Depending on where you live, what shops you have nearby, everyone does something diffrent for Free Comic Book Day. Some shops just hand you a few extra books with your purchase. Others, like the late and lamented York comics, leverage it as a charity event – giving away the gold books but throwing in extra silver books for a canned food donation. And here in Cleveland, at Carol and Johns, they throw a party.
The party is actually on Friday night, the day before FCBD, leading up to the midnight release of the books. The shop is open late with sales and deals. At 10:00pm the annex opens with a pop up bar serving complementary soda and comic themed beer. People who tip get an extra free comic. Down on the other side of the strip, another room opens, housing a comic themed (this year the theme was X-Men) art show (it’s also where you go to get your free comics at midnight), where artists in attendance do free sketches and sell their wares. In recent years, other businesses in the same strip complex have gotten in on the act, with the local toy collectors club setting up in the Working Class Brewery, and the ice cream shop offering up an Infinity Gauntlet themed dish.
The lineup starts well before ten though. When I arrived around five, the line had already started. As the night went on, Two podcasts set up shop along the line. An artist set up his easel at the corner. People mingled and played board games in line. Costumes began to pop up and take photos. A large Millennium Falcon interior was available for pictures, as well as the wanted poster from the X-Men story “Days of Future Past”. Stormtroopers and Jedi marched in the streets. It’s the party we wait all year for.
There’s always prep for FCBD. I decided this was the year I finally execute the idea I’d been playing with for a couple years. I wanted to do Freddy Kruger as a Yellow Lantern (Sinestro Corps). I’d worn out my old Freddy makeup a few years ago, but that’s fine. The point is to do a makeup (Build it from scratch) that takes several hours while I wait in line, and Sinestro Corps is cool because there are glowing lights on the costume – and this is DEFINITELY the event you want to have a glowing costume at. The night atmosphere really brings it out. In anticipation, I had fashioned a new glove with clear yellow blades that lit up, and pulled out the old Sinestro suit from the closet. In addition, my buddy Ryan had put a call out, informing me that he had taken a bungee cord to the eye and was stuck wearing an eyepatch for the next week or so which pretty much ruined his costume plans. “Can you help me pull together a Nick Fury?”. I pulled my leather trench coat, my Winter Soldier Cap shirt and stuck a shield sticker over the buckle of my utility belt, then told Ryan to wear navy pants and we’d dress him on site.
I’d packed the Batmobile accessories as well. It wasn’t a sure thing – the day had been rainy but I figured that if the rain let up and I could find a visible parking space near the line that It would be fun to build up the Batmobile. When I arrived I scored a spot just one store away from the end of the line, by the grocery store. It was good enough and I built up the car, then set up my nest in line. After I’d been working on makeup for an hour and a half I’d only gotten the basic structure of the chin done. It was around this time that the car in the space directly in front of my nest in line pulled out. I grabbed my friend Marcus and begged him to hold the parking spot for thirty seconds. I sprinted over to my car, yellow latex chin dangling from my face as he stood in the empty space, arms spread. The Batmobile raced over and took up a place right up front, directly across from my nest. Four hours into the night I’d gotten my Freddy makeup mostly done while chatting with friends from Pop and Panels and the Scoobies. One of the guys from The Panel Scanners Podcast had been eyeing my progress from a distance and now came up to me and asked if I could head over to thier booth so they could interview me. I promised I’d walk down as soon as I suited up and started grabbing costume pieces from my car to pull over my latex and greaspaint stained clothes. I hit the button on my belt to make sure the lights worked.
They didn’t. Crap.
I turned over the battery pack to make sure the AAs were in tight and spotted the problem. The wire that feeds into the socket connector where the battery pack connects in had pulled out. I whipped out my swiss army knife (I always keep it in my car) and my buddy Rocky held the belt still, looking on in disbelief as I rewired the belt, bypassing the juncture and splicing the wires directly into the battery pack, then insulating the wires with duck tape.
As we were watching my belt finally light up, Mayday swung by and asked if I had any tape. His belt was giving him problems too. We emptied the roll of duck tape and got him fixed up. I could see it was a bad night for belts when Vito stopped me later on to ask if I could help him fix his Batman belt…..
