Candy for Halloween? That is so 2011.

Instead, you could get – and keep or give away – free comics! Because Diamond Comic Distributors Inc. and most comic shops have teamed up to give away free funnybooks just before All Hallow’s Eve.

It’s called Halloween ComicFest, an event which began last year and which Diamond says is planned to occur annually. This year it fell on Oct. 26-27, when more than 1,400 participating comic shops gave away roughly a million comics in a sort of pre-Halloween party.

ComicFest is not to be confused with Free Comic Book Day, another time participating shops give away free comics. That event is a bit older, coming up on its 13th year in May 2014.

The new Halloween ComicFest is “a great idea,” according to Donald Juengling of Comics & Collectibles in Memphis, Tenn. “ComicsFest is a natural,” he added, since cosplay is a part of both comics fandom and Halloween. While his store saw smaller crowds for ComicFest than it does for FCBD, Juengling said he expects the event to grow with greater media coverage in future years, especially since some of the patrons show up in costume.

But you don’t have to be masked to get the free comics, although it’s recommended (because it’s fun). And what was available this year were 22 books from a variety of publishers, in both full-size and mini-comics (5 ¼ x 8 ¼). Most, but not all, were not only kid-friendly but kid-specific.

The “Big Two” publishers had feet in both young and not-so-young camps. For the kids, Marvel offered a reprint of Ultimate Spider-Man #1, based on the Disney XD cartoon, while DC presented a reprint of Batman: Li’l Gotham #1, starring a pint-size version of the Dark Knight explaining Halloween to Robin. For the adults, DC reprinted Batman: The Long Halloween #1 (which is sort of a gimme), while Marvel reprinted the first issue of Thor: God of Thunder.

Aspen’s Michael Turner’s Soulfire: Genesis #1 is another book I’d recommend for adults, which was rendered by Turner before he died of cancer in  2008, and written by Jeph Loeb years before he became an executive producer for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Newcomer Action Lab Entertainment offered a sampler combining two of its properties, the beautifully drawn fantasy series Skyward and the clunky Fracture, about a superhero with multiple personalities that seemed to play mental illness for laughs. Avatar’s Disenchanted is a web comic making its way to print, whose tagline – “where magic goes to die” – suggests that the intended audience should be well beyond the Disney Fairies stage.

And waaay too scary for kids are two manga-influenced horror-ish books. Viz’s Spirals introduces a town where girls are afflicted by a curse where their hair grows to phenomenal lengths – and not only is the Godiva-like hair prehensile, but it also sucks out the life-force of its hosts! Meanwhile, Yen offers an excerpt of the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children graphic novel, another book where children are afflicted by monsters – or are monsters themselves.

All of those were full-size comics, which seems like a red flag for parents to examine the content before handing it to their own little monsters. But they shouldn’t avoid the full-size books altogether, because several are definitely for kids. Archie, for example, brought its popular videogame-based series to the party in the form of Sonic: Lost World. IDW offered a Cartoon Network sampler, with short stories featuring The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack and Ben 10.

Meanwhile, virtually all of the mini-comics were aimed at kids, with their size making them a perfect fit for trick-or-treat bags.

Older kids should get a kick out of Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals (reprinting typical Archie stories), Image’s Super Dinosaur (a fast-moving adventure tale about a boy and his dino), another Ben 10 sampler (this one from Viz) and Itty Bitty Hellboy (featuring the familiar character as a tiny troublemaker, in the vein of Harvey’s old Hot Stuff the Little Devil).

Skewing younger is a slew of books, from an Adventure Time tale by Kaboom (based on the popular cartoon), Zombiñata (a “Pantalones, TX” story featuring an undead piñata) and Oni’s Sketch Monsters, about a little girl whose drawings (of boogers and such) come to silly life.

I’m no expert on children, but I’m guessing Ape Entertainment’s Sesame Street sampler – starring Grover as a superhero – is for the preschool crowd. Ditto for IDW’s My Little Pony Halloween Edition, which features good ponies getting the better of a bad pony – as it should be. I think Action Lab’s Vamplets, which stars a ghost pony, is probably aimed at the MLP audience, although it seems a tad intense for preschoolers.

And that’s just the comics! Visit for photos of the parties and costumes at various comic shops, and feedback from stores. And you might still be eligible to enter the website’s costume contest, which is open until Nov. 15. (If not, you can still vote on the winner.)

And make plans to show up at your local shop in costume next Halloween, and/or to give away comics. After all, reading is better for a kid’s teeth than candy!

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I've given out comics at Halloween for a long time, using the mini-comics. My biggest complaint about them is that some of the publishers treat them like marketing pieces, reprinting half of a story or doing a lead-in that's continued in some issue of the comic. That's a really bad way to get a kid interested in comics when he's reading on Halloween night.

The other strange part, I guess is the way to put it, is that some don't even attempt to tie into the season. Archie didn't have any Halloween-themed stories?

It becomes a crap shoot of what is suitable for what ages, which will actually have a story in them and whether kids will be interested in the off-beat or unknown characters featured.

Publishers are really missing a bet by not putting out more of these and aiming them at customers rather than the retailers. I have around 400 trick-or-treaters every year, and I bet many of them don't know where a comics shop is (as opposed to those who get FCBD comics). That's way better outreach, but the Halloween comics often seem more like a trick than a treat.

The best approach would be to upload the contents of the issues so we could check them out before committing to buying them (in bundles of 25). 

I don't know how the full-size comics sell, but they're pretty expensive for a Halloween treat and really difficult to stick into those little pumpkin buckets so many kids carry. And, as you note, some aren't appropriate for kids. Gotta wonder about the thinking there.

Giving out comics at Halloween is a great thing to do, and most of the kids get really excited by them. It's fun to see kids get excited about comics, especially since some of them probably don't read them any other time.

-- MSA

The Captain & I have given out comics for Halloween before. Most kids seem happy to get them, but I think it's also important to have candy to give out, too. Halloween will always be about the candy!

I gave out comics one year and gave children the choice of a comic book or candy. The choice was overwhelmingly comics. I no longer actively court trick or treaters (by turning on my porch light) and haven’t had any the past several years in a row, but I still have loads of Gladstone EC reprints I don’t need anymore. That first year I bought a stack of more “kid friendly” titles, but most of the kids who come by my house are older, anyway. I keep a stack of “Tales from the Crypt” on hand just in case anyone rings the bell.

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