Free Comic Book Day draws business, attention to a forgotten medium

Lone+Star+Comics+is+located+at+3100+Independence+Pkwy++and+holds+Free+Comic+Book+Day+the+first+Saturday+of+May+each+year.+

Adam Schasel

Lone Star Comics is located at 3100 Independence Pkwy and holds Free Comic Book Day the first Saturday of May each year.

Adam Schasel, Staff Reporter

A ticket to see “Iron Man 3” can range anywhere from $9 to upwards of $15, but if you visited Lone Star Comics in Plano this past Saturday, you could have received your dosage of Marvel superheroes for free.

Since 2002, the first Saturday in May has become a veritable nerd holiday: Free Comic Book Day (or FCBD, for short).  It’s is an opportunity for curious customers and longtime comic veterans to come together and get some free stuff. The purpose is to entice a new audience to pick up an old hobby, and in the process generate business for the comic book industry, including thousands of local retailers like Lone Star.

“We’ve been slammed today, which is always a good problem to have,” Lone Star shift supervisor Shea Hennum said. “Our goal is to get as many new customers in the door today, and then retain them.”

If those customers do decide to come back, they will be joining a community unlike any other. According to the FCBD website, each store has a unique community, style and personality, with a broad customer base.

Included in Lone Star’s base is Jeremy, who did not give his last name. He is dressed like Luke Skywalker to commemorate both Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you”) and win a Lone Star gift card as part of the store’s costume contest. Although he moved to Texas from Des Moines, Iowa a year ago, Jeremy feels right at home at his new local comics shop.

“Rick, the manager here, invited me to hang out all day,” Jeremy said. “He comes into my work at Campisi’s all the time. He’s the greatest guy ever, and plus he tips very well.”

Also visiting Lone Star was John, a 32-year-old warehouse manager. A former regular, John recently moved far away from Plano but receives shipments from Lone Star on a regular basis and still comes down with his children every year to attend FCBD.

“My favorite book to read is ‘Incredible Hulk,’ but I also like to read some DC stuff like ‘Justice League’ and ‘Green Lantern,’” John said. “I’m trying to get my kids into comics as well. It would be great if they did.”

The comics industry is currently thriving. The two highest-grossing films of 2012 both have origins as comic books, in addition the “The Walking Dead,” the popular show from AMC, has shattered TV ratings. (Wired, a monthly publication on tech and geek culture’s infusion with that of the mainstream, has an infographic on the current domination of comics in popular media.)

But for traditional paper comics to survive, they need to recruit younger audiences like John’s son, Logan. This is the second FCBD that John has attended with Logan, who picked out free comics from popular franchises like “Batman,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

“I got some free comic books for them, and now they’re just looking at some random toys that they want to pick out,” John said. “Logan’s looking to spend his allowance.”

Come for the free comics, stay (and pay) for the other merchandise: that is how Free Comic Book Day works. Lone Star employees all have a favorite regular series that they read. For example, Hennum reads a variety of series from Brian Wood’s “The Massive” to Brian K. Vaughan’s “Saga.” Employee Hannah Norton loves Marvel superhero books like “Young Avengers” and “Hawkeye.”

“Free Comic Book Day works out for everybody,” Norton said. “People get free comics, comic book shops get free business.”

Norton said that the store was bombarded with customers eager to get free comics since it opened that day.

“We had a line halfway down this thing [gesturing down the sidewalk in the plaza that Lone Star is located in] for free comics,” Norton said. “Everybody has been coming out of the store not just with free comics themselves but with other comics as well.”

A list of comics, along with downloadable previews, that were given away free can be found here. Lone Star’s Facebook page can be found here. For the article about Friday Night Magic, a Magic: The Gathering event that Lone Star hosts weekly, click here.