Inside the shop, Winston discovered he had a suspicious visitor. The cat eyed the strange dog in the spider-man costume warily. FCBD is always a little rough on the comic shop’s feline mascot. The crowds inside were packed shoulder to shoulder, debating the virtues of the Wolverine Canadian Ale vs the Cyclops Weak Summer Pilsner. I was certain that Endgame was all anyone would be talking about. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t. The conversations around me were constantly “What do you think of the new Child’s Play movie coming out?” or speculation on the new Sonic the Hedghog film.
Back at the nest, Jen and her kids descended on us and my friend Vanessa pulled up a chair after her place in line had gotten ursurped by a bunch of guys noisily playing marvel monopoly practically on top of her seat (We’re happy to take in refugees). Rocky and Mayday grabbed thier hammer and lightsaber respectively asking if the trolls needed eviction. She shook her head laughing.
Every single year I’m amazed at how fast six or seven hours in line pass. But then, it’s not really a queue – it really wouldn’t be worth this kind of wait, just for ten free comics (eleven if you could the graphic novel they throw in for the first 200). No, this is a party that lasts all night. I’d be back in the morning for another run through. The day event is a little more subdued and I usually hit Comics are Go as well, but the evening party is the one we always spend the most time at. It’s one of the benefits of having one of the best comic shops in the country local, and no one else does FCBD like this.
It was about 4:30 when the boss poked his head in my office. He said it wasn’t very busy right now and he didn’t expect anybody else to shop today – that I could head out early if I wanted to. I grabbed my Iron Man helmet and was out the door like a shot, on my way to Carol and John’s. About 5 o’clock I put down my lawn chairs, set up the TV tray and made myself a nest in line. Just like every year, I looked at the clock and wondered what was I doing? I mean, honestly what am I going to do for the next SEVEN HOURS? Of course, then the next time I checked the clock I was shocked to see it was already 11:30…
There are Free Comic Book Day celebrations to one extent or another all over The United States on the first Saturday every May. Even here in the Cleveland area, Comics Are Go brought in my friend Marc Sumerak from Marvel comics as well as local artist Rick Lozano to sign pieces and sell their work. Imaginary Worlds in Cleveland Heights seems to have picked up the baton from York comics, utilizing FCBD as a food drive and offering extra free comics to anyone who brings in canned goods. I always liked this approach, I’m glad to see somebody is still doing it.
Still, the fact is that nobody does Free Comic Book Day like Carol and John’s. The event the night before officially begins around 10 o’clock, but the line starts long before that. I mentioned that I got in around five, and there were already 20 people ahead of me. Card tables had popped up for people to play board games on, Magic tournaments were going on. Cards against humanity was out and in the streets there was dancing. A podcaster set up in the corner and was interviewing avengers as they walked by. As the day turned to evening and the skies got darker, Jedi and stormtroopers marched along the road – lightsaber battles took place in the night air. The Ghostbusters arrived, and super heroes were everywhere you looked.
At my nest in line, my friend Mayday was the first to arrive with his lovely bride Pam. We chatted for a while before joining the rest of the Scooby gang at the Red Lantern, two doors down. I grabbed an appetizer with them, and when I got back to my place in line my friend Jen had arrived with pizza for all of us.
When the doors opened at 10, we hit the bar for free beers, thier bottles adorned with artwork reminiscent of this years guest of honor comics legend Jim Sternanko. Across town, the comic shop had arranged a dinner with him and about 20 guests – my friends Nick and Taylor arrived back at the shop late from that dinner and just a few minutes ahead of Jim himself.
In the meantime we hung out at the art show and I was delighted to see one of the artists had contributed a painting of the Shadow! Stetnanko is famous for is Shadow covers, indeed the one piece of his that I have signed is one of his Shadow illustrations. It made my day to see this homage, and I grabbed a print of it for myself. Before I made it out of the art show, I ran into my buddy Ryan, his wife and new baby… I played peekaboo with the little one, using the visor on the Ironman helmet. While in line in there, a tiny Darth Vader chatted me up, fascinated by my “Bones” Iron Man suit and showing me the lights on his Vader costume. I caught him later, getting into a lightsaber fight with Kylo Ren outside.
