Saturday is Free Comic Book Day

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 6, 2011

By Scott Jenkins
SALISBURY — When Ray Franks was a kid, he didn’t like reading.
Then somebody stuck a comic book in front of him. The heroes, the adventure, the artwork — they caught his imagination and showed him the written word didn’t have to be stodgy and cold.
A lot of people who love to read say comics helped ignite that fire, and that’s what Free Comic Book Day is all about. As Franks, who owns the Comic Monstore, puts it, the event’s purpose is “to celebrate comic books and hopefully get some new readers interested in the American art form that is comic books.”
Comic Monstore will host the local Free Comic Book Day today from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The shop is at 813 S. Jake Alexander Blvd., in the Magic Mart shopping center.
Free Comic Book Day started in 2002 as an effort to attract new readers into independent comic book shops. Each year, comics publishers offer free issues of top titles and special editions created specifically for this event.
Comics publishers are providing 37 titles free this year, including special editions featuring Marvel’s “Thor” — a movie version of which opened in theaters Friday — and D.C.’s “Green Lantern,” which hits the silver screen in June.
Other offerings range from the cartoonish “Darkwing Duck” to the mystical “Elric” to Liquid Comics’ “Silver Scorpion,” which centers on a disabled superhero created by disabled students from America and Syria.
Franks says every title being offered is kid friendly. He says, however, the medium is not just for children. He counts two local doctors among his regular customers along with an older man who has been collecting “Green Lantern” since he was a child.
And while spandex-and-cape comics have been around since Superman first leaped a tall building in the 1930s, today’s books — comics and graphic novels — represent a range of material and styles.
“Modern comic books actually have very good stories,” Franks said. “There’s a lot of compelling writing in comics. … Best-selling authors write comic books now.”
Franks and other comic shop owners hope Free Comic Book Day attracts people who might not know everything they offer. In the Monstore’s case, that includes games, action figures, T-shirts and more, as well as Friday-night gaming.
“It’s a social place to kind of come and escape, sit down, read a book and hang out,” he said.
And in an age when brick-and-mortar book stores are lamenting the rise of e-readers that let people download books in a zap, Franks doesn’t worry, even though the big publishers DC and Marvel have begun offering their titles on iPad and other devices.
“There’s a little more of the collector value that keeps people buying comic books, in my opinion,” he said. “The electronic format is good for people to learn about comics and let them know what’s out there.”
To find out what’s out there, readers and potential readers can also go out and celebrate Free Comic Book Day.
In addition to the free comics, folks who show up early at the Monstore will get to see a “really cool Spider Man Corvette” on display, Franks said. A friend of his usually shows up as a costumed hero. Local artists will be on hand and the store will offer sales.
Contact Scott Jenkins at 704-797-4248.