By Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service

Comics are much in the news these days … especially the free ones.

ITEM: 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:

ITEM: 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.

ITEM: Two movies premiered in April based on pretty good comics.

Kick-Ass (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).

The Losers (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 ($19.99).

That should hold you until Iron Man 2 on May 7!

Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at capncomics@aol.com.

Views: 124

Comment by Cavaliere (moderator emeritus) on April 29, 2010 at 2:45pm
I'd like to hear from someone who has read The Losers. It sounds interesting as a concept but I often don't like Vertigo books and don't want to spend money on something I may not enjoy.
Comment by Jason Marconnet (Pint sized mod) on April 29, 2010 at 5:37pm
Vertigo re-released the 1st issues of the Losers for $1.00. I picked it up last week and read it. I didn't really care for it. I can't put my finger on why I didn't, it just didn't work for me. However, with the exception of Fables, I don't really care for comics not involving superheroes. So maybe that was a reason I didn't care for the Losers. The concept is something that I do find interesting for a movie or TV show. It didn't work for me in comic form.
Comment by Cavaliere (moderator emeritus) on April 29, 2010 at 7:01pm
My library system has Ante Up and Double Down. I put myself on the wait list for the first one plus Jack Kirby's The Losers.
Comment by Horn'd One on April 29, 2010 at 7:34pm
Me, I see it as everyone else gets a present on my birthday this year. :D Enjoy!
Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on April 29, 2010 at 10:39pm
Cav, I read the first 1 1/2-2 years of the Losers, and I just never really got into it (Which makes you wonder why I stuck around so long). It was a summer blockbuster put into a comic book. A lot of sizzle, but no steak. The characters were pretty stereotypical as well.
Comment by Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) on April 29, 2010 at 11:22pm
I think the "action movie" tag describes The Losers very well. I enjoyed it more than everyone else in this thread, although I remember my interest flagging a bit towards the end. I wouldn't call it typical Vertigo (whatever that means). It doesn't resemble anything else they've published very much.
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on April 30, 2010 at 8:18am
ITEM: I think it's once again a case where the publisher - Vertigo/DC - tried to make a head start on a new title by using a title from a classic comic book series ("classic" meaning a vintage title... not necessarily a great one.) That turns me off so much that I usually just don't even look at it. This is one of those cases. Shame that there's no comic book writer or editor at DC who could have come up with a catchier name that was original...

ITEM: Regarding FCBD, I will cite my current pusher, who hates it. He said that the comics cost too much; they bring in kids who aren't interested in the stock he has, but merely want the free books and then they leave; and he always has to find some way to dispose of the extras (although hospitals and schools and libraries are a possible outlet.) So he doesn't participate.
Comment by Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) on April 30, 2010 at 6:50pm
Eric, your response to Vertigo's version of The Losers is exactly why I've always questioned the "Vertigo twist" on older DC characters. It wasn't an attraction for me, because I didn't know the original. But it was a turnoff for you, because you rightly thought that it resembled the original in name only.
Comment by Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man on May 1, 2010 at 8:47am
Speaking of Vertigo Twist, the book Madame Xanadu seems to be the one book that is allowing the DCU to intermingle, if only in the past. We've seen The Demon, Swamp Thing, Golden Age Sandman, Death, hints at Green Lantern, Phantom Stranger, and Martian Manhunter is now a featured character (at least in the current arc). I love it.

I realize this isn't a direct correlation to what you were saying, Mark, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

As for The Losers, I really liked it, even if it felt more Wildstorm than Vertigo. Vertigo has nothing if not abundant variety.
Comment by Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) on May 1, 2010 at 1:57pm
I love Madame Xanadu, too. I suppose one reason Wagner has been allowed such latitude is because the title character has been kind of undefined. But I've said in my reviews that the book wouldn't have to be published under the Vertigo imprint, as far as I can see. Other than some sexually suggestive bits (nothing really explicit) it's no more "mature" than a lot of what goes on in the DCU these days. It's certainly less violent!

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