Comics had a pretty tough time in the 1990s (if you want to know more, this video is a good place to start) and so, in the early 2000s with comic sales moving away from newsstands to specialist comic book stores, recruiting new comic buyers became increasingly difficult. In 2002, tapping into the excitement around the release of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and the free publicity for the comics industry the film created, Free Comic Book Day was founded.
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Now fixed as the first Saturday of May, each year comic shops give away a selection of special Free Comic Book Day editions of comics to anyone coming in to the store (at least until they are gone!). Celebrations vary from store to store with some comic book shops holding signings, special offers and more. The day also offers those who like to dress up as comic book characters the perfect excuse.
Knowing that lots of people, including potential new readers, will pick up a copy of their FCBD, comics publishers will often use the day to launch new comics, arcs or story lines to boost sales. This makes these comics the perfect starting point for anyone who is interested in reading comics but does not know where to start. For the same reason, many FCBD comics are aimed at children hoping to recruit new young readers (in 2015 there was even a special comic aimed at parents to persuade them that reading comics could help their children learn to love reading).
1. Want to know where to go? Look for your nearest participating store here
2. Get there early to avoid disappointment, or at least to avoid long queues
3. There will be lots of free comics but you are only allowed one of each
4. There are usually other freebies and special offers in stores, have a look around
5. Few comic book shops have enough room for long queues, so dress for the weather
6. If you want to know more about comic book shops, I wrote an article all about them
I love Free Comic Book Day, it is part of how I started reading comics and my friends and I use it as a day of celebration, collecting free comics before meeting in a local cafe to play Munchkin before watching the latest comic book movie at the cinema.