My favorite comic book store--Haven Comics--has a smart, enthusiastic staff and a come-hang-out vibe. Unfortunately, it's a small place and a little tricky to find, tucked behind a strip mall and not visible from the street. Haven is a great place, but to find it you almost have to already know where it is.
Comics fandom has a similar problem. On one hand, this is an amazing time to read comics. Artists and writers are constantly experimenting, constantly discovering new things the medium can do. But on the other hand, specialty shops have replaced the drug store spinner rack and massive crossover events have replaced simple story arcs, making it difficult for new readers to figure out what's going when they first pick up a book. Comics are great, but to find your way around, you almost have to already know you way around.
Trying to bring in new readers, and also thanking existing comic fans, publishers and retailers began Free Comic Book Day. Josh Olive, the owner of Haven Comics, explain it like this, "Anyone who wants free comics can go into any participating comic book store in the world--and that’s most all of them--and pick up some comics ABSOLUTELY FREE.
"Honestly, there is one catch: you just might like whatever comics you read. Really. Then you’re going to want to read more. And there is so much out there to read! So many different stories to tell, and so many different ways to tell them. If you like movies or books of any kind, there are comics out there that will appeal to you. Superheroes--Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, Captain America--do tend to dominate the market place, but there are all kinds of comics out there that are anything but superheroes: sci-fi, fantasy, noir, horror, historical fiction, steampunk, cyberpunk, crime dramas, comedies, soap operas, you name it."
(Did I mention they're enthusiastic over there? Sheesh.) Anyway, Free Comic Book Day is on May 1st this year. You can go to the website and check out the comics that will be available. There's titles aimed at children and grown-ups, most written with the comics newbie in mind. (And if you don't know what else to get, get The Tick. Seriously. The Tick is 10 pounds of awesome in a five-pound sack.)
The website also has a store locator to help you find a participating retailer near you. So head out this May 1st. Call for directions if you have to. It might take some effort to find your way in, but once you get there, I bet you'll be glad you did.
(Cross-posted on my blog.)