Tag Archives | Free Comic Book Day

Free Comic Book Day 2016: The East Bay Comics Trail

We started with a simple question: Can we feasibly hit every comic shop in Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley in one-day? After mapping a number of potential routes it was determined “maybe, but unlikely, and we’ll probably die.” It would have been a case of quantity over quality. What would be the point of rushing into a store, taking some photos, purchasing an item and grabbing a couple of free comics, and rushing to the next store? In the end, we settled on sticking to our backyard and hitting the East Bay Comics Trail. The West Bay Comics Trail will need to wait for a future date.

In my opinion, Free Comic Book Day serves three purposes. In order of importance:

  1. To bring new or lapsed readers into stores
  2. To get kids excited about comics
  3. To educate regulars on what’s coming soon or what else is out there

I acknowledge I’m not really the target of Free Comic Book Day. I have pull lists at three different stores in the Bay Area, on a daily basis I read mainstream and indie comic news, I attend conventions, and I stay up to date on happenings at my local shops. I do know those free comics actually cost the stores money, so the least I can do on Free Comic Book Day is give back if I can. I made a rule: For every free comic I pick-up I’ll purchase an item. This rule seemed simple enough but as you’ll see below we went a bit overboard.

It’s for the best we didn’t attempt to do a combination East/West tour. Circumstances meant we didn’t leave The Shared Universe headquarters until nearly 11 a.m. This is well after all of the stores on the trail had opened.

Stop 1: Cape and Cowl

Cape and Cowl is the most recent addition to the East Bay Comics Trail. The shop at 1601 Clay Street in Oakland combined comics, tattoos, and a food drive. On the store’s Facebook page they said more than a thousand pounds of food had been collected for the Alameda County Food Bank. Cape and Cowl is a 10-minute bus ride from where I live so it’s now the most recent shop to hold one of my pull lists. Below is our haul:

FCBD 2016: Cape and Cowl

Free Comic Book Day selections:

Rom #0
Mooncop: A Tom Gauld Sampler
Bob’s Burgers
Comics Lab!!!
We Can Never Go Home/Young Terrorists

Off-the-Shelf selections:

Invader Zim #9
Aftershock Genesis #1
Heart Throb #1
Hot Damn #1
Rough Riders #2
Army of Darkness: Furious Road #3

Stop 2: Dr. Comics and Mr. Games

Dr. Comics and Mr. Games had the added treat of a table filled with comics from previous Free Comic Book Days. As a combination game store, it additionally provided us with the opportunity to pick-up a copy of the espionage word game “Codenames.”

FCBD 2016: Dr. Comics and Mr. Games

Free Comic Book Day selections

Love and Rockets
Avatarex
March
Doctor Who
Serenity
Suicide Squad

Off-the-Shelf selection

Beasts of Burden
Renato Jones The One% #1
X-Men ‘92 #3
Wonder Woman Earth One Vol. One
Codenames (game)

Stop 3: Escapist Comics

Since moving to the Bay Area I’ve only made it out to Escapist a handful of times. It’s a regret because Escapist always impresses with their indie comic selection. I always walk out with something unusual. For this year’s Free Comic Book Day the store featured illustrators Ramon Villalobos and Meggie Ramm. 

 FCBD 2016: Escapist Comics

Free Comic Bok Day selections

Attack on Titan Anthology
Valiant 4001 AD
Bongo Free-for-All
Lady Mechanika

Off-the-Shelf selections

E is For Extinction #2 (signed by Villalobos)
Harrow County #11
Niobe #1
Mars Attacks: Occupation #1
The House of Montresor #1
The Punisher #1
The Finder Library Vol. 1

Stop 4: Tr!ckster

This was our first time visiting Tr!ckster. It’s always been on our list of stores to visit but we’ve somehow never made it. Walking in it was obvious why this store received an Eisner award nomination this year. I’ve never visited a store like it. Tr!ckster is what would happen if the Mad Hatter ran a comic shop in Wonderland. The interior decorating is beautiful and relaxing plus they always have a kettle of tea waiting for visitors.  The store’s focus is on independent comics with a prioritization of graphic novels. Sure you’ll find your Image and Dark Horse titles, but Tr!ckster makes an effort to make sure what might be a hidden gem at the average store is presented front and center. I was pleased to find a copy of Nick Abadzis’ Laika sitting on a central display. The title has long been on my “must read” list but I always forget to look for it.

