This past Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, which for my friends and me meant a whirlwind tour around New York City, lots of fun, lots of walking, and ironically, lots of money spent. Time for an inventory!
STOP #1: MIDTOWN COMICS GRAND CENTRAL
My two roommates and I left the house at the horrible, horrible hour of 11am and headed to the Midtown Comics Grand Central location, where we met three more friends and got our first taste of Free Comic Book Day. Midtown had a fairly impressive spread of books, but all of it was mainstream DC and Marvel stuff, with the quirkier bullshit I was hoping to get my hands on nowhere in sight. They also had an adorably friendly representative of the New York Fire Department there to hand out an Avengers/FDNY promotional comic and talk to kids about fire safety. I wonder how disappointed this guy was to discover that only weirdo adults go to comic book stores. Anyway, here is what Midtown had to offer:
The New Avengers/FDNY one-shot
The hapless firefighter stationed at Midtown Comics made us all feel guilty about taking this comic without also taking his other promotional material – a couple of fire safety pamphlets and a pencil. He was especially eager to get the fuck rid of those pencils and practically begged us all to take them. One of the pamphlets encourages the reader to construct a fire escape plan in a provided grid. Here’s mine:
I feel much safer having this hanging on the wall! If not for this chart, I might jump out the fire-escapeless window or repeatedly run into a wall, instead of exiting the apartment via the single door that leads to outside. As if this doesn’t make me feel safe enough, I also got some great tips from Marvel’s greatest heroes:
Ever since I read this, I haven’t set foot out of the kitchen. I’m terrified to leave. Whether it’s death by fire or by a brutal beating with a frying pan, I know I am fucking dead the minute I leave the kitchen.
Green Lantern Mango-Dragonfruit Brisk iced tea
Despite the prominently placed MSRP of 99¢, this was really a huge can of iced free! It was pretty delicious, but it made me have to piss like crazy for the next hour. I am pretty proud that I managed to carry this empty can around the rest of the day without it getting crushed, so I could display its beautiful artwork in my living room until the end of time.
The Amazing Spider-Man
Spider-Man does a bunch of boring bullshit.
Green Lantern / Flashpoint Preview (Midtown Comics edition)
The Green Lantern portion of this book is a chapter of Geoff Johns’ awesome Secret Origin miniseries, presumably chosen to help promote the Green Lantern movie. The real draw here is the preview of the upcoming DC event Flashpoint, which turned out to be about two pages long and completely non-revelatory. However, the checklist at the end of the story reveals that the event will consist of a shocking 22 books in June alone, including such enticing one-shots as Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown and Flashpoint: Canterbury Cricket. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t totally fucking excited!
I haven’t read this yet, but for some reason Marvel’s new Hercules series has me strangely intrigued, in spite of never having read or cared about the character before. So I am looking forward to checking it out!
I’ve never heard of either of these titles from Marvel’s CrossGen imprint, but hey, discovering new things is what Free Comic Book Day is all about right? Maybe these books are awesome! Probably not though.
Comic Shop News/Fear Itself Sketchbook / Marvel Backlist Reading Chronology / The Mighty Thor Saga
These items are not specifically for Free Comic Book Day, but are the usual promotional crap that every comic book store always has on the counter, re-contextualized for the day as FREE COMIC BOOKS! Stuff like this is excellent bathroom reading, so I’m glad to get this much at once.
Priest 3D glasses
These 3D glasses allow you to go to www.priestmoviegame.com and play a fighting game based on the shitty-looking movie Priest in stunning 3D. Remember in the early 90’s when Fox would air 3D episodes of Married With Children and you’d have to go to 7-11 to get glasses, and it would look awful and require a lot of imagination to even be considered 3D? That’s kind of what this game looks like. As for the gameplay, I’m not sure if it’s fun or not – since I was too lazy to actually punch out and construct the glasses, I needed a hand to hold them up to my face, and it turns out you can’t comfortably play the game with one hand. I am an excellent video game reviewer! If you want to find out for yourself but don’t have 3D glasses handy, priestmoviegame.com also generously offers a 2D version.
