Free Comic Book Day 2019: Thoughts on Gold Comics
Tomorrow, May 4, is this year’s Free Comic Book Day. Visit a participating comic shop near you to get one or many free comic books (depending on the store) from a selection of over 50 choices. As Diamond Distributors says,
Founded on the belief that there is a comic book for every person out there, FCBD offers a huge selection of 51 free titles designed to appeal to a broad range of age levels and their tastes.
You can find a participating shop through the locator at the site, plus they also have previews of the giveaway titles. KC and I will be at Westfield Comics on Williamson Street in Madison, Wisconsin. Come say hi!
In preparation for that, I’ve had the chance to read a number of the titles ahead of time. (I want to make sure I can better help people select comics by knowing what’s in them, as well as being able to flag any material of concern or understand why the books were rated the way they were.) Following are my thoughts on some of the gold titles, which are those that every participating store are required to order.
Bloodshot (Valiant) — I find it a poor choice to put out a promo book for a series coming this fall. The event is supposed to be about converting the curious into customers; “remember to come back months later” isn’t effective for that. Plus, like so many of Valiant’s books, this is a prettily illustrated generic superhero bit of action, without much to set it apart from a lot else available. However, they put together a nice package, once you get past the first story, with a creator interview, another story from a different title, and a short interview promoting a third book. (Variety is good! I wonder how much the three websites whose interviews were used and cross-promoted to their sites got paid for this marketing, though.)
Avengers (Marvel) — Writer Jason Aaron is having a lot of fun with in-jokes. As Tony Stark narrates, he takes cracks at Marvel’s propensity for big dumb crossovers and does a whole monologue on how DC people “do great work” but “spend too much time worried about us and annoyed we spend so little worried about them” before only revealing later that he’s talking about the “good people of Washington DC”. Unh hunh. Aside from that, I have no idea what’s going on. It’s too much just thrown on the page with a whole load of different teams and characters. This does not make me want to read more comics, because it plays into a whole bunch of unpleasant stereotypes about the genre requiring too much fandom knowledge. The backup story, about the Savage Avengers, reinforced for me how stupid the idea is to take a bunch of killer loners and lump them together. The one part I’m curious about, how Conan fits on the team, was omitted, since he doesn’t even appear.
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor (Titan) — A stand-alone story with the current TV show characters and a premise — a theme park with something dark going on — that many will enjoy and/or relate to. It captures the family-friendly feel of the show well. The only thing I wondered about was the inclusion of ads from external companies. One is for Doctor Who merch, which makes sense, while the other, for Fathom Events movie showings of geek interest, appears in many of the FCBD books, so it appears to be a deal the committee or Diamond cut.
Pokemon (Viz) — It amazes me, in a good way, that this property just keeps going. (I could say the same thing about IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, although that skews older, more out of nostalgia.) I suspect kids may be disappointed with the black-and-white interior art, unfortunately.
Riverdale (Archie) — It’s around this point that I start feeling more favorable towards Bloodshot, because at least it’s a comic book. If you only shopped the Gold titles, you’d be convinced that comics were just something hanging on TV show coattails. Half the issue is a superficial character introduction, the other half is a bunch of ads. I did find the Riverdale setup situation in the comic more interesting than what’s going on in the show currently.
Stranger Things & Black Hammer (Dark Horse) — Don’t watch the show, the comic doesn’t give me any reason to try it. The Black Hammer second half is more intriguing, with hints to yet another upcoming series, about a spooky teen team-up, although there’s no mention of where I should go to find out more.
Welcome to the Whedonverse (Boom!) — Exactly what it says it will be: short introductions to the Firefly, Angel, and Buffy comics. At least they do their best to work as stories, short as they are, and they’re clear about where to go next for works that are already on sale. Effective! Meets the purpose! Good job!
I don’t care about either the comic or property for Deadly Class: Killer Set (Image) and Disney Descendants: Dizzy’s New Fortune (Tokyopop).
Of the 12 Gold titles, 5 are rated Teen and 2 Mature (Image, IDW). That means, of the required base set of books, only 4 are suitable for all ages (and 1 is mislabeled, see below). Weirdly, DC’s Ink sampler, Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, is promoting a book rated for 15 years and up but this is deemed appropriate for all ages. Which at least they explain on the cover. Seems like a bit of an unpleasant tease for younger readers, though. Particularly since the story itself isn’t kid-friendly, since it features torture of a pet. I know everyone expects DC to have an all-ages book, but this wasn’t a good choice. (I’m looking forward to reading the whole book, though, so it was effective for older readers.)
And once again, Vault messed up. Their comic has no rating on the cover, but there’s both masked and unmasked profanity in Interceptor, making it NOT suitable for all ages. They did the same thing last year. At this point, I think they should be prevented from participating. They certainly shouldn’t be a required title.
I’ll be pushing the Doctor Who and Whedonverse out of this set, although most customers will pick whatever they’re already familiar with. Saves on marketing, I guess, to do a bunch of media tie-ins. And a media fan may be interested in the book simply as a collectible related to their favorite show.