Not much in life is free these days, but comic books will be this Saturday, May 6. Stores participating in the annual Free Comic Book Day are offering thousands of new titles to customers at no cost.
“The purpose is to expose as many people as possible to the medium,” says Menachem Luchins, owner of Escape Pod Comics in Huntington. “People get an opportunity to try something outside their usual tastes.”
On a normal Saturday at 4th World Comics in Smithtown, the store typically draws up to 200 customers. Last year on Free Comic Book Day, more than 1,000 people showed up.
“We didn’t leave the counter for 11 hours,” says owner Glenn Fischette. “It was insane, but fun.”
How could comics be free? Companies like Marvel, DC and Dark Horse sell the comics for 25 to 40 cents to the stores, which then use the books for promotional purposes.
“It helps to develop new customers,” says Fischette. “Each year it gets bigger and bigger.”
Even in the digital age, printed comics have endured and increased over the years.
“Reading comics is a physical act that you can’t replicate with a bunch of electrons,” says comic book writer Fred Van Lente (Deadpool, Amazing Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy), who will sign Saturday at 4th World. “The smell and feel of a comic book has value. People like that connection.”
Although comics are available as PDF files, fans still clamor for the printed product.
“There’s no collectibility being digital,” says Alan Paperin, owner of The Comic Book Depot in Wantagh. “You buy a digital comic, read it and it will never be worth anything.”
But the draw extends beyond just the printed pages.
“Comic books continue to maintain the grand classic literary tradition of episodic storytelling,” says Marvel writer Peter David, who has worked on the Incredible Hulk, Aquaman and Scarlet Spider. “Movies have a beginning, middle and end, then you’re done. Comic books are a continuing adventure, where every month, sometimes twice a month, you are checking in with your character.”
READING STILL REIGNS
Despite the excess of superhero-related TV shows and movies, fans still want to digest the stories by reading them.
“You can take in everything the artist and writer are laying out at your own pace,” says indie comic writer Joe Ciano of Syosset (The Black Woods, Tales of Happenstance), who will sign at Escape Pod Comics on Sunday. “The way the comic panels are used, you can absorb each moment.”
Perhaps it’s the mythic quality derived from these colorful characters that makes them so attractive.
“Comics are our modern mythology,” says David, who lives in Brookhaven Township and will be signing at 4th World on Saturday. “If you say to somebody, ‘Who is Superman?’ they will not say that he’s a character appearing in a comic book. People talk about him as if he is real.”
GAGA FOR ‘GUARDIANS’
Very often, fans get attached to characters, such as Star-Lord from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The second film in that series opens Friday.
“I like his charisma. There’s a certain swagger about him,” says Tom LaRocca, 20, of Hauppauge. “He does good, not because he wants to, but because he has to.”
“Guardians” was once a Marvel oddity that has become a hot commodity as fans are drawn to the ragtag gang of space pirates.
“The Guardians deal with universal problems instead of Earthbound problems that Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine handle,” says Jack Bonilla, 21, of Medford. “They stop stuff before it gets to the Avengers.”
Comic book collectors faithfully gather at stores every Wednesday, when the newest issues are released.
“I have doctors, lawyers and accountants coming in on Wednesday nights from the Long Island Rail Road in their suits and ties, picking up books,” says Fischette. “If they’ve been working all day behind a desk, this is their release.”
FREE COMIC BOOK DAY
Saturday, May 6, at participating stores:
10 a.m.-9 p.m.
4th World Comics, 33 Rte. 111, Smithtown
INFO 631-366-4440, fourthworldcomics.com
10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Android’s Amazing Comics
61 Railroad Ave., Sayville
10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Best Comics International
1300 Jericho Tpke., New Hyde Park
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Comic Book Depot, 2847 Jerusalem Ave., Wantagh
INFO 516-221-9337, thecomicbookdepot.com
Sunday, May 7
11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Escape Pod Comics, 302 Main St., Huntington
INFO 631-923-1044, escapepodcomics.com