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Man, Free Comic Book Day is a hoot. I admit it's possible to see the event as a sign of just how phenomenally off-course the American comic book industry is. It's not like, say, the movie industry has to declare Free Movie Day in a last-ditch effort to convince people to try movies. Heck, not even book publishers have to do this kind of promotion, and supposedly no one reads books anymore. Free Comic Book Day basically turns comics into that pathetic nerd in junior high who would do anything—eat weird stuff, mostly—in the desperate hope that you'd let him hang around. But since most people in the comics industry, myself included, were that nerd in junior high, maybe it's appropriate.
Anyway, if there were a Free Movie Day, I'd be lining the hell up for my free movies (and to avoid dropping twenty bucks on Baby Mama
), so I enjoy Free Comic Book Day and my free comic books. And round these parts, FCBD really does get people into the comics stores, if only for a day. I got my free comics at Comic Relief in Berkeley, where Rory Root, lord high emperor of Comic Book Guys
, had an assembly line all worked out: bags of pre-selected comics for everyone, plus stacks of optional comics, three to a customer. He and his staff were careful to steer kids away from any remotely adult material so as to avoid lawsuits from parents whose children might be permanently traumatized by seeing naked (but free) cartoon Picassos. (I know Picasso's penis was capable of a lot of damage back in the day, but honestly.)
Snob that I am, I went for the artsy small-publisher stuff: Drawn & Quarterly's Gekiga
and Ignatz's International Graphic Novels at Their Zenith
. These were both samplers of material from upcoming graphic novels—sometimes exciting if you're the type of person who says things like, "Holy crap, they're translating Seiichi Hayashi's Red-Colored Elegy
!" (which fortunately I am), but not really useful for scratching that four-color pamphlet itch. I don't read a lot of monthly-style comics anymore, but that doesn't mean I'm immune to the pleasures of sprawling out on my belly with 32 flimsy pages of magic. And on Free Comic Book Day, I want a comic book, not a catalog.
Fortunately, the Gyro Gearloose comic from Gemstone
healed many wounds. I know Gyro isn't the greatest character in the Carl Barks stable, but a) I love all cartoon mad scientists without reservation, and b) there's a scene where Gyro works out an answer to a question by dropping it into a pot of water in which he's boiled an encyclopedia, then pouring in some alphabet soup mix and waiting for the noodles to spell the answer. Which they do. Why does this kind of thing not happen in comics anymore?
What else did I get? A decent Bongo Comics mini
. A Gumby comic
, disppointing in that most of it wasn't drawn by Rick Geary. Archie's Pal Jughead
. A collection of how-to-draw columns from Wizard
, which always fascinate me in that they never talk much about drawing comics. This time Kevin Maguire has some useful tips on facial expressions, Joe Kubert does his best to convince you to design interesting characters, and then Wizard
gets bored and drifts off into instructions for muscleman pinups and Wizard
covers. I also flipped through Yen Press's preview of Maximum Ride
, an OEL manga written by James Patterson, a novelist I know primarily from late-night TV ads where a sonorous voice intones, "Now, James Patterson reads from his newest novel, The Jester
," and he does
. If James Patterson thinks there's money in manga, you better believe there's money in manga. He can smell the stuff from fifty miles away, like a shark.
I also ran into a whole bunch of Viz coworkers and had multiple conversations about the Iron Man
movie, which I liked pretty well. And I came home with a pile of comics I didn't pay for (okay, my husband bought me the latest volume of From Eroica with Love
). I call that a full day.
Previous article: Tribute to Rory Root
fcbdkids.jpg (top image) from Free Comic Book Day website
Shaenon K. Garrity is a manga editor at Viz Media and is best known for her webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse.
All the Comics in the World is © Shaenon K. Garrity, 2010