So I’ve joked around the shop a handful of times that if I were in charge of Swamp Thing comics, it would totally be just Swamp Thing time-traveling every issue, visiting important characters and events through the DC Universe’s history. (In other words, sorta like the Veitch issues in the middle of this page, but more like this series, just with a muck-encrusted mockery of a man as the lead.)
One of the covers I suggested for this theoretical run (Swamp Thing Adventures in Time and Space, if I may) would have been a take-off on this classic Chaykin cover from 1983:
…but with our pal Swampy in the cockpit.
Well, this Christmas, in secret collusion, Employee Timmy bade Employee Aaron to create this illustration as a gift for me:
I’m telling you, DC…call me. I’ll even buy the boy a ruler to keep his swastikas straight.
I did indeed get a free comic. And so did the several hundred folks who passed through our doors on Saturday, most of whom didn’t get just one free comic, but many free comics pulled from the several tables we had set up for funnybook distribution.
…is from much later in the day, when we’d taken down one of the tables once we were out of a handful of titles. But this should give you kind of an idea of what was goin’ on at our store for pretty much the entire day. And yes, that’s a shelf of pogs. There is no escape.
Here’s a shot from sort of behind the register “island” near the front of one side of our shop…that’s Employee Fredat the far right behind the register there:
And here’s the boss, Seth himself, posing with a box of Bongo comics, Employee Timmy lurking just over his shoulder:
Part-Time Employee Aaron and his lovely wife Kempo manned and womanned the Cash Only register we set up on the other side of the store, with only the occasional bout of violence:
And then there was this fella, Customer Brandon, who helped out a bit, too. I think he’s dressed up as someone from Speed Racer or something, I’m pretty sure:
Special thanks to Pal Casie, who dropped off a box of cakes and cookies, decorated in such a way that clearly indicated they were all meant for me and not for any other of those crummy employees:
Those were the only pics I managed to take; Employee Mark took more photos but hasn’t yet sent them to me, but as soon as he does, I’ll toss ‘em up on the site. One of those photos includes me, so consider yourself warned.
Anyway, remember how in this post I mentioned I was going to de-emphasize the distribution of our free comics in age-appropriate bags…a bag of freebies for kids, one for teens, one for grown-ups. Well, I de-emphasized the heck out of it since I ultimately decided not to bag any of the comics at all. The goal was to keep some stock of freebies through most of the day by not giving everything to everybody. And I have to tell you, that morning, as I was unloading and stacking all the comics on all the tables I had a moment of panic. “Oh man, we’re never going to get rid of all of these, I shoulda bagged ‘em, oh we’re screwed,” which is a variation on my usual FCBD pre-opening panic that no one’s going to show up and that it’ll be a disaster.
Shouldn’t have worried. We were slammed from the second we opened our door at 10 AM, and the store was crammed full with people until mid-afternoon, when things slowed down to just merely insanely busy. Seth and Employee Mark even had to function as gatekeepers for a couple of hours, standing at the door and letting customers in only a few at time, and we still had a line stretching around the interior of the store, down one side, across the back wall, and forward by the tables as they head back towards the the register and the exit. As previously noted, the shots of the store above were later in the afternoon, when folks were just heading straight in from the door toward the tables, when the crowds were slightly more manageable.
Also as previously noted, we had a second register set up for cash only transactions, having learned my lesson from last time when we had register lines a mile long. As it turns out, not a whole lot of people carry cash nowadays, but enough did to help lessen line wait times at least a little.
Back to this year’s free comic distribution test (i.e. “Mike was too lazy to sort out the comics into bags this time”), there were two main results. First, yes, as I’d hoped, the comic stock lasted a bit longer this time around. In fact, for the first time in a few years, I still had a small assortment left over, enough to fill a small Diamond shipping box, which is quite the reduction from the many dozens of Diamond FCBD shipping boxes I originally received. That’s probably a combination of the non-bagging and of my increased orders this time around. That’s okay…we’ve left some out for anyone who couldn’t make it in on Saturday.
Second, it did increase customer wait time as everyone picked out the comics they wanted instead of just grabbing a pre-packed bag or three and running off. Nobody really seemed to mind, however, and the wait time wasn’t that long.
Another thing I did this year was take a bunch of those bargain-priced comics we still had hanging around (all those 50-cent Invincibles and $1.00 “Image Firsts” and 25-cent Vampirellas and such) and put those out for giveaways, too. And that giant stack of free Marvel Point Ones that Marvel overshipped to us a couple years back, and that one issue of Garfield that, ahem, I may have accidentally overordered by entering the wrong number on the order form and not noticing…all put out for giveaways, all gone.
AND I think I am finally, finally out of that Avatar Comics Robocop freebie from years ago. I thought I was done with it before, but more keep turning up. But I think I finally unloaded all our backstock of books from FCBDs past. …Well, it wasn’t more than two or three shipping boxes’ worth, so it wasn’t that much, but it still feels good to have found good homes for them.
We didn’t have any in-store signings or other planned special guests…there just wouldn’t have been room…but I did briefly greet pal Nat; got to see the bearded visage of Matt Digges and his non-bearded niece; reader Dave Z., who makes the trek from Bakersfield every year to get free comics that had been personally touched by my filthy, filthy hands; and hugged Gina, my former editor at Music Confidential magazine.