MIDTOWN COMICS GRAND CENTRAL TOTAL: $0
So far so good, and Free Comic Book Day has actually been free. That status quo is about to come crashing down though, as we move along to…
STOP #2: CHAMELEON COMICS & CARDS
We hopped a southbound train, with the intention of checking out Midtown Comics’ newish downtown location. But soon after emerging from the subway, we just happened to stumble upon Chameleon Comics & Cards, a neat little store that none of us had ever heard of before. After being disappointed by Midtown’s Marvel/DC-exclusive spread, I was happy to see that Chameleon had a bunch of the more kid-oriented and indie books I was looking to pick up. Here’s what they had for free:
Captain America / Thor: The Mighty Fighting Avengers
Here is a Marvel freebie that was inexplicably absent from Midtown’s offerings. I am not sure what this is, but from quickly flipping through it, it seems to involve Cap and Thor having an adventure in medieval times. Awesome.
The Dark Crystal / Mouse Guard
A sampler pack of comics for gay children, this collection seems right up my alley. The only part of it I’ve read so far is a promotional article about an upcoming book called A Tale of Sand, which is based on never-used screenplay that Jim Henson wrote a million years ago. I’m pretty excited for that.
Geronimo Stilton / The Smurfs
Who the hell is Geronimo Stilton, and how the fuck did he get billing over the Smurfs?? When I was a kid I had a bunch of Smurfs comics and liked them a lot, and flipping through this book reminds me why: really unique and pretty artwork, cool lettering, and breezy little stories make the Smurfs just as engaging as they were when I was little. As for Geronimo Stilton? He can go fuck himself in Hell, as far as I’m concerned.
Locke & Key
I recently read the entire run of this awesome horror series written by Stephen King’s son, and it would be rad if this freebie turned a lot of new readers onto the book. I don’t know if it will though, because the issue they chose to reprint for Free Comic Book Day was a very bizarre choice – it’s an issue from right smack in the middle of a story arc, and seems to only have been chosen because the entire issue basically consists of one long, kick-ass fight sequence. It is a cool issue, but not really representative of the series as a whole, and not really a great jumping-on point for someone who has no idea what’s going on. If you picked up this issue for free and are kinda meh on it, do yourself a favor and give this series another chance!
I love love love Archie comics, and this charming little book reminds me why. Archie stuff is weird because this story might as well be a reprint from 1952, except for little touches like Jughead watching YouTube videos on his iPhone. I think this ability to be timeless and contemporary simultaneously is how Archie Comics have managed to retain their popularity for the better part of a century without ever having to think of a second story to tell. Sign me up for Team Archie!!
On the other hand, this reimagining of another age-old classic is ugly, stupid, and completely unnecessary. I want the real Richie back, not this grotesque abomination! This issue also includes a Kung-Fu Panda story. Get fucked.
Super Dinosaur Origin Special
I don’t know exactly how I feel about Robert Kirkman’s new all-ages title Super Dinosaur. Well, yes I do: I hate it. But the question is – would I still hate it if Axe Cop didn’t already exist and do everything Super Dinosaur tries to do, except much much better? Yeah, if that were the case, I’d probably love what Kirkman did here. But Axe Cop does exist, and while I don’t want to accuse Kirkman of directly ripping it off, I mean, look at this…
Again, I’m not accusing Kirkman of directly ripping off the work of the Nicolle brothers, but at the end of the day, the existence of the far superior Axe Cop renders Super Dinosaur completely irrelevant and unnecessary.
Chameleon had a lot of great discounted trades and my roommate, who is currently suffering from a bit of movie-induced Thor fever, bought a couple of huge Thor hardcovers for half-price. As for myself, I nearly made it out of the store without spending any money, until I saw this little beauty sitting on the counter:
The first volume of the comic adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand, in a beautiful, huge hardcover edition, sitting on the counter with a little sign that said $3! I don’t know if it’s good or not, but I love the original novel, and the amazing price makes it totally worth checking out. Score!
CHAMELEON COMICS & CARDS GRAND TOTAL: $3
Finding Chameleon was such a pleasant surprise, and I fear that the arrival of Midtown Comics just a couple of blocks away might spell doom for this charming little store. I love Midtown and all, but whenever I am in this neighborhood, I plan to do my best to support this place.
STOP #3: MIDTOWN COMICS DOWNTOWN
Next we hoofed it over to Midtown Comics’ downtown location (which I had never visited before), and a bunch of guys in superhero costumes were hanging around outside the store. I got my picture taken with Batman Beyond, Luke Cage, and Captain America!
