Comic books have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, thanks to film series revolving around The Avengers, X-Men and Superman. But with hobby reading in general going down nationwide, how can comic book shops ensure that younger generations will be interested in the adventures of Batman or Archie?
That's where Free Comic Book Day comes in. Held the first Saturday each May (that's tomorrow!), the national holiday for four-color connoisseurs started in 2002 to expand comic book awareness and appreciation. Now, though, it's grown into a full-fledged carnival, with shops all over the country giving away thousands of free books and hosting fun events to entice both new readers and longtime devotees. This year, retailers will be offering up to 60 official Free Comic Book titles, some of which are kicking off new series or are destined to become collectors' items.
It's kind of awesome, and if you don't believe us, you can ask Marvel Comics god Stan Lee:
As a haven for comic book shops and as one of the nation's most literate cities, St. Louis certainly will make a bold Free Comic Book Day showing this weekend. We chatted with several area stores about how they'll be celebrating the holiday, their tips for enjoying the event and which titles you'll need to arrive early to nab.
You don't need to know the Green Lantern oath to enjoy Free Comic Book Day. When Free Comic Book Day first started well over a decade ago, old comics were repackaged and given away as freebies, and readers needed to be on top of complicated story arcs to enjoy the books they picked up. Now, though, FCBD welcomes new readers, enticing them with new titles and familiar characters.
"Most of the publishers' offerings are readily accessible to folks who don't have an extensive background in comic book reading. This year, especially, a large portion of the selections are quite kid-friendly," says Steve Koch, owner of Comic Headquarters in Oakville. "At the same time, some publishers -- DC and Marvel, particularly -- will often have an entry which kicks off a new ongoing storyline that appeals to existing readers who want to make sure to get the first 'chapter.' The event, therefore, really functions well for everybody.
"I like that people who don't visit regularly are coming in with family and friends to introduce them to comics," says Christina Steenz Stewart, assistant manager for Star Clipper in University City. "This is a huge event that everyone's going to go to plus it's free, so I feel like we get a lot of new customers from Free Comic Book Day."
Superheroes still pack a punch. Shop managers tell Daily RFT that there are many great books to pick up during FCBD this year, but they're predicting that a few titles will go particularly quickly.
"We're hearing that a lot of people are excited about the Batman Beyond/Futures End title," says Josh Soto, assistant manager of the Fantasy Shop in St. Charles. "That's because bringing the old cartoon into the comic book universe is really exciting for a lot of people, especially those in the their 20s who grew up with it."
"The free Guardians of the Galaxy comic is going to be tops because this year, the movie comes out," Stewart says. "A lot of people are going to want to know what the deal is on that, because Guardians isn't exactly a popular team for Marvel, like the Avengers are. I think that one will go really really fast."
Continue for a message from Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton and tips on surviving FCBD.
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