KINGSPORT — Free Comic Book Day is much more than what the name implies. Sure, it’s the one day of the year you can walk into a comic book shop and leave with a handful of free books.
But the worldwide event does a number of other things as well: it promotes the hobby of comics, it reinforces the need to support your local businesses, and it secretly gets kids to read something other than a video game FAQ.
I plan to go again this year and I highly encourage you to go as well. In today’s age, comics are not just for kids. They really haven’t been for a long time.
“There really is something for everyone,” said Michael Moccio, the spokesman for Free Comic Book Day. “People don’t think they would enjoy comics, but with 50 titles and many (of the comics) tying into movies and television shows, I’d be blown away if someone looked at all the titles and said, ‘Not one of them is for me.’ ”
Free Comic Book Day began in 2002 and today is held worldwide on the first Saturday in May.
It was born out of an idea from Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, California. Field proposed the idea in a column and believed such an event would help bring people into comic book stores and revitalize the struggling comic book industry.
Historically, Marvel and DC have been bitter rivals, but in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the mood of the country was decisively different. The Big Two companies, along with Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics and Diamond Comic Distributors, came together and agreed to try Field’s idea.
“This is by far one of the best days of the year for each of these stores,” Moccio said. “We survey retailers after the event, and at least 50 to 75 percent say it’s the most traffic they get all year and the most sales of the year.”
Free Comic Book Day often piggybacks on to the release of a major motion picture, such as one of the Spider-man, Iron Man or the X-men movies. This year, the event takes place May 6 — one day after the release of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2.
Each year 2,300 to 2,500 stores around the world participate in the event with the most being in the United States. Last year, Moccio said six million free comics were distributed to 2,600 stores, which reported 1.5 million people coming through their doors.
It’s essentially Black Friday for many comic shops, including Dewayne’s World of Comics and Games in downtown Kingsport.
“We’ll probably have at least a thousand people throughout the day, if not more. It’ll be insane,” said owner Dewayne Chase, who has nearly 5,000 comic books on hand to give away that day. “Christmas is more spread out over a month. This is all in one day and the first four hours will be nuts.”
The event showcases specially printed copies of free comic books, many geared toward younger children, some for traditional readers and others who fancy the independent titles, such as ones from Boom Studios!, Dark Horse, IDW and Image Comics.
This year’s slate of books includes Marvel’s Secret Empire #1 (with a major reveal), All New Guardians of the Galaxy, Wonder Woman, X-O Manowar, Attack on Titan, Grimm Fairy Tales, Monster High, Riverdale, the Tick and Underdog.
Stores do have to pay for the comics they give away, though the cost is minimal, and not every single title of the 50 available ones will be offered at all stores.
Chase has participated in Free Comic Book Day since the beginning and said he really sees no reason not to do it.
“I really had no idea what to make of it. We had never done anything like it, especially on a national level,” Chase said.
In addition to Dewayne’s, other stores participating in Free Comic Book Day in our region include G2K Games in Kingsport and Johnson City, Mountain Empire Comics in Johnson City and Bristol and Cavalier Comics in Wise, Va.
For more information, visit www.freecomicbookday.com.