By Carter Glace, Staff Writer
Last Saturday saw the celebration of what has become a time-honored tradition in the comic book community: Free Comic Book Day. Beginning back in 2002, the first Saturday of May has become a massive event various comic book stores across the country, as stores give massive sales and give out free comics provided by various companies.
This was the first time I’ve gotten to see the celebration in New York City, and needless to say, it well exceeded expectations. Doing a walking tour of the nearest stores, the energy of the crowd, the enthusiasm of store employees, and the sheer amount of comics, trades, and merchandise made the day an absolute blast. Based on the lines just to get into some of these buildings, it would appear to be a financial success as well.
Which is what brings me to the topic of this piece. One of the reasons Free Comic Day has become such a fast-growing event across the country is because the promise of lower prices brings in an enormous amount of business — business that often is difficult to find at other points in the year.
While Marvel and DC have pushed for a more digitalized comic book world, I will always be an advocate for physical copies of everything. While there are plenty of practical reasons for this, my main motivation is sentimentality for the days of having something to collect. Because comic books are niche, the only place to consistently find physical copies is your nearby comic book store. As many stores continue to struggle, we a very much facing the end of an era. We could be facing a time and place where it is nearly impossible to get physical copies of the current comic books. For many people, who can’t take the time to travel long distances, they are already at that point.
But comic book stores aren’t just here to provide us with physical copies of our heroes and characters. In today’s day and age, where communication is a few button click away, it’s easy to forget that at one point, comic book stores were community hubs. Places where fans could come together to enjoy the hobby they love. Overly optimistic? Perhaps. I’ve been spoiled to live around an incredibly positive, fun comic book store. But I firmly believe comic books stores provide readers with rare opportunities to meet other fans, to introduce newcomers to the vast array of options, and to create a positive environment based on our hobby.
At this point, I don’t think I need to argue about the importance of comic books. (If I did, then I’ve wasted the last year of my life, haven’t I?) Comic books are a part of American mythology, the stories and characters a part of our rich culture. But the venues in which so many of us have been able to enjoy this part of our culture have been left to pasture.
Please don’t make Free Comic Day a once a year pilgrimage. Even if you go just once or twice more a year, that could be massive for your local store. I worry that without more support, these stores will continue to disappear across the country. Even giants that have stood for decades are potentially in danger unless we stand together. Our heroes have always been there for us; why not stand with the venues that give them a voice?