Friday, May 2, 2014

Free Comic Book Day 2014: Where You Should Go and What You Should Read

So, another year has come and gone, and we are once again back at that most amazing day! Yes, it's International Werewolf Day! What is that you say? I'm mistaken and there's no such thing? Oh, well, I guess I just have to talk about Free Comic Book Day instead. I wrote a similar post to this last year, but what's good to do once is good to do again, so here we go.

Free Comic Book Day is an industry wide holiday of sorts, held the first Saturday in May every year, where comic retailers buy special comics available at a tremendous discount to give out to you, the comic reading public, for free. That's right, FREE. I can't speak for every retailer, but my store, Dewey's Comic City, really tries to do it up right. Other than having one of the widest selections of free comics, we also have goody bags for the first hundred or so customers, raffles, cosplayers from the local chapter of the 501st Legion (the Star Wars costume guild), face painting for the kids, and our biggest Artist's Alley yet, including Dewey's favorite Fernando Ruiz (Life With Archie and the lead story in this year's FCBD Archie digest), Charles Paul Wilson III (Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland), and Keith Giffen (More credits to count, including the current Justice League 3000 and this year's upcoming New 52: Futures' End, the 0 issue of which is one of this year's FCBD selections from DC). My boss likes to say that nobody gives you more on FCDB than Dewey's, and while I can't say that quantifiably, I know it sure feels that way. So you should come on by. Check out the details HERE; we'd love to see you.

Now, I know you love free stuff. I love free stuff too. But Free Comic Book Day is about a lot more than just free comics. For retailers, this is a huge investment of time and money (just 'cause they're free for the customers, it doesn't mean it's free to the retailers), but it's worth it to bring people who might not usually come in to a shop to come by and pick up some comics. And it's important to the industry because it allows publishers and creators to get their books into the largest possible number of hands, hands that might not normally try that kind of comics. I personally discovered one of my favorite series of all time, Atomic Robo, on its first FCBD outing. So what I'm saying is, if you're a DC/Marvel sort of reader, pick up an indy. If you usually would never touch a super hero comic, pick up something from the Big 2. It's not costing you anything, and you might discover something you really like.

So, below find my recommendation for eleven books I think you should try. I haven't gotten around to reading all of them, I admit, but this is a decent cross section of the books I enjoyed so far.

2000 AD

2000 AD is the long running British anthology series that is probably most famous in the US for spawning Judge Dredd. Every year, there's a great collection of classic 2000 AD stories as part of the FCBD selections, and this year is no different. Headlined by a story featuring Dredd, there are also stories about the barbarian Slaine, Dredd's sometimes partner, psychic Judge Anderson, supernatural copper Absalom, and more. If you've never tried these, gritty UK comics, you should. It's not like anything we have here in the States. This one is very much for grown ups only.

Atomic Robo

As I said above, I discovered Atomic Robo on his first FCBD appearance, where he first fought his archnemesis, the deranged Dr. Dinosaur, and has been the free comic I look forward to most every year since then. Usually, FCBD Robo stories feature the mad raptor, but since this year's mini-series for Robo was a Dr. Dinosaur story, we instead see Robo once again confront the cryptid called the Yonkers Devil. Action and comedy ensue. The issue also features pages from Red 5 Comics series Haunted (the first issue hit this past Wednesday) and a very funny story of Bodie Troll, the troll too adorable to scare anyone. The issue is appropriate for readers 12 and up, mostly because the preview of Haunted is creepy; both Robo and Bodie can be read by all ages.

Avatar/ Itty Bitty Hellboy/ Juice Squeezers

I'm recommending this one not for the main story (which is good, but Avatar isn't one of my core fandoms), but for the two back ups. The first is a fun two page Itty Bitty Hellboy story where Hellboy tries to get the ghost of Rasputin to act a bit more ghostly, and then a new short tale of the Juice Squeezers, the kids who protect the town of Weeville from giant bugs. Here, we see exactly what happens to a bully when he picks on one of the Squeezers. As a high school nerd, there's some wonderful wish fulfillment there. This is a all ages book.

The Dumbest Idea Ever!

This issue is an excerpt from the recent graphic bio by cartoonist Jimmy Gownley, best known for creating one of my favorite all ages books of all time, Amelia Rules!. I'm ashamed to say I have this book on my shelf of to be read books, and have since it's publication a few months back, waiting to be read when I have time. After reading this charming excerpt, I am unsurprised that this has moved right to the top of my read pile. A perfect slice of life for anyone who remembers being in their teens, no matter how distantly. This is an all ages book.

