Who says nothing’s free these days? Comic book aficionados regard Wednesday as the most important day of the week, but since 2002, Free Comic Book Day has turned the first Saturday of May into a celebration of one of our country’s truly original art forms.
Many major comic book publishers, in conjunction with your local neighborhood comic book shop, and through the coordination of Diamond Distribution, offer an exclusive FCBD edition comic absolutely free to customers on this one special day each year. In past years, the FCBD book may have simply been a previously released comic re-marked for giveaway. As the program started becoming more successful, some publishers began releasing books created specifically for the day, even using FCBD as a launching point for major summer events or titles.
Obviously the best thing about Free Comic Book Day is that existing fans are able to get their hands on exclusive books while new readers, or just curious sorts, can be given an introduction to a variety of publishers and genres… all for free. My “Read More Comics” mantra is given a genuine holiday. And while the availability of the various books depends on the individual store (and how early you get there… don’t dawdle), everyone should take advantage of the industry’s generosity and get in on the action. So this Saturday, getcher ass down to your local comics shop. Spread the love, tell some friends, and share the books.
I’ll read anything and everything I can get my hands on. If I had to choose, however, just five titles to set my sights on, these would be the target books:
In addition to being the premier publisher of new, exciting comics art, Fantagraphics has done a masterful job, over the years, of collecting and preserving the work of classic cartoonists. Works as popular as Peanuts or as obscure (but no less fantastic) as Buz Sawyer have been painstakingly remastered and published. The latest project looks to be a little known strip by Crockett Johnson, creator of the beloved children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon. Barnaby is described on the Fantagraphics website as a “rollicking strip [that] follows the tyke Barnaby and his mischievous fairy godfather Mr. O’Malley.” The FCBD edition is a preview of a collection to be released later this year.
I’m a big fan of space opera. So when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning revitalized Marvel’s cosmic continuity with Annihilation a few years ago, it was like Starlin’s Dreadstar, Potts’s Alien Legion, and Diggle’s Adam Strange all rolled into one magnificent pan-galactic Renaissance. Boom studios will be publishing DnA’s first creator-owned property later this summer. Not much has been revealed about The Hypernaturals, but a recent Comic Book Resources conversation with the team sets up a storyline in which the “galaxy teeters on the brink of chaos, [and] it’s up to a group of retired and long forgotten Hypernaturals – and their novice recruits – to save the galaxy from complete destruction.”
Like Fantagraphics, D&Q has long been a beacon of hope for North American comics. Despite the fact that Europe and Japan have seemingly done more with evolving this homegrown art form than our capes-n-tights-driven industry has, quality comics are still being produced and promoted in the U.S. and Canada. As a further means of bringing international comics to an English-speaking audience, D&Q has been publishing, since 2006, Swedish cartoonist Tove Jansson’s popular Moomin series. These little trolls have inspired theme parks, movies, and countless pet names throughout Scandinavia. And now, as a preview to the first colored version of these strips, to be published later this year, we’re getting a FCBD freebie!
Image has come a long way over the last twenty years. A company committed to creator ownership, built on crap art and half-ass stories, has turned into a company still committed to creators’ rights, but featuring a stable of great storytellers and cartoonists on the rise. This free anthology contains all-new original stories, including an It-Girl and The Atomics piece by Mike Allred.
What better way to celebrate Free Comic Book Day and the release of what promises to be the single greatest superhero achievement in cinematic history than with a free Avengers book? Avengers vs. X-Men isn’t the only big event Earth’s Mightiest will be involved in this summer. This “point one” book, one of a series of Marvel one-shots designed to attract new readers (and a much better initiative, in my humble Marvel-centric opinion, than DC’s New 52), will set the stage for the return of the most killer of killer robots, Ultron. Written by Avengers savior Brian Michael Bendis and penciled by Ultimates artist Bryan Hitch, this 30-page, ad-free gem is almost as exciting as the prospects of Scarlett Johansson et al lighting up auditoriums all over the world this weekend. And one thing this book has that’s indubitably better than the film version? Hawkeye in his original costume. Jeremy Renner kinda looks like a tool.