Free Comic Book Day

The year is almost over, but the pastimes of summer are just beginning. One of the greatest diversions with which you can occupy yourself is Free Comic Book Day this Saturday. Fortunately, there exists a comic book store relatively near to our campus: Star Clipper, whose friendly manager, Keya, I interviewed to get his thoughts on the importance of the unofficial nerd holiday.

Free Comic Book Day began in 2002 as a means for retailers to cash in on comic book movie adaptations, as well as to involve their local communities in comic book culture. Marvel Comics usually times the release day of a film based on one of their properties with the event. The first event was tied to the “Spider-Man” movie starring Tobey Maguire, and this year’s correlates with the release of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

For its own part, Star Clipper has been participating in Free Comic Book Day for quite some time, and proves to be a very popular event from year to year. Keya compares it to “people going crazy for deals on Black Friday,” but with a more significant focus on “the event itself.”

The line is usually backed up around all sides of the building before the store opens, and an average of 5,000 free comics are given away each year. The usual fare varies from publisher to publisher, but often consists of special edition reprints of popular single issues, previews of coming storylines or simply catalogues of available series. Diamond, the primary distributor of comics in America, allows for independent publishers to offer products, and two local publishers, Ink and Drink, and Lion Forge, are set to continue their tradition of releasing previews to Star Clipper. Lion Forge will be releasing an issue that serves as a launching point for seven new ongoing superhero titles, one that Keya strongly recommends. Ink and Drink publishes assorted genre-based anthologies, such as Westerns and sci-fi, set in St. Louis, and always has great selections.

Major publishers, though, will still have their fun, with Marvel releasing two one-shots setting up new Guardians of the Galaxy series; DC is reprinting “Wonder Woman #2” (2016) to promote the movie coming in early June; Boom! Studios is releasing exclusive “Stephen Universe” comics and video game comics are even joining the fray with samples of “Street Fighter” and “Tekken.”

Star Clipper usually couples the joys of free comics with the equally exciting joy of cosplay; several employees of the store turn up at the festivities dressed as their favorite fictional characters or recruit people to do so. Some customers need no coaxing and show up bedecked in all manner of costumes. Asked about the potential of Free Comic Book Day in the future, Keya said, “I see it getting bigger and bigger. It really depends on how long people enjoy it, and I think they will continue to enjoy it.”

He anticipates that if the event grows enough, stores could have comic book writers come by to sign their work for fans, and businesses could cooperate to create a street festival with food and other fun promotional items. Keya believes that Free Comic Book Day has lasted as long as it has because of its consistency in offering products as well as efforts on the part of retailers to expand it from a “table of free comics in the back of the store” to a full-blown unofficial holiday.

If you’re looking for some summer comic reading, Marvel’s controversial “Secret Empire” event, where Steve Rogers was revealed to be a Hydra sleeper agent, continues in full force, and the company has rebooted its entire X-Men series. Characters Jean Gray, Iceman and Cable will be getting solo titles that are sure to please fans of the 1990s cartoon series.

A “Totally Awesome Hulk” and “Weapon X” crossover called “Weapons of Mutant Destruction” will also be premiering this summer, so for fans who have always wanted to see clones of the Hulk with Wolverine’s powers, this is your moment.

DC will be no stranger to crossovers and epic storylines either. Coming next week is the first part of “The Lazarus Contract,” where Deathstroke, the Titans and the Teen Titans meet for the first time in the modern era. A new Batman story launches in June called “The War of Jokes and Riddles,” recounting the Joker and the Riddler’s bloody battle for Gotham and the Caped Crusader’s greatest failure.

The mystery of Rebirth unravels further, but Dark Days are coming. If you’re interested in Free Comic Book Day, Star Clipper is located at 1319 Washington Ave. in downtown St. Louis, a few blocks from the Convention Center Metro stop.

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