Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) 2009

Love & Rockets: New Stories FCBD Edition (Fantagraphics): I’m not a huge fan of the Hernandez Brothers, but this is outstanding if you happen to be. It has actual new stories vs. reprints or just being a collection of house ads! The Killer story was a fun one and in spots I swear there is some similarity to the pencils of Terry Moore in the facial features. Grade A.

Exiles #1 (Marvel):I don’t think this new Jeff Parker series was actually one of the official free comics of FCBD, but inker Mark Irwin inked the cover and was signing this and giving away free copies, so that’s pretty cool. A very fun and cool premise-establishing issue that ends on a visual cliffhanger that made me want to pick up the series. Grade A.

Avengers (Marvel): Unless Marvel is going to start using less paper and charge $2.99 on all of their books, I don’t get the small size here. Ostensibly, this is a tough read for a newbie. Is that Bucky Cap? Is this the New Avengers? The Mighty Avengers? The Dark Avengers? What’s the difference? Why are there two versions of Spider-Man and Wolverine? That looks like Iron Man, but it’s not Tony Stark. Ronin? Sentry? Captain Marvel? None of them are easy characters to explain. However, Jim Cheung’s art looks fantastic! Almost as if he’s improved his own good style to new levels of greatness and incorporated the few redeeming qualities of Todd McFarlane and Joe Quesada along the way. Fun to see the Fastball Special with Luke Cage and in spite of itself, the title seems to overcome all of its many hurdles and still be fun and coherent. Grade A-.

Blackest Night #0 (DC): I grew up a Green Lantern fan; this is back when, I don’t know… Tomar Re was still around and Dave Gibbons was a regular artist, so I appreciate all things Green Lantern Corps, but damn if this didn’t seem a little esoteric. Johns does tons of ‘splainin, but unless you know that, uh, Hal, Barry, Clark, Ollie, J’onn, and now Bruce have died, along with basic GL Corps mythology, it’s kind of a head scratcher. It begins as sort of a tour of life and death in the DCU, and ends with some pin-ups, never really giving us a solid hook for what the actual story is going to be about. As a fan, I’m intrigued, but as a newbie I think I’d be lost. Grade B+.

Comics Festival! (Legion of Evil Press): By way of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, we get some great pieces from Emmanuel Guibert, Scott Chantler, Faith Erin Hicks, and Chip Zdarsky. Then there are some others that don’t quite connect. Grade B+.

John Stanley’s Melvin Monster (Drawn & Quarterly): Gorgeous looking flipbook designed by Seth, which is a tease for the upcoming library editions of Stanley’s work later this year. Not really my personal cup of tea, but well done nonetheless. Grade B.

Aliens/Predator (Dark Horse): The Aliens portion looked pretty clean and fun, I even met the inker Mark Irwin who was doing a little signing. Amazing to think that Ridley Scott’s original film is coming up on its 30th Anniversary. Sheesh, do I feel old. I remember being a kid and watching it with my dad. Anyway, if you’re a fan of either, I’m sure this book will be interesting. Grade B.

Atomic Robo/Drone/We Kill Monsters (Red 5 Comics): The lead is your basic dinosaurs vs. robots amid the ever-popular “Hellboy-light” style of storytelling. I always think that Atomic Robo looks very slick and good, but never understand the rabid appeal after I read an issue. The two back up stories are awful. Grade C+.

Radical (Radical Comics): This is really nothing more than a book of pin-ups/advertisements for other series, most of which have quite a long way to go before they see the light of day. Although all of Radical’s output boasts extremely nice production quality, I have only slight interest in one title – The Last Days of American Crime by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini. Grade C.

In general, I’m not sure anyone really “gets” what Free Comic Book Day is supposed to be anymore. I remember living in the Bay Area when it first started and two things were happening. One, most retailers got the majority of the titles and were, ya’ know, giving them away for free, because it’s, ya’ know, FREE Comic Book Day and all. Two, the giveaways were actual comics (not a collection of house ads, Radical!) aimed at certain potential demographics. It’s really a muddy mess out there these days. I can understand retailers only getting certain titles due to the sheer volume and diversity. The comics themselves don’t make it easy. There are companies represented that I’ve never heard of. William Shatner and Blue Water Comics? TH3RD World? NASCAR Comics? Who wants that exactly? Fans of err, NASCAR? Who just happen to wander into a comic shop on May 2nd?