I made it back to the nest and gathered everybody up for a group photo over at the Rubber City booth, a little something to remember the night from before it was time to lineup for the free comic giveaway. As we got back, people in giant donut costumes wandered up and offered us tiny cupcakes. We packed up the nest, tossed the chairs in my car and got ready to go through. It’s always surprising how quickly the night goes, and I’ll be honest – as soon as I’ve gotten out of the comics line I vanish back home because I’m only going to get a few hours sleep before it’s time to do it all again properly on Saturday morning!
Saturday; the actual Free Comic Book Day, is always a much different kind of event in the evening one. There are more kids, and they were absolutely enchanted by my Slimer costume. My daughter Maddie came with me, donning her now–too– small Supergirl costume and on the hunt for Pokémon, Simpsons, and DC superhero girls, and of course Marvel zombies once we got into the shop.
I ran into my friend Rhonda while making the rounds, and we all made sure to get our photos in the pop figure box… I wasn’t confident of my ability to get in and out of the box Friday night, and the photos showed up better during the day anyhow. Even in Slimer though, it looked a little tricky – I ended up taking off the costume and setting it inside the box and just taking a photo of that.
In the end I only hit three shops this FCBD. C&J’s, Comics are Go (Where they recognized Maddie from the Backyard Zombie Movie series) and Imaginary Worlds. I got all but about three books I wanted. As we headed home, Maddie was digging into her comics, and recommended sparks to me. She was right about how funny the story of two cats in a robotic dog suit was. She also pulled out the Doctor Who book and exclaimed “Dad, isn’t this your favorite Doctor?” Number seven is in fact, not my favorite, but certainly ranks among the top four. She brought home two books specifically for her sister as well, Invader Zim and Street Angel’s Dog. This is really cool to watch ger recommending stories to me and other people. For herself, Maddie found a copy of Supergirl meets Scooby Doo and it blew her mind.
And of course this is really the whole point of Free Comic Book Day – to support the local shops, and get involved in the community. Hope yours was just as amazing.
You know, it was getting manageable… That stack of comic books on the end table – the one near my spot on the couch was down to a reasonable size.
Then free comic book Day occurred.
I want to step back for a moment and think about how good we have it here in the Cleveland area – we are almost spoiled by the abundance of comic book shops and fandom events within easy reach. On Free Comic Book Day in particular, we have the midnight party for the Free Comic Book Day release at Carol and John’s Comic Shop. The first people in line arrived about 9o’clock Thursday night – and waited all the way up to midnight Friday night to receive a full set of the Free Comic Cook Day releases (and dubious bragging rights….). I’m not nearly that dedicated. I came out after work, arriving about 5:45 to set up my little village in line. Several chairs, some for my neighbors as well as myself, a table, and a carpetbag bag full of games and crafting supplies. I wanted to try something different out this year – a mash-up of every superhero I could possibly think of. I crafted a Thor hammer and half a Cap shirt while waiting in line. I then added a green lantern ring, Iron Man armor, then pulled my Batman mask over my Spider-Man mask, pulled up a pair of thing pants underneath a wonder woman belt and added a superman cape. I refer to this look as “Everyman”.
Seriously though, you would not believe how fast six hours flies by amid all this chaos… Wandering up and down the lines, and visiting friends while observing the random hijinks that occur around us. A group of dancers spontaneously began to preform in the street. The Ghostbusters car screamed into the parking lot with lights and siren going. A police car blasting the Darth Vader theme cruised by as Daft Punk danced and puzzled over baby Groot. All up and down the line, people were playing games – you can see Magic tournaments and hero clix battles. I stopped by the Scooby’s corner to join them in a game of Cards Against Humanity is for a bit. My friends and I greeted old friends and new friends – we posed for pictures, and we constantly made fun of poor Steph who has probably never been called a “trash panda “nearly so many times in one setting before. (indeed, I think my favorite part of the night was watching rocket raccoon get carded at the restaurant… The server looked at her license, shruged her shoulders and said “I don’t know why I’m even doing this… I’d never have guessed this with you! “)
Coming straight from work, I have to admit that doing the midnight release party always makes for a long day… Every single time, I find my social anxiety which tempt me to just stay home, and every single time I’m glad that I did. This is the event that everyone comes out to. I sometimes see certain friends at comic club, others I see at conventions, others I see when I do charity events, but for Free Comic Book Day, it seems like I see everybody I know!
