This past Saturday was one of the most sacred and religious holidays in all of nerdom, Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). For many years I have heard of this phenomenon. I knew that there was such a time when Stan Lee rode into town in the SHIELD helicarrier and delivered free comics to all the good girls and man-children hoping for their fanatical financial support for the coming year, and this time I wanted to be a part of it.
What excited me most about this year’s FCBD was the idea of not just perusing the content that was easily accessible online, but actually waking up early and driving to my local shop to see what the fuss was about. I expected to see a large number of men of similar age and appearance to myself suffering from varying degrees of neckbeardery, kind of shuffling around waiting to pick up a new Avengers tie in. What I actually saw when I pulled up was a line out the door made up of people of all different ages and races and genders. That’s right, women. In a comic shop, it was awesome.
I’ve been semi-frequently visiting my local shop (Rogue’s Gallery in Round Rock, TX) for several years now and only ever really seen guys who were more or less just like me, but this was a fantastic showing of all kinds of people willing to wake up early (10 am is early for comic enthusiasts) on a Saturday and make their way to a local shop to see what exciting things they could get their hands on. Moms and dads were there with their kids, wives with their husbands, nerdy manchildren like myself with friends of equivalent social standing. It was awesome. Never before had I seen so many people in the store.
What’s more, I saw a kid eagerly grab a Firefly hardcover and run it up to his mom expecting him to ask for the copy himself, and instead heard him get excited thinking he found one his mom hadn’t read yet. She responded that it was a variant cover and she had in fact read it a while back, but the important thing was that a woman in her mid forties was having a conversation with her middle school aged son about comics and not telling them they would rot his brain. She had a passion for comics (you don’t just know something is a variant cover if it’s your first rodeo), and she was sharing it with her children. I can’t tell you how much hope that gives me for my own future progeny.
Anyway, when I finally made it to the front of the line I found that FCBD is indeed an event for all ages. There were comics for elementary aged kids featuring Spongebob and Yo Gabba Gabba monstrosities, as well as new Marvel and DC heavy hitters for guys like me. I even nabbed a Firefly/Star Wars double issue that I’m sure the mom behind me was eager to pick up herself. It was great to see that people were excited to share their passion whether it was for a beloved child’s character, a classic superhero, or the continuation of a short lived (but well loved) television series. Kids were excited about reading, parents were excited about sharing a hobby, and several wives and girlfriends I saw were happy to pick up a new Buffy comic, and I am always on board with that.
As a local business owner (of a sort) myself, I loved seeing a small brick and mortar overrun with people. While I noticed a few simply grabbing their free books and heading out the door, a fair number were picking up complementary books or trade paperbacks and helping to keep this little store alive. Randy and the guys at Rogue’s did a great job managing the queue while also providing helpful advice to those who wanted to know which free books were best as well as what to get if they liked what they read. This was my first Free Comic Book Day, but seeing how positive an experience it was, I will definitely be going back again next year. Feel free to catch a ride to the shop with me if you’d like, or check out a local brick and mortar yourself. More often than not you’ll be glad that you did.