Arts Desk

How to Spend Free Comic Book Day

Free Comic Book Day has taken place the first Saturday of May since 2002, which is May 7 this year, the day after Marvel Comics' Thor movie opens. For some strange reason,  FCBD has not been declared a national holiday yet, but a family barbecue after a visit to your local store might be appropriate. Thirty-seven comic books and one Green Lantern Heroclix toy will be available at various stores across North America. When you stop in, remember that the comics aren't free to the store—they've paid for the comics and the shipping—so try not to be too demanding, and buy something while you're there. In this week's dead-tree City Paper, Megan Arellano has a good list of what to expect at various stores. I chatted up a few store owners to get some more details about what they'll be stocking, and what to they're excited about.

Washington City Paper: What are you doing for FCBD?

Jon Cohen of Beyond Comics: We are giving away comics. We will also be having a huge sale—60 percent off comics & 25 percent off graphic novels, toys, etc. We will be having artists at both locations, discounts, door prizes, partner coupons, and Roy Rogers is bringing some free food.

Devon Sanders, manager of Fantom Comics in Union Station: Tons of Free Comic Book Day comics, along with tons of comics for sale for as low as $1. Also Marvel Select trade paperbacks and hardcovers for as low as $5. Also, we'll have our staff with a combined 40-plus years of comic-book knowledge here to help folks navigate folks through our favorite past time.

Joel Pollack, owner/manager of Big Planet Comics in Bethesda: Big Planet Comics traditionally offers the widest selection of freebies in the D.C. area, and doesn't proffer any restrictions other than "Don't be a hog." We create a special bagged kids comics set to make things easier for parents. This year we are offering a special edition of the DC Comics offering with a BOGO coupon for return customers.

WCP: What FCBD comic books do you think are the most interesting?

Joel Pollack: The DC Comics Green Lantern War/Flashpoint comic will be the top item, but I also like Image's Super Dinosaur Origin Special written by Robert Kirkman. Other standouts include Darkwing Duck, Bongo Comics (Simpsons), and the Avatar/Star Wars flip-book from Dark Horse.

Devon Sanders: Marvel has an all-new Captain America/Thor adventure written by Roger Landridge and drawn by Chris Samnee. These two did an absolutely delightful Thor series that was considered one of the best new comics to come around in years.

Jon Cohen: Most of the FCBD comics are reprints of other comics; however, we expect the most popular comics to be Green Lantern Flashpoint, Amazing Spider-Man, and Captain America/Thor. The most lasting and the ones that will have a better chance of getting us new readers will be Mouse Guard Dark Crystal, Elric: Balance Lost, Inspector Gadget, Locke & Key, and Super Dinosaur Origin Special.

As the purpose of FCBD is to get new readers, we strive to promote the all-ages titles to the non-regular customer and attempt to promote books that are currently underperforming or that might appeal to our regulars. For instance, the Top Shelf kids sampler will be perfect for new younger comics readers but I will push Super Dinosaur (by Walking Dead writer Robert Kirkman) and Locke & Key (which will be a Fox television pilot for the fall) to regular customers.

WCP: Do you usually see an increase in sales due to FCBD?

Jon Cohen: Our biggest day of the year has become FCBD. Free always draws in customers. We often get a big spike in event titles thanks to the free issues. We expect "Flashpoint" and the "War of the Green Lanterns" to get a bump.

Joel Pollack: FCBD is usually our biggest sales day of the year. Being our biggest promotion, I'd like to think that the effect is long-lasting.

Devon Sanders: Always. Free Comic Book Day has always been one of our best days. We've always used it to, yes, give away free comics, but more importantly inform folks of just how awesome comics are. Mystery, superheroes, romance, westerns, war, etc. are all genres within the comics medium. Comics, in my opinion, allow for more expression than movies.

WCP: What characters or regularly published titles are hot for you now?

Jon Cohen: Best Selling: Green Lantern comics, Fear Itself, Batman titles, Captain America, Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men titles.   Hot titles (greatest growth): Walking Dead, Green Lantern: War of the Lanterns, Locke & Key, Fantastic Four, Hellraiser, Godzilla Kingdom of Monsters, Chew.

Devon Sanders: Batman is always a perennial bestseller for us. From the Frank Miller Batman stuff to the current Grant Morrison Batman story arcs, he remains one of points of high interest. We've also seen a massive increase in The Walking Dead comics with many new customers pleasantly surprised when they found out it started out as a comic first.

Joel Pollack: DC and Marvel are both offering big events this summer, and sales will be strong, but not nearly what we've seen for similar events in the past. There are several titles that would be extremely hot if they were published with any frequency (Kick Ass, Superior, Batman: The Dark Knight), but publishers like to hire high-profile creators that are notorious for missing deadlines. Looking at Graphic Novel sales, Walking Dead, Fables, Invincible, The Boys, and  Daniel Clowes' Mr. Wonderful are currently lighting up our cash register.

WCP: What comic is not hot, but is a favorite of yours?

Joel Pollack: I'm currently enjoying Clowes' Mr. Wonderful, and the Green Lantern omnibus from DC. I'd also highly recommend the recent Prince Valiant reprints from Fantagraphics.

Jon Cohen: Always an evolving question; favorites are: Fables, Scalped, Captain America, Walking Dead, Astro City, Secret Avengers, Superman.

Devon Sanders: The Vertigo series Scalped, it's essentially Goodfellas on a Native American reservation. It's consistently one of the best-written series out there. And, when I say it's the best book I've read in years, I mean, book. It's simply the best of the written word.

Also worth noting is that Cards, Comics & Collectibles of Reisterstown, Md., is having local cartoonists Steve Conley (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Frank Cho (1-3 p.m.) appear.

Beyond Comics: 536 North Frededrick Avenue, Gaithersburg, Md., (301) 216-0007; 5632 Buckeystown Pike, Frederick, Md., (301)668-8202

Big Planet Comics: Georgetown, 3145 Dumbarton St. NW, (202) 342-1961; 4908 Fairmont Ave., Bethesda, Md. (301) 654-6856; 426 Maple Ave. E., Vienna, Va., (703) 242-9412; 7315 Baltimore Ave., College Park, Md. (301) 699-0498

Fantom Comics, Union Station (Street Level, West Hall), 50 Mass Ave. NE, (202) 241-6498

Cards, Comics and Collectibles, 100 A Chartley Dr., Reisterstown, Md., (410) 526-7410

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