Hollywood’s comic-based films for audiences of all ages continually bring in profits, and the comic book genre has proved its staying power in this digital age. This weekend locals can pick up free comic books in celebration of the eighth annual international Free Comic Book Day.
Every year on the first Saturday in May, 2,000 comic stores nationwide give out nearly 2 million comic books. Free Comic Book Day comes to Santa Cruz this weekend from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. at two local comic book stores: Atlantis Fantasyworld on Cedar Street and Comicopolis on Front Street.
Joe Ferrara, the owner of Atlantis Fantasyworld, said that Free Comic Book Day is his favorite day every year.
“Year in and year out, it’s just a wonderful way to celebrate comics,” Ferrara said. “The whole idea here is to show people that this entertainment medium has grown from just-for-kids to adults. We hold it to show people the diversity of comic books.”
Ferrara estimates that the most popular series will be the Wolverine comics, to coincide with the release of the “X-Man Origins: Wolverine” movie in theaters nationwide this Friday.
“The movie industry coincides Free Comic Book Day with a release,” Ferrara said. “Last year was ‘Iron Man,’ and now it’s the Wolverine movie. People go to see the movie and then pick up a couple of books.”
The origins of Free Comic Book Day are rooted in Concord, Calif. Joe Field, a friend of Ferrara and owner of the Flying Colors comic book store, was inspired by the Free Cone Day held every year by the Baskin-Robbins across the street from Field’s shop. Field approached several distributors with the idea and now the event is celebrated internationally.
The selection ranges from “Archie” to “X-Men,” Ferrara said. He estimates that Atlantis Fantasyworld will be giving away over 4,000 comic books this Saturday. There will be a table display of 15 different comic books for people to pick up.
As part of the festivities, Atlantis Fantasyworld will also have the 25th anniversary comic book cover of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” All “Watchmen” merchandise will be 30 percent off on Saturday only, all “Peanut” merchandise will be half off, and several titles in hardcover books that are usually priced at $30 will be sold for $5.
Dan Brereton will be making an appearance at Atlantis Fantasyworld this Saturday. Brereton has illustrated for several comics, including “Batman,” and most recently on a comic book called “Beta Ray Bill” featuring the popular character Thor. Brereton will be signing comic books during the day for the event.
Troy Geddes of Comicopolis explains that the event is more about getting people into reading comics than making a profit.
“We can have a good [business] day because it’s a promotional event, but it’s really about getting people into reading,” Geddes said. “Every year there’s more publishers, and it’s getting bigger and bigger.”
Geddes estimates that the better-known comics such as “Green Lantern,” “Batman,” “The Simpsons” and some independent comics will be the first to go. He also said that several of the books available will be combined editions — two or more different comics in a book that will have both sides with the comics’ cover art.
Ben LaCara, a second-year Stevenson student and computer engineering major, hopes to find his favorite series, “Why, The Last Man,” and other titles at the event.
“I really like the plot [of the series],” LaCara said. “They’re really fantastical books. It’s a means of entertainment. I didn’t really grow up reading them though.”
LaCata became interested in comics during high school when a friend lent him a comic book, he said.
“The whole idea is that it’s supposed to be fun,” Ferrara said. “If it was free ice cream day, I’d make a beeline for it for sure.”
For information on available titles, pricing on merchandise and store hours, visit FreeComicBookDay.com.