Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) is the first Saturday in May and it’s a glorious Saturday indeed. Nerds, fans, readers, watchers, cosplayers and the curious and well-versed alike head to participating comic shops in North America and around the globe to get free comics.
Comic publishers specially produce comics just for FCBD and retailers then give these titles away, free of charge, in an effort to promote comics culture. It’s not just about getting free stuff (though that’s always a good thing), it’s about heading out and supporting local shops, helping promote literature (more on that below) and enjoying the nature of creativity, daydreaming and overall nostalgia found in the adventure of comics. FCBD is a big deal to nerds, collectors and fans, but I want to explain why it should matter to you.
No Longer a Sub-Culture, It Is Culture
“It’s not easy being a nerd” used to be a maxim that was widespread, but not so much anymore. Ever since Hollywood has jumped on the train of comic-adaptations, reading comics and being a fanboy/girl hasn’t really been as tough as it used to be. Once-antisocial or quiet comic readers now wear their fandom proudly on their sleeve. And this growth isn’t just relegated to comics: fantasy and sci-fi fans are coming out in droves (think of the popularity of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead). But all this doesn’t mean there still isn’t a wide gap between the casuals and the die-hard. There are those who will always have a pull list at their local comic shop and those who will likely never step inside of one. FCBD is about changing that last point.
Reading Comics is Still Reading
Some people just don’t read. They can’t find the time, or the passion, or their attention span just can’t handle it. Sometimes, unfortunately, these people are kids. Well guess what Moms and Dads? The average comic is only 22 pages long and almost all of those are covered with really cool pictures. With most issues costing $3.99 or less it’s pretty inexpensive, too. As a gateway into “larger”reading, comics work as a perfect stepping stone from large-font, ten-sentence children’s’ stories into something more substantial. Mouse Guard, Oz: the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and of course the legendary Calvin and Hobbes are wonderful places to start. Even still, some might argue this is all well and good for children, but comics ultimately are pulp papers that hold no substance, which brings me to my last and most important point.
More Than Tights & Explosions
Comics are now closer than ever to being considered real literature; as Norman Mailer famously said of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: “Above all else, Sandman is a comic strip for intellectuals, and I say it’s about time.” There are still tights and explosions, clashes with aliens and unstoppable other-worldly forces, but for decades comics have been tackling intense and very real issues. X-Men routinely deals with prejudice and racism; Batman the corrupt state of police organizations; Iron Man alcoholism; and that’s just the Superheroes. Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba deal with existentialism in Daytripper; Alan Moore tackles government corruption in the dystopian V for Vendetta; Brian Wood shows just how radical political ideologies can become in DMZ. These are amazing stories because of their words and art, but also because of the messages they portray and the subjects they bring to light. It’s not uncommon to find comics and graphic novels being studied in university classrooms alongside Moby Dick or the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Maybe I’m biased because I’ve been invested in comics ever since the age of six. My Mom still has my school book from Grade 1 where I proclaimed by favourite hobby: Collecting Marvel comics. But biased or not, there are more than just my reasons to take advantage of Free Comic Book Day: new hobby, new genres, huge sales/savings, meet like-minded people, etc.
So head out to your local shop the first Saturday in May and take part. Who knows, you might discover a new passion.