This is a guest column on comics by Ian Cyr of Arlington, VA.
Are you going to go see The Avengers this weekend? Did you enjoy The Dark Knight, and are looking forward to seeing what the next Batman movie brings? Are you looking forward to the Spider-Man reboot this year, or did you prefer the earlier movies by Sam Raimi? If you even know what I’m talking about, then you might be interested in another event going on this weekend. Plus, you could get free stuff–and who doesn’t like free stuff?
This Saturday, May 5th, is Free Comic Book day. This is a yearly event put on by comic book shops all over the United States in an effort to show people what awesome stuff is happening in the realm of comics at this point in time. It’s held on the first Saturday of May, and while it obviously includes free comic books, it also often is accompanied by other events at the comic books shops, ranging from guest appearances to trivia contests to drawing lessons. Obviously, not all of these happen at every shop, but they could be happening at the comic book shop near you!
This year will see 48 different comics available for free at your local comic book shop. Now, these aren’t just free issues of comics that you’d normally need to pay for, but instead issues specifically produced for this event. This doesn’t, however, diminish the quality of these books – it just means they’re written to help those that don’t usually read comics get involved with the story, instead of dropping them into some long-running arc that they may not completely understand. In fact, one of my favorite comic book stories in the past several years was released as part of free comic book day.
If I’ve at least got you intrigued, then I’ll also give you some recommendations for books to pick up. Usually you can only grab a few, as they want to make sure everyone has the chance to get one, so better to get stuff that you find interesting, rather than something boring. Note that I haven’t read any of the comics that are going to be free, so these are based purely on previous performance and my personal tastes.
First and foremost pick up Atomic Robo & Friends. It’s a fantastic series about a wisecracking robot scientist built by Nikola Tesla to defend the world against bad things. Over the course of the series (so far), he’s fought Lovecraftian horrors, time-traveling dinosaurs and Russian mad scientists. All while delivering some of the best dialogue in comics – if you don’t laugh at some of the antics, I’ll happily give you your money back for the comic.
Alright, now that that recommendation is out of the way, the next few really depend on your tastes. If you want to find out more about what’s happening in the two traditional juggernauts of the comics world, being DC and Marvel, then you probably won’t be disappointed by anything release. They’ll likely be short teaser stories, just enough to whet your appetite, as their main objective is to get you to start buying their comics, but they’ll still likely be entertaining and well written & drawn.
For those of you in your 30’s, you’ll probably see some recognizable properties in comics form – Transformers, looking more like what you remember and less like the new movies, Voltron, Smurfs and even Donald Duck. Yes, all of those properties are still in print, in comic book form, so if you ever want to find out what your favorite Saturday morning cartoons have been up to in the past 20 years, now’s your chance.
If you have kids, (or are still one at heart), there will be a number of comics suitable for younger readers. Of those on the list, my first suggestion would probably be Mouse Guard, which from the preview looks both intelligent but suitable for kids. There are actually a number of previews inside, so there’s likely something in there that your kid will enjoy, even if the titular adventure doesn’t suit there tastes. However, if your kid is in their teens, you might want to take a look at Gossamyr, which looks interesting. It has a very nice visual style and the preview is intriguing. If you have a teen already reading Manga, or are into Manga yourself, you might want to pick up Infernal Devices.
courtesy of Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie
So now that I’ve given you some idea of what’s out there, the question is, where do you get all this free stuff? Well, that depends on where you’re located. I’m in Northern Virginia and my personal favorite shops are Phoenix Comics, in University Mall across from George Mason University. Big Planet Comics near Tysons also has a great selection, and E G Comics in Vienna is a third location that I’ve been impressed by. Inside the Beltway there’s Aftertime Comics down in Alexandria, which is a fun comic shop in Old Town, near the King Street Metro station.
Unfortunately there don’t seem to be too many comic book shops in DC itself. Google Maps only gives me 2 – Fantom Comics in Union Station, and another Big Planet Comic location on U St. Between 15th and 16th.
In Maryland, there’s another Big Planet Comic shop in Bethesda, Alliance Comics in Silver Spring and finally a fourth Big Planet Comics in College Park.
Wherever you are, and whatever your interests, I hope you take the time to head to your local comic book shop this Saturday and check out what they have to offer. Even if the traditional superhero comics don’t interest you, there’s a lot more out there in the world of comics that are worth checking out.