The first Saturday in May, comics shops across the country celebrate Free Comic Book Day. FCBD is part marketing tool and part life raft for local shops; a way to thank their loyal customers with free stuff, but mostly an attempt to attract new readers and grow a younger audience in the hopes of keeping a dying breed alive. In many communities, the local comic shop is more than just a place to buy the latest Iron Man or Batman monthly; the comic shop is a place for likeminded fans of the genre to hang out, share stories and buy toys and collectibles their shelves surely have no room left to hold.
A local comic shop is like a local barbershop, only for Star Wars nerds, and that’s said lovingly. Digital downloads should have killed the local comic shop a long time ago—why wait until 11:00 a.m., or after work, on Wednesday to get this week’s books when you can go to sites like Comixology and download them right when you wake up?
Why buy a life-size Infinity Gauntlet piggy bank at a local store when you can get it online for probably a few bucks cheaper?
That struggle has put more than a few local comic shops out of business over the years, which is why days like Free Comic Book Day are so important to the industry. The publishers of most major titles put out special editions for seasoned fans and lots of fun offerings for a younger readers in hopes free stuff one day will get patrons to return and pay for more books, again and again. For a list of the books being offered this year—a list that includes Marvel’s Civil War II kickoff, Bob’s Burgers, Archie, Dr. Who, The Tick, Strawberry Shortcake, Suicide Squad and dozens more—check out the Free Comic Book Day website.
Almost every comic shop turns FCBD into something of a carnival, with special guests, local artists, cosplay, face paint and deals on books, trades and collectibles. If you are near a local shop, or passing by, check it out for a bit, snag some free books and probably food and get reading. Oh, and while it won’t be free, do ask if your local shop has any copies of Invincible Iron Man #4 and tell them #IronMax’s dad sent you.
If you are out and about this Saturday, here are some of the local comic shops in Philadelphia, with information on what each is doing to celebrate and promote Free Comic Book Day.
Atomic City Comics
Atomic City Comics on South Street is combining Free Comic Book Day with the South Street Spring Festival, which their Facebook page says is “like forming a Voltron of Unstoppable fun.” The festivities begin at 11 a.m. in and around their shop.
South Philly Comics
South Philly Comics on E Passyunk is opening an hour early on FCBD, unlocking their doors at 10 a.m. on Saturday to get the festivities rolling.
Blue Line Collectibles
Blue Line Collectibles is pumping free stuff and a big sale to go along with cosplay that includes Philly Spider-Man. It’s safe to assume Philly Spidey is just a guy in tights and a mask who spends his nights outside cheesesteak joints mispronouncing water and booing people who ask for American cheese. Still, Philly Spidey > Philly Jesus.
Fat Jacks Comics
I walked down to Fat Jacks on Thursday to ask if they had anything special planned for FCBD, as their social media offerings were rather limited. The place is big enough to hold a good number of Center City comic aficionados on Saturday, but the clerk told me that other than the free comics they’ll have out, they aren’t planning anything special. If you’re looking for free stuff without the fanfare, this might be your best bet.
Brave New Worlds
Brave New Worlds down on 2nd Street has an event listed on its Facebook page for FCBD, but the details are just copied and pasted from the national site. A question by a follower if there will be other sales and discounts hasn’t been answered.
Ontario St. Comics
Ontario Street Comics in the Northeast has a huge bash planned for FCBD including cosplay, local artists and photos with Batman. (Note: probably not actually Ben Affleck, or Christian Bale or George Clooney or Adam West or Michael Keaton or even the voice of Will Arnett, but there’s a half decent chance they might have gotten Val Kilmer or maybe the kid who plays a young Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. What’s that kid doing now?)
The shop has some outside events planned, though the weather may hamper some of those. Still, it seems they are going all out at Ontario.
Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse
Amalgam is relatively new to the comic scene in Philly and the Kensington outfit is unique in that it’s open super early, turning the lights on at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on Saturday for FCBD. The space is pretty incredible, split between a coffee shop and a comic shop—an interesting enough idea that it just might work. Amalgam is planning a big event on May 14th to celebrate their official opening, hosting a comic-themed dance party, but they still have a lot of fun things planned for this Saturday, including cosplay, artists, music and, one would assume, coffee.
Free Library of Philadelphia
There are other shops in the city, surely, and if you live in the ‘burbs there are a ton of options for you to snag some free comics and discount collectibles. If you stop by Stormwatch Comics in Berlin, NJ by chance, look for Iron Max and he’ll autograph things for you. But if you can’t make it out to any of the comic shops, or you’re hip to the gambit of giving out a few free comics in order to get you to spend tons of money on other books, shirts and other junk, you can avoid all that by going to…the library.
There is no specific mention of FCBD on the Philly library website as some other local libraries in the area have, but their program for comic book fans on Saturday is still pretty awesome.
The Parkway Central Library is hosting its 2nd annual comics and gaming convention for Philadelphia teens! It is a day of art displays, discussion panels, card tournaments, cosplay, and community-building at the Central Library! It will feature teen artists, professional artists and writers, and local businesses, organizations and schools associated with comics and graphic art.
That event is open to the public, but is geared toward ages 12 through 19 and those accompanying them. A library card or ID is needed to participate. More information can be found at the event website.