Comics Are For Everyone: The History And Lasting Impact Of Free Comic Book Day
The first Saturday of May is Free Comic Book Day, the day when fans of all ages converge on their local comic book stores to sample the finest wares of a host of publishers, all for free. The event has been taking place every year since 2002, and each year it gets bigger and better.
The event began from the germ on idea suggested by retailer Joe Field in an article for Comic Buyers Guide, in which he noted superhero franchises such as X-Men and Spider-Man were reigniting interest in superhero comics following the boom and bust of the '90s.
The idea was received favorably, and then-Image Comics publisher Jim Valentino suggested that the first Free Comic Book Day could take place on the opening weekend for Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man movie, to tie into the buzz that the film generated. The first Free Comic Book Day was held on Saturday May 4 2002, and featured only four titles: Ultimate Spider-Man #1, Star Wars Tales: A Jedi’s Weapon, Tomb Raider # ½ , and Justice League Adventures #1.
Early on, it was common practice for publishers to reprint popular comics that could be accessible to all ages, often on lower quality paper stock than usual. As more and more publishers got involved, many chose to curate and publish brand new material especially for Free Comic Book Day --- often introductory issues to advertise new series launching that summer.
The idea to hold Free Comic Book Day on the first weekend in May has led to it more often than not falling in-line with the release of a major motion picture, including X2, Iron Man, Thor, and The Avengers. In fact, only 2004, 2005 and 2006 did not have a superhero movie released the same weekend as Free Comic Book Day. So far, every movie has been a Marvel property.
Free Comic Book Day isn’t just a great way to get comics into the hands of people who might not otherwise read them; it’s also a way for fans to come out and support their local store, similar to Record Store Day a month earlier. Bricks-and-mortar stores are the backbone of the comic book industry, and there are many out there doing great work stocking shelves with awesome comics, introducing readers to their new favorite series, and organizing events and signings.
If you have the time, pop down to your local store this Free Comic Book Day, grab some stuff that looks cool, discover some publishers you may not have heard of, and drop a little coin on that trade you’ve had your eye on. FCBD is a day where we can all come together as fans of a niche medium that somehow became the driving force of the cultural conversation, and it’s a nice reminder that, despite all the films, TV shows and video games, there’s nothing that can beat a good comic book.
If you don't know where your nearest comic book store is, consult the Store Locator ahead of FBCD.