Free Comic Book Day Reactions Part 1

For Free Comic Book Day, I went to three local stores, one of which isn’t worth mentioning. Their involvement consisted of putting about 12 different titles in an old style wire rack with a sign saying “1 per customer”. The angry woman at the counter only spoke when she grudgingly responded to direct questions. (Although my experience wasn’t as bad as Tom’s.) Stores that want to benefit from the promotion while barely participating do no one any favors.

My experience elsewhere was much better. First, I accidentally opened up Velocity Comics. (I still say, teasingly, if you’re not open yet, you should lock the front door.) They had a nice display, a reasonable limit of 3 books per person, helpful staff, a decent selection of only the books they wanted to support, and a 20% off sale. I chose the three titles I was most looking forward to that I didn’t already have.

FCBD Amelia Rules cover

I thought the Amelia Rules! book would be new stories, but it turns out that most of it is an excerpt from issue #18, and the promised “first-ever Amelia Rules!/WJHC crossover, with art by Joe Staton” was completely missing. There’s some new material in the back, part of an upcoming new graphic novel. I wonder if that means Jimmy Gownley is switching away from single issues? It would make sense for him. With his new collection, When the Past Is a Present, due out soon, I wonder how long away the next book is?

Owly and Friends was just as lovely and charming as I expected. The new lead story, of interest to all ages, is about Owly and his friends cooperating to have a picnic. Korgi’s well-drawn, but the tale is predictable and light in content. Johnny Boo is by James Kolchalka, which tells anyone familiar with his work whether it’s for them.

FCBD Owly cover

Yam, the new entrant, was adorable. For some reason, the idea of a kid whose TV is four-legged and hangs around with him like a pet seems the perfect modern children’s story. The pieces are wordless and surreal, with odd occurrences like a hot Yam becoming a literal puddle. Twisted but funny. I’m looking forward to the upcoming book. Overall, a good sampler, with a consistent level of quality, and the lack of text makes it fun for kids who may not yet be sophisticated readers.

I had somehow missed the news that Gemstone was putting out an EC Sampler. It’s a good idea. These comics are often more talked about these days than actually read, so I was looking forward to the chance to try some. The opening page, which was meant to give some background on the comics’ historical significance, turned me off, though. Starting with “these filmmakers and others have written forewords to our collections” just seems so desperately seeking significance through famous association.

FCBD EC cover

The first story… well, EC was known for being very wordy, right? The text is heavy and deadening, while the content is basically a snuff film. We watch people have accidents when dealing with another planet. They don’t respect the danger, so they die, and then more people die. The end. That was … not what I expected. It’s almost comical in its lack of emotion, though. “Poor Baxter! What a horrible way to die,” and they move on.

The next is a turgid anti-gun screed set in North Korea that seems to argue for both inaction and anti-communism. Then there’s a werewolf story that says that the curse can be caught from a plant’s scratch. I guessed the shock ending ahead of time. The last seems to wallow in depravity as a way to teach a lesson, but there’s no justice shown, so it winds up just being a bunch of torture scenes. Overall, very disappointing.

Stay tuned for part two of my FCBD reactions!

8 Responses to “Free Comic Book Day Reactions Part 1”

  1. Dave Says:

    I can’t say I totally disagree with you on your reaction to the EC sampler. I’ve bought almost all of the recent archive releases and have enjoyed them for the most part but they are best consumed one-story-at-a-time, as is the case with most golden age stuff. Too much and it just makes my head explode.

    I grew up hearing my dad talk about how EC comics were the best ever and was the happy recipient, at Christmas a few years ago, of his EC Fan-Addict Club membership certificate that he’d been saving since about 1953.

    I think you’d have to agree that, while the stories have their ups and downs and are generally pretty quaint by today’s standards, they were on the cutting edge at the time. AND – the art is head-and-shoulders above the level of what other publishers, as a whole, were doing at the time. Wally Wood and John Severin were my dad’s favorites and are two of mine as well.

  2. Phil Says:

    Henrico County Public Libraries have participated for three years now, getting Comics from a local store and promo it with the area teens helping. I think we had 9 branches participating. A great success, getting better every year!

  3. Faith Says:

    I’ve been roaming around the ‘net reading people’s experiences on FCBD, and they all sound terribly … civilized! I participated in one that was absolute madness (but in a good way), which I have pictures of (and a report; I was an artist at the event) here:
    I’ve been sort of surprised to read stores had such a limit on the number of comics you could take (only three?), but I guess it’s to be expected…

    PS. Long time reader, first time poster. Love the blog.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for joining in, Faith! One local retailer had a story that explained the limit: one of his first customers started grabbing everything in sight and had to be diligently reminded that there was a limit. He sees her every year, only on that day. That kind of abuse is why people have to set limits. (And both of the good stores I went to were willing to bend the limits if people were truly interested in certain books.) PS Love your sketch!

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