, Mick McMahon, Ian Gibson and other top-rank Dredd artists. As I moved into the guts of the book I was pleased to see Jan Duursema’s art on the Durham Red story. Pretty damn cool.
I guess for me, the whole Free Comic Book Day thing addresses that inner-fanboy that all too often is pushed aside by “professional considerations.” So, as a consumer, FCBD is a very good thing.
Besides. I like Rocket Raccoon. Hey, we’ve all got something to promote!