Last night, when I made my Mother’s Day calls to my mother and grandmother, I let them know about the other holiday this weekend: FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. If anyone out there doubts FCBD deserves to be called a holiday, let me share this anecdote with you from Saturday’s celebration at Criminal Records in Atlanta:
At the peak of activity, we witnessed a little boy and his father near our table. The boy was frantic, running back and forth between the rack of free comics, the costumed attendee superheroes and all of the creators in-store, sketching heroes for the little guy. He was clearly nervous that this magical place was going to dissipate at any second. His father kneeled down and pulled the boy close. “It’s okay buddy. There’s no need to rush. Let’s just take it slow and you’ll get to see everything.” I’ve never seen a kid so happy. Think of the children indeed.
EC Steiner and I were there at Criminal, hitting the pavement to do everything we could to promote THINK OF THE CHILDREN. I’ve been going to FCBD for years now, and let me tell you that Criminal Records puts on the best event I’ve ever seen. There were creators, trivia giveaways, intellectual panels and even a hip-hop concert by Adam WarRock and Tribe One. And we weren’t the only ones out there promoting TOTC. Our street team was in full effect up in Connecticut, thanks to two of our avid supporters.
EC and I arrived at Criminal at 10:30 a.m. where there was already a line of twenty plus people waiting to get in. Zano and Lillian (our Criminal hosts) let us in and helped us set up behind the statue case at the back of the store.
(EC Steiner cannot be photographed, as the evil within manifests on all replications of his physical form).
Being near the statues created a nice synergy with EC’s sculpted artwork and helped us to promote TOTC even more. We had our prototype book on display and shared the development process with everyone interested. The biggest difference between doing FCBD and a comic book convention is that you encounter many customers that are walk-ins, who are completely unaware of comics, much less something like our project. We talked about The Wire with a defense attorney from Baltimore and met a regal gentleman from San Francisco who brought his grandson in while on vacation. It was great to introduce our work to people who were so fresh to the medium.
Of course comic book fans were in full attendance as well. There was a Cobra Commander sauntering around, as well as cos-players doing Klarion the Witch-Boy, Black Widow and Harley Quinn (above, photo by Criminal Records). I did my first ever fan sketches too, drawing a profile of Adam Warlock (as Donald Trump) for one man and a Gorilla Grodd for Criminal Records volunteer Jennie Law. Grodd’s nipples were a subject of much debate.
Zano, the head of Criminal’s comic book department, periodically did some trivia with the audience, giving away some awesome prizes. His philosophy is that FCBD shouldn’t just be about the free comics the publishers send out to retailers, but that there should be other incentives as well. He gave out posters, full sets of series and boxes of old comics. I’m embarrassed to admit that I answered several of Zano’s questions, but I didn’t feel comfortable taking prizes from the attendees until EC asked me to score him a copy of Paul Pope’s issue of SOLO. So poor Zano had to keep coming up with more questions to compensate for the ones I answered.
Zano also hosted two panels in the late afternoon. The first was about diversity and the local comic scene and featured Thom Trainor from Dragon*Con, Annie Erskine and Joseph R. Wheeler III (photo by Criminal Records). Each presented the events and groups they run locally. Annie has started a group for female comics creators and Joseph runs Onyxcon. The second panel had Thom speaking again, this time with local art collector Joe Peacock. The two are putting together an art show featuring local comic book creators that sounds fantastic.
The day ended with bang, not a whimper. Adam WarRock and Tribe One took the stage at 6:00, bringing their brand of comics oriented hip-hop to the audience. I had heard of Adam before, because our friend Robert Wilson IV designed this awesome poster for him, but I’d never had the opportunity to hear his music. He brought a fresh mix of tight beats, Sage Francis style rapping and the occasional Fresh Prince vibe. It would be a mistake to pigeon hole him as solely a nerd core rapper, because he moves from the personal to the political, using comics as a thematic palette to work his rhymes into. I’m looking forward to where he takes it next.
While we were sketching and rocking in Atlanta, our street team was in action almost a thousand miles north of us in Connecticut. Backers @HayBudden and @almostaghost_13 hit their local comic stores ( Alternate Universe in Milford and Clockwork Comics in Orange), hanging up TOTC posters at both locations. We’re so lucky to have them as supporters! Thanks to you both.
FCBD was a great experience for us, both due to the hospitality of our hosts at Criminal Records and the support we received from our backers! FCBD is a great way to support your local comics retailers and creators. To make sure that Criminal got something back for all their investment in the event I made sure to purchase a few things. I got a Gorilla Grodd lead figurine and a trade paperback of O’Donnell and Holdaway’s classic MODESTY BLAISE strips. Ultimately, Free Comic Book Day is about supporting the medium in whatever way you can. We were proud to be a part of it and receive attention and support as well.