Sunday, May 4, 2014

Review- Free Comic Book Day 2014

They were awake at 5:30 AM. I was not. Ugh. 
Free Comic Book Day 2014
One man...his two children...two comic book shops...eight hours. This is the tale of a comic fan and his hatchlings spending quality time on the greatest day of the year...FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

Before I begin, I would like to thank each and every store for their participation in this event. Participation is not mandatory and all stores incur great expense to put this event on. Those “free” comics are not free to the retailers. With this in mind, I try to buy something at each store. I did not succeed this year, but I bought things at four of the seven stores this time around. I have made a mental note of which ones that I did not and will make it a point to go back and buy something within the year to make up for this. This day is wonderful to bring in new readers, but as an “established” reader I do feel an obligation to compensate the store for my “free” comics since I am not the intended audience for this event. 
Another point I would like to make before I begin is that I make sure to not grab more than one copy of any particular comic, even though I hit multiple shops. The only thing that I did grab an extra copy of was The Mouse Guard hardcover, and that was for a friend who usually attends but was ill with a stomach bug this year and was unable to leave the house. I abhor the scumbags who amass a complete run of these books and immediately flip them on eBay. I don't sell my copies of these books. 
I started the day off at the first store to open on the list, Detroit Comics in Ferndale, MI. I was surprised to see so much new construction along the Woodward corridor and it made me happy to see things alive and well since I moved out of the area. Detroit Comics had some guests coming out later on but I obviously missed that. We arrived shortly after they opened and the store had lots of people coming and going and milling about. The limit was 2 free comics per adult and 3 per child. They also had official Free Comic Book Day suckers for the kids, but my little rascals already had them in their mouth before I got in the car. I wanted to take a picture. Oh well.
Next up was Warp 9 Comics in Clawson, MI. Comic convention attendees in other states may recognize this place, as Lauren Becker makes the rounds across the country. I arrived shortly before they opened at 11 and the line was wrapped around the corner and was longer still when we left. It gets crazy crowded in there, but my kids are older and I can trust them (a little) to wander around a store and not destroy merchandise so I was able to look around more this year and enjoy myself. The limit here was ten free comics per person with a strict edict that if you tried to grab two copies of the same comic that you would be laughed at and forced to go to the back of the line. 
After that madhouse I dashed over to Time Travelers over in Berkley, MI. They provided cake, candy, and punch for the kiddies. As if my kids weren't hepped up on the euphoria of Free Comic Book Day...yikes. Throwing sugar on top of it was like throwing a Molotov cocktail on a gas soaked building, and my kids went off the rails. Time Travelers offered 8 free comics per customer. They were picked over pretty well by the time that we got there but they were throwing additional stock of various back issues out, which my son enjoyed. He likes those “old comics” from the '90s. *shudder* I forgot to look for my '70s Planet Of The Apes comics...s'um'bitch. My son found a Storm Shadow G.I. Joe doll in his price range and was happy. 
They even had Spider-Man on the milk and apple slices packaging.

My son was thrilled with his Happy Meal toy (seen at bottom left).
After lunch at McDonald's (because my son pleaded for it- Dad, they have Spider-Man toys!) we journeyed to Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, MI, where they are hosting the event at their longtime location for the last time. They are moving several blocks west down Michigan Avenue later this summer. They offered five free comic books per person, six if you were in costume (which my son's Superman t-shirt qualified for and he received the bonus ticket), with additional opportunities for canned food donations. It was a madhouse, albeit an orderly madhouse. There was an artist's tent outside and all sorts of things going on. My daughter's nerd genes seem to be manifesting, as she is drawn to people in costumes. She followed this poor man dressed as Vordak The Incomprehensible around, ditto Spider-Man. I fear that she is becoming some sort of cosplay groupie.

