What Is Free Comic Book Day?

Celebrating FCBD - Sergio Aragones
(Photo: Sergio Aragones)

Free Comic Book Day is upon us! Saturday May 4th marks the return of the annual comic-based holiday. It's been around for years at this point, but it's always going to be someone's first FCBD. While the event itself may seem self-explanatory -- you know, being a day of free comics -- it’s still worth asking... what exactly is Free Comic Book Day?

The History

The very first Free Comic Book Day occurred in 2002. Its creation was first discussed by shop owner and comics columnist Joe Field who proposed it as a way to generate new readers and interest in the comics medium. The initial event was tied to the release of Spider-Man, building on the popularity of superhero films and free publicity from the launch of a new one. Together the increased interest from movies and the event helped to offer stores new customers and an improved recovery following the speculator bubble of the 1990s.

Since its debut the event has continued to grow and change, but the core elements have remained the same. Participating stores give away pre-selected copies of comics, most often printed specifically for the occasion, to all attendees. While rules vary from store to store, often including a limit or purchase requirement, the giveaway element has remained at the center of the day.

FCBD Today

Free Comic Book Day has grown almost every year since its inception. Today the event occurs in more than 2000 stores across more than 30 countries. This growth is reflected in regular expansion of participating venues and the number of issues ordered specifically for the day. While the Free Comic Book Day website has continued to advertise specific films, the day of the event is no longer tied to a theatrical release. This year’s event for example falls right after the release of Avengers: Infinity War, but is also being used to promote the upcoming release of Venom.

Instead, Free Comic Book Day has been dated to the first Saturday in the month of May. The timing generally offers good weather, as well as families looking for activities to start their summer fun. As a result the event itself has morphed and grown at individual stores to include a wide variety of activities and traditions beyond the core of Free Comic Book Day.

Endless Variety

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Every local comic book store approaches Free Comic Book Day a little bit differently. Some have even transformed the event into a mini-convention, offering tables for local artists to sell their work and invite creators to sign their own issues. Legend Comics & Coffee has used the holiday as an opportunity to raise funds for Make-A-Wish, and many other great stores have created similar opportunities to promote good causes. Whether it’s a special guest appearance, carnival games, or something else altogether, each Free Comic Book Day celebration provides something that makes it unique.

That variety highlights what really makes Free Comic Book Day special: the local comic book stores, themselves. It’s the people who run these shops and the communities they’ve built that allow this special, pop up affair to occur and bring so many smiles to faces. While the free comics are a big attraction, it’s the quality of the people as well as the content that ensures new readers keep coming back for more. Free Comic Book Day is a holiday for interesting new readers and sharing comics, but it’s also a celebration of small business and the wonderful, geeky communities that surround local comic book stores.