A Look at Free Comic Book Day 2012

Free Comic Book Day 2012 has come and gone, and judging by the crowds of excited people I saw at every store I went to (5 over about 4 hours that morning) it was a pretty big success.  But how were the comics that were given away?  Well, I managed to come home with a pretty big stack of them, so let’s take a closer look.

  • Adventure Time/Peanuts – The classic Peanuts stories are great, the new stuff leaves me cold.  Okay, that half of the flipbook out of the way, let’s talk Adventure Time.  This is a great example of what Kaboom is doing with their AT series.  The main story follows all the style guides (and fits within the gutters of issue one), but there are also a couple short stories by indie creators where they can go off and tell whatever stories they like.  It’s a good, fun mix of a good, fun series, and an excellent representation of what you’d get in an issue of Adventure Time.

  • Archaia Presents Mouse Guard and Other Stories – Man, did Archaia raise the bar with their FCBD issue, giving out a 41-page (unless I miscounted) HARDCOVER sampler.  I can’t say every sample was good — Cursed Pirate Girl was somewhat illegible and I had to skip past it — but the Mouse Guard synopsis story (I really need to be reading that!) and Cow Boy by Nate  Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos were excellent.  Cow Boy is definitely going on my next order.  Another fun surprise: a Labyrinth story!  There’s no branding on the story itself but once I recognized Hoggle (okay, it’s not that hard), the other characters came flooding back to me. THIS is what FCBD should be about!
  • Atomic Robo/Neozoic/Bonnie Lass – Even though Archaia put out this Free Comic Book Day’s strongest issue, the Atomic Robo team of Brian Clevenger and Scott Wegener yet again put out an amazing offering this year.  Usually reserving FCBD for a Robo/Dr. Dinosaur fight, this year they teamed up!  Well, in a way.  As always it was hilarious, and as always you should be reading it year-round.  The other samples in here didn’t offer content nearly as strong.  Neozoic hopped from scene to scene (and even from person to person in the same  conversation) so much it felt like panels were missing.  Transitions definitely were. Bonnie Lass was fine, but nothing remarkable.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron #0.1 – This is a good FCBD choice from Marvel.  High-profile (or rather more importantly, highly talented) creators, recognizable characters appearing in a movie opening the same weekend, and the first part of what will obviously be a huge storyline.  It’s well-written and well-drawn, but after going through it 3 times, I just can’t decide on it.  Is it for the new reader or us established folks?  It definitely feels like part 1 of 13.  The return of Ultron is great, but it feels unusually built up. I just have no idea about this one.  Strategically it’s a good call, but it mostly left me cold.  Maybe that’s just a reflection on my relationship with mainstream superhero comics than anything else.
  • The Censored Howard Cruise – Outside of the obvious creators Crumb, Pekar, and Sheldon I’m not terribly knowledgeable about the original Underground Comix creators, so this joint effort by Boom! (really!) and the CBLDF was a nice addition to the day.  And it really is censored for the FCBD edition, though the upcoming releases will not be.  I was trying to come up with a good way to describe Cruise’s work until Charles Brownstein put it much better than I could have in the backmatter: “Cruse’s technically accomplished line style has a wholesome quality that provides a stark contrast to his candid discussions of sexuality, drug use, and censorship.”  A great offering for the student of both comics and comix.  It’s also worth noting that Boom! has a new Roger Langridge collection coming out called “The Show Must Go On” that we’ll both need to keep our eyes peeled for.
  • Dinosaurs vs Aliens – Since we’re discussing how comics work, DvA fails completely, offering only 8 pages of actual comic book and filling up the rest with sketches, concept art, and text pieces.  It’s an interesting book, but not really enough sequential art to qualify as a comic.  Skepticism ruins the rest of the goodwill I have for this title.  Movie director comes up with painfully obvious mash-up (since those are all the rage), hires the best comic writer in the business to write a screenplay, then does a comic to provide street cred (see also: Cowboys vs Aliens).  Oh well, at least the art will be beautiful.
  • Image 20 – Image takes their shot this year with a sampler of their upcoming titles.  Going with a book full of teasers is probably a good call (although I’m obviously biased towards a full comic) but nothing I read inspired me to pick any of them up.
  • The New 52 – Despite my DC boycott I still picked this up, figuring it at least wasn’t putting any money in the Time-Warner coffers.  Another teaser book, this kicks off the backstory behind Pandora, the mystery woman who appeared in each of DC’s 52 #1 issues.  No disrespect intended to the creators involved, but a passing familiarity with Greek mythology and a play-through of God of War is probably all the Pandora stories we need.
  • Spider-Man: Season One – This whole “accessible universe” thing is getting out of hand.  A decade ago Marvel kicked off the Ultimate line with the intent of luring in new readers.  Then DC launched their Earth One line of OGN’s for bookstores and rebooted their whole damn universe.  Unwilling to be beaten at their own game, Marvel then launches THEIR line of bookstore OGN’s, doing the exact same thing every other relaunch has done since John Byrne did Spider-Man: Chapter One.  If you love modernized Spider-Man reboots this will be right up your alley, but otherwise this is pretty inessential.
  • Stuff of Legend/Finding Gossamyr – I’m always charmed by the soul and charming artwork of the Stuff of Legend books, though I don’t see it on the stands often enough to keep up with it.  (Fortunately, there’s an ad in the back for a collection of the first two volumes, which I will definitely pick up).  Finding Gossamyr was a little confusing…It looks like a young boy solves a math problem that leads to a portal to another dimension, but tI had a little trouble reading the transition between the two worlds.  The artwork was a nice cartoony style, and the story was intriguing more than mysterious for it’s own sake.  If you enjoy Narnia-type alternate world stories, this is a title to keep an eye out for.
  • Transformers: Regeneration One #80.5 – My love of comics started with the original Marvel Transformers series.  I was given a three-pack innocently enough, but suddenly it’s 30 years and thousands of issues later.  There will always be a soft, biased spot in my heart for those Robots in Disguise. Sure, their adventures were mainly used to reinforce toy lines, but by the end of the original 80-issue run we got to some truly original stories as we reached the final battle with Unicron written by Simon Furman and (mostly) drawn by Andrew Wildman.

