Saturday was free comic book day all across North America. Originally a publicity stunt to get a broader audience back into comic shops on the opening weekend of Sony Picture’s 2001 Spiderman feature film, this tradition has grown to be an expected event once a year with the perennial return of comic book movies during the advent of Summer Blockbuster season. This year’s Free Comic Book Day was brought to us by Avengers: Age of Ultron, in theaters now. Comic book shops usually convince some local artists and writers to attend a signing session, unload promotional books given to them by distributors and place heavy discounts on overstocked back issues or lingering paperbacks. I was able to pick up the Fables Happily Ever After trade paperback for less than $18 CAD after taxes.
After a lunch in a very nostalgic looking Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers restaurant on Saturday, Peter and I hopped in the ol’ PPC mobile (My Buick Allure/La Crosse) and visited Big B Comics in Hamilton on Upper James St. We spent a good hour or so in the small shop, sweating from the mingled body heat and nerd steam. I’d smirk every once in a while as I passed titles that brought back memories, shook my head at how far some of DC’s most iconic characters have fallen in pursuit of an audience and even stared in amazement at some of the work being offered today by some of this generation’s most talented creators. In the end I checked out with the aforementioned Fable Trade Paperback, a retro style Buck Rogers issue reprint, an Overstreet promo book and an issue of a title called The Invincibles. The latter three being free comics.
Even though I’ve been meaning to read more Fables (I’ve given up on trying to catch up, I’ll just read the one shots), I walked away with more than a handful of comic books, I walked away with the overwhelming feeling of relief. The feeling that things will be okay. You see, while at Big B, there were a few curious customers who have never been in a comic book store before, some kids who most likely lived in the neighborhood and one or two confused grandparents looking for something to get their grandkids while they were visiting town. The majority of the people in the shop; however, were regulars. The store was absolutely packed. It was wall to wall nerds, and seeing them there meant that this crowd was a concentration of all the customers the shop saw throughout the week. These regulars were here everyday of the week at different times of the day. The thought of Big B always being moderate busy gave me a feeling of hope for the industry. We may never see the same volume of readers as we did back in the 60s and 70s and almost definitely never the unprecedented readership comic books saw in the 90s, but as long as we have days like Free Comic Book Day that show how the industry cares about its audience, we may well see comic books survive with a moderate and steady stream of audiences for generations to come. So, don’t count your favorite prints down and out yet.
It brings a little joy to my life to think of PPC being one those classics that people thumb though at Free Comic Book Day for generations to come.