It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Free Comic Book Day.

STK525975Late yesterday afternoon the UPS left leaving an envelope whose contents — “Superman: Last Son of Krypton” and “Beware the Batman” — sent me rocketing back to my childhood.

They’re two of the books to be given away tomorrow for Free Comic Book Day 2013. Every first Saturday in May the comics industry gives away millions of titles for free at comic shops across the country.

Some 4.6 million comics will be handed across counters this year, which is a 30% increase over 2012.

Comics have moved beyond the POW! ZAP! these days. SpongeBob Squarepants has his own comic series. So does “Sesame Street.” The wildly popular series “The Walking Dead” began as a comic book, although purists would probably call it a graphic novel.

The free-comic lineup is quite the mixed bag: books based on the usual superheroes like Superman, Batman and The Hulk, plus titles whose heroes range from Judge Dredd to MegaMan to the children’s book character Pippi Longstocking. (Go here for a full list of offerings.)

What you’ll get depends on when you get there. Anything that’s free is bound to leave the stores quickly, so plan to show up early. The Free Comic Book Day home page has a store locator tool to help you find shops in your area.

You may also find other activities, such as free food or entertainment. For example, Legend Comics & Coffee in Omaha is raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation by selling door prize tickets for $5. The grand prize this year is a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #1 CGC, valued at $4,000 – and yes, you can enter to win by donating through the above link.

Old-school entertainment

Comics have changed since I was a kid, especially as regards the slickness of the paper. The pages we read were more like newsprint. But the sight of those two iconic superheroes reminded me of hot summer days when we walked or rode our bikes to one of the two stores in our small rural township – the one that sold comic books.

When we had any money at all we’d buy one and hurry home to read it. We’d discuss the plots and wonder what would happen the next month. Like the old movie serials, they invariably had cliffhanger endings; if a story line was resolved, a new peril would be suggested in the final frame. STK525976_TN

We read them year-round, mind you. But somehow comic books feel like summer to me.

My brother was a huge fan and drew comics on every scrap of paper he could find. He had a semester or so of formal training at a comic book art school before life intervened, but during years of working at a glass factory, a diner and the New Jersey state prison system he never stopped drawing.

After retiring just before he turned 50, Glenn turned the avocation into a full-time retirement gig. He’s inked some independent comics and travels to comic shows all over the country to sell original work. If you’d like to see some examples, check out these Google images.

This afternoon I’ll read the Batman and Superman two titles with my nephew, Malachi. Maybe when he grows up he’ll feel as tenderly about the genre as I do. Maybe not, though, since so many types of media are so readily available to him.

My brother and I grew up in an era of three TV channels, no Internet and children’s entertainment mostly segregated to Saturday mornings. Malachi and his own brother aren’t likely to feel the same sense of excitement and anticipation as they head to the store: Will the new X-Men comic be out yet? Oh, I hope, I hope, I hope.

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  1. Laura

    We took three of our young children to free comic book day in the cold and sleet yesterday to wait in line for 2 hours and had a blast! We got pictures with all the characters in costume including Spider Man and War Machine and various Star Wars characters. There were also more free comics than ever and a good variety. Now my 6-yr-old daughter is drawing her own comic about three cute ducks who find a skull? Anyway, what a great event!

    • Donna Freedman

      I love the idea of your daughter drawing her own comic. Wonder how cute ducks deal with mysterious skulls? Maybe we’ll have to wait for the next issue for the denouement.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  2. Jenny

    I was one of those weird kids who never read comics–the pictures slowed me down too much! And I still don’t care for graphic novels. So I had no clue about free comics day!
    But I did give away books for World Book Night on April 23rd!

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