Free Comic Book Day Isn’t FreeWhen I was first exposed to Free Comic Book Day, I was really excited. A day where one could go to the comic book store they loved and get some free comics? It was really a dream come true for just about any comic book lover. Since writing for this site, I had the opportunity to view the event from a different point of view and waded in to cover the event with blogs, profiles, and articles.
The DealThe concept of Free Comic Book Day is pretty easy enough to follow. On a Saturday in May, usually after a comic book movie release, comic book retailers all over the United States and around the world pass out free comic books. One can’t just go in to pull comics off the shelf and take them home, although some comic shops take this as an opportunity to get rid of some of their extra’s lying around and taking up space, rather, the comic books offered at Free Comic Book Day are specially produced for the event, and most publishers take this as an opportunity to introduce new readers to their comic book lines.
Just about every comic book publisher now partakes in Free Comic Book Day. The major publisher like Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse are all there, now joined by smaller companies like IDW, Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, and others. I figured that the publishers offered the comic books to the retailers for free and the retailers passed on those savings to their customers in the hopes that you would then pick up future issues from said publishers. The publishers get free publicity, the retailers make new customers, and everybody is happy, right?
The ProblemUnfortunately that isn’t exactly how it happens. You are able to get free comic books on this lovely May day, but they aren’t exactly free, at least to the comic book retailers giving them away that is. Yes, the retailer comic book shop must pay for those comic books to then be handed out to the masses for free. According to someone in the comic book business, its about fourteen to fifty cents per comic book. When I heard this, my heart sank a little. Not at the retailers, and not really at Diamond, who is the comic book distributor for the United States, but I guess more at the publishers.
Granted, at the end of the day, this is a promotional event that both the publisher and retailers should make money back on in the long run by getting new customers for their products, but it really seems that retailers continually get the short end of the stick in selling comic books. They are forced to order three months in advance and if they change their orders to late, they get charged a fee for comic books that haven’t even been created yet. Comic books are getting later and harder to keep a consistent schedule, and now major bookstores are offering comics that they can get at a much steeper discount due to their large orders.
Maybe I’m just sentimental to the small business since my family has owned or operated their own business since I was five, or maybe it’s the underdog or David and Goliath syndrome at play here, but I feel the need to stick up for the little guy. I also think of who Free Comic Book Day is for, the people who don’t know about comic books, giving them a way in to the now hundreds of comic titles out there. But to see the completists making their rounds trying to get every comic book for their collection, or at least as many as the retailer is willing to let them, or those trying to just get something for free or even worse, sell on Ebay, is pretty disheartening.
Solutions?So what should we do about it? For me, I plan on buying some comics when I get my free comic books to support the stores I love and give back to the people who have made this day such a great event. I know comic books played a huge role in my life as a kid finding new worlds to dream about and I hope they do the same for others out there. I hope you will join me in supporting your local brick and mortar comic book shop by buying some comics this coming Free Comic Book Day.