Comic Store in Your Future: Free Comic Book Day Running Out of Steam?

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

Leinil Yu captain americaI held off writing about this year's Free Comic Book Day until afterwards as to not put a damper on the day. I was wondering if others had noticed what I believe: that there was not much hype or talk about Free Comic Book Day this year. At least from what I had seen.

Roughly a week before Free Comic Book Day I looked through the internet to see what was being said and done. I did not find much. There are fewer comic stores this year than last year here in central Iowa, so that very well hurts the hype. One local comic group mentioned the Avengers: Infinity War movie multiple times and Star Wars Day, but nothing about Free Comic Book Day. However, the comic movies now typically eclipse the comics they are based on. Comic-based movies are more "in" now than comic books themselves are.

From what I saw (granted, I could have missed some coverage), hype this year for Free Comic Book Day dropped off from previous years. All I did was post various pictures of the upcoming Free Comic Book Day covers on our Facebook page and hyped our Rod Deals along with it. I also did do a Facebook paid advertisement along with signs posted on our window and in the store. That is it.

DC had just one book for Free Comic Book Day: DC Super Hero Girls. It is popular, but not enough different material is released during the year to really justify us giving it away. Why doesn't DC Super Hero Girls have a monthly comic?

In a previous column, I wrote how Free Comic Book Day used to be a day that was billed as a way to bring new comic readers into the hobby. I wrote, has anyone reading this actually got into comic collecting because of Free Comic Book Day? No one said yes in the comments section.

Free Comic Book Day years ago was a bigger deal. At times, I would read when people claimed a good sales year in comics was due in part thanks to Free Comic Book Day. However, I noticed that in years when comic sales are down, nothing is said about Free Comic Book Day affecting sales.

Over the years, Free Comic Book Day has not evolved. It has become old news — a way for people who have no interest in buying comics to get some free material. Of course, that free material they are getting costs the store money. Great idea — have small businesses buy material from companies making millions to give away.

Free Comic Book Day needs to change. It needs some new ideas. We have this day that has potential, but people involved in it are not making it better.

DC released a 25-cent sampler comic, DC Nation, the Wednesday before Free Comic Book Day. That was very odd. For us, 25-cent issues do not sell well. Be it the 25-cent issue of Outcast, Walking Dead, Vampirella, Sheena, or Dejah Thoris, they do not move well for being at 25 cents. The variants for the issues are often in demand but that is it for us. At least we are not just losing money by handing out comics we had to pay for.

That said, maybe change Free Comic Book Day to 25-cent comic day. Instead of small businesses losing money by giving away material that they had to pay for, make it so they do not actually lose money. Also by having comics cost money, that changes people's mindsets. Many people just come in and take a store for all they can on Free Comic Book Day. Often the mindset is: take as much as possible without spending any money. Almost like a shoplifter's mentality. Even at just 25 cents, that puts in people's mind that attending that day they are going to buy something — a buying mentality, much like a sale does. Perhaps then people come in with the possibility of spending money. They won't just walk in, turn around after getting free material, and leave.

Marvel was the big leader here in store this year for Free Comic Book Day. If they were to do as DC did this year by cutting back to one Free Comic Book Day release, I believe Free Comic Book Day would suffer.

I have written how I would like to see new things tried for Free Comic Book Day before. Something as simple as having a coupon in a Free Comic Book Day that would be good for part two of a story that continues from the free comic book the following Wednesday — or giving away free catalogues that have a publisher's products listed in it.

Free Comic Book Day needs to grow, evolve, and change with the times. Sadly, "free" does not mean as much as it did when Free Comic Book Day first started all those years ago. Now "free" is used a lot more. Free internet, free shipping, and more.

Why do I have Free Comic Book Day? I look at it as a customer appreciation day. I have no issues with giving back to actual paying customers and good people. It does get me wondering though, when people I only see on Free Comic Book Day each year who do not buy anything, why I am doing this? (Unless they are kids, then I understand.)

To be very truthful, I do not want the store known as the only store in central Iowa not doing Free Comic Book Day. That makes it sound like the store is in trouble. There used to be one store that actually charged their cost for the free comic books. That was not something that went over well with people, from what I was told. It also got people talking and thinking they were having money issues. They are not open anymore. I'm not trying to pick on the store — I'm trying to state what was being said and what happened.

Set some standards for Free Comic Book Day. No more titles that do not have a follow-up issue. Why are we giving out free material that is one and done? Have a rule that the follow-up issue needs to come out within 30 days of Free Comic Book Day. Try some new things for Free Comic Book Day. Get rid of some old ideas that have lived past their usefulness, such as the Free Comic Book Day Heroclix. It just became too expensive for us to give out. FCBD 2018 MARVEL HEROCLIX, 50 HeroClix for $60. It is also the same mould as a previously offered Heroclix. It makes no sense to me to give away. One Heroclix by itself is not enough for someone to get into the game. We have a great Heroclix group, but no one plays with just one HeroClix or got into the game thanks to a free HeroClix. If a new plan does not work, then just do not use it again the following year. There is little less than a year to plan for the next Free Comic Book Day now. Let us see something new — something exciting — for the next Free Comic Book Day.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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