Today was Free Comic Book Day across the globe. It was the day when fans get some offerings from some of their favorite publishers without paying, and those who might be interested in comics can sample some without opening their wallet. This was the Fourteenth Annual Free Comic Book Day and it was a success for those who went to check out what’s available from the biggest publishers.
I spent the morning at 4 Color Fantasies in Rancho Cucamonga, California, because it is one of the biggest stores in the Inland Empire. This business opened on Free Comic Book Day in 2006 and this event has grown in popularity and size each year. Store owner Chris Brady said that the event is always bigger for him than Christmas.
When I first arrived at 9 AM there was already a line going around the front of the building and snaking around other stores until arriving at the back of the complex. Eager fans weren’t blocking any entrances to any stores, as spaces had been set up earlier not to block any of their traffic. I thought I would be able to get a parking spot in the back of the complex, and was lucky enough to do so–it also was the last parking spot available. This was because there were so many people lined up to get in and several Life Stream busses and vans were parked in the back taking blood donations.
This was the third year that Life Stream had come to Free Comic Book Day. Employees were very busy processing people to donate and I was fortunate to speak with the supervisor, Jonathan. He said each year more people are giving blood before they go in. Having worked out a deal with 4 Color Fantasies, a limited edition Guardians of the Galaxy patch and an additional five free comic books was a great incentive to get people to give blood. In the past, people in costume had given blood and there was an infamous incident of Batman getting a little dizzy after donating. The Life Stream vans opened for business at 6:15 AM and were scheduled to be there for eleven hours. It was great to see that fans were becoming heroes themselves as they waited for 4 Color to open at 11.
The heat was starting to pick up after I left Life Stream. California had been unseasonably hot for the last week, but was supposed to be cooler, reaching only the upper 80s. To help fans cool off, fans were provided which features a picture of Bill Murray promoting the DVD release of St. Vincent. It was comical and eerie to see over 100 Bill Murray faces flapping back and forth along the line. A really nice looking Spider-Man was waiting in line as well, talking to young readers and having a great time.
I went to the front of the line to see who had been waiting the longest. When I approached Chris Brady on Wednesday, April 28 about covering this event, there was already one fan starting a line. That person was taking a deserved restroom break when I made my way up, so I talked to the second person in line, Izzy. He’d been in line since 5 PM yesterday. This was the first year since 2013 where he wasn’t at the head of the line, so he was inspired to get beat the man who was in front of him this year. Izzy’s a regular shopper at 4 Color and has said every year the event gets bigger and bigger. He was looking forward to the new set up, as a vacant store that was almost adjacent to the comic book store was being used to house all the professionals, publishers, and artists that fans would pass before entering the store where the free comics were.
Before entering the “professionals” store, fans could buy snacks and drinks just outside. Once in, a large table selling blank sketch book covered comics were for sale, as were tee shirts for this year’s FCBD and other events put on by 4 Color. Fans then passed a booth from Regal Theaters giving out large and small posters for Avengers: Age of Ultron. Aspen publishing had a small booth set up, Norm Rapmund the inker from DC’s The Flash was there, as was Josh Trujillo creator of Love Machines, Nathaniel Osollo creator of The Shadow People, Mat Nastos writer/artist of the Phineas and Ferb comic, Joe Pezzula creator of in Sanity Az, the Jack of All Nerds podcast, G.I. Joe Cobra cosplayers, two Ninja Turtles in huge plush costumes (they had to be on fire!), Forbidden Panel, and sellers of prints, buttons, magnets, original statues, and art, face painting, and more. And this was all before entering the store to get the comics people had been waiting for.
Exiting through the back, fevered fans made their way into 4 Color where there were two large tables set up with the books available. Volunteers and employees gave assistance in picking up and bagging up freebies, and there were many to choose from. This year’s picks included Bob’s Burgers, Fight Club 2, Divergence from DC Comics, Doctor Who, Pokémon, Savage Dragon, Secret Wars from Marvel Comics, SpongeBob Squarepants, Transformers, Avengers, Avatar, Grimm Fairy Tales presents Wonderland, Cleopatra in Space, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures, Lady Justice, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Tick, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and many more. The lines were orderly with people moving through at an unrushed pace. This looked like the way every Free Comic Book Day should be run.
Many people looked around the store after they got their free books, seeing what else they could be enticed to buy. And isn’t that the entire purpose of Free Comic Book Day? Get people in to see what stores have to offer. I left at 11:30, having seen plenty, and with a Saint Walker bust in hand that I couldn’t part with (must think of way to justify that purchase to my wife), so I made my way back to my car to leave. I was surprised to see that the line had actually grown. It was encircling the entire back parking lot and was now starting to cross in front of other stores. People seemed upbeat as little ones in costumes ran around like it was an early Halloween, with one young’un as TMNT‘s Casey Jones doing amazing twirling with his miniature hockey stick that could give Ray Park a run for his money, and a group of Mandalorians posing for pictures. I had no trouble leaving the lot, and thought that Free Comic Book Day looked to be another success.