Free Comic Book Day is May 2nd, and this year there are 50 different books available including: Wonderland (Zenescope), Gronk (Action Comics), Pokemon (Boom), Avengers #1 (Marvel), Secret Wars #0 (Marvel), and Divergence (DC Comics). I’m always excited to get my mitts on as many books as I can (and after I’ve grabbed all I’m allowed, I’ll send my son and husband to get the rest).
I’ve patrolled my local comic book store in costume the past three years and I have a few tips for anyone who is new to this day or new to some of the titles on the table.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because a title has a kid-friendly cover, doesn’t mean it’s a kid-friendly story. I saw more little kids with Zenescope in their clutches last year than I care to have seen, and each time I walked them back and pointed to a more age-appropriate title for them.
Many of the FCBD books are jumping on points to get readers interested. You can bet if there is a title on the table that there is another book in the store that your child or you will be interested in.
Support the store with your wallet. FCBD costs the stores a lot of money each year, so help them out by buying something while you’re there. Most stores have sales and discounts on various titles that day, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
Meet fellow fans and ask for recommendations. If you see someone else grab something you like, ask them if they have any recommendations for other books. If you don’t like a particular title, ask for recommendations that are different.
Come in costume! FCBD is like a mini-comic book convention. Come dressed as your favorite character or let your child wear their favorite character attire (even if that means it’s their Batman PJs with the cape on the back).
Make a day of it! Get to the store when they open for the best selection of free books and then, hit up another store, and another, and…well, you get the point. Not every store stocks the same FCBD books, so the more stores you hit up, the better your chances are of getting a wider variety.
Contests! Stay updated on contests and giveaways at your local comic book shop and on FCBD Facebook page. A few of these contests require pictures of you with your books, so take pictures of your family with their picks.
Regardless of how you plan to spend the day, have fun with it! Oh, and grab as many books as you can. You never know when you can trade a Wonderland or Avatar book for something else down the road.
In our home, as likely in the homes of all my fellow GeekMoms, Free Comic Book Day is written on the kitchen calendar.
To take it even further, we have a “plan of action.” Friday night we head to our comic shop’s preview party for boxholders, reserve the books we want and enjoy a hot dog with our fellow store patrons. Next morning, we head back, claim our comics, take part in giveaways, see the cosplay contests, and, if possible, purchase sketches from some talented regional artists. If we have time, we “road trip” to other comic shops and bookstores, just to see what they have happening.
For us, Free Comic Book Day isn’t just a chance to go grab some free swag, although I’m by no means opposed to doing that. It’s also a chance for our family to enjoy something special together.
This certainly isn’t groundbreaking news for GeekMoms, but hopefully something all other moms will take to heart. If approached with the right attitude, Free Comic Book Day is the perfect family event, regardless of one’s interest (or lack of interest) in the medium.
For those moms who can’t understand my enthusiasm, here are five reasons why every mom should embrace Free Comic Book Day. For all the rest of us, please share this with your favorite non-geek mom…or dad.
1. Comics are a stairway to reading “actual books.” You don’t have to tell me comics are a viable form of literature. I have a garage filled with long-boxes, and a growing “to read” stack by my bed. However, who doesn’t want to see their kids pick up and take on a classic tome? Give them a good Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge Adventure that mentions Jason and the Argonauts, and they might pick up a book on mythology. For older kids, look at the characterizations of Astro City or Mouse Guard, and this might lead to picking up Tolkien, Verne, or Lewis Carroll in the future. Get them into Iron Man and they might want to learn more about modern technological advancement or mechanics, and how to use them to make the world a better place.
2. These events unleash the artist/writer within. Many Free Comic Book Day events are celebrated with other activities such as character appearances, local or national comic book writers and artists, costume contests, and other ways for stores to draw people into their fine establishments. This can really help let flow kids’ own creative juices. Whether or not your child shows a “natural tendency” as an artist or writer, there is something therapeutic and calming about taking a pencil to a clear sketchbook and seeing an image form or letting words spill out into a journal (or computer screen as the case may be for some). Not everyone may have a knack for realism or plot development, but everyone can draw or write something. “Talent” may vary, but creativity is universal. Don’t waste it.
