Tagged: Paradox Comics

Ed Catto: On the Road Again – Free Comic Book Day

Main Street Comics FCBD 8 Carl and WillSaturday was Free Comic Book Day, the amazing annual event where the world celebrates comics by giving away a few free comics to one and all. And by a few comics, I mean millions!

Fifteen years ago, Joe Field had a wonderful idea that was inspired by a Free Ice Cream Cone Day, and it became a reality. And now it’s grown each year to the delight of fans young and old. Kids, parents, teens, hardcore fans, casual fans, curious potential new fans, advertisers, publishers and retailers helped celebrate the 15th Annual Free Comic Book Day.

This year, I broke my personal record and visited eight amazing comic shops in northern NJ, just outside of New York City. And it was really nine if you count my visit to Main Street Comics on FCBD’s Eve.

Dewey City Lady BlackHawkIt was a great day, as witnessed in many stores.

Constant Cosplay

More than ever, cosplay was an integral part of Geek Culture. I could see that more this year than other years. It’s almost a given that every store will have some excellent cosplayers on the premises. The crowd oohs and ahs while taking photos. It’s all about celebrating the creativity and skills of the cosplayers while providing a bit of live theater.

But it doesn’t end there, as many fans, especially kids, are proud to bring their own cosplay to Free Comic Book Day.

All Ages Means ALL Ages

Main Street Comics FCBD 6 Spidey FanFree Comic Book Day summons fans of all ages. Families with young kids are a staple, but many of the comic shops, like East Side Mags and Funny Books, lured the curious into the fray from their respective downtowns. We used to use phrases like “the young and the young at heart” as a euphemism for “old”, but we don’t have to beat around that bush any more do we?

I saw more than a few older fans, and they were just as eager to pick up comics as the preschoolers.

Cool Folks Doing Cool Things

Dewey City Deadpool HarleySeveral stores, like A & S Comics, Zapp Comics and Dewey’s Comic City had artists on hand to provide sketches and drawings for fans. Other shops had some very interesting folks on premises, including:

  • Time Warp hosted Jennifer Lynn Parson, the editor of Luna Station Publishing, a line of books by female creators.
  • Region 99, a magazine that celebrates creativity through diversity, was also at the Time Warp store. Important to aspiring artists – Region 99 sponsors artists at New York Comic Con, and are now accepting submissions. It sounds like a great way for artists to get onto the convention floor.
  • The Einhorn’s Epic Cookies team was at East Side Mags, selling their unique cookie and comic product. I hadn’t had one in a while, and I was glad I did. Yum!
  • Comic Explosion hosted Mike Stein of the Starfleet, a Star Trek club that meets monthly across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
  • Funny Books FCBD 1 Cap Batman EdParadox Comics offered their annual Coloring Contest – encouraging fans to bring back their colored pages in one week.
  • In the East Side Mags tents was Keiki Explorer’s Club – a summertime club that takes kids on daytrip adventures!

A Yearly Expectation of Geek Culture

Time Warp FCBD 3 Luna Station Jennifer Lynn ParsonsAfter 15 years, Free Comic Book Day is now at that point where all the fans seemed to get it. And they look forward to the fun in a patient way.

The fans seemed to understand that only designated comics were free. They all seemed to know where to go and how to navigate the stores.

But it’s also worth noting that by the 15th year, all the stores seemed very prepared for the crowds. There was plenty of staff on hand and just about all the stores seemed as geared up and ready to sell comics and other merchandise, as they were ready to give away free comics.

TIme Warp FCBD 6 BillAnd most amazing to me is the diverse crowd of comic fans and how they seemed to get along. And I don’t think that only happens on a day like today. There were so many different people attending FCBD, people that would not typically have the opportunity to speak to one another during a typical day. But here they all were – grabbing their comics, debating the latest comic book movie, marveling over the amazing discounts and sweet deals – and enjoying a moment with other people who share a similar passion.

It was a great event and a great party. I’m already looking forward to FCBD’s Sweet Sixteen!

For the record, I’d like to thank the following New Jersey comic shops, and their hard -working staff, for throwing some great parties today:

  • A & S Comics, Teaneck
  • Paradox Comics, North Arlington
  • A & S Comics FCBD 2Comics Explosion, Nutley
  • East Side Mags, Montclair
  • Time Warp, Cedar Grove
  • Dewey’s Comic City, Madison
  • Funny Books, Lake Hiawatha
  • Zapp! Comics Cards and Toys, Wayne

And one more thank you to Main Street Comics in East Middletown, NY and More Fun Comics and Games in Denton TX, where my brother and my nieces celebrated FCBD.

Ed Catto: On the Road, On Free Comic Book Day

You’ve doubtlessly heard of Dante’s Inferno and his seven circles of hell. But did you know he had a couple of sequels, including Paradiso (i.e., Paradise)? I touch upon this I think that for so many geeks across the world, Free Comic Book Day is a uniquely shared day of celebration. This year, for this mini-paradise, I embarked on what was a sort of Circle of Free Comic Book Day: a seven store marathon FCBD pilgrimage to learn how it’s changed and why it’s a bigger deal each and every year.

