Free Comic Book Day 2006 Report

This year, I tried 3 different comic book shops, with wildly different results. My first stop and my usual weekly store, Comickaze, was by far the best. In addition to the full spread of free publications, they also had a hand full of local creators, including Tom Waltz, writer of Children of the Grave, from Shooting Star Comics. Had a pleasant chat with Tom, he signed a free copy of issue #1 for me, and reported that the first arc of his book would soon be collected by IDW with a really slick cover from Dan Brereton. Also present was Mike Miller, writer of Deal with the Devil (Alias Enterprises), Lullaby, and The Imaginaries from Image. Got signed free copies of all of them.

Visited 2 other shops which were crap, so no free publicity for them. One of them had nothing else going on and didn't even order all of the free books, they stuck primarily to DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Image offerings. The last store was by far the worst, no signage for the free books, and they also had a gaming tournament in full swing. It was difficult to get in, their typical selection of comics was buried and inaccessible, and yeah, having to search for free books on Free Comic Book Day is kinda' ridiculous. Lesson that all retailers should learn: The free books on Free Comic Book Day only get people into your store. They don't keep the people there lingering. And they don't get the people to spend money. Smart reatailers bolster the spread of free books with a promotion of some sort. Creator signings, sales on graphic novels, raffles, and trivia contests. Anyone who hasn't figured this out by now and isn't taking advantage of the droves of free people is just... dumb. Bravo Comickaze. Boo everyone else I saw this year. On to the offerings;

Bongo Comics Free-For-All (Bongo Entertainment): Pretty funny Simpsons, Futurama, etc. stuff. Aimed squarely at the direct market. Nice assortment. Enyoyed all of the Simpsons strips and the Nuclear Power Man and Iron Foot story. Grade B.

GI Joe: Sigma 6 (Devil's Due Publishing): Totally completely crap. Craptastic. A crapfest. Wonky art and ridiculously stupid dialogue. Grade F.

Star Wars/Conan Flip Book (Dark Horse): Perfectly *ok* Conan and Clone Wars stories. Doesn't particularly make me want to search out additional issues of either series though. Grade C.

Transformers: Infiltration/Beast Wars Flip Book (IDW): Looks like someone took a Transformers shaped shit on some nice paper. Incomprehensible story. Grade F.

Justice League Unlimited #1 (DC): Perfectly decent JLU story, but this is the same free book that DC has put out for like 3 years running, so it's growing old. Grade B-.

Superman/Batman #1 (DC): Perfectly good (insert title here) story, but this is the same free book that DC has put out for like 3 y-- whoa! Deja vu. Grade B.

Future Shock Sampler (Image): Reviewing these in the order I read them, and this is by far the best so far. Once I saw both a Fear Agent and a Godland short, the rest was just gravy. Nice smattering of Image shtuff, Invisible, Witchblade, Shadowhawk, Noble Causes, Spawn, and Savage Dragon. Not all my cup of tea, but just enough "tone" in all of them to make a good representative peak, enough to make someone curious for more. Grade A.

Free Scott Pilgrim (Oni Press): Everyone raves about how great Scott Pilgrim is and I *still* don't get it. It just reads so flat and uninteresting to me. The best part of this book for me was the back page ad for Leading Man by B. Clay Moore & Jeremy Haun. Can't wait! Grade C.

X-Men/Runaways (Marvel): Umm, what? How a great writer like Brian K. Vaughan can take two perfectly serviceable properties and make them so boring is quite a surprise. Really, *nothing* happens. I do like how Marvel tried to put some different things in here, but the X-Men/Runaways story bombed, the Franklin Richards story bombed, The Marvel Adventures story had pretty art, but lame-o writing that was little more than character intros, and the loooong text pieces for Ultimate Spider-Man? Yeah, way to show off the comic book medium guys. Take arguably your hottest character and don't do comics with him, just put a bunch of dull text in there. Awesome. Grade D.

Viper Comics Presents (Viper Comics): Dead @ 17 is their most successful book. Instead of a Dead @ 17 story, we get a few pages of pinups from it and story samples of other not-so great books. If it wasn't for Kazu Kibuishi's (Image's Flight Editor/Contributor) Daisy Kutter, this company wouldn't have a single book that I like. Bad, bad, bad decisions. Grade D.

Mr. Jean (Drawn & Quarterly): Now this was classy. Just like Time Magazine says, "the most elegant comics publisher in North America." Great sampling of material from Philipe Dupuy and Charles Berberian. Reads like a "real" comic and not a special free issue, but still uses the marketing opportunity and boasts great ads for the D&Q library of books. Grade A.

Funny Book #2 (Fantagraphics): The second Free Comic Book Day anthology from F'graphics is a riot! Laugh out loud funny bits and a great sampling of their creators, Jason, Jordan Crane, R. Kikuo Johnson, and Martin Kellerman to name just a few favorites. Not a piece of overt marketing to be found, but great creator bios for those more discerning fans that want to explore. Well done. Grade A.

TokyoPop Sneaks (TokyoPop): Manga is usally not my thing, aside from the occasional Blade of the Immortal trade or random issues of Usagi Yojimbo, but this was put together *extremely* well. Extended excerpts from Kat & Mouse, Mail Order Ninja, and Sea Princess Azuri, which is a great sampling of the diversity of the TokyoPop line. Was really getting into Kat & Mouse. And it's a trade paperback! That's like 128 pages for FREE! Are you listening!? What a way to end the publisher offerings, I feel satisfied! Grade A.

And the winners are? Image, Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, and TokyoPop. Well done! See you all next year!


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