Due to the store’s focus, they couldn’t participate in Free Comic Book Day on the same scale as other shops. Instead, they welcomed us with the deepest discount of our journey. Everything in the store was 35 percent off. When you’re shopping for graphic novels that’s a significant saving.

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FCBD 2016: Tr!ckster

Off-the-Shelf selection

Ink for Beginners
Edwin Windsheer’s Pocket Guide to The Sphere
Laika
The Little Man
Bitch Planet
Rat Queens
The CBLDF presents Liberty
Spirit Leaves #2

Stop 5: Fantastic Comics

Fantastic was celebrating Free Comic Book Day with a signing by writer and cartoonist Kate Leth. She’s written for Bravest WarriorsEdward Scissorhands, and Adventure Time. Currently, she’s the mastermind behind Patsy Walker a.k.a Hellcat. Bonus: they had a Rule 63 Rogue holding down the front entrance.

Fantastic receives additional props for helping me fulfill my secondary mission while out and about for FCBD. I’d been hoping to find the first two anthologies of Josh Simmons’ Jessica Farm. I’d mostly given up by the time we reached Fantastic but as I was standing in the check-out line they were on the corner of store’s indie publication display table. 

 FCBD 2016: Fantastic Comics

Free Comic Book Day selections

Civil War II

Captain America
Junior Braves of the Apocalypse
Science Comics
Camp Midnight

Off-the-Shelf selections

Jessica Farm vols. 1 & 2
Hellcat! #5 signed by Kate Leth
Injection #9
Moon Knight #2
Insexts #5
Second Sight #3
No Mercy #9
Poe Dameron #2
Sex Criminals #15

Stop 6: Jeffrey’s Toys and Comics

Jeffrey’s Toys and Comics had a location in San Francisco for years. They were perhaps one of the longest running stores with a selection of comics in the city. Unfortunately, a convergence of circumstances (predominately, the rising cost of living in the Bay Area) forced Jeffrey’s to pack up and move across the bay. The store is now located on Berkeley’s boutique friendly 4th Street. I never had a chance to visit the San Francisco iteration of this shop but the Berkeley location is definitely much more focused on toys over comics. Walking in we were greeted with stacks upon stacks of Free Comic Book Day selections but it took me a couple of minutes to locate the rest of the comics (at the top of the stairs).

This was Jeffrey’s first FCBD in this new location so I don’t want to be too critical but I think there was a significant missed opportunity. By 4 p.m. on Free Comic Book Day most shops tend to be picked over but Jeffrey’s still had plentiful stacks of everything. We waited in a long line of customers purchasing toys before we could leave the store but not once did we hear the clerks mention “hey, all of these comics are free. Take some.” Every kid in that store should have left with a Strawberry Shortcake, Camp Midnight, DC Superhero Girls, Grumpy Cat, Hilda and the Stone Forest, Junior Braves of the Apocalypse, Oddly Normal, Science Comics, and so on. If you aren’t going to use Free Comic Book Day to put comics in the hands of kids why participate? Plus, you’re rewarding your customers for shopping at your store by giving them a stack of free things. How often does a store have that opportunity?

FCBD criticism aside I’m happy Jeffrey’s has joined us in the East Bay and is providing an additional opportunity for people to discover comics.

FCBD 2016: Jeffrey's Toys and Comics

Free Comic Book Day selection

Archie
Bruce Lee The Dragon Rises
Oddly Normal
Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom

Off-the-Shelf selection

Saga #33
Alex + Ada #12
Art Ops #4
Art Ops #5
Unfollow #4

Honorable Mention: Alameda Sports Cards and Comics

I feel guilty about this one. Due to our later than expected start we had to make a sacrifice and this was it. We’d discussed hitting it after the Jeffrey’s stop but our wallets and bodies were exhausted. If you’re going to do the East Bay Comics Trail the right way Alameda Sports Cards and Comics should be on the journey. Next year they’ll be stop number one.

FCBD 2016: JC Lee signing at Amazing Fantasy

On Free Comic Book Day 2016, Amazing Fantasy, 650 Irving Street in San Francisco, will feature a signing opportunity with Stan Lee’s daughter JC Lee. The Marvel co-founder’s daughter has published a memoir called Stan Lee’s Love Story which explores what it was like growing up with the creator. Helping Amazing Fantasy promote the May 7 event is Stan “The Man” Lee himself. The comic shop published the below video on their Facebook wall.

