Friday, May 6, 2016

Free Comic Book Day 2016 guide

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, so here I am with this year's edition of the FCBD guide! For those of you who have never participated, it may be helpful to have a few of the details clarified. Generally, FCBD goes something like this: You enter your local comic shop-- if you're unsure where the nearest one is, you can find out right here-- and the FCBD comics are displayed on a table or shelf, usually separate from the rest of the merchandise. Some shops place a limit on how many free books you can choose, while some let you grab as many as you like; it's all up to the owners of each store. Whatever the case, make sure to buy something while you're there, because while the comics are free to customers, the stores have to pay for them. They pay much less than they do for a normal comic, but it's still money out of their pockets.

FCBD grows each year, and so does the selection of free comics. It can be a little overwhelming, particularly with all the extra traffic most shops experience during the event. It helps to have a few key comics in mind that you're interested in. Lucky thing you happened across this, eh? (Of course, keep in mind that not every comic shop will have ordered every single comic. Generally, the majority will be offered, however.)

This year, the owners of Hattiesburg's own Southern Fried Comics graciously allowed me to come by a few days early and read through this year's comics. Thanks to their generosity, I'm able to bring you a much more thorough look at this year's FCBD offerings than ever before! Let's start by taking a look at my top picks. 

(Apologies for the lo-res photos. They're straight from the FCBD site. I'm not sure why they never have hi-res images of the comic covers.)

March: Top Shelf brings us an sample of Congressman John Lewis's autobiographical tale of his participation in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I've read the first two volumes, and it is some powerful stuff. You should definitely check this one out! 

Love and Rockets: Fantagraphics presents this sampler of the Hernandez brothers' long-running series. Beautifully illustrated, and packed with well-developed characters, this is critically-acclaimed for good reason. This is a definite grab if you're longing for something different from guys in tights punching each other. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Civil War II: Marvel's latest event kicks off here, though that's not actually why I'm recommending this one. This issue also features an Avengers story by the great Mark Waid that introduces the new version of a classic character. 

Bongo Free-For-All: Bongo's Simpsons Comics are a constant delight, and their annual FCBD issue is always reliable fun. 

Stuff of Legend: Th3rd World Studios (really) is offering this look at a series that is basically a horror-tinged version of Toy Story. It's an interesting premise, and the art is gorgeous. This is also a nice comic if you're looking for something appropriate for older kids who aren't really ready for "mature readers" material, but wouldn't be interested in comics geared toward smaller children.

The Tick: It's the Tick! What's not to love?

Valiant: Summer of 4001: Since its return a few years ago, Valiant has been doing some tremendous comics. This issue will make a decent jumping-on point for anyone interested in giving Valiant a shot. 

Bob's Burgers: Dynamite's comic does a good job capturing the feel of the wonderful animated series, which is no easy feat. Definitely pick this up if you're a fan of the show.

Avatarex: Graphic India brings us a preview of Grant Morrison's latest. Morrison is one of the greatest writers alive, and his work always bears watching. This issue also features a look at his script, giving us a peek at his creative process. 

Serenity/Hellboy/Aliens: Dark Horse serves up a trio of beloved fan properties, but the biggest draw has gotta be a Hellboy tale illustrated by the legendary Richard Corben!

Spongebob's Freestyle Funnies: United Plankton is back with another collection of square, porous lunacy. It delights, as always. This issue also includes a Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy adventure illustrated by none other than industry legend Ramona Fradon!

We Can Never Go Home/Young Terrorists: Black Mask offers up a pair of stories serving as a preview of ongoing series. Both are pretty interesting, especially Young Terrorists. This is a good pick if you want some superhero action that is slightly off the beaten path.

2000 AD: The beloved sci-fi anthology offers up a varied sampler that is sure to have something to appeal to almost everyone. There are some really interesting tales here, including the obligatory Judge Dredd, of course. Each story has some QR code interaction too, if you dig that sort of thing.

