By Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
Comics are much in the news these days … especially the free ones.
Yes, it’s time once again for Free Comic Book Day, the annual disbursement of actual, no-kidding, free comic books at participating retail comic shops the first Saturday in May. This year, the ninth annual event, it falls on Saturday, May 1.
Most publishers print (or reprint) special comics for the day. Looking over this year’s list, what jumps out is Archie’s Summer Splash
#1 (Archie Comics), Doctor Solar/Magnus
(Dark Horse), Iron Man/Thor
(Marvel), G.I. Joe
#155 ½ (IDW), War of the Supermen
#0 (DC) and Shrek and the Penguins
(Ape Entertainment). There’s 33 different books altogether, plus a War Machine HeroClix figure.
The twin purposes, of course, are good PR plus getting people into the shops in the hope of creating regular customers. Does it work?
“FCBD is a mixed bag overall,” said Brian Jacoby of Secret Headquarters in Tallahassee.
His floor traffic goes up, as do sales – especially on sale items. It’s a fun day, he said, but one that develops few new customers. “For the most part, our experience here is that it’s a nice PR event, with little perceivable long-term effects.”
Michael Pertl of Comics & Collectibles in Memphis
was more effusive.
“Free Comic Book Day is our favorite day of the year!” he said. “It brings in a ton of business and everyone gets free comics, hardcovers and other promotional items while we still have them. Last year we had more than 500 people come through the store, so customers seem to like it, too!”
Needless to say, your humble reporter will attend FCBD to get reactions … and some free comics. Because it IS fun!
In other news:
What you’ve heard is true: Archie Comics is introducing its first openly gay Riverdale resident, Kevin Keller. “Veronica” No. 202 features the book-length “Isn’t It Bromantic?” in September, in which she falls for the new guy – who isn’t interested in girls. Jughead plays the scenario to yank Ronnie’s chain, and it probably will be funny.
In a press release, Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater said “The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie’s hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books."
Jacoby and Pertl offered their observations.
“I have a significant number of gay customers, some of which are interested in purchasing the comic,” Jacoby said. “Most of my customers have been mum about it though. I think most people were surprised that there wasn't already a gay character in Archie's world.”
In Memphis, the buckle of the Bible belt, Pertl said “I think it's fine that Archie has a gay character. From what I've read, the franchise has started introducing more diverse characters so this is just a natural step.”
I quite agree, but I don’t expect to be seeing much of Kevin. Archie introduced Chuck Clayton, Riverdale’s first African-American teen, in 1974. We don’t see him very often, though, and I don’t expect to see Kevin very often, either. Most Archie characters are fairly one-note, and when your note is “I’m black” or “I’m gay,” there are only so many stories that provide a role. Still, it brings Archie Comics a little closer to the world in which its readers live.
Two movies premiered in April based on pretty good comics.
(2008) began life as an eight-issue miniseries from Marvel’s Icon imprint, meaning it’s owned by its writer, Mark Millar, and artist, John Romita Jr. Kick-Ass
was ultra-violent, deliberately over the top – an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon turned up a notch. Either you like that or you don’t, and if you do, it’s been collected and is currently available in hardback ($24.99).
(2006) started as an ongoing series at Vertigo, DC’s mature readers imprint. Sort of an A-Team for grown-ups, this ragtag band of black-ops agents stumbled on a secret that a CIA handler tried to kill them for, but failed. So they pursued the double agent who had ruined their lives, and left them for dead, for 32 issues. Written by Andy Diggle and illustrated by Jock, the first 12 issues have been reprinted as The Losers Book One
That should hold you until Iron Man 2
on May 7!
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at