Amazing Fantasy will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Free Comic Book Day.

 

FCBD2016: Sam Sattin and Chris Koehler signing at Mission

Legend-Cover-2Mission: Comics and Art, 2250 Mission Street in San Francisco, will celebrate Free Comic Book Day by hosting a signing with Chris Koehler and Sam Sattin. Koehler and Sattin have created the most recent entry into the dystopian, animist genre of comics: Legend. In an interview with Comics Alliance, Sattin described Legend as “What if a biological terror agent wiped out most of humanity, and our domesticated animals were left in charge? How would our dogs and cats set about ruling and rebuilding the world? Legend is the story of animals uniting to fight mutant creatures and attempting to restore the world their masters destroyed.”

Living in the Bay Area under the ever-looming threat of  The Big One I often ponder the question “How would our dogs and cats set about ruling and rebuilding the world?” When I’m crushed to death during my commute through the Transbay Tube how will my dog and two cats survive? Will they overlook the differences between species and unite to rebuild the Bay Area as a canine/feline utopia? Would such a utopia be a dystopia for songbirds? Will my cats meet other dogs and finally realize my dog isn’t just a weird looking, spazzy cat?

I try not to think about being at home during the Earthquake apocalypse. I’ve heard too many reports on NPR about how much it screws up dogs when they’re forced to eat their dead owners so they don’t starve to death. And by too many reports I mean one. One NPR report about dogs eating owners was more than enough. Why did I read listen? And what’s the deal with cats apparently not showing any signs of psychological trauma after they eat their owners? (we all know the answer: the cats own us). I’m sorry I brought it up. Let’s get back to the main topic…

The Comics Alliance interview is a great read for insight into this series which drops on May 4. Sattin talks about being influenced by Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Richard Adams’ Watership Down.

Koehler says his influences are a combination of “the heavy shadows of film noir, the lyrical movement of Miyazaki.” Both of those influences come out strongly in the Comics Alliance preview pages.

Mission will be open from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on May 7. Mission is combining Free Comic Book Day with a fundraiser for 826 Valencia. 826 Valencia “is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resourced students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.”

FCBD2016: Kate Leth signing at Fantastic Comics

12900994_607767066038556_8426053126351384599_oI have a feeling this is going to come out all wrong. [incoming run-on-sentence] You know that thing where you start following a creator on Tumblr or DeviantArt or in some random forum somewhere and maybe you bought one of their early pieces of art and then all of a sudden that person is getting published and playing in the intellectual property sandbox and you feel a weird sort of pride toward that person but it isn’t exactly pride? What is that word? I guess it could be “admiration” but it’s really more like “hell yes, I don’t know you personally but I remember watching you work your ass off and you deserve all of these cool things that are happening – high fucking five. No, I don’t need you to sign anything. I just want to give you proper respect.” *shrug* I don’t know but I’m sure there’s a German or Japanese word for it. Whatever it is, Kate Leth is one of those people for me. Kate or Die was one of the reasons I started using tumblr and it’s been exciting to see and support her growth. I wasn’t terribly interested in Edward Scissorhands but I bought it (and ended up enjoying) because it’s a way to say to the industry “you’re making a great decision! Give her more work!”

If you love comics and care about shaping the industry I personally think this is a solid way to approach purchasing comics. Occasionally, creators I enjoy get a break and assigned to a project at one of the big publishers that I’m not terribly enthused about but I’ll buy the book anyway. I do it because I want those creators to be offered more opportunities. I’ve watched what they can do independently and know if editors give them more freedom they’ll shake things up and create the books I want to read. Can you imagine Kate Leth on a Spider-Man or Hawkeye book (no, I don’t know if she’s actually interested in writing those characters)?

Anyway, I should probably get to the subject. Kate Leth is going to be putting her signature on comic books and trades at Fantastic Comics, 2026 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, on Free Comic Book Day 2016 (May 7). She’ll be there at some point between the shops opening hours of 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. (hopefully I’ll have more details and will update this article before it publishes itself). Fantastic typically has a number of fantastic things happening on FCBD so stop in, pick up some free comics, and buy something.

As for Leth? She has a Patreon where she talks about taking that leap into full-time freelance. Consider supporting her continuing journey.

 

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