We figure if you’re reading this, you probably already have at least a passing interest in sequential art — that’s comics to the laypeople — so this may not come as news to you, but as a reminder to everyone else, tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day.
Launched in 2002, Free Comic Book Day is celebrated every year on the first Saturday in May. Thousands of comic book retailers offer 100 percent free comic books from today’s top publishers, including Marvel, DC, Image, Oni Press and Dark Horse.
Why? To drum up interest in comic books for the larger reading public, especially kids — you know, those video game-playing, Internet-addicted, text-messaging little people whose literacy is questionable? See, back in the old days, comic books weren’t something just for overgrown adolescent man-children. They were de facto reading material for children everywhere, regardless of gender, class or social status. Whereas only the top-selling monthly comics struggle to sell close to 100,000 copies today, in the mid-20th century, titles sold a million or more copies regularly.
Somewhere along the line, the audiences aged, new ones didn’t latch on thanks to the distracting offerings of a million other entertainment options, and though the intellectual properties associated with comic books became big business (how many of you are feeding Hollywood’s coffers this weekend when you see X-Men Origins: Wolverine?), the actual industry itself has shrunken.
Why is this a bad thing? Well, maybe it’s not, but personally speaking, reading comic books growing up not only taught me to read, but also expanded my vocabulary, opened my mind to be receptive to all sorts of varying viewpoints, inspired my artistry and, yes, served as a connecting point for peers with similar interests. My careers in graphic design, journalism and music are almost all entirely indebted to my rearing on the four-colored panels to which I was overexposed in my youth.
Oh yeah, and comic books are one of those rare things: Like jazz, a uniquely AMERICAN ART FORM.
So visit your nearest local comic shop tomorrow and pick up as many of the Free Comic Book Day issues as you can. Give them to your son, your daughter, your niece, nephew, cousin or, heck, read them yourselves. Because the gifts of literacy, imagination and creativity are timeless … and priceless.