Free Comic Book Day Previews

I went to a screening of Conan the Barbarian instead of reading the comics I bought this week. My reviews will be up tomorrow.

In the meantime I got my husband to read this year's Free Comic Book Day comics and write little reviews for some of them. Free Comic Book Day is, of course, this Saturday. I hope these reviews get you excited for what's going to be available this year. FREE!

So here's what Matt thought:

Comics Festival - This is a delightful and varied collection which made me hungry (food seemed to be a recurring theme) and made me laugh a lot. Is this the first printed appearance of Kate Beaton's comics? Please give her more awards.

[Rachelle's note: Comics Festival is an annual FCBD collection of Canadian cartoonists! This one features fantastic comics by LBW faves like Faith Erin Hicks and Steve Rolston!].

Archie - This issue seems like a pretty solid concept, where the Riverdale gang appears in various historical or fairytale themed stories. Two of the fantasies seem to pair up Betty and Archie in marriage, but the finale brings us back to the classic situation (Veronica and Betty implausibly fighting over him). The Archie gang are still just as corny as ever, which is strangely comforting. 

[Rachelle's note: the Archie gang was never corny].

G.I. Joe - I never really got into this macho nonsense and gear fetish when I was 13, so it's not winning me over in my thirties either. The Transformers comic was slightly better, but boring. Just an extended fight scene in bright colours.

[Rachelle's note: agreed].

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Now we're talking! It's a genuine treat to re-encounter this group in it's original, undiluted form. Way more emphasis on martial arts than the pizza and skateboards that would eventually flavour the kid version of this franchise. The humans look kind of weird and creepy in this drawing style, but the Turtles look super cool! I can actually see this encouraging me to pick up some more of this classic tale.

[Rachelle's note: this is a reprint of the first issue of TMNT. And it is a lot of comic for zero money!]

Alien/Predator - I was kind of into the Aliens half of this comic. It seemed a clever setup, and very sci-fi / historical. Then I got to Predator and the comic was all 'BLAM!' 'BLAM!' 'SHKOW!' 'SHAKOOM!' and I got kind of grossed out and felt like I wasn't really macho enough to read it. Not my cup of tea.

[Rachelle's note: Matt is not very macho].

Free Comic Book Day (Dark Horse) The Star Wars Clone Wars is pretty harmless kid's stuff. I think these characters maybe look better in a comic than in CGI but I gather the kids today enjoy those movies too. Usagi Yojimbo was a fun introductory tale - I read a little of this comic in the nineties, though over someone's shoulders on a bus! I may seek some more of this out (again with the anthropomorphic animals!) Emily The Strange was a little weird - it's like someone's T-shirt started talking at me. Bean town was actually intriguing - it's almost like Marc Bell went commercial and made a trippy cartoon for kids. Indiana Jones was cute!

[Rachelle's note: I love that Matt's idea of reading a comic "a little" is reading it over someone's shoulder on a bus].

Wolverine - This was pretty fun, and heavy on the Canadian content. The premise is Wolverine's first official mission, discovering that a small New Brunswick town has been converted to some kind of robotic metallic compound. Lots of one liners, and the way the robotic creatures communicated was well done.

[Rachelle's note: New Brunswick is thick with robots].

Thanks Matt! Go to your local shops on Saturday, everyone! And if you live in Halifax, come to Strange Adventures!!!

THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE: Interview with Calum Johnston!

It's almost that time again! The comic bookiest day of the year! FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

In Halifax, we do it up right. It's a real comicpalooza, and it's all orchestrated by Calum Johnston.

Cal has owned and operated Strange Adventures in Halifax for thirteen years, and he's run the earth 2 version of Strange Adventures in Fredericton for fifteen. He's well known as the godfather of the Halifax comics scene, encouraging local artists, organizing community events, and breaking fingers when he needs to. I think he forced Darwyn Cooke to move to Nova Scotia at gunpoint. Strange Adventures is a household name in Halifax, and all over Canada, and Halifax is just a comicy city, thanks to Cal. It's actually pretty rare that I have to have that "Wha? People still buy comic books?" conversation. A big part of that is Strange Adventures' amazing and elaborate Free Comic Book Day event.

Cal is a busy dude, but he made time to tell LBW readers all about it.

When did Strange Adventures start participating in Free Comic Book Day?

Starting with the very first one about 8 years ago. It was thought up by Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics in California while he was at an ice cream parlour that was giving out free kiddie cones so folks could try new flavours. (Thanks, Joe!)

What usually goes down, and what can folks expect for this year?

Comic book madness, that's what happens!

We divide the comics, about 20,000 of them, into three age groups: appropriate for all-ages, teens, and mature. Then we cover tables with the comics and open the doors and let folks in. Each person is given a Free Comic Book Day bag and they can fill it up with dozens of comics. Not only are many of the official FCBD comics available, we also give out comics from our backstock, from collections bought over the past year and from comics donated by some of our customers.

Volunteers are on hand to keep the tables full, answer any questions, and some dress up in super-hero costumes to add to the festive feel. Magician Mister J performs for a few hours, entertaining people with his magic and making balloon animals for kids. Several cartoonists give up their Saturday to give kids sketches of their favourite characters.

Why do you feel Free Comic Book Day is important?

