5:30am on a Saturday morning is the time of day when sensible people are still fast asleep.
Obviously, that meant that I was awake. It was Free Comic Book Day and as always I was like a kid at Christmas eagerly awaiting the presents on offer, but ready to dress up like it was Halloween. It’s not just for kids, it’s for everyone all across the globe who takes the time to go into any comic book store. It’s about more than those free comic books though; it’s an experience.
I just had two things to do first before hitting the road: sorting out my Doctor Strange costume and having several cups of coffee. To make things worse, I only drink decaf these days. Those are the sort of real-world problems that are out there, kids. I know, life can be pretty tough at times.
There really is something magical about FCBD though, something that makes it all worthwhile.
Sure, there was a two hour wait for the store to open by the time I got there, but the atmosphere there was electric. Ahead of me in the line were a couple of other costume-wearers, in particular Deadpool (complete with severed Headpool) and a guy dressed in the most oversized Darth Vader costume I’d ever seen. He looked more like bobble-head Vader than everyone’s favourite Imperial throat-hugger, and it didn’t matter at all.
Almost immediately Daredevil filed in line behind me, along with Nightwing. Spider-Man, The Joker, Superman, Wonder Woman and Captain America joined the growing crowd too as the morning moved on. Someone I thought looked like Mary Marvel from I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League joined in the queue too, although someone else called her Black Alice. What can I say? I’ll always be a Giffen fan.
For a country that doesn’t really have fan conventions and where cosplay isn’t common, it was quite a sight. Also, for a fandom community that’s sometimes mocked for a lack of women, I’d say that the gender balance was almost a 50/50 split. I guess something must be going right…
The comic book shop and the bakery/coffee shop next door to it had worked some kind of deal so that the fans in line could buy all the coffee, hot chocolate and brownies they could handle during the wait, and at affordable prices. I could say that economically it’s the trickle-down effect, that there’s community spirit there, and that it’s an example of one business benefitting from another… but honestly it was just nice to see that everybody was happy, fans and businesses alike.
There were photo opportunities galore and tables got set up to promote local comic books, as well as to collect donations for an animal rescue shelter. Free copies of DC’s Divergence #1 got handed out while people who had been strangers mingled and talked like old friends, all brought together by the common bonds of fandom.
Some people talked about Age of Ultron, others about jeans that had Marvel characters painted on them, and many said that Damian Wayne sucked while Dick Grayson ruled. Fanboy debates began and Mary Marvel seemed to get a lot of attention from the guys, except from her boyfriend who was too busy talking with me about The Flash TV. She didn’t seem too impressed.
Then the comic book shop brought out large cookies for everyone, all with DC covers printed on the icing. Darth Vader couldn’t get his cookie through his breathing unit. Daredevil knocked Nightwing’s half-eaten cookie to the ground with a ninja move. That’s the sort of day it was – silly and fun, with something always happening.
For all the free comics, all the discount vouchers, all the competitions, all the free cookies and free Heroclix toys, it’s the whole experience that lingers. I imagine that many people all over the world are remembering how much fun they had as they page through their free comic books today, and are looking forward to doing it all over again.
I say this every year, but it’s the people who make it happen. From the creators, publishers and organisers to the comic book shops and the people who wait patiently in line comparing costumes and sharing conversations. Every single one deserves credit because every single one makes it the incredible day that it always is.
Now, where’s my decaf gotten to?