After collecting books I beat a hasty retreat back home – because I’d be getting up again and returning in 10 hours or less!
The daytime events always seem a little bit more subdued compared to the evening events – though perhaps that’s just because of the early time that I’m arriving (got to snag that special book by Marc Sumerack before they run out!). I made it back in line at Carol and Johns just in time to get interviewed by the Plain Dealer and appear in the newspaper on Sunday. I chose a much more manageable costume, donning The Penguin outfit I had put together for the premiere of the Lego Batman movie.
It’s interesting, I managed to run into a very different group of people during the daytime events as I hopped from shop to shop in an attempt to acquire the 30 or so books that I was interested in (out of the 50 offered this year). Written in chalk all over the sidewalk and walls leading up to Carol and Johns were the phrase I am Groot… Children’s chalk drawings later the sidewalk and I stood in line that was significantly shorter than last year – the weather was definitely keeping some people away, but we wouldn’t let this deter us (though it did keep me down to only hopping between three shops!)
The guys at Comics are Go managed to save an Animal Jam comic for my daughter Maddie (she, her mother and sister along with several friends were having a mother-daughter tea party at the restaurant about three doors down – I joined them afterwards at the comic shop for free comic book Day). When Maddie brought over one of her friends they dug through the stock in the back and thier own personal pulls in the back to find an issue for her as well. This is why Comics are Go is still my home shop (with Carol and John’s being a close second and my alternate – after all I work on that side of town). It’s not the five for a dollar bins that they had set out (and man did I hit those things hard – I brought home 30 new issues from there!) or the creators they bring in like Rick Lozano or Dirk Diggler… No, it’s the personal service and the guys that work there that really make all the difference.
Across town, Jerry over at Strongsville Hobby made sure that I filled my gold book quota– as well as snagging an extra copy of The Tick for a friend of mine who are just moved and didn’t have any comic shops near her. It’s one of those things that makes me realize just how blessed we are in this area… I know I’ve said that already, but it bears repeating. Jerry has taken in the spirit of Free Comic Book Day a step further, offering a bunch of the one dollar image preview books as freebies right along side of the normal FCBD picks… I grabbed a bunch of back stock that he had on half off and waved goodbye as he donned his Batsuit, collected Supergirl and Deadpool to head off in greet the kids at Free Comic Book Day events at local libraries.
I ended my weekend by gathering up the family and heading over to Amherst Cinema for a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2. It seems like this happens every year- my friends all hit the years movie on Thurs or Fri and I don’t make it out until Sunday evening! Admittedly, some of that has to do with me holding out for a screening at Amherst Cinema (all seats are $4.00!) but sometimes it’s just that I can’t make the schedules work.
Guardians is the rare comic movie that my wife wanted to see. Maddie was a little reluctant and not in the mood to go out, but I think she may just have loved it more than any of us!
“Look! It’s Howard the Duck!” She exclaimed in disbelief, leaping from her seat in the middle of the crowded theater as my wife and younger daughter giggled Their way through the film.
A perfect way to end our FCBD adventures. I hope yours was just as productive. (and by the way, if in northeast ohio, check out my FCBD stops!)
In Cleveland, we do free comic book day in style. It’s one of the nice things about this area, there are so many comic shops around – I know that there are parts of the country where you might only have one in the entire county. Some places they’re hard to find, but just around my area… We’ve got Keith’s in Elyria, Comics Are Go in Sheffield, (my personal favourite), we also got B and L comics in Parma, as well as York comics and Northcoast nostalgia out that way. A new little place popped up in North Olmsted where I work, a charming little shop called Nine Relms. and then finally there is Carol and John’s. Carol and Johns is arguably the biggest comic shop in Cleveland and the most respected. They work hard to be the center of comic culture in the area throwing parties and hosting events periodically throughout the year, not the least of which of these events is the midnight release party. There are sales in the stores, the special beer with fun labels, there is always an art show as well, with the store bringing artists am fine to do sketches and hobnob with guests. The night line generally the length of the Kamms Plaza and you will find people playing games, dressing up in costumes, and generally having fun with friends.