The event puts comics in the hands of people. That's the most important part, in my mind. The more people who are exposed to the wonderful world of comics, the more readers comics will have, and the more the merrier. I have great faith in what I sell and I believe that there is a comic book for everyone, they just need to find it. Free Comic Book Day helps give them a chance to sample what comics have to offer.

Do you think Free Comic Book Day reflects changes happening in the comic industry?

Perhaps it is a sign that the industry as a whole has woken up and is working on maintaining and improving the overall health and profile of the industry.   It certainly reflects one good change in the comics world. The event is made possible through great co-operation between printers, publishers, creators, distributors and retailers. Still, more needs to be done to make FCBD perfect and I hope we can work towards that goal.

How can people—retailers and average folks—get involved?

On May 2nd, visit your local comic book store and bring a friend. Bring someone who hasn't read comics in years or ever! Check out the website, print off some of the info and post it at your local school, library, or workplace. Retailers should already be finalizing their plans; sending out press releases, arranging advertising,  passing out fliers with info on FCBD.

You seem like an exceptionally great guy who gives a lot back to his community. Is this a cover-up so no one suspects all the bodies in your basement?

Completely a cover-up to mask my night job as an international jewel thief.

I don't think I'm an exceptionally great guy. I'm a very lucky guy who gets to share his love of comics with many people every day. I play matchmaker, striving to introduce someone to a comic they will enjoy.  You make a match, and you open a new world of fantastic stories for them. There's good days and bad days in any business, and at the end of my worst day - I can always remember connecting someone with a  book they love.

I am a very lucky guy who has the best job in the world.


Free Comic Book Day With Iron Man!

I've been meaning to post these for days. Here are some pictures from the Strange Adventures Free Comic Book Day 2008 Celebration. It was once again held in the St. David's Church Hall up the street from the shop. There were 20,000 free comic books available to the public. Also...Iron Man was there!

I really can't get enough photos of Iron Man walking around doing stuff.

Here's Iron Man with Darwyn Cooke, who was once again kind enough to spend the day doing free sketches for people:

And here's Iron Man with me:

The man in the iron suit is the guy I'm marrying. He can't take credit for making this awesome costume, though. It's the handiwork of the talented Jay Silver.

Here are some more photos, these ones taken by Spencer Cantley:

Aw, it looks like Iron Man's snaps came undone in that last one.

Needless to say, Iron Man was a huge hit with the kids (and the grown-ups). I'm glad it was a nice day for once.

Free Comic Book Day!!!

Oh my. I'm tired. Rumour has it that Strange Adventures gave aways somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 comics today. I believe it. It was a fun day! Lots of people walked out with lots of comics, and I saw some fans carrying out some pretty amazing sketches. The artists were all amazing, most of them drawing for six straight hours! I was a little surprised that Andy Runton swore like a sailor the whole time, but...I'm just kidding. That guy is as nice as you would imagine him to be.

I've got pictures!

An overhead shot of the room:

A shot of Artist Alley:

Local animators throw down some mad skillz for the fans. Kids love Wolverine. And look at that awesome Hulk!

Mike Holmes gets a rare breather between sketches:

Darwyn Cooke lays down a fine-looking Peter Parker:

Andy Runton not only drew for six hours, he smiled for six hours. I'm serious.

This was our security at the door. Pretty intimidating:

Tiina and me are starting to go crazy here. And I am wearing the most powerful weapon in the universe:
And, yes. I do have one eye that is larger than the other. Thanks for noticing. Stop calling me 'Hex.'

Mark Oakley (bandanna) was doing some really amazing drawings of full scenes for fans:

Andy Runton draws Owly as Leonardo the Ninja Turtle:

I get an Owly as The Spirit! Eeeeeee!!!

My brain was so fried by the time I got this sketch, that when he asked me what I wanted I blurted out "Batman as The Spirit." Then I corrected myself. It's like, you practice what you're going to say for an important moment like this one, and then you just screw it up so spectacularly. That's life. Anyway, Batman is my default word whenever I can't think of the right one. ("What would you like on your burger." "Batman...I mean, mustard.").

Dead man walking:

Double Doom! (One by Cooke, one by Holmes):

A Sentinal cartoon by Mike Holmes (hilarious):

Darwyn Cooke reluctantly draws Gambit:

But, come on. That's a nice-looking Gambit. Kinda reminds me of why I had a giant crush on the Cajun X-Man in my teen years. I believe Cooke's exact words while drawing it were "Gambit, how I hate your stupid 90s ass." And that's why we love Darwyn Cooke.

Super Grover and Spider-Man. BFF.

Meanwhile, at the shop itself, things were jumpin':

And back at the church hall....

...Spider Owly!

Robin by Darwyn Cooke (after six hours of drawing! What a trooper!):

Kids love Andy Runton:

Darwyn Cooke loves Free Comic Book Day:

And let's give it up for the man with the plan, the undisputed kingpin of comics in Halifax, Calum Johnston for putting on the event:

He doesn't always look so crazy. But he may be using his x-ray vision in that photo.

One of my favourite things about today was seeing young kids walk away from the artists table with drawings of Saturn Girl and other Legion characters, thanks to the new cartoon. So awesome! The number of kids getting drawings of Venom was less inspiring.

Good job, team! I hope everyone got lots of free comics today.

Oh, and kid who was arguing with me: Wolverine is not, and never will be, cooler than Batman. Don't even start with me.