• Everything But Imaginary #446: Prepping Free Comic Book Day

    On Saturday, many of us will be a tad exhausted, hopefully with euphoria, being out late Friday night having watched The Avengers three or four or eight times. I'm counting on a good day. But Saturday will be significant for another reason as well. Saturday, May 5, is this year's Geek High Holiday. Saturday is Free Comic Book Day 2012.

    I'm assuming most of you reading this column already know what FCBD is and what it's all about, but for the sake of those who may not, here's the idea in a nutshell. On FCBD the comic shops, publishers, and distributor of North America collaborate to give away thousands upon thousands of special edition comics. Some are reprints, some are samplers, some are used to launch new storylines or new characters and some... well, some are just cool. But regardless of the haul, FCBD has transformed over the years into something different than it originally was, while still remaining undeniably great.

    The best shops in the land -- such as my own home base of BSI Comics in Metairie, Louisiana -- have turned this from a day people could march in, grab a few books, and march out again, into a mini-convention of sorts. There are book signings, sketches, cosplayers, local writers and artists, and podcasters such as myself and Kenny documenting the whole glorious thing. Movie studios do promotion, creators come up with innovative ways to share their work, and readers travel to a whole new universe.

    It's a great thing for many reasons. Fans get to pick up comics they may never have tried otherwise and, hopefully, find new characters and creators to fall in love with. Sure, the Marvel and DC books are always the ones in greatest abundance and they get the most attention, and honestly, I'm okay with that. They're the industry leaders, after all. But if you are there as a fan, do yourself a favor. Don't only get the familiar books. I'm daring everybody out there to get at least one comic by a publisher, creator, or starring a character that you have never read before. It's a free comic, friends, there's zero risk involved. If you don't like it, fine. Just don't get any more. But as my runs of Shrugged, Atomic Robo, Astounding Wolf-Man, Love and Capes and Mouse Guard can attest, sometimes you'll discover something amazing and want to tell the world. It's like Columbus coming to North America, but with less syphilis.

    It's a great day for professionals and semi-professionals, in which I am including myself in the latter category. Over the years that the 2 in 1 Showcase podcast has helmed a table for FCBD, I have met our listeners, recruited new ones, and become a part of the comic book community in the New Orleans area in a way I never would have anticipated. I've developed sincere friendships with people I otherwise would only know as a name in a credit box or in a Facebook profile. I've come to look forward to days like FCBD and Wizard World New Orleans not only as opportunities to get my Geek on, but as times I get to meet up and hang out with friends I don't see as often as I like. They're like those family members that only turn up at Easter and Christmas, except you actually enjoy spending time with each other.

    It's a great day for store owners, although it's a hell of a lot of work, too. BSI owner Jason sent out messages months ago to his FCBD regular attendees asking who was planning to come this year and whether they had any special requirements in terms of table space, electrical outlets and whatnot. But it also happens to be one of the highest trafficked days of the year in his store, justifying the effort. Fortunately, most people don't just grab their swag and leave. They hang out, browse the merchandise, and make actual purchases as well. It's important to remember, guys, that although you get your FCBD books for free, that doesn't make them free to the retailer. They payed for every free book you pick up. So reciprocate. Look around the store and buy something as well. It's only fair.

    And it could be a great day for new readers too. Comic book characters have reached a state of public awareness not seen in decades. Do you know anyone who hasn't heard of The Avengers? Do you know anyone who isn't at least a little interested in it? And look at the ol' television box. We have blocks of cartoons with DC characters on Saturday morning and Marvel on Sunday. The characters from The Big Bang Theory wear different superhero t-shirts and surround themselves with comic book paraphernalia in virtually every episode. The Black Widow is on the can of Dr Pepper you are drinking right now! People know these characters. The trick is getting them to read.

    So this is where your job as a veteran reader becomes crucial. This, everybody, is your chance to casually draw friends and family on the periphery of interest into a comic shop and treat them to something new. That friend you're going to see The Avengers with on Friday? Drop a mention of the free Avengers comic Marvel is releasing. Your niece or nephew who loves the Green Lantern animated series or the Super Best Friends Forever shorts on Cartoon Network? Offer to bring them with you and get 'em Superman Family Adventures, among other things. That woman in your office whose mind was blown when Penny's ex on TBBT started talking about alternate timelines where Archie married Betty in one universe and Veronica in another? In as non-creepy a way as you can, ask that gal what she's doing Saturday.

    Free Comic Book Day has rapidly taken its place among my favorite days of the year. I look forward to it for months. I get as excited as a kid under the Christmas tree. I immerse myself in the culture that I love. This year, folks, grab a friend and help them do the same thing.

    Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner, and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms.Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.