1 Erika and Quincy FCBD momI live just outside of New York City in New Jersey, so I mapped out a plan of action to visit several stores for the 14th Annual Free Comic Book Day. Created by entrepreneur, retailer, visionary and all-around-great-guy, Joe Fields, this holiday has now grown to a worldwide event, distributing an estimated 5.3 million comics, engaging national sponsors and rivaling Black Friday as a geek-centric retail blockbuster.

By its very nature, reading is a solitary event. On the other hand, comics, graphic novels and geek culture are inherently social. Free Comic Book Day offers a bridge across this divide. One of the magical transformations of FCBD is that it turns the experiences of reading/collecting, and typical one-on-one experience between the retailer and the customer, into a shared, event-like experience.
Based on my own very geocentric observations, here’s a few emerging trends I saw in my day long pilgrimage:

4 Mom & Daughter CosplayMore Women, and more Moms. There’s been a lot written about the very healthy explosion of women participating in geek culture, and I saw so much evidence to support this. There many women – on their own, with kids, with other women and with significant others. Of particular note were the moms with whom I spoke. They are a new breed. They are fans that keep up with it along with their kids. The first mom I spoke with, Erika, brought her son Quincy and his friend. She revealed they’ve been buying comics since last free comics day, and was a lapsed Elfquest reader. The boys liked Spider-Man and Batman, but she showed her true colors when she explained she was going to pick up the last two issues of Saga because she was a month behind.

Lauren, another mom, kept here two adorable daughters from getting unruly as she explained she loves Vertigo’s Fables, the Avengers and Saga. Gladys, a mother of two making a mid-day FCBD stop with her family (and another young family), explained that he loves Harley Quinn and was ravenous to read anything with this breakout character.

5 Dad and Son CosplayTwenty-something fan girls were out in force as well. One woman, waiting in line at 4:30 during my final visit of the day, explained she’s a regular buyer, but had to miss last year’s FCBD as she was scheduled to work. She had just finished her shift and headed straight the The Joker’s Child comic store. At Funny Books, cosplay was encouraged and one woman was cosplaying Harley Quinn while another young woman proudly showed off the skirt she had made – and the fabric was adorned with female-empowerment magic items.

Sales Stronger than Ever. Dan Veltre of Dewey’s Comic City said that this year’s FCBD looked to eclipse last year’s event, and that “Free Comic Book Day is now bigger than Black Friday, bigger than Midnight Madness.” But FCBD is more than just a big one-day party. Every retailer realized it’s either the start of a new relationship or a way to strengthen existing ones, and then plans accordingly. Some offer coupons, some provided extra free comic books and one retailer, A&S Comics, encouraged customers at checkout to join their Belly loyalty program.

Creative Cosplay. A few years ago, FCBD might be a time break out a comic-themed T-shirt. This year, it’s an opportunity for many fans and retailers to cosplay. What a fun day for so many kids to cosplay, or the parents who encouraged them. Lego and DK Publishing, two Free Comic Book Day Sponsors, held costume contests in select stores. (Full Disclosure: Bonfire/GeekRiotMedia developed and managed this sponsorship.)

And many retailers got into the act too. Paradox Comics had a bouncer Harley Quinn and a Captain Marvel, with a FCBD, enticing drivers to stop by. Funny Books’ Spider-Man and Black Widow posed with fans, and the storeowner joined the fun as Captain America.

Community Focused. As more and more traditional retailers become less connected to their community, comic book shops seem to be taking the opposite approach. East Side Mags’ owner Jeff Beck worked with the local library to create a banner that fans were invited to draw on during FCBD. This will be on display thorough the summer. Other retailers, like A&S comics, worked out deals to create special coupon offers with other local businesses.

Long Lines and Deep Passion. Every store, throughout the day, I visited had a line full of fans waiting to join the celebration. Zapp Comics explained they had fans camping out starting at 3:30 am Saturday Morning, and there was a long line when they opened their doors at 8:00 am. They ran out of their FCBD comics by 12:30, and by afternoon were offering select current titles they had pulled off the rack so as to not disappoint fans. Some stores, like Dewey’s Comic City used the line wisely, with tents and free sketching from up-and-coming artists from the nearby Kubert Art School. Funny Books hauled the back issues out onto the sidewalk for a 50% sale. “The Free Comic Book Day Weather Gods are smiling upon us once again, “ said Steve Conte. And at the Joker’s Child, there was still a 20-minute wait to get in at 4:30 n Saturday afternoon.

A Busy Day. And as usual, the comic shop retailers were ones that customers turned to for help and recommendations. And sometimes retailers were simply the person with whom they could share the joy of the day. For most of us, neighborhood grocers, pharmacists, barbers and bookstore owners are a thing of the past. I’m glad, as were all the folks in the communities I visited, that we still have local comic shop retailers.

Special thanks to these great retailers (listed in the order of my FCBD visits):

2 Circle of Free Comic Book DayA&S Comics – Teaneck, NJ

Paradox Comics, North Arlington, NJ

East Side Mags, Montclair, NJ

Dewey’s Comic City, Madison, NJ

Funny Books, Lake Hiawatha, NJ

Zapp Comics, Wayne NJ

The Joker’s Child, Fairlawn, NJ