Every year, comic-book stores across the country open their doors and hand out comics to anyone who comes in. The first was held in 2002, and the store I owned at the time was a proud participant. Ever since, the first Saturday of May has been recognized as Free Comic Book Day the world over.
For local comic-book stores, it’s a way to give back to their customers and community and—hopefully—bring new readers into the glorious medium of comics. This coming Saturday, May 5, is the 10th anniversary of the holiday, and would-be comic enthusiasts across Salt Lake City and the rest of the state will have a chance to pick up some of the swag available.
I would like to point something out, though. While comics might be free for customers, they aren’t free for the comic-book storeowners. They pay the publishers for every single issue that comes to their store and leaves. The more generous the comic-book store, the greater the investment on behalf of the storeowners and managers. Can you go in, grab free comics and leave without another thought? Yes. But that wouldn’t be very cool of you.
The whole point of the day is to get you into a comic-book store (or a few comic-book stores), feel the vibe of the place, check out the rest of the merchandise, pick up another comic or two and maybe even start a “hold,” or in-store subscription. Free Comic Book Day is about more than comic-book stores handing out comics out of the kindness of their hearts. It’s about growing the medium.
For most comic-book stores, Free Comic Book day is the busiest day of the year, and shops pull out all the stops to make it bigger. They’ll fly in and put up the best talent from the world of comics, on their own dime, to sign comics and do sketches. Black Cat Comics in Sugar House is bringing in comics superstar Ryan Ottley (admittedly a local) to do free sketches for those who come in. Other stores are using the opportunity to let smaller, local artists get exposure throughout the day, giving them a forum to interact with an audience who might not have known they existed. Case in point: Dr. Volts is hosting local artists and writers, including Kat Martin (from Kat’s Creepy Art) and myself.
Whatever your favorite local store does to provide you with an experience on Free Comic Book Day, it’s an expression of gratitude, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
With very few exceptions, every publisher puts out a special free comic for the day—which, yes, the stores themselves still pay for, albeit at a much cheaper cost than usual. There’s something for every taste available and at no cost to you.
So, this is my challenge. If you’re a regular comics reader, grab a friend, family member, co-worker or bum off the street and take them into a comic-book store and get them hooked on comics. If you’re on the fence about reading comics and are looking for a taste of what they can provide as a medium, commit to show up at any of the local comic-book stores in our fair city.
Grab some free comics and try to buy a comic off the shelf for every free one they give you. Pick stuff that looks interesting. Use this as an opportunity to double your chances of finding a comic that might get you hooked. If you like what you find, you’ll be a lot more comfortable going back for more.
Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.