An overstuffed youngster in a Captain America costume grabs the cake and jumps back to his coveted position, trying to balance the plate, the fork, and his comic books.
“How do you spell your name?” Gene Luen Yang asks, his Sharpie hovering over the cover of the Free Comic Book Day edition of Avatar. “With an X or a C?”
“You’re better than Space Mountain,” his mother tells the Printz Prize-winning author of American Born Chinese. “We only had to wait an hour for that ride. We waited two-and-a-half hours to get inside here so we could meet you.”
Batman and The Hulk
“Here” is Flying Colors Comics in Concord, California, where the Free Comic Book Day line stretches past Baskin Robbins, snakes around the corner to Trader Joe’s—whose Trader Joe Jedis are giving away yummy samples—past the sports store, the coffee shop, the Italian restaurant, and all the way to the end of the parking lot. Cosplayers entertain the crowd as the FlyCo staff circulates through the line offering comic books and answering questions. Joe Field, the owner of Flying Colors, is the creator of Free Comic Book Day, making his store the birthplace of what should be the next American holiday, a holiday to celebrate reading, imagination, creativity, and great art. How popular is FCBD? This year, FCBD was celebrated in 2,000 stores in 60 countries with a million people showing to collect their free comics. How does Flying Colors stack up? They gave away over 8,000 books, three per customer, over the course of the day—you do the math.
Among the most popular books this year were The Walking Dead, Avatar, a steampunk Wizard of Oz, Grimm, Mouse Guard, Kaboom, Star Wars, Infinity, Aphrodite IX #1, and Superman. Avatar creator Gene Luen Yang signed many a young zombie’s Airbender comic and is getting ready to release Boxers and Saints, a historical graphic novel that explores a complicated moment in Chinese history. Flying Colors also invited the creative team from Shultz Studios (Vicki Scott, Justin Thompson, and Alexis Fajardo) and they signed Kaboom Summer Blast and current issues of Peanuts.
The crowd is made up of kids, adults, teens, fanboys and girls, cosplayers, and everybody in between. A diverse group where green painted six-year-old Hulks, Batgirls, a Roman Centurion, and a vacationing Batman all find something they can talk about. Even the guy everybody loves to hate, Darth Vadar, is behaving. Speaking of superheroes, Matt Hawkins is on hand to sign the FCBD edition of Aphrodite IX #1 (yes, that’s No. 1 --- and it’s free), a story that resurrects the series on a war-ravaged planet where resources are fodder for war.
Another of the super artists armed with a Sharpie is James Robinson of DC Comics, who signed Star Man and Earth 2 comics. He talks a few youngsters and some Golden Age aficionados into taking a look at a new universe where some familiar characters are up to new tricks. When asked by a new comic fan “Do you like what you do?” Robinson smiles and says, “It never ceases to be fun.”
That’s the thing about comics --- they are always fun. Even the brain-sucking zombie versions give readers that shiver of delight. You remember that feeling you got when you were 10 and waited until all the lights were out before pulling out the flashlight and reading until the batteries burned low. What more could any parent or teacher ask for but a kid (or the kid in all of us) who just can’t wait to get a new book? As an adult fan, I am always fascinated by the connection between art and text and enjoy just lingering over a panel to discover all it really has to say.
I just can’t wait until FCBD 2014. Who do you write to create a national holiday anyway?
-- Doré Ripley