Saturday, May 5, 2012


It may be Cinco de Mayo or the Kentucky Derby Day for most folks today, but for me, it's the first Saturday in May and that means Free Comic Book Day.  For several years now, the independent owners of comic book stores all across America have taken the first Saturday in May to give out free comics to anybody who comes through their doors.  Other industries have jumped on the bandwagon, some more surreptitiously than others, but if you look back, you will notice that there has been a big superhero comic book movie opening that same weekend.  This year it's Marvel's "The Avengers" (which is getting rave reviews pretty universally, by the way.  Hey, Scarlett Johansson in a black catsuit?  I'm in.)  Contrary to once-popular belief, comic books are a Good Thing.  ANYTHING that gets kids interested in reading -- that gets ANYBODY reading -- is a Good Thing, and comics today are made for all ages and all interests, everything from Stephen King adaptations to Archie, or a dozen versions of Batman, some for ten-year-old boys and some for thirty-year-old lifelong fans.

My comic store, Comix Connection in Mechanicsburg, PA, does Free Comic Book Day especially well.  Most stores give you a choice of one free comic.  CC gives you three.  Unless you bring in a food donation for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.  Then you get another one.  Bring in two cans?  You get two extras.  Bring in forty?  You get forty extra.  Bill Wahl, the co-owner, always makes sure that he has enough books on hand to accommodate a truckload of food donations -- books that he pays for out of his own pocket, they ain't free to him.  Also, for several years Bill has booked the services of the local chapter of the 501st Legion, Garrison Carida -- these are the guys who make their own screen-accurate Star Wars costumes and props and visit sick children to whom they give brand new Star Wars toys.  You can meet and greet Darth Vader at Bill's store, and bring a toy donation for them.  We brought a bunch of both food and toys, not for the free books per se, but for the good work that is being done.  Charity, to me, is feeding the hungry and visiting the sick, not necessarily donating to the opera or a museum or a church (apologies to Bill Maher, who says it better, but I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiment nonetheless.)  If Bill Wahl ever figures out how to include Habitat for Humanity in Free Comic Book Day, he'll have the trifecta of sheltering the homeless, too.  I wouldn't put it past him.

So today we donated a case of food, a half dozen toys, and had great fun in the process.  I also took advantage of Bill's sale to pick up one of my Holy Grail comics, a beautiful copy of Green Lantern #4:

It was the first comic book I ever read.  When I was a little kid in the early 1960's, my mother used to go to a "Beauty Parlor" that was actually in a neighbor woman's parlor.  It was a home business where the woman had converted her living room into the salon, with three chairs and sinks and the giant helmet hair dryers that look like R2-D2 sitting on your head.  She had a basket full of comics so kids would have something to do while their moms were under the dryer.  The first time Mom brought me, I found that basket, and this Green Lantern comic book was my first.  It started a life-long love affair with the character, and with the medium of comics.  It got me to read, and reading has been of the few true great joys of my life.  I can't tell you enough how important this has been to me, and for me.

So if you're reading this on Saturday, May 5th, it's not too late to find a comic store and have yourself a little fun.  And if you're a little too late, well, save the date for next year.

Free Comic Book Day.  It's always the first Saturday in May.

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