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Tuesday, May 07, 2024 

This year will be the last FCBD event at the store where it first began

The Mercury News spotlighted the specialty store where FCBD originally began in the early 2000s, which unfortunately will be closing soon, as the management's lease is expiring and their store unit looks to be replaced by a different business:
Joe Field needed something to write about.

“I came up with the idea for Free Comic Book Day when I was a columnist for an industry trade magazine,” says Field, who is the owner of the Flying Colors Comics and Other Cool Stuff store in Concord. “I was scratching for ideas when my deadline was looming, looked out the front window of my shop to see a long line of people and none of them were coming into my shop. They were headed next door to Baskin Robbins for Free Scoop Night.

“I thought ‘comics are cooler than ice cream — let’s do this!’ So I wrote a column outlining the idea.”

That was 2001 and the first Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) was held in 2002
. It was a massive hit right from Year One, with hundreds of comic book shops taking place in the promotion of giving out free publications to those who visited the participating stores. It now stands as, by far, the biggest annual event at comic book stores worldwide.

“The first FCBD was on May 4, 2002, so this year’s event, also on May 4, is the 23rd annual Free Comic Book Day,” Field says. “Over the last 22 years, FCBD shops have given away tens of millions of free comic books in more than 2,000 shops in more than 60 countries the world over.”

Yet, this year’s Free Comic Book Day — which just happens to coincide with the annual Star Wars celebration on May 4 (“May the Fourth Be With You”) — will also be the last one that will be held at the place where the idea was first hatched.

To the disappointment of comic book fans all over Contra Costa County, Field’s Flying Colors Comics and Other Cool Stuff store, at Treat Boulevard and Oak Grove Road in Concord, is set to close in early 2025.

“This year’s FCBD at Flying Colors will be the final one in the shop where the international pop culture event was founded,” Field says. “When our last lease expired, our landlord would only give us three years and gave no option to renew. That lease expires in January 2025, and I tried to get an extension, but was told the owners of this center really wanted to put in a bagel shop. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights this has given me and my wife, Libby, the co-owner of Flying Colors.”

So, what’s the next move? Field says that they are looking for a way to continue on with the business in a new fashion and new location.

“We’re very hopeful and now actually pretty excited by what the future of Flying Colors could be,” he says. “There are a lot of unknowns — like how many of our faithful customers will want to create a new habit of going to a different spot to support us? How many new customers can we cultivate moving to a different spot? How strong will the market for comics and graphic novels be over the next bunch of years? Can we afford to do this when we are already technically past the standard retirement date?

“Our hope, our prayer, really, is that we continue to build community and continue to spread happiness through our comic book business. That’s when everything will be a success.”
I wish him well at finding another storefront where he can reestablish his business. But just how successful has FCBD been in convincing anybody new to actually buy the stuff that costs money? Because if, as noted before, some visitors only come about to look for freebies and little else, and store proprietors have to pay for the copies to be distributed for free, then is FCBD truly a success? Not in the long run.

I don't think FCBD is a bad idea, but it's clear little's been done to convince the masses the medium's worth it for long term reading any more than anything's ever been done to abandon the pamphlet format in favor of paperbacks and hardcovers. What if the latter could be done, and then, if FCBD were to continue, pamphlets as we know them could be limited to just free samples to encourage entry into the real deal? Alas, it's obvious that won't happen for a long time, if the industry even survives that long.

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  • 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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