In addition to the goodies pal Casie brought us, Heather from the local library brought us a tray of cookies, thanking us for providing a bunch of this year’s FCBD books for them to distribute. And Employee Mark’s uncle Jay brought us his candied balls. …Before you ask, yes we did. How can you not.
End result: the busiest, most successful Free Comic Book Day yet…gave away more comics than ever before, and made more money than ever before. I’m not trying to be crass by mentioning the money thing, but it’s important to note that the expense of Free Comic Book Day…the cost of the comics, the employee wages, the trapeze artist, the stunt drivers…was more than covered.
I have been sent a few stories, in comments and via email, from people whose own FCBD experiences at their local shops were less than exemplary. I’m sorry to hear it, but I’ve also heard from folks who had wonderful times, so maybe things have been improving on that front. Like I’ve said many, many times before…it doesn’t take much to make Free Comic Book Day into an event, and boy, what an event we had this time around. Plus, I think I’ve convinced Seth into letting me spend even more money for Free Comic Book Day next year.
I should also note the efforts of Employee Robert the Friday night before, who did a lot of set-up rearranging part of the store to accommodate the free comic distribution. EFFORTS ARE NOTED.
So we were a bit shorthanded at the shop on Tuesday, and thus were forced to call in a member of the Legion of Former Employees…the dreaded Aaron of the Forest Tribe:
…pictured here wielding his clan’s traditional weapon of Spawn posters.
Anyway, I probably want to talk more about Swamp Thing — yes, I know, shocking — and some of your comments regarding Monday’s post, but that’ll wait ’til later in the week when I’m not dog-tired. But at the very least, reader Adam was good enough to post a link to Swampy’s cameo in the recent Robot Chicken special. Very short, involves what could only technically be called “a joke,” but has some nice stop-motion animation using that recent Mattel Swamp Thing figure and a Barbie doll or something similar made up to look like Abby. WARNING: May have to watch a 30 second commercial before watching the 4 second clip.
So former employee Aaron brought me tribute from last week’s Wondercon to appease my mighty wrath, in the form of a copy of the newest Swamp Thing #1 signed by writer Scott Snyder:
And…oh ho, what’s this?
For those of you just joining this website already in progress (-ive ruin), that would be a reference to the greatest piece of Swamp Thing merchandise ever created…the infamous “Swamp Thing chalk,” as seen here:
Anyway, between this and the War Rocket Ajax incident…well, Mr. Snyder probably isn’t thinking “oh, man, not another person bugging me about this Mike Sterling guy again,” but we’re getting there, surely.
Saturday was the last day of Employee Aaron’s full-time employment at our humble funnybook store, so please join me in wishing him well in his new professional endeavor: SUPER SECRET SPY A GO-GO 3000.
Aaron was a joy to work with, his cheerful demeanor always inspiring, and it’s not going to be the same without him. Well, mostly without him, as his new job as SUPER SECRET SPY A GO-GO 3000 is Monday through Friday, leaving the possibility of getting him into the shop on the occasional weekend. Plus, his lovely wife Kempo is still putting in a few hours at our shop every week, so he’s certain to come by the shop sometime…and then we can recapture him say hello.
We’re going to miss Aaron around here, and we all hope the best for him. Good luck, pal!
Special thanks to pal Kevin for taking the photo and comic-ing it up.
And before you ask…yes, I’ve been bugging both Employee Aaron and his lovely wife, who is also a talented artist, to start taking commissions. I’ll let you know as soon as they do…and it’d better be soon.
So yesterday I witnessed the joining in holy matrimony of Employee Aaron and his former-fiancée-now-wife Kempo. Yup, it’s finally done…the two of them are hitched but good. And I saw it with my very own eyes. Now they’re off on their honeymoon, and I hope those crazy kids have a good time.
Yesterday was also Free Comic Book Day…and “Spoil the Post-Credits Scene of Thor for Mike” Day, but let’s not get into that…which, as I’ve mentioned before, meant that I had to take off for an hour or two to witness the wedding shenanigans. Which also meant shedding my usual in-store fancy dress for even fancier dress, and if you were lucky enough to pop into the shop in the late afternoon after my return from the ceremony, you were greeted by this handsome bastard:
Yeah, that’s right…drink it in. (Thanks to pal Kevin for taking the pic and working his halftone ‘n’ caption magic upon it.)
As for the FCBD event itself…it was certainly wall-to-wall people nearly the entire day (including the couple of hours I was gone, I’d been told), and the prepared prepacks of freebies, of which I’d put together a lot, and I thought would easily last us ’til I got back to the shop about 3-ish in the afternoon…were entirely gone by the time I’d returned. We ordered huge numbers, and still we were run nearly dry of the 2011 offerings. We had leftovers from previous years that were put back out, plus I ended up grabbing some of the recent $1 reprint books from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and others to throw on the freebie tables as well.
