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May 4, 2015

Free Comic Book Day 2015: An International Reading Extravaganza

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Concord, CA - On the first Saturday in May, over 2,300 comic book shops in 60-plus countries gave away more than 56 million comic books to celebrate Free Comic Book Day. If you are still unaware of Free Comic Book Day, it is the only holiday that celebrates reading and reading literacy (very heady stuff for an English teacher). FCBD was created by Joe Field, owner of the Eisner Spirit Award-winning Flying Colors Comics --- and what better place to celebrate FCBD than at its birthplace!

Outside Flying Colors the line meandered through the shopping center, where crowds milled around store fronts with retailers getting into the spirit as superheroes offered treats and water to the crowds. In front of the ice cream shop, a young Thor lookalike was giddy. “Look at the Thor they gave me,” she enthused, as she held up a HeroClix for me to admire. In addition to her new figure, she picked up some free comics; her favorite: Avatar: The Last Airbender (Dark Horse). “It’s about a girl who beats a really strong bad guy with her sisters --- they are all acrobats and save the circus.” Following Airbender  in this FCBD book is Plants and Zombies, which this young Thor can’t wait to read again when she gets home. 

“Isn’t it scary?” She laughs. “It’s a little scary, but mostly funny.” Here is something else that comics can teach young readers: How to deal with uncomfortable or scary situations --- those same kinds of situations they will have to deal with at home or at school or when they get a little older, except here, the zombies take on the form of bosses or crazy relatives.

People watching at FCBD just can’t get much better, from a full-sized Wonder Woman to a pint-sized Supergirl clutching The Uncanny Inhumans (Marvel) for Día Del Cómic Gratis. One thing this English teacher knows is that comics are great for language acquisition, and I recommend them highly to language learners. Coupling text with pictures offers context clues that help readers move along at a faster pace to start internalizing language sooner. This little super reader was really looking forward to reading Secret Wars with Ms. Marvel (Kamala Kahn) and Iron Man, her “favorite characters” in the Marvel universe. She hadn’t read Star Wars before, but thought Kanan: The Last Padawan “looked cool.” When asked about her choice of a Spanish comic, she proudly said, “I speak English and Spanish.”

Inside Flying Colors Erik Larsen was signing copies of Savage Dragon: Legacy (Image), which tells the action-packed story of Malcolm Dragon’s first day at work for the Chicago Police Force, “saving lives and living the dream” --- and that dream includes a pregnant wife. If This be Doomsday!  illustrates an earlier battle over a planet doomed by an unfeeling nightmare that destroys everyone in a ball of fire, leaving readers with “It’s ended.” Or is it? Great characters and story line with enough action for everyone.

Matt Hawkins was also signing Tales of Honor: Bred to Kill (Top Cow) featuring Captain Honor Harrington of the HMS Fearless who battles pirates with a tenacity one would expect of a marine Captain. This future diaspora leaves room for many tales to come as good fights evil in a universe far from old Earth. Looking forward to another day of reading in this ‘verse, and this is one more great reason for FCBD, returning comic readers can explore new story lines to add to their reading lists.

 

I picked up DC’s Divergence containing Batman: The Rookie, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, where the Caped Crusader has been missing and the citizens of Gotham no longer feel Batman’s “approach like a song inside... dark and joyful, swelling, the same notes over and over.” But who can replace Batman? I’m not telling. Rookie segues into Superman: Exposed, by Gene Luen Yang and John Romita, Jr., as Clark Kent’s Superman identity has been revealed. Superman must save bystanders in Little Saigon from a criminal he once defeated, which causes a social media circus and an apology from Lois Lane for exposing his identity. “There’s nothing to apologize for. It’s the choice you made.” How will Metropolis react to knowing Superman’s true identity? Only one way to find out --- pick up the next issue.

Justice League Darkseid War Prologue Two: The Other Amazon (Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok) presents Grail and the prophecy that her birth will lead to the destruction of many. Those many are drawn in a double-page 8-panel series featuring DC’s favorite heroes at pivotal moments in their lives. Grail’s mother, Myrina, says she “will do anything to protect my child. I would kill anyone for her. No matter what kind of monster she’s become.” These all look like great "shared mythologies" to explore.

As always, this is a great day to be a reader --- or a great day to take a look at comics for the first time. These FCBD books offer a few new beginnings to an exciting summer line up. I can’t wait for school to let out so I can grab some books, head to the beach and enjoy some of the best writing and artwork available. Keep on reading!