Giant Size 4 Comic Bundle

This is one of the two "most bang for your non-existent buck" books this year, since it's technically four comics in one pack! Red Giant Entertainment is looking to start releasing weekly, ad supported free comics, and this pack has one issue of each of the four. The four individual books (with two stories each) are Giant Size Action, Giant Size Adventure, Giant Size Adventure, and Giant Size Thrills. They vary in quality from book to book from just ok to pretty darn great, and my favorite was Giant Size Action, since one of its features is Tesla, a Nicola Tesla action story, and I love me some Tesla. Other highlights were the crime/superhero/conspiracy mash up Duel Identity in Giant Size Fantasy, and the all ages fantasy story Magika in Giant Size Adventure. The ratings on these range from a teen and up to an all ages. Probably best to look each one over before you hand them to the little ones.

Mouse Guard, The Labyrinth, and Other Stories

And the next big value is Archaia's free hardcover, featuring a headline story from David Petersen's Mouse Guard. The story is a beautiful place to start if you've never read Mouse Guard before, a perfect microcosm of the series beautiful art and poetic language. Other stories include one set in the world of Farscape, Jim Henson's Labyrinth, a tale of a boy and his friend a dinosaur called Bolivar: The Golden Door, and others. I'd place the age recommendation here to be ten and up, but if you feel you seven or older year old can handle a little bit of scary, go for it.

Project: Black Sky

Project: Black Sky is the name of mysterious organization and the event that is tying together Dark Horse Comics various superhero titles this year, and this issue serves as a sort of primer, giving you an idea of what the project is up to, and who some of the heroes who will be facing them. The heroes here are Captain Midnight, the time displaced World War II era flyer, and Brain Boy, the psychic secret service agent. Written by Fred Van Lente, who has been writing the mini-series that chronicle Brain Boy's adventures, it's a light, fun super hero adventure featuring heroes fighting genetically altered apes. And we all know comics are better with apes and monkeys. I'd go with a ten and up on the reading age here.

Rocket Raccoon

The sure to be star of this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Rocket Raccoon gets to star in Marvel's all ages offering this year. It's a breezy little story of Rocket, along with his fellow Guardian, Groot (I AM GROOT!), and his fellow anthropomorphic animal Wall Russ (I Am The... oh, I get it!), rescuing a princess from captivity by a group of mercenary rabbits. The story fits better into the pre-Marvel Now! continuity, but is completely not dependent on any continuity for your enjoyment, and is a great introduction to Rocky and Groot. The issue also features a fun back-up from the world of the animated Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon with some excellent Ty Templeton art. This is an all ages book.

Scratch 9

I wrote an advance review of the new Scratch 9 series a couple of weeks back, and now's your chance to get your own sneak peek. The first half of this issue is some pages from that issue, while the second half of the Scratch segment features Scratch teaming up with First Pet Bo Obama to help save the president from an evil robot. The other side of the flipbook features a new story by Scratch creator Rob Worley, Run & Amuk, featuring a young boy nicknamed Run and his giant friendly monster companion called Amuk travelling through time. It's as fun and crazy as it sound. This is an all ages book.

Sherwood, Texas

The beginning of a series that is resetting the classic Robin Hood story in modern times, this is sort of Robin and the 7 Hoods (which if you've never seen, look it up on Netflix. It's the Rat Pack as prohibition era Chicago Robin Hood and his Merry Men) meets Sons of Anarchy. It's got that neo-western vibe that I like, and it's playing just fast and loose enough with the classic Robin Hood story that I'm not exactly cure where it will go when it becomes a regularly published comic. This is a book geared for adults.

Skyward/Midnight Tiger

Action Lab's ongoing Skyward gets a FCBD issue that, like last year's, gives us a glimpse into the future of the series. If you've never read Skyward before, it's a fantasy series, and this issue features new characters that I assume will play a part in the next arc of the series, so this issue is a fantasy adventure history of a tribe of barbarians. It's a good backstory, and I'm excited to see where this goes in the ongoing. Midnight Tiger is the origin of a new superhero who will be getting his own title from Action Lab this summer. It's a very Peter Parker/teen hero sort of origin, but there are some interesting aspects that will be fun to watch play out if I choose to pick up the mini-series. If not? It's a good self contained origin that does a lot of world building. This is all ages, unless you're one of those people who wants to ban Bone, in which case it's not all ages and what are you doing reading my blog?

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