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Free Comic Book Day returns to its rightful spot in the universe

Hartford Courant logo Hartford Courant 5/4/2022 Christopher Arnott, Hartford Courant

Free Comic Book Day has returned to its proper place in the comics universe — on the first Saturday in May — when superhero worshippers will be swooping into their nearest comic shops to catch up with the goings-on in Gotham City, Riverdale, the Marvel galaxies and other mythic worlds.

Dozens of comics publishers create original comics for the annual event, which are distributed for free. This year, on May 7, almost four dozen different free comics are being offered for the day. It’s an opportunity to track major new developments in the worlds of Marvel and DC, but also a chance to check out lesser-known publishers and titles at no risk.

Free Comic Book Day was founded in 2002 by Diamond Comics Distributors, the main distributor of comics to comic stores. Publishers participating this year include:

  • Dark Horse (who are offering a “Stranger Things” tie-in this year).
  • IDW (with a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
  • Titan (with a Dr. Who comic).
  • Boom! (a “25 Years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Special”).
  • Image (the horrific “Bone Orchard Mythos Prelude”) .
  • And Graphix (a sampler of characters created by children’s author Dav Pilkey: Dog Man, Cat Kid and Captain Underpants).

You’ll also find such intriguing titles from smaller publishers as “Fuzzy Baseball,” “Bunny Mask” and “Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters.”

If many of those titles are familiar because they’re adaptations of TV shows or movies, there’s a reason for that. Free Comic Book Day traditionally lands at the same time that the spring movie blockbusters start arriving in cinemas. This week it falls on the same weekend that the Marvel movie “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” opens. The free comics often reflect that multimedia mindset, though many other titles are unique to the comics medium. There’s also a wide range of genres and intended audiences: from funny animals to horror, from “suitable for all ages” to cult comics for a select readership.

Comics shops throughout the state are taking part. A full list is at freecomicbookday.com. Most shops set a limit to how free comics one customer can get. Some offer other special events or sales as well as the free comics.

Scott Prentice has worked at A Hero’s Legacy Comics & Collectibles in Manchester since it opened in 2012, and also worked since 1998 for a different comics shop that preceded it in the same location. “I come with the building,” he jokes. Prentice has been around for every Free Comic Book Day since the tradition began in 2002.

A Hero’s Legacy has ordered every one of the 46 Free Comic Book Day titles this year. Adults can get two titles apiece while kids are allowed four.

The free comics that Prentice is most looking forward to include are those from the two biggest publishers in the industry: Marvel and DC.

“Both are starting new storylines,” he explains. Marvel is teaming Spider-Man and Venom, while DC is using Free Comic Book Day as the kick-off for its new summer-long Dark Crisis series.

Another highly anticipated comic comes from Archie Comic Publications, which has gotten active with new titles again after a period of relative dormancy. The company’s new comic bears the humble title “The Best Archie Comic Ever!”

A Hero’s Legacy is hosting a couple of special guests as part of Free Comic Book Day: “Area 51: The Helix Project” writer Trevor Fernandes-Lenkiewicz of Pocket Watch Press, and the local “Pink Laser” creator known as SNF.

May 7 is the first regular Free Comic Book Day since 2019. Traditionally held on the first Saturday in May, last year’s event was held in August instead due to concerns over COVID-19 earlier in the year, and in 2020 Free Comic Book Day became Free Comic Book Summer, spread out over months.

“That was not good at all,” Prentice says, since it diffused the excitement of a single-day celebration.

In the way that they attract customers into an actual store rather than online, comic-book stores are the last vestige of old-fashioned newsstands, with dozens of new titles arriving every week, browsed and bought by customers who prefer to see the comics in person. Free Comic Book Day keeps those regular buyers happy and also creates new fans every year.

“The whole point is to grow the hobby,” Prentice says. “If you just gain one new reader, it’s worth it.”

Christopher Arnott can be reached at carnott@courant.com.

©2022 Hartford Courant. Visit courant.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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