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.