Image via NPR
Free Comic Book Day is almost upon us! It occurs on Saturday, May 3rd this year, so now's a great time to talk about how you can be awesome on that day.
The whole point of FCBD is to bring in new (or distanced) fans of any age, while also potentially bringing in new business to local comic book shops. It's also kind of a thank you from the comic shops to the fans in the area for keeping them afloat. It should be a fun (and safe) day for everyone involved. It's the day that, while supplies last, you can walk into a participating comics store and grab select books (this is important - the free books are specifically made for this event) for zero dollars, which is pretty dang sweet.
Of course, any time you've got hordes of people cramming into small spaces for free stuff, things can go south pretty easily. Here are five easy steps to avoid being a jerk:
1) Be patient: FCBD should be all about fun. Especially if you're bringing in a kid or a pal who is new to comics with you, it's important to keep your cool, be courteous to others, and just enjoy the moment. Chat with other folks in line or at the store, wear a costume or tee of your favorite character, let that little 5-year old kid who looks like a '90s music video barfed all over them know that they're important. Your positivity and fun attitude will make FCBD a better experience for the people around you.
Pro-tip: If you're really bent on getting specific titles on this day, make sure you get to the store early.
2) Don't grab a copy of every single free book on that rack: The reason why there are so many different books up for grabs on FCBD isn't so you can go home with a foot-tall stack of free stuff, it's so that a wide range of interests get covered; so people can pick and choose what appeals to them (the flip side of that is so people can try something new). Not every book on that rack is going to grab your attention on a personal level, and that's OK. They're not meant to. Oh, and don't be that jerk who grabs like three copies of every book, either.
Pro-tip: If you're shopping with kids or friends, plan out which books you're grabbing, and make sure everyone gets different things that you can all swap later.
3) Be kind to store staff: Many participating comic book stores make a whole event out of FCBD and add other freebies of their own to the pot of awesome. Some even have guests come in to sketch and sign stuff, or run other promos. Whether they can or can't, it doesn't change that FCBD is a busy, busy event for everyone working that shop. Some stores are going to have rules about how many free books you can take with you to ensure that all their visitors can have a chance. Follow staff instructions and be kind!
Pro-tip: Check out your local store's website or social media ahead of FCBD for event promos and coupons.
4) Don't be a gatekeeper: Comics fans: be a door-opener, not a gatekeeper. When a newbie walks into that store and stares blankly at the rack of free books, you've got two options: a) rush or push aside the newbie, muttering "You know nothing, Jon Snow," or b) ask them what kind of stories they like and try to help them pick something out based on that. Be the door-opener. Bridge the gap - tell them that what they like is cool, and show them where they can find more of it. If they're completely clueless and seem to be open to anything, then just tell 'em it's OK to pick a few different things to see what they end up liking. Maybe they're hesitating because they just don't know, or they're embarrassed about choosing things at random.
Newbies: Ask questions, and join in the conversations around you. Most comics fans I know are always delighted to talk to someone totally new about the things they love reading, and this can be an opportunity for you to discover something awesome (and maybe even a new friend).
Pro-tip: Think back on your early days of going to comic stores and try to remember what your feelings were then. Were you overwhelmed? Did you have a pal to guide you to the right books? Did store staff help you find things you liked?
5) Pay it forward: Once you've read the free books, consider passing them around to your friends, or the kids in your family, or to whoever you think might like them. It cost you nothing but the time you spent at the store, so it shouldn't matter whether they get back to you or not. And hell, you might recruit a new fan in the process. Sharing is caring.
Pro-tip: If you've got someone in mind who you think would love comics if they only just found the right one to ease in with, this is a great opportunity to choose a book based on your gut feeling, since it costs you nothing: no pressure on your pal/relative due to having money spent on them, and your wallet is none the lighter.
For more information about Free Comic Book Day, including which books are going to be distributed this year and a space where you can locate a participating comic book store by plugging in your zip code, check out the main site.