Monday, May 05, 2008

FCBD 2008

I'm lucky that since they started Free Comic Book Day seven years ago, the powers that be agreed that it would be held on the first Saturday in May. This mean that FCBD always falls within a week of my birthday. As an added bonus, it seems like all the big Summer comic book movies also open around the same time, starting with 2002's Spider-Man. This means that at the time that the comics world is blowing up, I am flush with sweet, sweet birthday cash.

Usually, I try to visit as many shops as I can, often including one that I have either never been to before or am rarely able to get to. Last year, I made the pilgrimage to meet my hero (and yours) mighty Mike Sterling and his shop up in Ventura. This year, though, I stayed relatively close to home. I want to the shop I frequent most that has a nice graphic novel selection and copious dollar bins (looking to stretch that birthday loot).

It turned out to be slightly heart-breaking. When walking into the shop, I was met with the familiar FCBD sign, with an added note stating that only one comic would be free, that any additional books would cost 25 cents. That seems so opposite of the spirit of FCBD. I know individual shops are allowed to make up their own policies about how many books to give out, but it just seemed wrong that they would state up front that they would charge.

Please keep in mind I'm not upset for myself. I'd gladly pay to offset some kid getting some free comics (say, coming in from off the street, having just seen Iron Man in the movie theatre one block down, asking a lot of questions about SHIELD and Iron Man, which is what happened while I was in the shop). FCBD is about bringing in new readers, I get that. I'm not one of these ass-hat types that pushes the kids to the side so that I can get something that I could totally afford for free (which I've seen too many times at cons). I know that this is some kind of tax on the ugly obsessive types that have to have everything, who are already in the hobby, who don't really need the freebies. I don't know. I can kind of understand the intent, but there seems like a better way to handle it.

I guess I have to chalk it up to watching those kids asking the clerk what SHIELD was, and instead of handing them some free comics that might get them to come back, he just gave them a short two-sentence answer and let them leave. I guess it's the thought of some parent bringing their kids in because they saw the sign, or read about FCBD in a mainstream newspaper, and seeing the hand-written addendum stating that if they wanted more then one comic, they would be charged.

I left without buying anything that day, not knowing if I would come back to that shop. I had to process. I took my business to Comics Factory in Pasadena. The atmosphere was better there, abuzz with a lot of non-comics readers coming in for the first time, asking questions. They had a much better system for dealing with free comics moochers. They allowed one the choice of twelve titles from their selection, which made more sense. People aren't going to pick up all the titles (unless their completist, missing-the-point nerds), they're just going to pick up the ones that have the appropriate age-level and genre for their own tastes. Most of the ones I picked up, I picked up for my nieces.

I also broke down and bought some back issues. I've given up the ghost on completing some runs I have purely through dollar boxes, just because I want to read them. I was able to close the loop on Sleeper, seasons 1 and 2, picking up the five missing issues for cover price. Not bad, in the end. I also got caught up on Criminal (Brubaker, again!) and finally brought home Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibus: Vol I. This has been criminally absent from my collection for too long. Having just read the introduction by Grant Morrison, I'm struck by how much it matches Neil Gaiman's intro for Evanier's Kirby: King of Comics, mostly by starting off with "I never met Jack Kirby...".

And, also, Iron Man totally rocked, but you already knew that.

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