Unfortunately, the store didn’t have any free books that weren’t also at the Grand Central location, so with no goodies to grab, I headed straight for the discount trades section and picked up a couple of really retarded things.
X-O Manowar Retribution
Ever since I was 11 years old, I’ve had a weird soft spot for Valiant Comics. I never read any of their titles, but their charmingly stupid characters, fugly art, and half-ass attempt to create a superhero universe endeared them to me in a strange way, and I still smile any time I happen upon one of their books. So when I saw this collection of the first four issues of X-O Manowar on sale for $3, I was powerless to stop myself. Maybe I’ll actually read it! But I doubt it.
I’ve never read Spawn. I was never a fan of Todd McFarlane, and in general I just always thought this character seemed obnoxious. But what if my instincts are wrong and it’s actually super awesome? This doubt, which has been nagging me for years, led me to grabbing the first Spawn trade. Just flipping through it and looking at the dumb-ass artwork makes me want to never read it, but I will force myself to, and report back.
MIDTOWN COMICS DOWNTOWN GRAND TOTAL: $8
STOP #4: SOUTH STREET SEAPORT
From Midtown Downtown, we headed to South Street Seaport, for the one non-comics-related portion of our day. My roommate Grath has been a big fan of the TV show America’s Next Great Restaurant, and this week marked the NYC debut of the winning eatery, a soul food joint called Soul Daddy. Instead of writing about this at length, I will direct you to Grath’s write-up on his blog TV Casually. I will only add that I enjoyed my roasted pork meal very much, especially the cornbread waffle that came with it, and that this place is great and pretty reasonably priced compared to other fast food places on this tier (such as Boston Market or Chipotle).
Cost of lunch at Soul Daddy: approx. $10
Cost of the cotton candy I bought afterwards: $2
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT GRAND TOTAL: $12
STOP #5: BERGEN STREET COMICS
We then made the trip to Brooklyn, and our first stop in that borough was a cool little shop in Prospect Heights called Bergen Street Comics. The store has an indie sensibility, which gives it the feel of a gallery or art space instead of your typical comic shop. It’s awesome to see a store like this, which strongly focuses on independent books and all-ages titles, with little xeroxed chapbooks and zine-like comics given equal attention to the latest issues of Superman and X-Men.
By the time we arrived at Bergen Street, the only official FCBD item they had left was the Pep Comics issue I’d already picked up. They did, however, have this:
Alongside the Archie book on their counter was this offering from cartoonist Nick Bertozzi, who had recently been at the store for a signing. I’d never heard of Mr. Bertozzi or of Boswash (even though it’s apparently a decade old), but man is this thing fucking cool! As you can see, it’s a comic that folds out like a map, transforming from something you can fit in your pocket into a huge poster-sized sequence of beautiful orange and blue panels. This is definitely my favorite freebie of the entire day.
I also bought some Batman books, from the store’s surprisingly well-stocked boxes of discount trades:
Batman: Battle For the Cowl Companion
I have been trying to collect all of the trades that tie in with Grant Morrison’s Batman RIP tale, and this collection of offshoots and one-shots will fit snugly between my copies of Battle For the Cowl and The Black Casebook.
Batman: Arkham Reborn
Another story sort of related to Battle For the Cowl, but the truth is, I’d buy pretty much anything that involves Arkham Asylum even if, like this, it’s sort of a mediocre story.
Outside of the store, a lady had set up a stand where she was giving people cups of ice cream in exchange for donations. Donations for what, you ask? I have no idea, but they could have been for NAMBLA for all I care, because the ice cream was delicious.
BERGEN STREET COMICS GRAND TOTAL: $11
Stopping at this store was kind of out of our way, but I’m really glad we did. Unfortunately, there are very few reasons for me to ever be in this neighborhood, so I can’t imagine that I’ll be visiting Bergen Street Comics very often, but anyone who spends a lot of time in this area of Brooklyn should definitely frequent this impressive little store.
STOP #6: JOE KOCH WAREHOUSE
My roommate had read on the internet about a crazy warehouse in Brooklyn, which usually is appointment-only, but which was opening its doors to the general public on Free Comic Book Day, and apparently offering FREE TRADE PAPERBACKS to all visitors! This was too tempting to pass up on, and I’m really glad we didn’t.
