Held annually on the first Saturday of May, this year being on the 6th of May, Free Comic Book Day is one of the most exciting days of the comic book calendar. It’s the Christmas of the industry and a fantastic opportunity to come together, celebrate the medium, and get some free comic books. Everyone is welcome, whether you’ve been reading comics for years or are brand new to them.
You’re in for a treat if this is your first Free Comic Book Day event. Yes, it’s about giving away free comics, but you’ll soon find out it’s much more than that too. Read on to find out how the day is celebrated and how to find a Free Comic Book Day event near you.
Running since 2002, the goal of Free Comic Book Day is to introduce the wider public to the wonderful medium of comics by enticing regular, lapsed, and potential readers into comic book shops with free comic books. While they’re a carrot to get people through the door, they also act as an entryway into comics in general, where many people sample the medium for the first time and experience the unique culture that comic book shops cultivate.
Many comic book shops celebrate Free Comic Book Day by turning it into a big event. They host parties, offer generous discounts, host creator signings and artist sketches, have cosplay competitions, and other wonderful activities. It’s a lot of fun and fantastic to see people of all ages enjoying the festivities.
While COVID-19 downgraded the Free Comic Book Day festivities in 2020 and 2021, last year saw many comic shops swing back to events more on par with what they would do before the pandemic. Other shops have adapted to the current climate, trying to find a middle-ground with their events. This includes factoring in safety precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing. Some shops have moved their event online.
We might not like it, but COVID-19 is still out there. So if you go to a Free Comic Book Day event, please respect any rules a shop may ask you to follow. Even if you disagree with them, they’re done to protect others.
So where can you find a Free Comic Book Day event? It’s as easy as heading to the Store Locator Free Comic Book Day website. Enter your zip code into the search bar or use the dedicated search function for those outside North America. It’ll display a map of all the participating shops and include details on what’s happening on the day and store details such as their opening hours and contact details.
In previous years, I’ve noticed that the store listings can be sparse or outdated when detailing the activities. Here are a few methods to find out what’s going on:
- Check out the shop’s website. It’s also a good way of confirming the address, opening hours, parking, covid-safety practices, and public transport information.
- Check out their Facebook page. Most shops have one and probably have an event page you can RSVP to. It’s a great way to keep up with information and any last-minute changes.
- Call the shop during business hours leading up to Free Comic Book Day. They’ll be busy on Saturday and might not have the ability to answer the phone.
While it’s called “Free Comic Book Day”, not every comic in the shop is free. (That’s a great way to go out of business!) Each year there is a selection of special comics from participating publishers. Each year includes a different offering, which features reprints, previews of upcoming comics/graphic novels, and original stories.
This year there are 44 comics to choose from. Some include:
- Dog Man
- Conan The Barbarian
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- The Smurfs (with a cool augmented reality feature)
- Star Wars
- Star Trek
- Baby-Sitters Club
- The Fabulous Fry Freak Brothers
- The Umbrella Academy
Discover all of the titles here. The Free Comic Book Day also offers short previews of some comics. This can help you decide which one you want or if they’re appropriate for a kid.
One thing you might notice browsing the offering of free comics is a lack of DC Comics. This is because Diamond Comic Distributors facilitates Free Comic Book Day, which doesn’t have an agreement with DC Comics. However, DC will have multiple free comics available on the day.
It’s also worth noting that the titles have age ratings. According to the website, the Free Comic Book Day logos on the cover are colour-coded for different age groups.
- Green is All-Ages. These comics are appropriate for kids.
- Blue is Teen(+). These comics are made for ages 13 and older.
- Red is Mature. These comics are for adults.
Most stores will stock every title, or at least most of them. However, it’s often in varying quantities. Additionally, the first-come, first-serve aspect of the day can mean that some titles may not be available if you arrive in the afternoon. So more customers can enjoy free comics, many stores limit how many you can get. While each store differs, many will allow you to choose additional free comics beyond the limit if you purchase something in-store.
Another thing to be aware of is that the comics are free for customers but cost the shop money to order them. So make sure you give them a big “thank you” and maybe spend some money there if something catches your fancy.
Don’t stress if you can’t make it on the day. Many shops will offer free comics in their online stores. Additionally, publishers will make the comics available for free digitally – either on the day or soon after.
Finally, the most important thing to remember about Free Comics Book Day is to have fun. Bring along family and friends and join in the festivities. Mingle with like-minded individuals (in a covid-safe manner) and discover some fantastic new comics.