Whether you’re a seasoned comic book reader hungry for new material or a comic book newbie with no idea where to start, Free Comic Book Day is the perfect time to take a chance on some new comics without spending a dime. The annual worldwide event, set for Saturday, May 4, encourages comic book shops to hand out free comic books created specially for that day and to offer comic-related fun like cosplay contests, door prizes and special guests.
“There is not another day of the year that a comic book shop will get so many new faces into their establishment,” said Ralph DiBernardo, owner of participating comic book shop Jetpack Comics in Rochester. “It allows us [comic book shops] to … tailor-fit someone to a comic book [based] on their line of interest and give it to them for free. … If we do our job right, the new readers will return [to the shop].”
There are 51 FCBD exclusive comics this year, including 12 “gold” titles, which are available at all participating shops, and 39 “silver” titles, which are available at select shops. Some comics are spin-offs of movies, television shows, video games and established comic book series, such as Stranger Things, Doctor Who, Pokemon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bob’s Burgers, Star Wars and others. Other comics are samples of full-length comics that are soon to be released.
“It’s exciting for comic book readers because the publishers … showcase their best upcoming work for their Free Comic Book Day offerings,” DiBernardo said. “It’s kind of a sneak peek or secret introduction into what the publisher is going to be bringing us this year.”
With the Avengers: Endgame film hitting theaters this month, DiBernardo said he expects the FCBD Avengers #1 comic to go fast.
“I can’t see the Avengers comic book not being the most sought-after. That’s the comic that everyone is going to want to pick up,” DiBernardo said. “Given how fast the movie tickets have sold, I think [the comic] is going to attract a lot of people … maybe a 20- to 25-percent increase in [the number of] people attending this year.”
The only rule for comic book shops on FCBD is that the FCBD comics must be distributed for free. Outside of that, every comic book shop has its own approach. Some put a limit on the number of free comics a person can take while others allow people to take as many as they want. Shops may also set out leftover FCBD comics from previous years, if they have some.
In addition to the free comics, many shops host special events and activities on that day.
The largest FCBD celebration in the state is the Rochester Free Comic Book Day Festival, a partnership between the City of Rochester and Jetpack Comics. Festivities including local comic creators, vendors, live entertainment, food, a cosplay contest and more will take place throughout downtown. FCBD comics will be available at Jetpack Comics and 21 Rochester businesses and community centers, with a different selection of comics at each site. You can see what’s happening where and start planning your route with the scavenger hunt map, available now on Jetpack’s website.
“People start lining up at our store around 7 a.m., and by noontime there are 4,000 people roaming around downtown Rochester,” DiBernardo said. “It’s a super fun day, and the city has a great time with it.”
DiBernardo said that on FCBD the store’s staff will be happy to offer suggestions and help guide people, particularly people who are new to comics, to a comic that matches their interests and taste.
“Talk to us,” DiBernardo said. “Most of us who sell comic books do so from a love for comic books. Every one of us wants to share that passion.”
— Angie Sykeny
Participating Seacoast-area comic book stores:
For more information about Free Comic Book Day, visit freecomicbookday.com
• Jetpack Comics, 37 N. Main St., Rochester, 330-9636, jetpackcomics.com. The store partners with the City of Rochester to host the Rochester Free Comic Book Day Festival. Special activities including a cosplay competition and visits from special guest comic book creators and artists will take place at the store and at various downtown locations.
• Krypton Comics And Pop Culture Emporium, 103 Water St., Exeter, 658-2667, kryptonantiques.com. There will be sales on regular comics and graphic novels all weekend.
• Stairway to Heaven Comics, 105 Gosling Road, Newington, 319-6134, stairwaytoheavencomics.com. There will be special guest comic book creators, sales and a costume contest.