Free Comic Book Day is a national celebration of all things comic books held every year on the first Saturday in May. With shops hosting everything from sales to signing, cosplay to trivia contests there is something for everyone – and it’s completely free.
This weekend was momentous in the geek world as universes collided and many comic book fans greeted each other with a “May the fourth be with you” at this year’s Free Comic Book Day, discussing Iron Man 3 which debuted a night before. With it all trending on twitter, it was hard to not be bit by the radioactive nerd bug.
New York was especially buzzing as the warm weathered signaled for many of the city’s inhabitants to walk instead of taking the subway for the first time in months. Many civilians stopped to see what the long lines outside comic shops were for – as was the case with JHU Comics.
Store co-owner Nick Purpura stood at the mouth of the new shop, excitedly greeting visitors as they came inside for their books. He explained that nationwide celebration of Free Comic Book day was started to get more people interested in reading comic books.
“Baskin-Robbins used to give its free scoop away, and Joe Field from Flying Colors Comics out in the west coast is the one who spearheaded Free Comic Book Day in 2002 with the similar mentality and the industry took on it pretty quick,” said Purpura.
With store workers working extra long shifts to get the lines that extended around the block, hundreds of customers waited patiently to be allowed in 20 at a time to pick up their books. As inventory is limited, each visitor was allowed to only pick five of the dozen available titles, or four with a limited edition Iron Man 3 Heroclix.
“It’s the funnest day of the year for comic book stores,” said Purpura. “You give comics away and you see people who come in here who’ve either never been to a comic store or you see people who come in here every week and all of them get something for nothing.”
Downtown on Manhattan’s East 23rd St, Manhattan Comics opened its doors, allowing customers to take three books and even have them signed by Brad Abraham, writer of the ongoing indie comic-book “Mixtape.”
Robert Conte, co-owner of Manhattan Comics, stood at the register, ringing customers up for purchases they’ve made past the initial free books.
“Free Comic Book Day is the busiest day of the year for us. Just looking around you have 40 to 50 people in our store picking up books and shopping around,” said Conte. “And there’s been more free comics that have been geared for all ages, not just adults.”
Purpura agrees that there is a big draw for younger readers, as many of the free comic books do aim for a younger audience.
“You get the most kids you get all year at Free Comic Book Day, which is really encouraging because they’re the next ones who are gonna come buy comics.”
With photos happy kids holding up Spongebob, Sesame Street and Archie Comics, the future of comics looks bright.
Attendees such as Greg Viana and his friends Jeremy and Jor-El (yes, that’s his real name) head into Manhattan each year from Queens to celebrate Free Comic Book Day in New York City. They make sure to stop at shops like Forbidden Planet, JHU Comics and Manhattan Comics. They’re happy to share the comic space with new readers and kids, because they want to see their favorite stores stay in business.
“I don’t mind it,” said Viana. “I think it needs more publicity because every single comic book shop is getting smaller. Forbidden Planet is extremely small, and every other place is closing down. Comics need more people, or else the stores are going to close and we won’t get Free Comic Book Days anymore.”