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The Evolution of Free Comic Book Day At The Comics Club

The Evolution of Free Comic Book DayAt The Comics Club

The best comic book day of the year keeps getting better

By The Comic Book Pusher

Take Christmas and your birthday, add a dash of treasure hunt and put it all in a blender. Pour the mix into a comic book store and you’ll have yourself a counter culture “national holiday” known among true believers as Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). 
Yes my fellow panelologists, FCBD is once more nearly upon us and I’ve felt the excitement building among our customers for weeks. I have to confess, even though I have been putting on The Comics Club’s Free Comic Book Day Celebration since the event began in 2002, for me it never grows old. I still get excited about it year in and year out.
For those of you new to the world of comic books, the event is the brainchild of Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, California. It happens every year on the first Saturday in May. Most comic book stores across the country and around the world take part on some level in this daylong explosion of comic book revelry, which truly has grown to become a national holiday for comic book fans. As it should be. Comic books and graphic novels have gained such lofty heights that it’s not unusual these days to have a comic book based movie or television show breaking records for ticket sales and viewership. Graphic novels are becoming New York Times bestsellers. Comic books have made their way into every aspect of art and media. What better way to honor this very American art form than by grabbing a buddy and immersing yourselves in a daylong celebration of all things comic book? What better way for the comic book industry to make that happen than FCBD? And the best comic book day of the year keeps getting better at The Comics Club.
Fans can expect most shops to be giving away comic books created especially for this day by various publishers. Some shops, like The Comics Club, make it a daylong celebration by engaging the fans in a series of mini events. It’s the biggest event we put on each year, so big in fact that it has been our single biggest gross sales day nearly every year since it began. (There was one year that Free Role Playing Game Day, which is held the third Saturday in June, actually surpassed that year’s FCBD). It is for us what Black Friday is for most other retailers. From its humble beginnings of handing out free comic book and offering a sale, it has evolved over time to include free grab bags, door prizes, two costume contests, trivia games and the star of the event, our “Super Prize”.
When FCBD was first presented to us, we immediately realized the great potential it had to bring new fans (better known in the retail world as “customers”) into the hobby. I did then and I do today encourage people to bring along friends and family who have not been introduced to comic books before. Our first few FCBD events pushed the idea of bringing a “newbie” and turning them on to comic books to create new fans. That is still one of our main goals each year. So while you’re up all night planning your route to hit every comic shop within 20 miles*, be sure to bring a newbie along on the adventure. You’ll have a great time introducing your friend to your hobby, and they’ll have fun gathering free stuff and experiencing something new. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have given birth to a brand new comic book fan. If you make one of your stops The Comics Club, maybe you and your friend will be one of the many door prize winners, or something even bigger. Read on.
 As I said, the development of the events we present on FCBD has been an evolutionary process. It’s been a learning process as well. After the first few FCBD events a pattern became clear. When the initial rush for free grab bags, comic books and door prizes ended, customer traffic pretty much slowed to a crawl, even though the sale went on all day to closing. I decided to add another event that by the second year had morphed into two events -- a costume contest. The new event was a hit, with lots of fans turning out to compete. However, we soon realized we needed two contests -- one for the younger fans and another for the grown up ones. That way the big “kids” didn’t have to compete with the little ones, and vice versa. It worked out well. But we still hadn’t filled all the gaps. Just as it was with the door prizes, after the costume contests were over store traffic declined for the rest of the day. Not that business was completely dead -- many people shop later in the day on FCBD to take advantage of the sales while avoiding the crowds. But it just wasn’t enough. Wanting to extend the celebration and take full advantage of the box office the day can deliver, we knew we needed to add something more.
I confess that not every idea conjured up at The Comics Club is the product of my own cranial musings. Sometimes I call on other pop-culture-addled minds for fresh insights. In this particular case I discussed the challenge with my wife who suggested a brilliant idea. “Why not give away a big prize a little later in the day to bring in more people and get the ones already here to stay and shop?” I loved the idea. We gathered hundreds of dollars worth of pop culture merchandise from all departments of the store and stacked them up, wrapped them inside see-through netting like a giant gift basket, which is basically what it was, and put the monster prize on a Lazy Susan prominently displayed near the check out counter. We posted pictures of the towering heap of nerd booty on our website and our social media accounts creating huge excitement among our customers. We began giving away free tickets for a chance to win the prize a month before FCBD, creating even more buzz far in advance of the event. Thus was born our first “Super Prize”. Our customers loved it. They still do. Many come to the store on a daily pilgrimage to get another ticket and a better chance to win The Comics Club’s famous Super Prize.
If you have ever been to our store at 4 p.m. on FCBD for the Super Prize drawing, you know how exciting the moment is for everyone holding a ticket. As I remember it, it goes a little something like this:

The room goes dark; the lights flicker. A single spotlight shines on a loan figure tipping his top hat and giving the crowd a low bow. The ringmaster rises, returning the hat to his head and spreading his arms wide as he addresses the crowd in a booming barker’s voice that only adds to the excitement of the moment.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Children of all ages! Welcome one and all to The Comics Club’s FREE Comic Book Day Celebration Super Prize Drawing! Now, at last, the great day and moment we have all been waiting for is upon us and a winner and loan recipient of this heretofore undreamed of fabulous prize will soon be revealed!”

The Big Moment comes. The ticket is drawn. The magical number is announced. Silence envelops the room as bowed heads filled with hope scan digits on little blue tickets. Suddenly a voice cries out in stunned realization that they are holding the proverbial “Golden Ticket” and have won The Comics Club’s FCBD Super Prize! Following the initial moans, the rest of the crowd cheers the winner’s good fortune, for even though they haven’t won the Super Prize themselves they know in their hearts that everyone’s a winner when they shop at The Comics Club.

It’s a magical moment. Maybe this year it will be your moment. I’ll see you all soon at the happiest place to be on any given Wednesday -- The Comics Club.

P.S. Don’t forget to bring a “newbie” to FCBD. “The first one’s free, kid!”

*Didn’t think we knew that, eh? Of course we do. In fact, we encourage it! Heck, we would do it ourselves if we didn’t have to work on FCBD. (It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!)

The Comics Club's 2018 FCBD Super Prize.


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