Today is the first Saturday of May, which can mean only one thing: Free Comic Book Day! It’s like Record Store Day in that it also helps promote small businesses, but it’s not like that holiday because exclusive comics are free!
Free Comic Book Day began in 2002 and is sponsored by Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest distributor in the industry. Thanks to the “first Saturday in May” rule, the holiday also usually coincides with a big-budget comic book movie release. This year, it’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.
Here’s what you need to know about Free Comic Book Day 2017.
1. Comic Book Stores Still Have to Pay to Stock the Free Comic Books, So Don’t Just Get the Free Ones
Participating in Free Comic Book Day is no easy enterprise and it’s why not every shop participates. As NPR points out, stores do have to pay for the comic books they stock. That’s also why not all 52 FCBD books will be stocked at every store participating.
Some stores will let you pick and choose which books you want to take, while others pack them together as samplers. Many publishers also leave a blank space on covers for stores to stamp their logos on.
Many publishers, including Marvel and DC Comics, offer reprints. For example, one of Marvel’s free books is a reprint of Secret Empire #1. One of DC’s books is a reprint of Wonder Woman #2, which is the first chapter of Greg Rucka’s “Year One” story, in which he re-told Princess Diana’s origin. It’s a great introduction before the movie comes out.
Some indie publishers, like Dark Horse and BOOM! Studios, offer sampler books, which include two or more excerpts from full comics.
2. Archie Fans Get ‘Betty & Veronica’ & ‘Riverdale’ Comics This Year
It’s a great time to be an Archie Comics fan. Archie Andrews, America’s Favorite Teenager, has been experiencing a renaissance in recent years thanks to Archie Comics’ openness to constantly reinvent the character. Last year, artist Adam Hughes took over the reigns of Betty & Veronica, bringing his own unique art style to the Archie universe. The first issue was reprinted for FCBD.
Fans of The CW’s Riverdale will want to pick up the Riverdale one-shot. It acts as a prelude to the series, which will be ending its first season this week after we learned who killed Jason Blossom. The one-shot issue is also a reprint and includes two short stories that tell us who Archie and Betty spent their summer before Jason was killed. We also learn more about how Veronica lived a life of luxury in New York before she moved.
Other must-have books from this year’s FCBD include ONI’s Rick and Morty, Valiant’s X-O Manowar special, IDW’s Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken and VIZ’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
There are also plenty of books for young children. Kidds can enjoy comics with Barbie, DC Super Hero Girls, Spongebob Freestyle Funnies, Underdog and Disney Descendants.
3. FCBD Was Invented in 2001 By Joe Field, a Store Owner in Concord, California
Joe Field, who owns Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff in Concord, California is credited with creating FCBD in 2001. Field suggested it as a way to revitalize an industry that was still struggling to recover from a late 1990s bust. Jim Valentino, the Image Comics publisher at the time, suggested having the holiday on May 4, 2002, the same day Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film opened.
“I thought if an ice cream store could draw a crowd for a free scoop, then we could sure draw a crowd for a free comic book because comics are even cooler than ice cream!” Field told Quality Logo Products. “So I wrote out the idea to make my deadline and had the foresight to send the column around before it got published so industry reaction could be published alongside the article. With tons of positive feedback from all facets of the comics business, FCBD took off!”
Since FCBD began, only the 2004 edition of the holiday was held outside May. It was moved to July to coincide with Spider-Man 2‘s opening. In 2005 and 2006, it was moved back to May, even though there were no comic book movies opening on the same weekend. But since 2007, there has always been at least one comic book movie for the holiday to celebrate.
4. FCBD Is International, With Comic Shops Outside the U.S. Taking Part
As noted on the FCBD site, the holiday is not just a U.S. only event. Stores in Canada and other countries also participate.
“We have about 2000 participating stores in something like 20 countries,” Field said in a 2005 interview. Since then, the numbers have only grown. In 2016, many of the major London comic book stores all took part, including Forbidden Planet and Gosh! Comics.
In 2014, Diamond estimated that FCBD earned over $3.2 million in free publicity after over 1,000 TV news stations and 4,000 websites covered the event. There over 108,000 tweets and #FreeComicBookDay was a Twitter trend nationally that year.
5. FCBD Inspired Record Store Day Co-Founder Eric Levin
Record Store Day was inspired by FCDB. That holiday was born in 2006 and successfully launched in 2007.
“Eric was the one who had more experience because he actually had a comic book store,” Michael Kurtz, another Record Store Day co-founder, told Billboard. “He was the first one who said, ‘We should make this about vinyl.'”
While FCBD gets the month of May, RSD is during April. While record stores don’t give away free records, they do sell exclusive releases you can only buy on Record Store Day.