3. This a fantastic excuse to get out of the house. Non-geek moms need to fight the misguided assumption that comic book readers are lonely little pizza-stained couch potatoes. Events like Free Comic Book Day will actually get kids off the couch and away from the game console or television. Even gamers need to get up every now and then and take a family outing. A stopover at the comic book shop could lead to an entire afternoon’s adventure. Grab your books, pick up lunch or ice cream (or pack a picnic), and take your reading to a local park. It’s May and springtime, after all. If you happen to live in a city like Chicago, New York, or San Francisco, take a comic book tour of the city and compare sights and places where action takes place. It’s a great way to learn more about your own town. I live in the Southwest on the edge of West Texas and New Mexico, not too horribly far from where a couple of little comic movie properties like “Thor” and “The Avengers” were recently filmed. Do I hear road trip?
4. It’s a way to remind your offspring you were once (and in many ways still are) a kid. I defy any adult not accustomed to entering a comic book shop to not get some twinge of nostalgia for a well loved (or even much hated) piece of pop culture from his or her own childhood. I love getting into cool conversations with my daughter about the evolution of Batman through the years, or why Brian Michael Bendis is the best thing to ever happen to the depiction of the character Nick Fury. Start talking about, bragging about, or even making fun of really bad comics from the past (<cough> Disco-era “Dazzler” <cough>) and next thing you know the generation gap is gone, at least for a short time. Pick up any random book, and find out how imagination spans the generations.
5. The real-life applications are limitless. When parents have a hard time getting kids to open up to you on any issue, they can find pretty much whatever is plaguing your ‘tween or teen or piquing the curiosity of a younger child in comics today, from “playing nice with others” to discovering your life purpose. Pick a topic and it’s there somewhere: family values, war and peace, racism, love vs. lust, loyalty, trust, really cool technological advancements, stereotypes…need I go on. Also, from the point of view of a mom with girls, it is great chance to talk about how women are depicted in pop culture, and what can cause body image or self-esteem problems. This is also an issue many boys might want to learn as well.
This Free Comic Book Day, all moms should be itching to venture into that comic book shop even if they’ve never set foot near a bag and backboard before, and open their kids up to new avenues of imagination.
Who knows, you might even have fun, but I won’t tell anyone.
Last week, I talked about my experience with the Little Free Library program, and how it has allowed my family to share our passion for reading with our community. To follow up, here’s my list of five of my favorite book and comic-based opportunities celebrating the beauty of the written word:
We geek parents know Free Comic Book Day, the first Saturday in May, like we know our kids’ birthdays. This is the day that participating comic book sellers offer selected free comics for anyone and everyone of all ages. Since the first Free Comic Book Day in 2002, thousands of shops worldwide have joined in on the fun, exposing more and more people to the literary and visual art amalgam of the comic book.
Its popularity has spawned a companion fall event, Halloween ComicFest, held in late October. In addition to free comics, most with a dark or spooky edge, it’s also one of the best online costume and cosplay contests for both youth and adults, which they humbly call The Greatest Halloween Costume Contest Ever. I’m not too proud to admit that my own daughter came a close second to winning her age category for her original Lord of the Rings: War in the North video game-inspired costume of warrior elf, Andriel. This Halloween event isn’t quite as big as its spring counterpart, but if the rising appeal of both comics and Halloween continues, it may soon well be.
This has been Halloween tradition since 2010, with some pretty big names in eerie literature wholeheartedly endorsing it, most notably Neil Gaiman, who started it all on his blog by asking followers to give each other scary books.
“Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle,” Gaiman proposed. “Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy…Give someone a scary book for Halloween. Make their flesh creep…”
That was all there was to that, and All Hallows Read continues. People can hand out scary age-appropriate books (new or second-hand) as trick-or-treat and carnival prizes or gifts, or just leave them lying around public areas. The official site often includes printable All Hallows Read labels, encouraging people to “Take This Book.” There is no easier way to share books and comics than just leaving them in high-traffic areas where people can find them. I inadvertently do this year-round, and now I have a perfectly sound excuse.
This largely European-based reading awareness event is known in some countries as International Day of the Book or World Book and Copyright Day. It was created in 1995 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) to promote reading and publishing. Celebrations and observances are held on or around April 23 to mark the date both celebrated writers Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died. Different countries mark this occasion in their own way, including giving reading vouchers to school-aged youth as they do in the United Kingdom.
Similar international celebrations, with many in the United States, include World Book Night, also on April 23; International Children’s Book Day, observed on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday in early April; and El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Day of the Children/Day of the Books). The later, El día de los niños, was born in Mexico, and is a popular community event in several United States/Mexico border cities, including my hometown of El Paso, Texas. This day features community celebrations of family marked with book giveaways and entertainment.