Yes the Cybertronians were victorious, but in the aftermath were some of the grayest, bleakest stories I had ever read as the Transformers struggled to find purpose again.  Furman got to tell stories that didn’t require introducing new toys and could focus on the characters.  Wildman, who if I recall was a pretty divisive art choice at the time, was my favorite TF artist ever, able to draw alt modes and robot forms equally well and distinctly.  What really set him apart were the distinctive (and dare I say, human) faces with spittle frequently flying and battle damage showing they may be robots, but they’ve clearly been to Hell.

Together they got away with telling some truly weird stories.  Galvatron travels to kill his past-self before realizing he would cease to exist.  Megatron and Ratchet fuse into a Two-Face robot.  And then five issues after defeating the ultimate evil they were gone.

Their run based my entire opinion of what Transformers COULD be.  Even though it’s been a while since I’ve gone back to see how they hold up, make no mistake: I know full well that most of the comic series was pretty bad, not to mention some truly awful cartoon episodes.  But those issues…well they showed a lot of growth and potential for more.

Wildman and Furman have teamed up many times since that series end, even on Transformers, with Armada.  Those darker issues seem to have inspired other approaches to the characters as well, but none of them have worked for me.  The names and characterization are roughly the same, but the Armada or Energon Optimus Primes just aren’t the
same to me like the G1 Prime is, just like Alan Scott is not Hal Jordan is not Kyle Rayner.

Now here we are, 21 years after that series ended, and Furman and Wildman are back, picking up where they left off. Or rather, 21 years after they left off.  They do so fairly seamlessly.  Furman’s story could have been more linear rather than bouncing around, but we’re definitely going to get back to the original (and if I may be so bold, my) characters.  And Wildman’s art returned to exactly where I remember, without all the overly-angular jagged faces obviously inspired by the movies.  This is a very good comic, and I’m really excited to see where they take us.

(Now after having written all this, I feel like I’ve done Geoff Johns a disservice by my griping about him turning DC into what he loved most as a kid.)