By the time I got there it wasn’t yet dark but the line had already formed and was inching it’s way down the plaza, stopping right around the corner. That was about as expected, though as the night stretched on, I did notice that the line formed more and more slowly, not achieving it’s usual prodigious lengths.
This year I decided that since I was getting in line crazy early (about 6:30) I wanted something that would kill a lot of time for the night so I pulled out my old pinhead makeup – you might remember this from back when we were doing the Hellraiser project on this blog. It’s a lengthy make up – usually clocking in at just under three hours (each pin has to be applied separately, so does each cut between the pins…that”s not just one long scar, it’s a couple dozen tiny ones)and today was no exception, but what was funny about it is that as I sat at my table with my mirror set up and my make-up on each corner I was still able to socialize and chat and hang out with people while I was doing the make up. People came around to watch as the slow transformation occurred.
A couple of friends – Marcus and Justin slid down from way further up on the line down to hang out with me. That was a great way to start the night to have people around. Eventually my friends Jennifer and Selena also showed up there (trying to get there around seven but it was closer to quarter after). They brought the kids and Jennifer and brought her husband along with our friend Chris. Bobbie showed up with the new baby complete with a little Spiderman snuggie and we simply took over the corner of that line. Shortly before 9 o’clock, my make up was done. I did a bit extra this year, adding more pens – I’ve had to recreate the bald cap as the old one split on me. I thought it would be a good opportunity to try and hit the magic number of 100 pins (According to Gary Tunnnicliffe, who did the makeup in most of the Hellraiser movies that’s how many there are). I’ve never been able to quite manage it – we tapped out in the low 90s.
As we waited for the doors to open I pull out my handmade puzzle box – a new addition to the costume. Insted of using my replica, I wanted something that glowed, so I built my own. The real key here was LED light that changes colour. I regularly use things from the dollar store, and this was a knick knack that was supposed to look like a butterfly, but after I ripped the wings and reworked some of the clear parts it looked more like an amorphous spirit inside the box. It glowed eerily through the slots in the box as the evening got darker and stood out beautifully in the night air.
The Ghostbusters showed up but let’s face it, these guys are not equipped to deal with Cenobites. I wandered up and down the lines checking out the costumes, I love what free comic book day brings out in people… We see costumes and outfits every bit as impressive as you would see at any convention.
Finally, around 11:30 the line started to form in earnest. People left the chairs and tables and began to queue up outside the entrance of the shop. I got in and grabbed my first 10 titles – it was an impressive spread this year and I managed to get all of my first choices that night. That’s a feat that seems to be getting harder and harder to accomplish as more people come out every year and the shops understandably begin to crack down on how many titles you can get (about 10 is average these days). I was also delighted to be far enough towards the front that I was one of the first 200 – and recieved a graphic novel as a result. A nice Avengers trade that I’ve never read before, I’m eager to get into this one.
I rushed out so I can get back home and get some sleep – Saturday morning was going to be a long day. By the time I woke up, my wife and I are already absconded with my younger daughter taking her to dance class. Maddie shuffled into her Supergirl costume and ran up to me with a little white stuff animal she found. It was a litte dog was black earsand she asked me if we can quickly make a cape and a collar for him… That way for Supergirl could carry around Krypto. I grabbed some scissors and pins and went to work, bringing together a quickie costume for her stuff toy.we headed out, hitting Nine Relms comics first.
