Free Comic Book Day: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Artists doing sketches, Darth Vader and, of course, free comic books. Patch talks to the manager of nearby Frankfort's Amazing Fantasy Books & Comics about what to expect this year during the annual event.

If you're a fan of superheroes and comic books, this weekend is like Christmas and the Super Bowl all rolled up into one eye-popping package.

On Friday, May 4, The Avengers, one of the most anticipated comic-book movies of the summer (contending with The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man for that title), opens in theaters nationally. And on Saturday, May 5, returns to .


Patch talked to Lori Gentile, the manager of Amazing Fantasy's Frankfort location (the chain also has shops in Tinley Park, Calumet City and Lockport), about this annual event that is in its 10th year, discussing what customers can expect.

What exactly is Free Comic Book Day?

Scheduled on the first Saturday of May each year, Free Comic Book Day is a chance for shops across the country to give away certain comics for free on that day. The event was set up in 2002 as a way to raise awareness for comic books and the stores that sell them.

Gentile has been participating in Free Comic Book Day since its inception and says it's an ideal time to expose people to the medium.

"I've learned that it's an excellent outreach event to encourage reading and that everyone can enjoy comics," she said. "There are different comics for different types of people. There's just a wide range of genres, just like movies or TV."

Is Amazing Fantasy doing anything special for the day?

What? Free comic books aren't enough for you?

Well, you're in luck. Along with more than 40 different free comic book titles available, Gentile has traditionally invited Chicago-area comic creators to come out to the store to sign autographs and do sketches, something customers enjoy. This year, Ryan Browne (artist on Smoke and Mirrors and God Hates Astronauts) and Jenny Frison (cover artist on such titles as I, Vampire, Angel, Spike, Hack/Slash and others) will be on hand from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There also will be special discounts on some merchandise, and Gentile will be offering the store's own special selection of free comic books, too.

And did we mention that Darth Vader will be stopping by for the kids? You've been warned.

With that much free stuff, how busy does the store get?

About 500 people come out for Free Comic Book Day each year, with peak time being the first three hours of business, Gentile said.

But delay visiting the store at your own peril. If you try to beat the crowds by visiting Amazing Fantasy later in the day, you run the risk of not being able to pick up some of the free titles. Although customers will be limited to how many free titles they can have, supplies are still limited, Gentile said.

I have kids; when would be the best time to visit with them?

Gentile bills Free Comic Book Day as a family event and encourages people to bring their children. If you want to get the full experience—free comics, talking with and getting a sketch from a comic book artist, shaking hands with Darth Vader—it's best to be at the store between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., she suggests.

What free comics do you recommend?

Like movies or music, one size doesn't fit all when it comes to comics. It all depends on individual tastes. But Gentile has highlighted a few titles that are worth checking out:

  • Mouse Guard: Not only is this a great all-ages fantasy book, but it's also a handsomely packaged hardcover, Gentile said. Be sure to get to the store early if you want this one, because there are a very limited number of copies, she added.
  • Yo Gabba Gabba: This is the comic all the little kids go crazy for, Gentile said. And if you like the free issue, check out other comics in the line that are designed as children's board books.
  • Valiant Preview: During the 1990s, Valiant was a hot independent publisher that hooked a lot of people on the comics habit. By the end of that decade, the company had gone out of business. But now the publisher is back with its stable of characters, and older fans are curious to see what it has to offer, Gentile said.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer/The Guild and Star Wars/Serenity: Something for the die-hard fans. These "flip" comic books feature further adventures of characters from these popular movie and TV properties.
  • Image Preview: Image Comics is the publisher that changed the industry 20 years ago by putting creators ahead of characters. Now, it's the company that is churning out titles that are being tapped for TV shows and movies. In fact, this is the home of The Walking Dead, the wildly popular comic series that spawned the wildly popular cable TV series.

When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 5
More info: Go to the Free Comic Book Day website for a list of all the free titles available.


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