  • 2000 AD – The surprise find of FCBD 2012!  I’ve never seen a 2000 AD FCBD issue before; I didn’t even know they participated.  The first pleasant surprise was the large magazine size, so it stands out from all the other offerings.  Then it gives several complete chunks of comics.  Sure, some of the stories were a part one but it’s an accurate representation of what to expect from 2000 AD.  Then the contents showcased a little bit of everything: classic sci-fi, some horror, a vintage Alan Moore story, and a superhero satire.  I’ve never read an individual issue of 2000 AD before, but after this I think I might need to add it to my pull list.
  • Valiant 2012 – Even though this was just a teaser book, it worked. I’m sufficiently piqued for the Valiant relaunch this summer.  Unfortunately, it’s still a bad free comic.  Marvel and DC put out things like this monthly; it’s a promotional item.*

* Yes, they’re all promotional items, but the point of Free Comic Book Day is, you know, a free comic book.

  • Yo Gabba Gabba – I really don’t know what to say about this one, since I am neither a small child nor a guardian of small children.  It definitely won’t appeal to anyone whose age is approaching double-digits, and there’s no hipster cred other than some nice work by Mike Allred and Evan Dorkin.  But might it get small children into appreciating comics?  Yes.  Yes it might. And that’s one to grow on.

And that was my 2012 Free Comic Book Day.  I think it was a raging success, even if not every book was.  I hope you found some great comics out there and have maybe been inspired to track down a few new things.  And only 11 months until next year’s!

Game Tape: FCBD Edition

This year’s Free Comic Book Day was probably the best I’ve had in a couple of years. Everything fell into place: there was cake; there were sales; there were excellent comics. The only down side was that limits were imposed. In ten years, this was the first time I had to carefully select which books to take home. Apparently this isn’t rare; my brother in Boulder, CO, has always had limits. I’m hoping there are some books left Wednesday that I can snag then. I haven’t read all of them yet because I’m mingling these with the books I got from the sales. Here’s what I picked up on Saturday’s holy day of obligation.

The Intrepid Escape Goat was quite clever and fun. Presenting a full story, the book served as a preview for a series that’s starting in June. Imagine Harry Houdini as a goat and a globe-trotting adventurer.  I’m going to read more, but I’m not sure whether I’ll be reading the issues or the trades. This was a flip-book with the companion being Stuff of Legend. I’ve heard good things about this, and I’ve been curious. This sealed the deal. I’m not sure of the timing on this, but it shares some ideas with Grant Morrison’s Joe the Barbarian. At any rate, this was a preview for the third volume.

Jesse and I have long been fans of The Tick, but I don’t think either of us have regularly read the books/ collections since Edlund was writing it… so it’s been a while. This book was a treat for me returning to an old friend. The plot is sufficiently silly with cameos by characters I knew and several I hadn’t heard of. Thankfully, there’s a Who’s Who style supplement in the back.

Speaking of Who’s Who supplements, Image’s promised origin issue of Super Dinosaur was still just okay. Complete with supplement, we get a one-sided origin story told exclusively by the preteen protagonist. I’m betting a plot point later in the series will be the fact that the bad guy isn’t as bad as we are led to believe. I want to like this book. I love the idea of this book: wunderkind with anthropomorphic/ cybernetic T-Rex has adventures and saves the world. It’s just that Kirkman has forgotten how to write a story of all-ages. Invincible was once my favorite book because it could appeal so broadly, and it was well written. Then Kirkman turned every issue into a slasher film. Super Dinosaur sees the pendulum swing away and toward saccharine simplicity. While it’s got elements that could succeed, these first two outings read more like one of DiC’s Saturday morning cartoon from the 1980’s.

I picked up the Mickey Mouse book and Geronimo Stilton/ Smurfs book, but I haven’t read either of them. I’ve heard good things about the Mickey Mouse stuff, and I’m looking forward to Fantagraphic’s collections. Mickey never should have left his surreal roots in favor of a “friendly” dull character. I also grabbed the Atomic Robo book.

I was intrigued by the Adam West book until I saw that it was another abysmal entry in Blue Water’s bio-book series. I regretted reading the Stephanie Meyer book, and I still haven’t forgiven them for their Leprechaun books. So… it’s just as well that I didn’t see a copy. I might have been compelled to burn it or shred it.