Has there actually been a day created promoting both reading and Star Wars? Yes, there has! Be still my heart. This is one of the newer reading adventures for families, as Lucasfilm and their many publishing partners created it in 2012 for the sole purpose of celebrating reading. Held the first Saturday in October, the inaugural event was immediately embraced by more than 1,200 bookstores, schools, and libraries.
Just how and where the event is celebrated is up to the hosting venue, and Lucasfilm provides downloadable trivia kits, crafts, and activity suggestions online. Many venues opt for activities like storytelling, book and prize giveaways and, of course, cosplay…it is Star Wars, after all. What’s the fun without some 501st Legion members helping out?
This NEA (National Education Association) project is probably the most well-known in American schools and is especially popular among students and teachers. Held on the school day closest to Dr. Seuss’s birthday—March 2—the party encourages reading and storytelling events, some with celebrity readers who might don a jaunty red and white striped hat in celebration of Seuss’s iconic literary cat.
Through Read Across America, NEA also works closely with the group First Book, which has distributed more than 100 million books to children in need in more than 50,000 schools and programs. That is a bunch of books and a bunch of happy young readers. What could be better?
Mandy is looking forward to spending some time with family. Her in-laws are coming down to NC to help her husband’s aunt move.
Dakster Sullivan is trying hard to contain her excitement for Free Comic Book Day next week. To let some of that energy out, her family plans on hitting up a theme park this weekend and maybe pick up a comic book or two. She’s not a big thrill rider, but she loves walking around and looking at the sites inside the parks.
Even though her family is diligently trying to eat a healthier diet, Kris Bordessa couldn’t help herself. She ordered a copy of Casey Barber’s Classic Snacks Made from Scratch. It was all downhill from there. So far, the hands down favorite: Homemade BBQ potato chips. In other less-fattening news, she’s joined forces with a number of authors and creators for the Great Mother’s Day Giveaway. Stop by and enter to win prizes for yourself or your mom!
Happy Comic Release Day! Welcome to another installment of GeekMom Comic Book Corner, where we recap our adventures in comics for the week.
Dakster Sullivan — The Flash– Rebirth (written by Geoff Johns, art by Ethan Van Sciver)
This past Sunday, I finally took a moment to read my little brother’s The Flash: Rebirth comic books he loaned me a few weeks ago. The Flash is one of my favorite characters, but I don’t know too much about him.
From past talks with a few comic book veterans, I learned that Barry Allen is the Flash before Wally West. I’m most familiar with Wally because of Justice League: The Animated Series. I also learned that Barry was sucked into the speed force a while back. This story picks up with Barry finding his way out of the speed force and how he deals with life after the fact.
Seeing as how comic stores are so often accused of being unwelcoming to comic newcomers, women, and/or kids, it’s wonderful to see a place that’s getting it right.
Carol & John’s Comic Shop in Cleveland, Ohio had me at “Hello.” As a relatively new resident of the Cleveland area, I had heard of Carol & John’s through friends in the local comics community and stopped by one day with my preschool-age daughter. Immediately next to the entrance was a display filled with all-ages comics. In the center was a tiny table with chairs; on the table were crayons, drawing paper, action figures, and Free Comic Book Day comics for kids to take home. As soon as we walked in, my daughter sat down and got to work playing with the Fantastic Four while I was able to browse at my leisure.
On a subsequent visit, a staffer told me that when co-owner John became a dad himself, he recognized the value of making the store a more welcoming place for families. He’s made good on his word. This Wednesday, March 21, Carol & John’s is hosting an event of their own invention: Take Your Kid to the Comic Shop Day. Their website explains:
In the tradition of taking your kid to work with you, CNJ’s is having our first open house for our distinguished customers 12 and under!
You know you go to the comic shop every Wednesday, so why not bring the kids this week! Or maybe you don’t come in every Wednesday but have been waiting for the right time to introduce your kids to comics! This is it! In Celebration of Zoe’s first birthday she’ll be hanging out in the shop all day handing out freebies to all the kids! We’re also giving 20% off all graohic novels in our kids section along with 50% off back issues for the day! That includes our special kids section of back issues! Free Comics! Kid Friendly discounts! Other surprises! And I think Carol is promising…cupcakes! Please come visit us on this day with any child in your life and help us celebrate Zoe’s first year!
As always kids in costume get the most schwag! It’s like a primer for Free Comic Book Day!
Carol & John’s deserves great credit for their initiative, and I think their commitment to welcoming customers of all ages is just one small example of an encouraging trend in the comics community.
