“Adapt or perish…” – H.G. Wells, Mind At The End Of Its Tether (1945)
It is the war-cry of our generation. We hear it echoing across the fields of cafes and barber shops in every town and city. And comic book stores are not immune. Even with the absolute deluge of superhero movies available in the cinema right now (and in future years), comic book stores have been fighting for survival along with everyone else.
Until… FREE COMIC BOOK DAY
This is the opportunity for comic book stores to reclaim their geekdom and conquer the market. THIS is the chance for stores to reach a larger audience. THIS is the time to make comic books not just socially acceptable, but socially desirable.
I have heard of comic book stores who have conceded defeat, giving in to what they claim is “a simply too hard market”. Well, that’s an over-simplified pile of Footrot Flats* because I have heard of many stores who have adapted with the market. They have learnt how to bring out loyalty in their regulars. They have discovered how to reach out to the uninitiated and bring them into our comic book folds.
It’s all about community.
FCBD is the one day of the year when the local comic book store puts on the biggest social shindig for any fans; regulars and innocents are treated alike. It is also the one day of the year I will be there with bells on (depending on the cosplay) to support my local and all they have done with the community.
This year the EG Family is remaining loyal and heading down to Kings Comics. After the HUGE party they put on last year, I was curious to know just how much they invested into FCBD. Kings have been working hard to build their community spirit; Queens of Kings (ladies only monthly meet), Kids Corps Day, and their first ever Zine Fair for local indie mini-comics and zine developers.
What many fans don’t realise is how much each store invests into FCBD. Believe me when I say, your local wants to put on the party for you and all your buddies. And while it is a promotional opportunity for the business, it is far more than that as an event. I talked with Siobhan Coombes at Kings Comics to find out more about what is involved with their FCBD plans.
- FCBD is the biggest thing on OUR social calendar. But what is it like for you guys? How much time do you put into preparation for FCBD?
We put a LOT of time into preparing FCBD. At Kings we’ve been working on getting guests and what we’ll be doing for the day since the beginning of the year. It’s the biggest day of the year for us, so we want to make it as good as possible. We start thinking about it pretty much as soon as the previous year’s event has finished. What went well? What can we do better?
- How many comics do you receive for the day?
We receive upwards of 10,000 comics!
- What happens to leftover FCBD comics?
There usually aren’t many! We find ways to distribute them throughout the year, as little bonus gifts for kids in-store. We have also donated them to the Sydney’s Children’s Hospital in the past.
- How much do you spend to participate on the day?
LOTS! We do have to pay a fee for the comics—it’s important to remember while the comics are free for the customer, any participating local comic stores have to pay freight and for the comics themselves, as well as promotional materials, extra staff, flights and accommodation for guests, prizes and treats for the customers. We do A LOT every year because we see it as our way of saying thank-you to our customers for shopping with us, as well as being a great promotional opportunity for the store.
- How many attendees would you estimate each year over the past 5 years?
Last year we had over 3000 people attend, which is pretty on par for the last two years. Before that, it was probably more like 2000, but it’s still always huge.
- What would be your favourite memory of all FCBD?
I’ve worked around eight FCBD, and they’re always totally exhausting and a huge amount of fun. Last year was a highlight for me because it was also our 30th anniversary as a store. Getting a Simpson-ized sketch of myself from Dean Rankine (who will also be sketching this year!) was amazing. Also last year there were so many cute little girl cosplayers. There were multiple Rey’s from Star Wars, which made my heart melt.
- Have you seen a growth in customers from each FCBD?
Definitely! The most rewarding thing that I see is when kids come to their first FCBD and it gets them hooked on comics. We have customers who have become regulars after having a great FCBD.
- What’s your fave pick from this year’s selection?
I’m personally most excited for The Incal – it’s great to see a classic work like that on FCBD because so many more people will be introduced to it! I’m also excited for the DC Super Hero Girls issue. Super Hero Girls is a huge series for us, and it’s great to be able to recommend something to young girls that is actually aimed at them. (You can view a full catalogue of this year’s offerings on the FCBD website)
So how does Kings build the community presence? They have what I believe is the biggest kid-friendly event to go with FCBD. It’s not just super-heroes. My spawnlings love seeing the cosplayers, they love being cosplayers, they love the activity table, they love wandering around at all the merchandise in the store (sorry Kings, but I am not buying that Wonder Woman bust for Zaltu this year). The best part is all the kids are included as part of the fun on the day.
The adults are not left behind: competitions, cosplay, huge sales in the store, and plenty of opportunities to chat with fellow geeks. Kings also bring in some fantastic guests for their Artist’s Alley, this year including NICOLA SCOTT, DEAN RANKINE, FIL BARLOW, AND HELEN MAIER. And a final little treat, a visit from the replica 1989 Batmobile.
It’s not just the free comics. Not even close. Head to your local and party with your community. Give them support, partake in the looting, and share your photos on social media. All the GeekMoms and GeekDads want to hear the epic ballads of local comic book stores bringing out their community spirit on FCBD. Share the details in the comments!
I’ll be setting the benchmark with the Australia’s early start on FCBD; see if you can keep up.
- No disparaging to Footrot Flats. I grew up with the comics; great humor and accurate depiction of rural New Zealand. Mostly because my dad had them as ‘reading material’ in the toilet. Thus the inevitable association. Sorry, Murray Ball (RIP).
- For more FCBD tips from GeekDads and GeekMoms, check out our survival guide from 2015 and five really good reasons why you should take advantage of FCBD.