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What is Free Comic Book Day?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Free Comic Book Day is a day when participating comic stores give away certain issues of comics for free to their patrons. This event is spearheaded by the comic book industry in North America, although stores all over the world are welcome to participate, and it tends to attract a great deal of media attention. By tradition, the event occurs on the first Saturday in May after a major comic book related or superhero based film is released.

The first Free Comic Book Day was held in 2002, and it had several goals. It was meant to promote comics to new readers while encouraging to old readers to return to the genre, and also to thank long-time comic consumers. Each year, the event is organized by Diamond Comic Distributors, a major distributor of comics in North America, which coordinates with publishers to offer selected editions of comics at very low cost to store owners.

While the comics are not free for the store owners, the cost is kept low enough that giving the comics away for free is feasible. Participating stores generally agree to carry at least 10 of the designated comics, with other titles being available for those who want them, including special editions produced specifically for the event. Some store owners also choose to discount other merchandise for customers who come in on Free Comic Book Day.

Store policies on Free Comic Book Day vary. Some stores only hand out one comic per customer, while others allow customers to choose several of the free comics on offer. Not all comic book stores participate, either, and people who are interested should ask their local independent bookseller or comics store if it is participating. Stores that haven't planned on participating might change their minds if they sense enough public interest.

Some critics have pointed out that this event focuses primarily on the output of major comic book companies, rather than smaller, independent publishing houses. The hope, however, is that once people start reading comics and frequenting a comic book store, they will grow interested in offerings from lesser known publishers and authors, making Free Comic Book Day a promotion for all sorts of comics, not just the products of publishers like Marvel and DC. Many smaller publishers and distributors cannot afford to offer their products at low cost, which makes it financially impractical for them to be included.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By ronburg44 — On Oct 20, 2010

I attended the free comic book Day 2010 event that was held in my local town. While there were lots of weirdos dressed up in different kinds of comic characters, there also many average Joe's in attendance.

While most people have a stereotype in their mind of what a comic book nerd looks like the truth is that most comic book nerds are simply fans of great art and great stories. Unlike the character on The Simpsons who owns the comic book store, not all, the fans are intellectually elitist geeks.

I personally keep my comic book collection hidden in my closet because I am ashamed at what my friends might think when they see me reading the latest issue of Archie and Jugghead.

By sammyG — On Oct 20, 2010

If you ask me, the whole event sounds like a nerd fest. While that's okay for some, I can only imagine the types of characters that you see these local comic book stores on a free giveaway day such as the free comic book day. I drove by a comic book store in my town during the free comic book day 2009 celebrations.

Probably the funniest part about experiencing a drive-by such as I described, is seeing grown people dressed in costumes on a day other than Halloween. Maybe my idea of humor is sick, but a 35-year-old balding man dressed as Superman standing on a street corner just makes me giggle. Maybe that's mean, but it is absolutely hysterical.

By spreadsheet — On Oct 20, 2010

@CoffeeJim, Your thoughts on why the comic book industry is willing to give away free books on a certain day are absolutely correct. Very often patrons will take advantage of the free giveaway day like this: their collection of old and beloved, books to try and get a comic price guide and determine the comic value of their collection.

This can often mean the overabundance of patrons for the day, but as long as the comic book stores properly staffed they won't have an issue with the extra customers. Quite often, these single day comic book events held at local stores across the nation can yield in the sale of some very valuable comic books as well as the discovery of some valuable and unique comics that collectors have been hoarding in their collection.

The national free comic book Day is an excellent idea and I plan on attending the next one whenever that might be. I think I have some old comic books I like to look at comic values for.

By CoffeeJim — On Oct 20, 2010

Any day where any kind of industry has a free giveaway, is the best kind of day. I've never heard of the free comic book day but it sounds like a great idea to me.

Personally, I don't read, books. But if there is a story that was given away for free I would probably stop by and take a look. This I can imagine is the exact effect that this industry is trying to have when they have a free comic book giveaway day. Luring customers into their stores with the thoughts of a free comic book will most likely result in increased sales for that day and for a while, afterward.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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