When we got off the train, a pleasant drizzle was falling, and a light breeze was sending cherry blossoms soaring through the air. As we began approaching our destination in an industrial warehouse area, however, the beautiful aroma of a springtime rain gave way to the stench of dogshit and death. We walked by factories, a poultry slaughterhouse, and an honest-to-god sweatshop, before finally finding ourselves wandering the twisted corridors of a filthy warehouse straight out of a horror movie. Eventually we stumbled into Joe Koch’s space, and holy shit:
When we first arrived, the lovably crusty old owner led us on a detailed tour of the warehouse, but it wasn’t long before I broke away to begin forging my own path through the dozens of aisles of wonders. I am really glad I am not into collecting single issues because if I were, I would have spent my whole paycheck in this place. As it was, I walked away with way too much goofy crap.
As a kid, I was way into Marvel’s ALF comic for some reason – I had all 40 issues at one point! I have no idea why I was so into it, because to be honest the comic really sucks, but I couldn’t resist picking up this collection of the first three issues.
Batman: Digital Justice
A few months ago, I picked up a copy of Iron Man: Crash (originally published in 1991), the “first computer-generated graphic novel.” I found it fascinating to look at the awful sub-Microsoft-Paint artwork in that book, and imagine that at one point someone somewhere thought that would be the future of comic books. Digital Justice is a similar book from the same era, and while the artwork isn’t quite as bad as the Iron Man title, it’s damn close:
Look at that! It’s completely disgusting and retarded, and should never have existed. I had to own it!
It’s a shame more people don’t know about the Slave Labor Graphics Haunted Mansion comics, because they rule. An EC-esque horror anthology inspired by the characters and locations from the classic Disneyland attraction, this book is great for Disney fans, for horror fans or just fans of great comics. Since I fall into all three of those categories, I absolutely love this book, and was stoked to find the first trade paperback collection.
Penguin airplane toy
I was trying to resist the urge to buy more toys to clutter up my apartment with, but there was no way I could pass on this huge and awesome Penguin airplane! A quick websearch reveals that this toy was actually sold as a tie-in with the film Batman Returns, which is really surprising because the design of the Penguin here looks nothing like Danny DeVito’s version. In any case, I love this thing so, so much!
Browsing around this warehouse meant being constantly pummeled in the balls by waves of nostalgia. I couldn’t walk two feet without having an “Ohmygod I had that when I was a kid, I haven’t thought about that in years!” moment, and if I’d allowed myself to transfer all those moments into purchases, I’d typing this from the computer in the poorhouse. The one thing I allowed myself to buy was the “Not This Time, Joker!” pin from the ’89 Batman film, which had been on my backpack for like two years following the release of that movie. And now it will be on my backpack again!
So you might be wondering what FREE TRADE PAPERBACK DAY consisted of. Well apparently it consisted of someone’s 20-year-old overstock from the loooong-defunct publisher First Comics. A number of First trades were available and I ended up with three of them:
The Original Nexus
I don’t know who or what Nexus is, but here are his original black and white adventures in an over-sized paperback.
Betty Boop’s Big Break
Finally, we have America’s favorite flapper whore, Betty Boop, in an adventure that brings her to the exotic locale of Coney Island. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit excited to read this one!
JOE KOCH WAREHOUSE GRAND TOTAL: $20
No I don’t suck at math, but maybe the guy at the warehouse does. Either that or he was a pretty swell guy to knock a few dollars off my total when I made my final purchase. I left this place in a daze, with crud all over my hands, and my lungs filled with dust and mildew, but so so so happy. I love comic books and I love rummage sales, and this is the place where those two loves collide into a huge room filled with insanely stupid bullshit. The warehouse’s next open house is in early June, and I will definitely be going back.
After that, we made the long subway journey home to shower the stench of victory off our broken, weary bodies. I had traipsed all over the city, visited four shops I’d never been to before, enjoyed a wonderful lunch in one of my favorite spots, and gotten enough fun goodies to keep me entertained for weeks. All in all, I’d say it was the single best day I’ve ever had or will ever have. Not bad!
TOTAL COST OF FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: $54