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May The Fourth Be With You

17 April 2013 | London Calling

Fancy a free comic book? On Saturday 4th May London will participate in the annual worldwide event, Free Comic Book Day, which gives back a special treat straight from the retailers. Preparations are underway…

Free Comic Book Day is the brainchild of Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff. This year, the event is held on Saturday 4th May, and every year, special editions and new editions of comics are given away free to anyone who comes to participating stores. Tied to this, shops hold in-store events and competitions to connect with fans. No doubt, the event programmes will be advertised in the run-up, so keep an eye out or go in-store and ask.

Now in its 12th year, the event is definitely popular and has grown year upon year. Their twitter handle – @Freecomicbook – has over 8,500 followers and their website has vast international interaction. Forty different publishers are involved, with an estimated 4.6 million comics to be given away worldwide, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing in getting the event running.

Founder Joe explains that Free Comic Book Day came “After a time of great upheaval. The end of the '90s was perhaps the lowest point ever for the US comics market. I wrote one of my monthly columns for a retailer trade magazine suggesting the idea of just how beneficial it could be if everyone in the comics' biz could work together to bring in more readers, create more excitement and just generally recharge the comics world.”

And it seems to have worked, as Joe reports that his retailer colleagues report it to be the biggest day of sales each year, bar the Christmas shopping figures. So is it just a money making ploy? Not at all. It’s true that events can coincide with large movie releases – this year’s event coincides with the Iron Man 3 release – but the allure of all these free comic books takes its toll on the retailer, who is charged for each comic given away.

Gosh! London, a comic book retailer, last year created workshops for kids and adults, where they could work with comic book creators at different levels of experience.  “The day’s aim”, store manager Steve says, “is our opportunity to, rather than focus on a specific book or moment, give attention to all comics.”

So why are comics important to us? For Joe, “Over the years comics have meant so many different things to me – escape, adventure, pleasure, a sense of belonging, a business – and comics continue to be an integral part of my life and livelihood.” For fan and retired veteran, Robert Miller, the experience of “feeling them in my hand, smelling the ink, and the artwork” makes comic book reading memorable. Meanwhile, comic writer, James Ninness, enjoys the social networking it allows: “I am exposed to new writers and artists, thereby expanding my list of creators to follow”.

The advice to people interested in joining the comic book club is to go to your local comic book store and look at the collection of comics. There’s no need to know which brand or series to go with, but have a go at reading different ones to develop your tastes. One dedicated fan named Clark Kent described “having the actual paper and supporting your local comic shop as the two things close to every comic book lovers heart.”

For more information and where to find your nearest participating store please click here.

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