This is the new store and I was eager to see how the place was, I’d only seen photos online. We got there just as the doors open and – the first customers inside. They were delighted to see some people showing up in costume (they weren’t sure it was going to happen) and ushered us over to where the free books were. I like Nine Relms, they are friendly and they got a nice even balance to between comic books and games. There are a bunch of toys on the shelf, predominantly from the 90s – that’s not a complaint. The 90s produced some of my absolute favourite superhero lines, not the least of which is the Total Justice line. I chatted with a customer at the checkout about the Green Arrow he was buying. The Total Justice line produced figures of characters like Connor Hawke and Kyle Rayner… Characters well over looked in mainstream toys. I look longingly over the old Star Trek micro machines and Maddie pointed out a zombie versus cheerleaders card game. We ended up buying a couple of
gravity feed Heroclix from Civil War – I let Maddie select them and choose which ones we wanted done when we unwrapped them in the car we discovered she had pulled in iron man, and a redwing – a sort of ironman drone. She was estatic about this figure and claimed it immediately!. We also spent some time on the arcade cabinet. Nine Relms has a couple of video games in the corner of the shop – Mortal Kombat three, and Marvel versus Capcom. I’ve got MK3 on the MAME cabinet at home but Marvel vs. Capcom 2 isn’t available for MAME. Maddie is familiar with one, there are characters in 2 that she hasn’t seen. She chose a Little red Riding Hood, which was hilarious to watch as my Captain America beat the tar out of her. I did end up winning, although it was close – and I gave Maddie the extra game. She likes this place, and I hope we’ll be back. In fact, I encourage you to try them out actually… It’s only been open a couple months, and they were having a kind of light turnout for FCBD, at least, light when you compare it to the line stretching down to the pizza place back over Carol and John’s.
There were Supergirls everywhere. Maddie couldn’t believe how many she kept seeing. I was personally impressed with the variety of Supergirls costumes.
Not so many Wonder Woman. Interesting.
Maddie I made it through in about half an hour, grabbing more comics, some for us some for Maddie’s younger sister Lydia, and a couple for the son of my wife’s friend – we also ended up with several duplicates for Maddie’s school – some of the teachers like giving those out during reading time. Maddie had fun at the art show, we didn’t stick around to meet any of the artists themselves – that’s something that we are more prone to do a comic convention, but she looked on with awe all of the beautiful pieces. I’m a big fan of sleepy robot, and some of the absolutely adorable little statuettes they created for this show… I saw thier booth up at ConCoction as well. I’m going to have to buy a couple of these pieces, I’m really, really in love with them.
We finish Saturday at Comics are Go! Mike over there had been holding a Batman versus Superman heroclix set for me and he ran to the back to grab it. It’s nice to have friends in these places. I also grabbed the Comics Are Go book. I heard them talking about this, and really I expected more of a autobiography. What it ended up being was a very indie book full of short stories, still incredibly entertaining and cool to have gotten signed by all the people who worked on it. I think this is a great idea for a shop and if I were running one myself we absolutely have a book about life in a comic shop… indeed, wasn’t that kind of what Violent Blue was about?
Outside in the bargain bins, Maddie found a stack of Marvel Zombies! This absolutely made her day, whenever we go to shows that’s what she’s looking for… Marvel Zombies, maybe some Simpsons and my little pony but especially Marvel Zombies. I handed her a ten and she ran in to pay.
One of these days I’m going to get the girls out to the square for the superhero production there – the local charity, super heroes to kids in Ohio, always does spectacular show with super heroes battling villains right there live in the center of my city. I know a bunch of people who are in it, as well as the writer and it’s always a great time.
Last couple years I did free comic book day alone – well not exactly alone, I ran into friends and acquaintances everywhere I stopped, but this year it was really nice to have my little sidekick back, when we got home and it was time for bed that night – I saw Maddie reading Camp Scary and she was absolutely absorbed in it. That’s a great part about this – discovering new stuff. Hope you’re free comic book day was just as eventful.
I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was to see She-Hulk. I was trying to get Maddie or Lydia to do her for our FF! The fact that it’s the Lois and Clark Superman just kills me! Absolute 90’s photo!
Here’s the thing, to fully appreciate that Ghostbuster costume…you have to see
Winston (the cat who lives at the comic shop)just want’s this night to be over. (Andy Donaldson gets that one shot of him that I just couldn’t manage!)