Free Comic Book Day: Local stores participate in the May 3 event

Image from Asheville Comic Expo
Image from Asheville Comic Expo

Local stores Comic Envy, Orbit DVD, Pastimes, Blue Ridge Comics and Hero Hunter Comics participate in the May 3 event

Along with the May 2 debut of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and May the 4th (aka Star Wars Day), Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) on Saturday, May 3, makes for a fine trilogy for the comics community.

True to the day’s name, Asheville stores Comic Envy, Orbit DVD and Pastimes, Fletcher’s Blue Ridge Comics and Candler’s Hero Hunter Comics will all give out free comics for the annual event. Taking a break from preparing his store, Comic Envy owner Darrin Williams recently spoke with Xpress about the big day.

Mountain Xpress: How many years has Comic Envy participated in FCBD?

Darrin Williams: Every year we’ve been open. This coming FCBD will be number six for us, so half of the total FCBDs so far.

As a comic store owner, what were the guidelines in obtaining the free comics? I imagine there are limits on how many you can get, so what are those limits based on?
Our free comics come through our usual comic book supplier: the company that we buy books from throughout the normal business year. We simply sign up and specify the books that we would like to order, and how many we need. I don’t believe there are any limits; I’ve never ordered so many that they told me no!

Do you know anyone who’s been involved in the panel that administers Free Comic Book Day? Or people who know people who know people, etc.? If so, what insight have you gained into the process?
I’ve had some interaction in the past with one of the founders of FCBD. They’re all really great people. In terms of the process, it’s all about bringing new readers in to the community. FCBD, at least here, is a huge celebration of the comics community and all that we are. We really encourage people to come in costume and really have a great day.

How do the comics end up being free?
We have to pay for the comics. They usually cost us about 30 cents each, which is much cheaper than our usual rate. But when you end up buying 5,000 of them, it adds up. It’s a great investment in the store — everyone likes a free lunch, and we have 5,000 of them. It’s perfect advertising for us, it gets people into the store and lets them experience the comics community without a financial investment.

479356_10151446561152825_1967357943_oWhich free comics are you most excited to offer this year?
Marvel is releasing a Guardians of the Galaxy free comic which of course is a nice tie-in with the upcoming movie. We’re really excited for that one. I think the movie is going to be really big. There will be some great options for kids this year including The Simpsons, Hello Kitty and everyone’s favorite —Adventure Time!

The free comics are split between Gold and Silver books. What’s the difference?
Gold and Silver labels are used to differentiate how many of a certain book have been sold. Gold label books are the superpopular ones, while the silver ones are slightly lower down the rung.

Do your regular customers look forward to Free Comic Book Day with great anticipation? Do you seek their input on what you offer each May?
Oh, absolutely! For months now, it’s all we’ve been talking about in the store. We have customers counting down, others are making lists of what they want to get. We do sales and have special guests on the day, and a lot of our customers take the opportunity to dress up and show their costuming skills.

We definitely take a lot of customer input when it comes time to order our free comics. For example, if a certain book is doing well throughout the year, we will always invest more in a free book to promote it as best we can.

Has Free Comic Book Day been the launching pad for many regular Comic Envy customers?
Oh yeah. FCBD brings in a lot of new customers. For example, a lot of our costumers simply show up to show off their gear, end up picking up some free books, and then they’re hooked.

Other than promoting Asheville Comic Expo (slated for Sept. 20), are you doing any other special events to coincide with Free Comic Book Day?
We’re going to be doing some awesome sales this year. One of the great things about the huge turnout on the day is that it’s easy to offset some of the cost of the comics that we give away for free. We move a lot of regular books. We’re also going to be promoting a fantastic local artist, Larkin Ford. He’s handing art duties on a new book called Ehm Theory and he’s donated a page of original art from one of the issues. Anyone who buys the first Ehm Theory collection will be automatically entered in a raffle to win the page.

Free Comic Book Day kicks off at 11 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. at Comic Envy, 144 Tunnel Road, Asheville. Call 252-7600 for more information.

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin is a freelance writer and a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). He also contributes to the Asheville Citizen-Times and Ashvegas.

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