Wednesday, I hope to grab the Captain America/ Thor book. I’m still holding fast on not picking up the Green Lantern book, but I may see about getting Slott’s Spider-Man.

That’s what I picked up. What kind of cool things did you guys get?

This Week’s Comics

It’s a solid week!  I’m excited enough to use exclamation points!! Here’s what I’m looking at this week!!!

BATMAN #699 – Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed the previous issue of Batman.  I’m also completely psyched for issue #700 and Return of Bruce Wayne.
BATMAN RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #1 (OF 6) – I’ve surprised myself by digging the concept of “Batman Through Time,” so I’m hoping there’s some extra page count here that will convince me to pay up the extra $1.
JUSTICE LEAGUE GENERATION LOST #1 – I LOATHE what DC has done to Max Lord in the last few years, and when they had the opportunity to fix things after Blackest Night, they chose not to.  Still, I enjoy the creators and I’m curious enough to see how the JLI-era Leaguers respond to New Max that I’m willing to give it a try.
MUPPET SHOW TP VOL 03 ON THE ROAD – This was a GREAT story-arc, and it just wrapped up.  Now you get the chance to pick it up for $10!  It’s deal enough that I’m thinking about moving to trades on this title.  At any rate, this one is a winner.
WOLVERINE #900 – Enough with the fake anniversary issues, Marvel, you money-grubbers.

I’ve also been poring through the rest of the FCBD releases I picked up a week ago.  I found both of Marvel’s entries –Iron Man/Thor and Iron Man/Nova — were both forgettable stories, that must have been put out solely to capitalize on the movie.  Nova?  Really, Marvel?  I was never much of a G.I. Joe reader, but I thought the IDW #155 1/2 — a bridge between Marvel’s #155 and IDW’s new #156 — was pretty good! The writing and art were both solid and it felt like a full-length story for a Free Comic Book Day book.  Dynamite’s Green Hornet, on the other hand, was a waste.  I was hoping for a guide to the umpteen Hornet books they’re releasing to make the most of their license, but what we got was a hodge-podge of random pages from books, some of which weren’t even finished yet.  I can’t imagine anyone picking up this preview and being inspired to check out one of the new Green Hornet books.

Brightest Day sparked up a little conversation last week, which was nice.  I did indeed pick up #1.  Whatever else is said about the book, you definitely get a good amount of comic for your $3, which is a
refreshing change of pace.  I’m most likely done with it, but it really is a decent read with a solid art team, I just don’t really care about the characters or events enough to keep picking it up.  However…I’m getting increasingly frustrated with creators tweaking or adding powers and abilities to already-established characters in order to make some sort of point once, and then it’s forced to be incorporated into canon.  Aquaman’s bulletproof? Really???

I also gave in and read Justice League: Cry for Justice last week.  It did have a couple moments that rang true for me, but for the most part (especially the torture scenes) I found our protagonists acting uncharacteristically and despicably, especially Ray Palmer, who’s apparently going to try to out-Pym Hank to be the biggest dick.  See also his scene explaining how he and Green Arrow were never friends for a good example of changing characters to prove some random point.  It was dark and gruesome for no good reason, which I disliked.  Robinson said in his text piece to #6 that it was by design, so knowing that he got the comic he set out to write, he succeeds.  It’s just that the comic he wanted to write wasn’t the one I wanted to read. The art by Mauro Cascioli was absolutely fantastic, though, until the issue #7 fill-in’s by Scott Clark and Ibraim Roberson ruined an otherwise stellar part of the book.

That’s it for me.  What are YOU looking at?

This Week’s Comics

It’s a decent-sized run this time around! Here’s what I’m looking at this week.

