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Thursday, May 02, 2024 

Even after many years, of course it wouldn't be surprising the point still must be made comics aren't just for kids

The Post-Journal of Jamestown, NY talks about Free Comic Book Day and a local specialty store's own event, and one of the staffers made a point that I'm sure has had to keep being made for years with little avail:
Steffens said he expects to hand out thousands of free comic books on the day of the event, adding that the event is his way to give back to the community every year for their support. He also wants to use the event as a way to let people know that comic books are not just for one type of person.

“We want to get the word out that comic books are not just for teenage boys and that all types of people can and do read comic books,” Steffens said. “We have comic books for all people. It’s not just a pigeonhole for one type of person.”

Comic books available on the day at Chautauqua Comics can also be for people who like TV shows such as “Doctor Who” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, or older comic books that are now being brought back like Popeye. Steffens also gave examples of the “Walking Dead”, “Spiderman” and “Superman”.

“If you enjoy TV and movies, there is most likely a comic book for it,” Steffens said. “If you were upset when a series ended, it probably continues in a comic book. It’s not just for kids who might like things like My Little Pony, there are some geared towards adults as well.”
Stan Lee tried to change the situation in some ways decades back, but it's pretty obvious it didn't work well in the long run. Especially when one considers Marvel's past forays in animation were mainly for Saturday morning matinee consumption, and not for adult viewership, if at all. Though most comics publishers may have found it easier to focus on more complicated subjects than animation, in the end, both mediums were ghettoized in their own way for many years. Now, decades later, they both suffer from the opposite, like social justice propaganda and the Popeye strip recently was subject to wokeism too. So how do we know whatever they're offering of such classic strips isn't a product of modern PC? That's why the effort to convince adults there's comics worth their time too could flop if they thought it was little more than crude perversions. It's only gotten to a point where many entertainment products aren't suitable for either adults or children.

Since we're on the subject, The Gamer, most interestingly, says this year's FCBD is for video game lovers, based on adaptations that're available:
Okay, there’s kind of a catch. You can’t just take any comic book you want for free, you have to choose from a selection of Free Comic Book Day Comic Books. These are little sampler books that the publishers send out to all the stores for this event, and the selection is different every year. Marvel and DC typically use the day as an opportunity to preview their big summer events, while smaller publishers tend to have one-shots and first-issue reprints available to give new readers a taste of what they have to offer. There’s always a wide selection of books available for readers of all ages and preferences, but this year, Free Comic Book Day is for the gamers.

Video game tie-ins have gotten really popular over the last couple of years
with books like Bloodborne, Skullgirls, Among Us, and the Cyberpunk anthology series. There’s even more coming later this year, too, like Ninja Gaiden and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands: Land of the Giants. For Free Comic Book Day, there’s a surprisingly eclectic mix of game-inspired books to pick up - completely for free, if I didn’t mention that already.
Yes, I realize there has been some significant adaptation of video game properties even before this, like when Tomb Raider was adapted to a series by Top Cow in the early 2000s. And honestly, the comics medium is better for many of them than live action films and TV are. But that's a point most Hollywooders simply won't get, all because they believe live action flooded with special effects is far superior in every way. And lest I forget, even if the medium itself serves video games better, that doesn't guarantee the finished product will have entertainment value with talented creators involved.

I also took a look at the Savannah Morning News' report on FCBD, and what kind of guests the local stores have brought about:
Neighborhood Comics is bringing in talented creators to talk about their work, sign autographs, and even take commissions. Amongst the group of comic artists in attendance will be Rico Renzi, whose resume includes such titles as Squirrel Girl, Sea of Stars, and one of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters in recent years, Spider-Gwen.

Spider-Gwen comes from an alternative universe where Gwen Stacy, an early love interest of Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man), is the one bitten by the radioactive spider, and it is she, not Parker, who manifests strange arachnid powers. Renzi’s color work on the cover of Spider-Gwen #1 from 2015 helped to establish the look of the character, which continues to be a major player in today’s Marvel universe.
Even if the artists have talent, Spider-Gwen is decidedly just another tired recycling of a notable character from past storytelling, and even the Squirrel Girl title came much too late to matter. Most writers working at Marvel now certainly aren't whom I'd considered "talented" compared to those who worked up to the early 2000s. This article also mentions the following:
Harris was a longtime customer of Neighborhood Comics before store owner Lee Heidel invited him to participate in their residency program in July of 2021 as their second artist in residence. The devoted father worked on a few projects during the month, including a short Clue-style murder mystery, which is fearured in Neighborhood Comics’ Artists in Residence Volume 1.
I'm decidedly also dismayed that a mystery emphasizing murder is being highlighted here, rather than a comedic tale, or anything more optimistically inspiring. This, alas, is another huge fault in advertising and promotion of the medium.

