In May each year, comic book shops around the world participate in a one day event called Free Comic Book Day. For me, this year was my sixth year of going into the city to take part, and two friends came with me again this year. It was a long day, but we bagged quite a collection.Free Comic Book Day happens on the first Saturday in May each year, and comic book shops offer a selection of free comics to patrons, usually without even making a purchase! Often it’s accompanied by a bit of a festival or celebration which the stores throw to try and encourage visitors to lay down some cash, and get involved in the day in various ways, such as by dressing up (cosplaying), or getting a caricature drawn of themselves.
For me, having been to so many now, and attending comic book stores on a regular basis, it was a bit same-ol’, same-ol’. So I wasn’t too enthusiastic about going, but I had some friends coming with me, and was determined to make a day of it. And actually it turned out great. We decided to try and mostly recreate last year’s run, but no one felt like getting up quite so early, so we headed in a little later.
We arrived at Minotaur around 8:40AM, and the line was much longer than last year, even considering the fact that we were 40 minutes later. I think I overheard the people in the front of the line mention they had been there since around 5AM. The line was moving promptly by 9AM, and our path through the store was just direct enough to get everyone inside, rather than snaking past every shelf. By 9:30AM, we each had 5 comics in our hands. In fact, I didn’t realise it until much later on, but I somehow managed to acquire 6 comics, simply by losing count as I asked for them.
Minotaur’s setup was essentially the same as last year. The first 30 people in line got a bundle of all of this year’s FCBD comics, and the first 150 got a goodie bag with their selection of comics. We were still early enough to get goodie bags, although this year’s weren’t as impressive; there just wasn’t anything that great in there for me. Each person could picked 5 comics from the available range, which seemed to include almost every comic on this year’s FCBD list, with family-friendly comics marked as such. Minotaur also ran their standard 20% off sale over the course of the day.
After pottering around in Minotaur for a while, we decided to go down to Comics-R-Us. We manage to get there by 9:55AM, just before they opened, and joined the small line that had formed in the foyer/corridor area. We were in the first set of people to walk into the store, with only about 15 people ahead of us. By 10:10AM, we had our comics, and were ready to leave.
Comics-R-Us also used their usual setup, where people pick the comics they want from a display board, one staff member serves them, and another staff member picks the comics out and bags them. Unlike last year, they had gone back to only allowing people to choose 2 comics each, like previous years, however their diverse range made up for this somewhat. There was a mixture of new comics available, as well as ones dating back 2+ years, in addition to various ‘true believer’ editions which usually sell for a dollar. That said, the amount of comics with similar or near-indistinguishable names was still a point of potential confusion and frustration.
Our next port of call was Classic Comics, which we reached by 10:25AM, and as usual it was very busy in there. Or at least, it seemed so, due to the tightness of space. Despite that, after consulting my pre-written list, I was able to work out what I wanted and grab my 3 comics by 10:40AM.
Classic Comics again used their usual setup, with comics spread throughout the store. Each person could choose 3 comics, plus more if you spent money. With it came their usual problems of not having anyone explaining the system as people entered, and a crowded entryway with people lining up for artist’s drawings.
Classic Comics’ range was pretty good this year, with an even mix of this year’s and last year’s FCBD catalogue available, plus plenty of Halloween Comicfest comics, although I still find the large number of previews, which are basically just catalogues, included in the range a bit of a dirty trick.
This year, we also decided to give All-Star Comics a try. We knew they would have a long line, but at this stage of the day, I seemed to have not picked up a copy of Spider-Man yet, so I was willing to brave it. By the time we arrived at 11AM, the line wrapped down the street, around corner and even kept going a bit further. It was a long wait, but All-Star’s staff tried to keep it enjoyable by handing out some Halloween Comicfest comics to read while we waited. They also gave out little checklists of all the comics on offer so that people could be ultra-efficient when it finally got to their turn, and instructed everyone to read out their choices exactly as stated on the list, and in the listed alphabetical order, to make picking them a quicker process.
We were excited to get inside at 12:15PM, however our enthusiasm quickly evaporated when we realised this simply meant waiting in another, albeit much shorter, line before we could even go upstairs. Interestingly, families that came along in this time were waved through to join the line inside directly. There was also a table downstairs where kids could pick up a pre-packed comics bundle, similar to previous years. This was positive to see, because it meant that families that didn’t want to do what I had done in the past and arrive before 9AM still got an advantage for coming along with kids, and had an easier time collecting some comics.
Once we got upstairs, we found another final line which took up most of the room. Just as we neared the front of the line, they announced that they were down to the last 3 copies of one of the comics, and this seemed to be the first thing they had run out of so far that day. By the time we had comics in our hands, it was around 1PM. As we left, I took a peek round the corner, and the line was just as long as when we arrived.
All-Star’s setup was pretty much as I remember it being. They had a display board of all the comics to pick from, with two people behind the counter, serving. The board was somewhat redundant though, because of the checklists that each person had been handed as they waited, although they were still handy for those who hadn’t quite made up their minds fully yet. Each person was able to pick 7 comics, which is an impressive level of generosity from All-Star, and the range consisted of the whole of this year’s FCBD catalogue. They also had a 10% off sale, which even included some bargain-bin titles, which I snapped up.
Overall, All-Star seems to have evolved their methods since I last visited for a FCBD, and apart from the astonishingly long wait times, which aren’t really their fault, they’ve handled it quite well.
In the end, I actually collected two duplicates, due to some poor choices, and some poor bag-checking. Despite that, and the long time spent waiting in lines, we had a fun day. I managed to pick up 18 comics, not counting the dupes. I’m yet to get to reading them all, so I can’t nominate a favourite of the bunch but I’m looking forward to reading The Mall. If you want to see what I thought of the comics I grabbed, or other comics I read, you can follow along on the League of Comic Geeks or on Goodreads.
As I’ve said many times before, I highly recommend visiting a few comic book shops on Free Comic Book Day. It’s a fun time, and you end up with free comics! What more could you want!
To Infinity and Beyond,