 We then drove to Big Ben's Comix Oasis in Allen Park, MI. Free Comic Book Day has always been crowded, but what on Earth was going on??? It was nearly 3 by the time that we made it over there, and the line was wrapped around the building, and according to Mike (dressed as Steve Rogers) and his brothers the Flash and Superman, it had been like that all day long and was longer still when we left. Big Ben offered five free comics per person. I spent a fair amount of time here and managed to find a nice copy of Marvel's Adventures On The Planet Of The Apes #11 for only 4 bucks. I only need two more issues to complete the run! That will ensure that someone will release a collected edition of it.

Ben had an artist's gallery, and Detroit native Keith Pollard was there. Pollard was a Marvel mainstay during the late '70s and early '80s, penciling many of my favorite issues from my youth. I told him how much I enjoyed his work and how just this week my son and I have been reading the Spider-Man: Return Of The Burglar hardcover (collects Amazing Spider-Man #193-200; review up within the week!). When I informed my 7 year old son that this was the man who did some of the artwork in that book my son replied “His artwork is amazing!” Mr. Pollard seemed pleased. I am disappointed that I didn't A) get his autograph or B) snap a picture. What was I thinking? I have to admit that I was maybe slightly awestruck and caught off guard by him being there doing sketches and commissions. I should have brought some of my comics and had him sign them. Crap!

 The kids were crazy stupid with sensory overload by this point in the day, and I offered them a chance to call it quits since I had hit the key shops that I wanted to hit and the day would have been a success even if we did not finish the rounds. They said thee nay, we must continue onward to greater glories! That is paraphrased. I'm not sure if they said it exactly like that or not.

The next shop needs no introduction...the internationally known CoBRA leader, founder of the Detroit FanFare comic convention and Internet quasi-celebrity Dennis Barger Jr.s' Wonderworld Comics in Taylor, MI was next. The famous (infamous?) Mr. Barger was present when I walked in but like Bigfoot was gone a second later when I looked back. No photographic proof of his existence, folks. Sorry!

 Loads of folks still there at this late hour, with five free comics offered to adults and 10 to kids. They had a lot of issues that I had not come across during my travels that day, so that was a pleasant surprise. Like I said before, I was not going for multiple copies of anything, so if I already had a copy of something from one shop I was not grabbing a second copy elsewhere. I try not to abuse the hospitality and goodwill of the retailers. They had a Catwoman and Harley Quinn cosplay duo there who my daughter loved. The store had a lot of Lego figures, including the out of print Indiana Jones one that my son wants. He had blown his money already, and honestly, so had I! Another day, perhaps...
Finally, we went to Back To The Past Comics And Collectibles in Redford, MI. The I-96 freeway closure could have made getting there tricky, but I am a walking talking GPS and know my way around metro Detroit. I hope that this prolonged construction project is not harmful for business, as it is slated to run for a while. The place is, and I am not being the least bit hyperbolic, a warehouse. An actual warehouse filled with comic books, toys, records, old newspapers, books, pop bottles...if it is old and awesome they have it. I wanted that Mister Peanut promotional peanut body costume. It was only $500. I would wear it everywhere, but alas, my wife puts the kibosh on such flights of fancy. 
 There was one free comic per person, two more with any purchase. They did not have any '70s Planet Of The Apes comics in stock, to my disappointment. I am two issues away from completing my run.
The poor, poor girl in the Harley Quinn costume was essentially my daughter's babysitter while we were there. She would not leave poor Harley Quinn alone! I tried dragging her away from her repeatedly, but Ms. Quinn seemed to enjoy my nap-deprived daughter's inane rambling and was such a good sport about it all. I will have to go back here and buy something soon as I feel guilty. 

 My son wanted more, my daughter was a babbling mess, and I was beat. Eight hours, a pile of comic books, and some terrific memories later, and Free Comic Book Day 2014 was a wrap. I enjoyed every bit of the day. Every store was great and everyone seemed to be genuinely happy everywhere. Again, thank you to every single store, every single employee, and especially the patient cosplayers who put up with my daughter!
It looked like a comic book bomb went off in the back seat.

My haul. Reviews will be forthcoming over the weeks and months ahead.

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