Mooncop: A Tom Gauld Sampler: Drawn & Quarterly-- possibly the best pun-based publisher name ever-- has put together a nice little sampler of work by the titular Gauld. This is a charming comic that offers something different than the usual fare.

The Phantom: Hermes Press has put together an awesome collection of vintage Phantom strips, featuring work by such industry legends as Jim Aparo!

Boom 2016 Summer Blast: A nice and varied sampler of kid-friendly content, featuring a good mix of different genres. 

DC Superhero Girls: A tie-in to the new superhero toys aimed at a young female audience, this comic features young superheroes at a school staffed by the older DCU characters. It's a charming comic, but there is one thing that elevates it to greatness: Gorilla Grodd is the school's vice principal. Just try to resist that!

Overstreet Comic Marketplace: These Overstreet FCBD issues always have some interesting historical information about the comics industry. This issue has an article devoted to Will Eisner's beloved classic The Spirit!

Captain America: The original Cap is back, and this issue leads into his new ongoing series, just in time for his new movie. Lucky thing, that. The creative team is Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz, which is the main reason this issue gets a solid recommendation. Those guys do great work. 

CBLDF Defend Comics: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been doing vital work to preserve comics as an industry and an art form for decades, and this issue gives you a peek into what they do.

Oddly Normal: This is a nice kid-friendly book from Image with an interesting premise and some colorful, energetic art. 

Here's a brief look at the rest of the free comics that will be available tomorrow. Don't consider them slighted because they didn't get singled out above; there is still some good stuff to be found here. The comics you just read about above just had a little something extra that made them stand out to me. 

Assassin's Creed (Titan Comics)- Expands on the lore of the game series.
One Punch Man (Viz)- Manga presented in the traditional right-to-left format.
Attack On Titan Anthology (Kodansha)- Sci-fi anthology. 
Spectrum (Automatic)- Sci-fi by Alan Tudyk.
Worlds of Aspen (Aspen)
Doctor Who (Titan)
Devil's Due Mix Tape (Devil's Due)
Suicide Squad (DC)- A reprint of the first New 52 issue. 
Lady Mechanika (Benitex Productions)- Steampunk adventure.
Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises (Darby Pop)- Not bad, but it's tough to capture what made Bruce great on the printed page.
Rom #0 (IDW)- The Space Knight returns! This issue serves as a teaser for the new series. Contains an ad for the Bill Mantlo Support Fund, which is nice to see.

Junior Braves of the Apocalypse (Oni)- Kids return from camp to find the world overrun with zombies.
Hilda (Nobrow)- Charming fun for young readers.
Grumpy Cat (Papercutz)- Starring the internet meme sensation. Actually better than you might expect.
Science Comics (First Second)- Educational and fun, with vibrant art.
Sonic Sampler (Archie)
Awake (Action Lab)- Kids will dig this. Adults will get a kick out of an ad for "Dog of Wonder" illustrated by the great Neal Adams. That made my day.
The Pink Panther (American Myhtology)- Kids these days likely won't know who the Pink Panther is, but they still can have fun with this comic.
Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (Arcana)- Movie tie-in. Kid-friendly Chtulhu.
Sanjay and Craig (Papercutz)
Dark Lily and Friends (Space Goat)
Pokemon (Perfect Square)
Dream Jumper (Graphix)- Pretty self-explanatory title.
Strawberry Shortcake (IDW)
Legend of Korra (Dark Horse)- Fans will dig this.
Camp Midnight (Image)
Comics Lab (Z2)- Good for older kids. Gorgeous art in "Legend."
Archie (Archie)- Good for older kids. A sample of the recent reboot by Mark Waid.

The lone FCBD issue I didn't have the chance to check out was Street Fighter, since Diamond didn't send that one. Thankfully, SF fans know to look for that one. (And if any reading this didn't, now you do!) Hopefully, you've found this helpful. As always, get out and support your local comic shop tomorrow, and have fun! 

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