This illustration by Sergio Aragones shows people being only partly as happy as you will be if you follow our suggestions for Free Comic Book Day.
The premise is simple.
This Saturday, if — no, when — you walk into a comic book shop, they'll hand you a bunch of comic books. For free.
It happens every year, Free Comic Book Day. (Follow that link for a tool that'll locate the comic book shop nearest you.)
It's comic book retailers' annual Big Push to reach beyond their established customer base (read: people like me) to those who walk in the light and breathe the clean air of the upper world (read: people like you.)
So consider stopping by a shop on Saturday to see what they have to offer. Yes, even you, Ms. I-Wrote-My-Graduate-Thesis-On-How-Superheroes-Are-Puerile-Exercises-In-Adolescent-Wish-Fulfillment. FCBD is an attempt to show even the most spandex-averse among you that (sing along with me) comics are a medium, not a genre; and that, at the end of the day, comics stores are bookstores, not hobby shops.
To prove that point, every year comics publishers print special FCBD issues for free distribution. Some are original works, some are reprints from soon-to-launch or ongoing series, and many are simply samplers of several titles in a given publisher's line. All are, not to put too fine a point on it, free.
Some stores will have all of the FCBD books listed below, some just a handful. Some stores will allow you to pick the books you want, some will hand you a pre-selected sampler pack.
But whether your free books come a la carte or table d'hote, you might need some help in sorting through the offerings. Here, then, is a guide to this year's FCBD titles for the non-fan, the skeptic.
After the jump: Best bets, best avoideds, classic reprints, modern updates. Oh, and an S.E. Hinton/Lady Gaga crossover. Because you demanded it, let's say.
You can download PDF previews of all of the books below on the FCBD site. Once again, the most promising titles are the all-ages titles.
Best Bets: All Ages
If your kids don't like 'em, you just might.
Oni Press Free-For-All!
Recommended on the strength of the preview story, "Possessions." Because: "Gurgazon hungers!"
Dependably strong creators like Mike Allred, Bryan Talbot, Ted McKeever and others reinterpret the classics. (Check out the preview, in which Red Riding Hood goes all Daniel-san on the Wolf.)
Owly and Friends
Year in and year out, Top Shelf's cute-as-all-get-out Owly and Friends is a highlight of FCBD. Consequently, many shops burn through their supply early in the day. You've been warned.
Mouse Guard/Fraggle Rock
A new tale from David Petersen's richly detailed, exquisitely rendered Mouse Guard series, in which mice who wear teeny capes employ teeny swords to kick big turtle butt. Compared to that, the Fraggle Rock story is just gravy. Fuzzy, orange gravy.
YOW! Grab Bag: John Stanley Library
A collection of comics from cartooning legend Stanley, the creator of Nancy and Melvin Monster.
LIbrary of American Comics
IDW publishes handsome hardcover collections of great cartoonists like Alex Raymond, Chester Gould and Berkeley Breathed, and wants you to know that. Hence this book, which features snippets from their catalog of hardcovers.
All-Ages Also Rans
Unlike the books listed above, in which the individual voice of the creator is the selling point, these books adopt a more homogeneous, "house-style" approach. But they still deliver the goods.
Archie's Summer Splash
Surf's up! And it's shinier than you might expect! An oil spill off the coast of Riverdale's beach puts a crimp in the gang's plans for fun in the sun. No, seriously.
The makers of the Simpsons and Futurama produce comics that are solid, dependable reads crammed with in-jokes about comics history.
A sampler of DC's comics-for-kids line, which boasts a nicely diverse array of styles and characters.
The Spandex Set Heard From
This year, as ever, superheroes are overrepresented in the FCBD selections. Some hits, some misses.
Love and Capes
Cartoonist Thom Zahler's charming take on superheroes and connubial bliss.
Matt Fraction, John Romita Jr. Look, just pick it up. Trust me.
Yeah, you don't know who Nova is. I get that. But I mean: They fight super-apes. SUPER-APES. What are you, made of stone?
A reprint — some 24 years after it first appeared — of the first issue of Ben Edlund's willfully goofy superhero parody that launched a great Saturday morning cartoon and brilliant-but-canceled live action series.
War of the Supermen
A puzzling entry from DC, frankly, in that it requires AP-level knowledge of recent continuity in the Superman titles. Hey Kids! Comics! Dense, Byzantine comics!
From Mark Waid, a writer whose encyclopedic knowledge of superheroes is legend, comes yet another entry in what has become its own genre, the "What if a superhero went bad?" tale. But Waid knows what he's doing, and finds new patches of real estate to explore.
Issue #1 of the series that introduced Kevin Smith's version of the Flight of the Bumblebee guy. (In Smith's hands, he's quippier than you remember him.) Also includes a version of GH from Matt Wagner and Brett Matthews.
GI JOE: A Real American Hero
Writer Larry Hama, the man behind this beloved-by-those-who-hit-puberty-in-1984-series, picks up his tale fifteen years later.
Doctor Solar/Mangus, Robot Fighter
Dark Horse Comics' attempt to reboot two 50s/60s Gold Key characters, written by the venerable Jim Shooter.
One of these "based-on-the-movie/videogame" titles might surprise you. But that would be, you know: Surprising.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Shrek/Penguins of Madagascar
Worth It for the Weirdness
Bluewater Comics, a company known for filling the inboxes of people who write about comics with hastily written press releases about their hastily written and wildly incongruous comic book biographies, has also signed author S.E. Hinton.
S.E. "Stay gold, Ponyboy" Hinton.
The latest wildly incongruous result: This comic, which is 1/2 a Hinton tale about boy and his dog and 1/2 ... a bio of Lady Gaga. Yeah, I know.
I mean, I'm gonna pick this thing up.
Jim Woodring's Weathercraft
Imagine if someone made a series of exquisite woodcuts of that dream you had that one time after you ate the tainted pork rinds. Mystifying, grotesque, uncanny, beautiful.
Publisher Red 5 offers a bucolic, done-in-one tale of a well-meaning, well-armed robot who, accompanied by an elite strike force, scours the jungle for giant prehistoric chickens. Sold.
For Those Who Like That Sort of Thing, That Is The Sort of Thing They Like
Hard to know what to expect from the previews, so no judgment here.
.... Okay, some judgment.
Freedom Formula: Speed Metal Overtures
Caution: Just the title of this book secretes testosterone at concentrations that are WAY TOO EXTREME for you, Gertrude.
Top Cow, publisher of Witchblade, the Darkness and a slew of other books which would have us believe that an otherwise sensible woman girds herself for deadly combat by donning pasties and a metal thong, offer this book to all their hardcore fanboys and fangirls.
World of Aspen
Aspen Comics offers a primer peek at their line, which includes lots of bikini shots and weaponry. Aspen Comics, guys! Reinforcing your mom's notion of what comics are about since 2003!
Asylum Press' sampler pack. Promises Zombies, mutants, frontier justice, ordnance.
Del Rey Showcase
Sampler of Del Rey's offerings, which includes several licensed properties, including a graphic novel adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
The Stuff of Legends/Mortal Instruments
Toys come to life and fight evil, or something; a preview of an adaptation of the Cassandra Claire fantasy series.
A sampler of several books by Radical Publishing; the preview suggests a sort of voodoo-inflected take on The Exorcist; the blurb namechecks Wesley Snipes for an unspecified reason. So, that.
The Sixth Gun
A Western/horror mashup of the sort we've been getting a lot of lately. The art looks good, though.
The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Comics
An attempt to explain, in comics format, how and why comics are graded, stored and sold.