Not So Free Comic Book Day

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So, a few short days to go until Free Comic Book Day II, and I hope you're all looking forward to your free books? However, there's one thing I urge all readers to bear in mind - the point of FCBD. It's not in existence to allow you to gather a huge load of comics at no cost and thank you very much. No, as I see it, there are two main aims, and it's not just up to the retailers to make this a success, but us readers too.

The first aim is to expand the number of comics readers, by bringing in non-readers and giving them a good selection of appropriate comics to take away, read, digest, and hopefully come back for more. The obvious focus is on the retailer to identify which book is likely to appeal most to each new potential reader, but each and every reader should also attempt to encourage their non-reading friends to stop by the shop, accompanied, and point out which choice or choices should suit them. For example, should they like science fiction, you might direct them towards Dark Horse's "Rocket Comics: Ignite" offering.

The second aim is to offer existing readers to chance to read outside the box, to pick up books they would not normally consider and maybe add something interesting to their pull list.

Much of the benefit from FCBD from these aims would only be achieved if the new reader to a particular title can actually buy the next appropriate issue of that title, and in this respect a number of companies fall down badly.

For example, whilst CrossGen's offering of the marvellous Way of the Rat #1 is a good book, you're not going to be able to find #2 on the shelves on your shop (issue #12 or so is the most recent release). Instead, you'd have to commit to buying the trade collection, and this could be a cost step too far for the neophyte reader.

Similarly, Marvel offer the first twenty or so pages of Ultimate X-Men #1, a title now up to #33 or so in the regular series, with no hope of finding back issues at a reasonable cost...again, the new reader must commit to the trade.

DC also fall down in my opinion with their offering of the first issue of an animated Batman Adventures series - okay for kids, especially with issue #2 to be released imminently, but it will be overlooked by new adult readers, and ignored by existing non-DC fans.

The fourth of the big five, Image, offer up a reprint of the very old Leave It To Chance #1 - an excellent book, but the trades are few and far between, individual issues even harder to find, it seems a waste of time.

Does anyone get it right? Fortunately, three companies in particular have produced books worth reading, books worth recommending, and, better still, books worth following.

The BRONZE medal goes to The Best Of Dork Storm from Dork Storm press - it's a quartet of reprints or new shorts from their four series: Dork Tower, Nodwick, PS238 and Snapdragons. Guaranteed to appeal to anyone who has ever dabbled with RPGs or Magic: The Gathering in their murky pasts, as well as those who are still fanatical players, the book makes humour work in comics form on each and very page - even down to the small print indicia on the inside front cover. Recommended.

The SILVER medal goes to Rocket Comics: Ignite from Dark Horse. After last year's dire Star Wars book I had little hope for them this time around, but this Rocket Comics preview (all books featured have #1 released in July) kicks arse. Three series are covered in depth, with brand-new Prologue stories for each, featuring the talents of Stuart Moore, Keith Giffen and Tom Peyer amongst others...with three tales in this book, you only need to like one to have scored a hit - and you're bound to enjoy at least one of these excellent stories. Highly Recommended.

And so to the GOLD medal, winner by a small nose over DH (it was a close-run thing, I can tell you). It's Slave Labor Stories from SLG Publishing, with twelve (count 'em) series covered in short strips and extracts. These teasers are just enough to whet your appetite, and if you're not attracted to at least two of the twelve, you're no comics fan! Pick it up, for God's sake.

One final point to remember - these books may be free for you, the reader, but they are not free for your retailer. Each book has cost him or her between 15 and 30 cents, not so much in themselves, but it all adds up if you pick up a half-dozen books without seriously considering them for future purchase. Think of your retailer, think of helping to expand the market for comics - Your Industry Needs You!

Thanks to Matt Booker of Automattic Comics in Corsham, Wiltshire for supplying copies of the FCBD2 books a week in advance - cheers, dude.

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