Recently I had the opportunity to go to Megacon 2012. I was super excited to see that DC Comics was going to be there and made a point to sniff them out.
*I now interrupt this article to give you a special insight…I am a newbie to this whole comic book thing. By newbie I mean I know that DC Comics owns Superman and Batman. I know that Marvel owns the X-Men and the Avengers. Through my husband, I know that George Perez has drawn Superman and my brother has taught me that Geoff Johns is a big name in the Lantern world. I don’t know who the other publishers or the artists are. My main focus is learning the story and the characters. I now return you to the main article.*
While walking around Megacon on Friday, I had the first highlight of my weekend. I got the opportunity to talk to Bill McCray, a gentleman working George Perez’s booth. I started out just asking him some questions about what kind of work George might be doing on the New 52. He gave me some interesting insight as to how some of the artists have been mixed around into different jobs and some who use to ink the characters are now doing the concept sketches.
He was excited to hear that I was a newbie and just trying to learn about the different aspects of how the comics come to my digital screen. I shared with him my story and an article that I wrote that DC Tweeted and put up on their Facebook a few weeks ago. He was really interested and also disappointed at some of the fan boys reactions to it because comics are for everyone.
Later that day I went to my first ever Megacon panel “DC Comics: All Access”. Talk about being a fish out of water. I looked around and in a room of over 100, I saw very few women (and some looked like they had been dragged). DC Comics Co-Publisher, Dan Didio, was the man in charge of the panel. One of the first questions he asked the crowd was how many people did not like the New 52. A flood of hands instantly went up.
After they all had their moment to express their concerns, he asked how many people liked the New 52. I raised my hand high and he called on me to give my reasons why I liked it. I explained that “I’m a newbie to comics and I really enjoyed having that fresh start.” He replied back to the crowd that “that is why we did it!” and he expressed his excitement about my new found love of the comics.
During the panel I learned a few things:
1. The DC comics and DC animated are separate groups. Dan Didio admitted that until an animated feature comes out, he knows about as much as we do.
2. Characters change with the times. A good example is Power Girl. Recently with the New 52 World’s Finest, Power Girl’s look was dramatically changed. Changes like this are made to keep the character current, modern, and fresh.
3. Make a really big note to visit a comic book shop on May 5th (aka Free Comic Book Day). DC Comics is releasing a new comic specifically for it.
After the panel was over I had the chance to talk to Dan a little about the New 52 and what I was enjoying about the comics I reading. The one on one conversation with him was the second highlight of my weekend.
On Saturday I went back to see the Bill at George Perez’s booth while in my 501st costume. I was excited to hear this time that he had shared my story with a friend of his who was also disappointed at the fan boy’s reactions to me. In his friend’s opinion it’s the fan boy’s harsh reactions towards the female fans that keep more women from reading. I am happy to say that I met enough friendly fan boys at Megacon to say “whatever” to the rest from now on.
On Sunday I finally had the chance to look around at the different comic book vendors. I found a 4th print of the New 52 Justice League (4th print I learned means it’s the 4th release of the comic after selling out three other times). Since it’s my first comic series, I decided to get it and frame it for my office. As we walked back to George’s booth to say bye to the gentleman I had been talking to earlier in the con, I noticed that one of the artists didn’t have a line. I remembered him from the panel on Friday and he looked friendly enough so I jumped over to say hi. I learned his name is Tony Bedard and he currently draws Green Lantern. While I was there he signed my comic and we had a nice little chat. He fell back in his chair when I told him the New 52 Justice League was my first comic and that it was the New 52 that got me reading comic books. We talked about the newbies point of view and how it was a nice change for me.
He said that one of the reasons they did the new 52 was it gave the characters and new readers a fresh start. One example he gave was the Batman comics. When a newbie was reading them they wouldn’t know that the Robin in the story was actually the 5th version of Robin. You almost needed a chart so you would know which incarnation of the character you were reading about.
I made the comment that my little brother and I were looking at a poster one day and my brother remarked that it was Dick Grayson wearing the cowl. I couldn’t help but reply back “When the heck did Dick become Batman? They never covered that in the animated series.” Another comic book fan standing by agreed with me that it could be confusing for new comic book fans to understand anything with all the history involved.
Overall my comic book experience at Megacon was AWESOME! I really enjoyed learning more about my new hobby and the creative people behind the scenes. The artists and higher ups were really nice and down to earth. I felt like they really listened and understood where a newbie like me was coming from. Knowing that there are people behind the scenes that love the characters as much as I do, adds just a little more enjoyment to my reading experience.