Ideas are often born by accident. Think of your favorite restaurant, movie, or, of course, your favorite comic book. Every finished product, logo, and brand started as a suggestion of a thought. The buildings in cities. The cities themselves.
This idea that every tangible structure, creative product, and service started as an idea, inside the mind of a human being is mind-blowing. I never realized the true meaning of human connection until I went to my first Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). There is something about being surrounded in real life by other people who appreciate the same media, genres, and humans as you do; to surround yourself with people who like the same ideas.
I grew up in a conservative household with parents who didn’t understand why watching the same movie ten times in one day was, to me, comforting and completely normal. They didn’t appreciate rereading a book to grasp all the finer details in between the pages that the first reading missed. They certainly did not understand conventions or events to celebrate the thing you already saw or read ten times.
In my day, we were introverts who gathered in our secret clubs and talked about our special interests, in the absence of shaming eyes and ears, especially as a white-passing Korean woman. Free Comic Book Day did a lot to give us an event worth leaving our house and entering public space for. I remember the first big event my nearby town did. The local comic book shop created an event around FCBD for the area to bring in business to the small shop owners in the area. The created a map, with different artists and events placed throughout the town. Each shop would have it’s own comic to give away, and it has done amazing things for the area.
When Joe Field saw Baskin-Robbins give away product to build hype with Free Scoop Day, he assumed the same idea could work with comics. He was right. On May 4, 2002, Free Comic Book Day was born. Joe did something considered unthinkable at the time: he brought rival comic corporations together for the greater good.
He did it on the idea that raising comic book readership was vital to the survival of the industry. What better why to introduce comics to the next generation, than to celebrate the medium in a family friendly way? It worked for ice cream, why couldn’t it work for this?
Every year on the first Saturday in May, in towns across the nation (and many places internationally), comic book shops are bringing people together in public settings with FCBD. This day creates a container for families to enjoy hobbies together, which brings families closer, and builds stronger relationships. It introduces people who consume the media to people who create the media and fosters a relationship only found in fandoms.
It is where I first met David Petersen, after reading through Mouse Guard and falling in love with comics all over again. In case you haven’t noticed, traditional super hero comics just aren’t my thing. It is where my children where first introduced to comic shops, and were able to see that YES! Creative industries are a necessity to our society. It is where they get to dream about creating their own stories, and see for themselves that it is possible to do the thing.
Yet, in these times there are a risk to events like these that may be seen as “unnecessary” in the eyes of some. There are comic book shops at risk of losing their events, because businesses do not have the extra capital to support the shops in their efforts. Whether it’s due to perception of the shop, comic industry, or they see the benefits without needing to put in the work, I do not want to see my local event ever become at risk of shrinking, due to money.
FCBD reminds us that every medium is necessary and every dreamer is valid. Memories are created and dreams are ignited at events like these. This year I went to PAX for the first time, and I was blown away. It ignited the flame of nerdom within me, just as FCBD had done years before. My children will soak in FCBD this year, and I cannot wait to see and hear their ideas. My kids also love Star Wars Day, so when the two align, we get extra giddy.
FCBD also is a great space for creators of color to be seen, and to take up their space in the world. I love that my daughter will grow up in a world with so many women paving the path ahead for her. She will never grow up without a Marjorie Liu, or Leslie Hung. Paper Girls is now here forever.
So while you are out celebrating this May the Fourth, please let your friends and local business owners know how important FCBD is to you and your family. Tell them your stories, and urge them to participate and support your local comic shop. Let’s keep it going!