  • BATMAN AND ROBIN #12 – A reminder that I haven’t read #11 yet, but this has been my favorite arc of a really strong Morrison run.  I don’t expect that to change here.
  • BRIGHTEST DAY #1 – We’re going to find out why these 12 characters (out of everyone who has died) were chosen to come back to life. However, I imagine I won’t really care.  Still, it’s $3, there’s curiosity and a freebie White Lantern ring, so I’ll bite.  The most interesting thing about the White Lantern so far is how it mirrors Kyle being given his ring by Ganthet waaaaay back in Green Lantern #50.
  • MUPPET SHOW #5 – And speaking of reminders, I still haven’t read #4 yet.  Still, this book never fails to delight.  I’m a little concerned how not having Roger Langridge’s art will affect the book, but since he’s still writing I’m unconcerned.
  • SHADOWHAWK #1 – Okay, I’ll cop to this being nostalgia tinged with an unsafe level of curiosity, especially since Shadowhawk symbolizes a LOT of what was wrong with comics in the early 90’s. Still, much like Image United (where’s issue 3, guys?!?!?!) this one’s siren song may be too strong to resist.  I’m weak, I know this.

Lots of solid freebies came out last weekend and I’d just like to run through the few I’ve read so far.  I haven’t gotten to the big titles, but here are some of the indies I was able to go through.

Love and Capes –
This honeymoon issue was a great intro to the book, which I’ve been wanting to check out since hearing Thom Zahler on the War Rocket Ajax podcast.  A cute book with some genuine laughs, this is the “what if Lois and Superman” were really married book.  Well done, I’m just tired of the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman analogues in every indie book about superheroes (and I say this hypocritically knowing I have plans for one, too).  Let’s invent some new characters, folks.
Oni Press Free For All – All three shorts were entertaining, but Salt Water Taffy by Matthew Loux towered way over the others…Over anything else I’ve read from FCBD 2010, actually.  It’s rare that a comic can elicit laughs (or laffs, if you’d rather) from me, but SWT did.  I’m definitely going to pick up the first 3 collections now. Well played, FCBD…Well played.
Overstreet Guide – It’s probably about time that Overstreet tried protecting its own interests in comics, but I would have much rather seen a real comic.  Kids can totally learn the anal-retentiveness of comic collecting on the streets, they don’t need a handbook.
Irredeemable/Incorruptible – This a great intro to Mark Waid’s world where Superman goes bad (there we go again!).  I don’t know if these were complete issues of the first issue of each respective book, but it was a great primer, and I think I’m going to check out more in trades.

So, that’s it for me.  What are YOU looking at?

Scenes From FCBD 2010

Here in Denver we had an incredible turnout for Free Comic Book Day.  Even though I got a late start (and missed the chance to see the Batmobile from the 60’s movie…heartbreaking!) the crowds and lines were long.  Some of the more obscure books were long gone by the time I showed up, but it’s terrific that there was such a big turnout.  Note to self: leave the house earlier next year!

The Best Day of the Year!

It’s almost upon us!  The best day of the year!  Yes, Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday, May 1st.  Not  only is it a chance for those of us who are already addicted to catch some great sales and snag some free books, but it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to evangelize about our love of the art form.  With comic book movies among the highest grossing, college courses on comics catching on, and an unprecedented breadth of genres to pick from, we are truly looking at a golden age of acceptance.  Do your part: get the word out.

There will be haters, but now is the time when we must put our best foot forward and make sure that we do not let someone judge an entire medium by it’s weakest examples. The format of the novel shouldn’t be suspect because Hardy Boys novels are juvenile, and comic books shouldn’t be denigrated because Deadpool is, either (not that there’s anything wrong with the Hardy Boys or Deadpool).

FCBD is our chance to yell at the world that comics have everything to offer.  Use your voice.

I’d like to throw out some quick plugs for comic shops that the Colorado half of the L.E.M.U.R. Comics Blog will be hitting this weekend.  These are not coincidentally also the shops cool enough let us put out fliers in their stores*, but they’ve historically put on great showings for FCBD.

Mile High Comics – Thornton
8806 Washington Street
Thornton, CO 80229
(303) 457-2612

I Want More Comics
10343 North Federal Boulevard
Westminster, CO 80260
(303) 466-1620

Hero Headquarters
8757 North Sheridan Boulevard
Westminster, CO 80003
(303) 426-0768

Time Warp Comics & Games
3105 28th Street
Boulder, CO 80301
(303) 443-4500

*Not that anyone said no, these are all the shops I asked.  Denver has plenty more quality comic retailers worth checking out.