If there is anything better than comic books, it’s free comic books.
Saturday is the 15th-annual Free Comic Book Day, and area retailers Rock Bottom Books in Fayetteville and the Vintage Stock location in Rogers are participating in the event that offers customers specially packaged samples of comic-book titles available each month.
The free comics are limited and will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. The stores open at 10 a.m.
“Free Comic Book Day is becoming more and more popular as people become more aware,” said Josh Ashbaugh, 28, a four-year employee of Rock Bottom Books and a lifelong comic-book reader. “We’ve had a bigger turn out each successive year I’ve worked here, and we always enjoy seeing new and old faces and the opportunity to show them what’s available.”
Guardians of the Galaxy / Courtesy
Samples of comics as varied as Monster High, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Riverdale, Disney Descendants, Dr. Who, Barbie, The Simpsons, Avatar, Rick and Marty, Underdog, Lady Mechanika, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, The Tick, Attack on Titan, Sponge Bob, and Street Fighter will be available at participating comic-book retail outlets across the country.
“There are all kinds of comics today for all ages and all tastes,” Ashbaugh said. “We think there’s something for everyone, and Free Comic Book Day is a great time for people to drop in and see what’s available.”
Aubry Mayfield, comic book manager for Vintage Stock in Rogers, said the store will have about 20 free titles available, but added that the location will also have a buy-one, get-one free sale on back issues and previously owned graphic novels and collections.
Super heroes have never been more embedded in the culture with the success of films, TV shows, video games, and licensed products of all sorts featuring the adventure characters. Free Comic Book Day is held on the first Saturday of May each year according to Diamond Comics Distributors, which allows the event to piggyback on the release of a big-budget, super-hero movie in theaters.
The first Free Comic Day was held in 2002 in conjunction with the first Spider-Man movie. This year “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is the big-screen headliner the event is coordinating around.
Adding a little local flavor to the event is the debut of “All-New Guardians of the Galaxy,” Vo. 2, No. 1, which is the latest assignment of Fayetteville-based comic-book artist Aaron Kuder.
“Marvel restarted the Guardians series to coincide with the movie opening, and it’s selling really well,” Mayfield said. “It’s a great-looking comic.”
The comic debuted Wednesday and features Star Lord, Baby Groot, and Rocket taking on classic the Marvel baddie Galactus.
Kuder, who had a long run on “Action Comics” featuring Superman for DC, made the leap to Marvel Comics last fall to work for them exclusively. He already has several Spider-Man-themed covers and an X-Men mini series to his credit. Kuder is attending a comic-book convention in Los Angeles this weekend to promote his new comic.
New comics are released each Wednesday, Ashbaugh said, and some of the more popular ones that came out this week include:
- “The Walking Dead,” No. 167 – Features a riveting story that affects characters Rick and Andrea.
- “Batman Rebirth,” No. 22 – The third part of a story teaming Batman and the Flash to investigate a mystery that ties The Watchmen characters to the DC Universe.
- “Secret Empire,” No. 1 – Depicts the Marvel Universe turned on its head as Captain America is revealed to be the head of the fascistic Hydra organization that is taking over the world.
- “Secret Empire” – The culmination of more than a year’s worth of Captain America stories that have been controversial because the icon is portrayed as evil.
“The book is selling out, much to the chagrin of some and the delight of others,” Mayfield said.
Ashbaugh said old favorites like Superman, Spider-Man, and Wonder Woman, which will be the first female super hero to headline a major feature film on June 2, are still favorites of many, but he believes best stories and characters are found in comics from Independent Publishers like Image, IDW, Dark Horse and others.
“The super heroes will always be fun, but there is such a wide selection of material and characters outside the super-hero genre available,” Ashbaugh said. “Any kind of story can be told with comics. The blend between the artist and writer can really be magical.”
Mayfield suggested “Outkast” as a title that might appeal to fans of “The Walking Dead.” Robert Kirkman, producer of the TV series, created and writes both comics.
Mayfield also recommended “Saga” by writer Brian K Vaughn and artist Fiona Staples.
“It’s sort of Game of Thrones, but in space,” Mayfield said. “Neil Gaiman, who wrote the Sandman comic before becoming a best-selling author, has an ‘American Gods’ comic out in conjunction with the new TV series. Both are titles are for adults, but are very good.”
Free Comic Book Day isn’t the only comic event in the area this summer. The Arkansas Art Pop Comic Expo is scheduled for June 9-10 at the The Jones Center in Springdale.