May brings many things to the world--the end of the school year, warm sunny thoughts of vacation, days spent outdoors. But May (specifically the first week in May) brings two of the high holy days of nerdom and geekery. As many know, May the 4th celebrates that favorite film franchise set in a galaxy far far away. Sure, the holiday was created by George Lucas and is observed mostly by fans through social media, but I say if you’re given an excuse to make the day a little more special, why not?
But I digress. Today, I want to talk about what happens on the following Saturday. For the past fifteen years, the first Saturday in May has been known as Free Comic Book Day, a day meant to thank readers for their support and introduce comic newbies to fun of reading comics. On this day, publishers release special books which can be picked up at participating comic shops without a purchase being made. Many of these books act as previews for what the publisher is releasing in the upcoming months or peeks at their more successful series from the past year.
In the Athens area, we are lucky to have two independently owned comic shops--Mr. Comic Book Shop and Bizarro Wuxtry. After spending my Saturday morning visiting each of these, as well as 2nd and Charles, I came away with a nice collection, which you, lovely people of the internet, will now get to hear about!
So, without further ado, my 2016 Free Comic Book Day 15th Anniversary edition round up!
I have been excited for the take off of DC SuperHero Girls for a while now, and this first look at their upcoming graphic novel did not disappoint. I loved seeing the heroes I love redesigned and made accessible for a younger audience. I can not wait for more from this line, including newly released toys and a TV show. I’ll get a better look when the graphic novel is released, but based on this preview alone this is something I would happily keep in my classroom.
The return of Love and Rockets was one of the more talked about books this FCBD. Written by brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, this book is made up of two stories set in Southern California which depict a surreal slice-of-life, almost Clowesian, tale. This was my first time reading the brothers Hernandez and I much appreciated the introduction in the beginning of each story to give newbies like me a feel for what we were about to step into.
The Boom Studios 2016 Summer Blast showcased six of their current books: Labyrinth, Mouse Guard, Lumberjanes, The Cloud, and Goldie Vance. Lumberjanes was the only title of these I was familiar with and all you really need to know is I LOVE IT. I think it's one of the best books out there and urge everyone (especially middle/high school age girls) to read it. Goldie Vance seems to follow in its girl power footsteps, and if that’s not enough it’s written by indie comic darling, Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time). The other three books rank very high in the art area. I have not seen “Labyrinth” (Can we still be friends? Please?! Okay, cool), and felt that I may have needed some more context for the story but the art is incredible! This book, along with Mouse Guard and The Cloud, are all ones I would frame individual pages from to use as decor in my house.
I first discovered the Bob’s Burgers comic last Free Comic Book Day. Since then, I purchased the first trade and have gotten many-a laugh from it. Each issue is broken into three stories, one centering around each Belcher child. You get friend fiction from Tina, a mystery starring Louise, and a musical putting Gene in the spotlight. This is one of my favorite tie-in comics as it really understands and matches the voice of the show.
Mooncop is a preview of Tom Gauld’s upcoming graphic novel of the same title as well as strips from his collection You’re All Just Jealous of my Jetpack. The novel itself seems intriguing but it was the one frame gags (many of which I’ve seen floating around the internet) that really got me.
Oddly Normal was the first book where I noticed two ongoing themes throughout the all ages titles this year: the feeling of not fitting in and the use of classic horror monsters to further exhibit this feeling. I really enjoyed how thought driven the book was, with most of the story being moved by the title character’s inner monologue, which pairs really well with the illustrations. This book would be a lot of fun for middle grades and upper elementary aged kids.
Science Comics may be my favorite discovery this year. This specific issue was split into two previews of their full length graphic novels on Coral Reefs and Volcanoes. I loved the way the coral reef book gave us background on the author and context for her wanting to write a book about coral reefs. As a pre-service teacher, I found her journey and want to teach in a non-classroom environment of interest. One of my favorite ways to engage students before reading a book is to introduce them to the author, usually through a video interview found online, and I felt this comic drawn as a conversation with the author did just that. These books are just part of a larger series of academic comics aimed at elementary aged kids. I’ll be beginning to build my own classroom collection of these ASAP.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a nonprofit that works to protect first amendment rights and helps cover legal expenses for comic creators, retailers, and librarians. This year's sampler, Help the CBLDF...DEFEND COMICS, offers several vignettes on the importance of freedom of speech and the power of storytelling through comics. My personal favorite was Lucy Kinsley’s telling of her experience at London’s Speaker’s Corner (and he learning, after seeing an outdated wax figure, that Michael Stipe once had hair). The CBLDF is a great resource when looking at how to best use comics and graphic novels within a classroom.
Hilda is the story of a young girl which is based very heavily in the writings on Nordic myths. The art is adorable, the story is fun, and Pearson does an incredible job of filling each page with frame after frame, but never making the book feel cluttered. This would be a great introduction to mythology for elementary aged kids!
The Dark Lily and Friends sampler gave us more in the “monsters for children” canon that seemed to be popular this year. Particularly with the stories Dark Lily and Monster Elementary. Both of these books find their lead characters dropped into a seemingly “normal” world. At least, normal to the reader. For the protagonists, these are uncharted waters. Young readers will love watching these characters navigate the likes of adolescence and school, in a way that is familiar to them--showing it as both simultaneously baffling and the norm.
Camp Midnight plays on similar themes, but in the reverse. Here a young girl accidentally gets on the wrong summer camp bus. She ends up at a camp built as a haven for young monsters to show their “true selves.” I must add, the specific color palettes used on each page (and changing as the story goes on) add to the story in the most subtly powerful way.
Last but not least, we have the re-release of 2015’s Archie #1. I had read this book before and while I have not ventured any further into the series, it is a really fun book. Fans of the classic book will be tickled to see Riverdale reimagined for a new generation. Personally, my memories of Archie are centered around packs of goodies my mom made me and my sister when we went on long car trips or plane rides, there was usually at least one Double Digest found amongst the stash.
So there you have it, Free Comic Book Day 2016. For more of my writing on comics check out the links below.