And then, one more item from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that's eyebrow raising but likely not surprising is that FCBD isn't really as free as advertised:
But Free Comic Book Day isn't free for participating local comic book stores.

“We have to pay for the books but then we give them away for free,”
said Zach Hauser, owner of The Turning Page. “They’re not free to us. We actually have to pay for them and then give them out.”
It may be an oxymoron, but in the end, it's hardly surprising the event's not exactly what's claimed, and for many stores taking part, it's surely costly at times. Honestly, they shouldn't have to pay or participate in something that's likely not boosting the medium's image by a long shot, if the following says anything else worth considering:
“It’s really big for people who are into comics, especially people starting out getting into comics. It’s really big for kids,” Hauser said. “As far as collectors, which is most of what my customers are, it’s not that big.”

When asked if the day helps the business financially, Hauser simply replied, “No.” [...]

To qualify as an “official participating retailer,” retailers are required to buy 20 copies of each of the five FCBD 2024 Gold Titles offered from Diamond, the company that organizes Free Comic Book Day.
The items that're "free" probably only amount to a few thousand in production, and maybe less. I honestly don't see why any specialty store managers need participate at all, if the publishers are turning things into a joke. And as a matter of fact, some stores aren't:
But not every comic book store is participating in the event.

Lost World of Wonders, 6913 W. Oklahoma Ave., hasn’t been part of it since 2019.

“It has become an event where it’s just people who want free stuff that don’t even know what they’re coming for,”
said Airi Williams, Lost World of Wonders owner. “One of the last times we ran the event, we would have people come in and say, ‘What can I get for free?’ They didn’t even know. ... They just want free stuff.”

The cost of the free comic books for store owners is determined by each publisher, ranging from 20 or 30 cents a book to maybe a few dollars.

“When this event first started, I think the average price for the Marvel and DC (free comic books) were like eight or 10 cents,” Williams said. “Granted, publishing costs have gone up because of inflation, but the whole point of this event was it was supposed to be a leader to bring people into comics. ... The movies have done more to bring people into comics than anything. So the people that you’re going to get to read comics are already here because of the movies.”

Williams said he ran the numbers to pay for additional comics, additional staff, the occasional theft that would happen on that day and the work of preordering the books, and decided it wasn’t worth it to continue.

“Looking at those numbers against what the gross take was, minus the discounting, we figured out we would do less sales on a regular Saturday and it would be the same amount of profit for that whole day,” Williams said. “It just became a numbers thing.”
So ultimately, it ends up costing some retailers more than need be, and if the freebies aren't freer than the average weekly newspaper built on advertising, that compounds the joke. And most people who saw the movies may not be interested anymore, based on where the live action adaptations are going. It's also got to be telling that Diamond, whom the Big Two recently decided not to run exclusive distribution arrangements with anymore, is in charge of what's apparently a joke that hasn't improved fortunes. And the managements have to order "gold" titles? Reading that was a laugh too. If almost everybody visiting only cares about freebies, then obviously, the pamphlets for some definitely aren't doing well, and failure to know what they want is no improvement. If they only take almost every freebie available, regardless of what's in the story, good or bad, then it remains to be seen whether they're at least thankful they didn't get ripped off financially with a horrible story, writing, art or both. And if the story isn't suitable for children despite being advertised that way, that's one more reason not to buy what the freebie advertises by extension. That's certainly what can be the case at the Big Two, and nobody should have to pay money for their newer products. Also, if anybody's hoping free copies will be worth millions on the speculator market someday, I think even that's naive thinking.

FCBD is surely past its prime, and ultimately hasn't improved the industry's fortunes, so if it ever comes to end, it'll probably be for the best.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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