The first shop I went to, alternately known as the Lair of Sea Donkey, was limiting your picks to 4. You could take 4 of the Free Comics on Free Comic Book Day, despite all of them designed to be… free. The entire goal of the effort is to whet the appetite of a potential or existing readership by putting new material into their hands risk free. The only way you do that is to expose them to as much as possible. Limiting their choices runs contrary to the entire premise. This retailer also didn’t do much of anything else to capitalize on the interest. No creator signings, no sale to speak of, just some typically bizarre retailer practices. This retailer really needed a lesson in line management and inventory control. There was one (1) single guy working the register for a line of about 50 people. Were these people making purchases? No. They were told to form two lines; one to pick up their 4 free books, and then another line to “check out” because they had to “track the books.” Umm, what? So, I’m basically standing in this line for 15 minutes so you can scan my 4 barcodes for a phantom “sale” so you can then figure out what product moved? Here’s an idea… if you ordered 200 of one title and at the end of the day you have 50 left, guess what? 200 minus 50 means you moved 150. End of discussion. And don't tell me you're worried about someone stealing them. Hello, last I checked... they. were. free. WHY DO I HAVE TO STAND IN THE RETARDED SEA DONKEY LINE FOR YOU TO COMPUTE THIS COMPLEX TRIGONOMETRIC ALGORITHM?!

The second retailer had it a little more together. While you could only take 5 titles at this place, there was no sign or anyone directing traffic to indicate this. So, me being me, I pick up every single book and make a healthy stack of 20 free comics that all say “FREE COMIC” on them because it is, after all, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY – only to be told by a register jock that uhh, yeah, the “policy” is that you can take 5, which makes me feel like a big jerk. I almost just put them all back because at this point, I didn’t care enough to sort through the ones I was interested in and the ones I wasn’t. It’s not as if I’m going to keep any of them anyway. However, this retailer was making a real effort at other things. This is where inker Mark Irwin was. True, it wasn’t an artist or writer, but just an (gosh, I’m marginalizing here…) inker. An inker I’d never heard of. Who inks books I’ve never bought and probably won’t. But still, it was something. But then there were trades and stuff on sale! Dollar comics! Some dude selling all his GI Joe toys! Free donuts to go along with the free comics! Yeah! Kinda’… At this rate, I don't think I'll be back next year.


At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say I was very frustrated with "Free" Comic book day as well. I buy a well over $125 of comic from my local comic shop every month and that is where I went. They were friendly enough about it, but I was very annoyed when they said there was a 5 comic limit. It is the same guys that ring me up every week and they tell me a limit of five? They may have just lost my business altogether. I can go online and buy cheaper, and I dont have to drive across town to get them each week.

The previous owner of the shop on "Free" comic book day would have all the comics out, various other actvities going down, face painting for the kids, people dressed as comic comic heroes and such. It was pretty fun. When I came in he would greet me and ask me to hang on a sec. He went in the back and got me my stack of every free comic. He said just hand back what I dont want or keep them all. Those were the days.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

I feel your pain, customer service is really becoming a lost art, not just in comic shops, but all types of retail and service industries. I learned at an early age from my self-employed parents that it's all about "the lifetime value of a customer" and you can squander that in one poor interaction.

As for comics, I really appreciate retailers who understand that giving away the free comics is not the end goal. Free comics just get people into the store, it's up to you to do something with that captive audience, face painting, sales, promotions, quarter comics, anything at all to hook them on the experiences and create sustainable readership.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again... if you want to see comic retailing done right, go to the San Francisco Bay Area... Lee's Comics, Isotope, Comix Experience, Comic Relief, Hijinx, there are so many to choose from... sigh...


Post a Comment

<< Home