Today was Freecomicbookday — the first Saturday in May when comic book retailers give away stacks of comics to anyone who drops into their stores. Most will limit the number you can select — Curious Comics lets each person choose up to four titles. Pictured are the four I chose this year.
These aren’t (usually) back stock or unsellable overruns but instead are special editions printed just for FCBD. There are a dozen “gold” titles and 48 “silver” titles for a total of 60 special editions. One local store, at least for a few years, added overstock, calendars, and even gaming figures to the items visitors could select.
While they are free for people to take away, and they do generate some return business, the 13 year old event has its detractors too. To start with, the comics, while inexpensive, are not free for retailers. The minimum “buy in” for each store is 20 copies of the 12 gold titles — this costs the retailer $62.80 plus shipping for 240 comics to give away. The silver titles are optional and a retailer may choose a variety from that list, each one with a minimum buy and prices that range from 12 to 50 cents per copy (that cost quote was from 2007; there’s a good chance the top per-copy cost has gone up since then).
“Not all comic shops will have all the different free titles. The books are sold to the stores at a much lower cost, but they’re free for the customers, not the retailers, who order the books they feel their customers and potential customers will be most interested in. The event brings in new faces and rewards regular customers, but it’s not a moneymaker for the stores.” [source]
The key of the event, as stated above, is primarily to bring in new customers and secondarily reward the regulars with teasers and special editions. Problem is, some people are grabby and greedy, and some of those regulars can get pretty fanatical if one of their fave characters is in a special FCBD edition, or if a particular artist or writer is participating in a local event.
“By the time I got in line at 8:30am, there were at least two hundred people who were ahead of me (from what I could estimate, there were probably more). … I couldn’t help but wonder if this enthusiasm might have repelled the event’s intended market.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love that there are so many people participating in events, love that people are reading and are so enthusiastic about their comic books. But consider that the goal of FCBD is to draw new readers who otherwise wouldn’t think about reading comics.” [source]
In short, the very people the event is intended to attract may be intimidated by or just lose interest if they see a long line up or bump up against too many “fanboys.”
We haven’t seen massive line-ups here but there are three comic book retailers in a single block in downtown Victoria and in years past we have hit all three in order to try and get as many titles as possible (shown, right: 2006 FCBD titles collected from four stores). We do spend a fair bit of cash in those stores through the year, so I don’t feel too guilty; I’ve also discovered new artists and series through titles I have picked up at FCBD.
Since 2010, I have checked out potential titles before we head out so I just choose a few titles that interest me — after all, there are only so many hours in the day for reading and I have a big stack of books, comics, and graphic novels that I’ve yet to dig into before adding to it!
The best thing about FCBD is how many of the titles are targeted at a younger age group — often there are wordless or almost-wordless titles alongside the typical kid-friendly Archie, Sonic, and Bongo (Simpsons) comics.
One of this year’s titles is Raising a Reader: How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love to Read — it’s published by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund which is one of those organizations that I love because it defends readers, artists and writers against censorship and prosecution. I picked it up along with three others from the “all ages” rack. Shawn and Kiddo each grabbed their own titles and I don’t think there was overlap between us.
All in all, any promotion that gets more people reading makes me a happy camper so as long as Freecomicbookday exists, I will promote it to friends and family and anyone else who might be listening.