If you want to check out some of our set-up, pal Andres (who helped out most of the day, and stood in as Fake Mike while I was gone) took a few pictures of the prepping-in-progress. …And yeah, we had a handful of mighty stacks of a few freebies from previous years, for some reason. Ah, well, it happens. At least those stacks are somewhat smaller now.
Ultimately, once again, assisted by a small in-store graphic novel discount sale, we made back the money spent in purchasing the FCBD books, and pulled in a profit besides. Plus, I got to see a handful of old customers I haven’t seen for a while, lured in by the siren call of the free funnybook, and that was nice.
I don’t know that I have any specific “FCBD Report” beyond this, given that when I was at the shop, I was mostly fielding question from folks looking for back issues or graphic novel recommendations, while Andres and a few other brave souls handling the distribution of the freebies. No problems, no hassles, just a lot of comics given away and a lot of happy customers.
Of course, like every year during FCBD, there’s always somebody who wants to go through the porn comics. Doesn’t it figure.
But anyway, the Free Comic Book Day madness is over, and now I can look forward to a nice, relaxed Sunday at the shop, where we’ll just be having…a Magic the Gathering prerelease tournament?
I mentioned before that my favorite this year was probably Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse from Fantagraphics, featuring some classic newspaper dailies by Floyd Gottfredson. And Drawn and Quarterly’s John Stanley’s Summer Fun reprints a nice selection of Stanley’s work, including a Tubby story and a Nancy story (but alas, no Sluggo aside from an appearance on a puzzle page).
Bongo Comics Free-for-All includes Simpsons stories by Sergio Aragones and Evan Dorkin, so already you’re in for some good readin’. Plus, it leads off with a Ralph Wiggum story, and I know you guys like the Ralph Wiggum. Pretty sure this is all reprinted from previously-published comics, too, but it’s a solid assortment.
Marvel provides an all-new story featuring Captain America and Thor, by the Thor: The Mighty Avenger creative team of Roger Landridge and Chris Samnee. Cap and Thor fight Loki over the Holy Grail, and it’s fast-paced, light-hearted, and a lot of fun.
Elric: The Balance Lost from Dark Horse (by Chris Roberson, Francesco Biagini, and Stephen Dowler) isn’t really for me, since I’m fairly indifferent to the character, but I can recognize this as a nicely done effort. The story gives a brief overview of just what Elric’s deal is, and the back-up material presents a look at Elric’s funnybook history, along with some sketchbook pages.
If you’re looking for this year’s Owly freebie, he’s featured in one of the stories in Top Shelf Kids Club, along with a short Johnny Boo story by James Kochalka and other kid-friendly strips. Worth a look.
The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators/Top 10 Deadliest Sharks flip-comic is a bit peculiar, but I’ll bet kids will love it. Bloody shark attacks and fightin’ dinosaurs? Of course they’ll love it. Anyone over the age of 10 might not be quite as into it, however.
Pal Ian gets his own FCBD flip-book, with Darkwing Duck and Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, featuring his scripts, being this year’s freebie from Boom! Studios. If you wanted to see what Ian’s been up to since he stopped blogging and started doing something productive, here you go!
Dark Horse went the flip-book route as well: one side has Criminal Macabre, which doesn’t really do anything for me, but the other side, Baltimore (another of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola’s supernatural suspense properties), is a short and pleasantly-creepy vampire story.
While I’m glad Archie does a FCBD book every year, it seems like the art in this year’s installment is a bit…rough-hewn? I guess? I’m not a regular Archie reader nowadays, given my preference for Archie material from the ’60s and earlier, but do current Archie comics usually look like this? I mean, it’s bright and colorful and I suppose it’s appealing enough, but it’s not really a patch on Dan DeCarlo’s work. But then, what is?
DC’s Green Lantern Special Edition is a bit unfortunate…one chapter from the Green Lantern “Secret Origin” storyline, and a brief preview of the Flashpoint event that doesn’t make it look very appealing. DC’s other book this year, the Young Justice/Batman The Brave and the Bold sampler, is better, more due to the Batman half than the Young Justice half. Though, given the apparent popularity of the YJ cartoon, this will probably go over well with kids.
The Tick comic for this year is 7 pages of comics, and the rest text-heavy encyclopedic entries for the cast, which seems like an odd choice to make. But who knows, maybe someone will be intrigued enough by one of the entries to ask for more comics featuring that character. And there is that portion of the comic-reading audience that loves detailed character rosters like this.
Overstreet Guide to Collecting Comics 2011 – once again, point of the day successfully missed. Lots of people writing about things that I don’t know anyone coming into shops to get free comics is going to care about. But again, you never know what’s gonna trigger someone’s interest in comics.
Anyway, that’s just a few of the FCBD offering coming out this year. Like I noted above, check out Dor and Chris for more detailed overviews. And if you want to read more about the actual process of Free Comic Book Day, just read my posts tagged “Free Comic Book Day” and watch history unfurl before your very eyes!
• • •
Reminder: employee Aaron and his lovely fiancée Kempo are getting married tomorrow as well, necessitating my brief departure from the shop and my fervent hope that nothing disastrous happens during that time. At the shop, I mean. Not at the wedding. Though I hope nothing disastrous happens there, either. However, former employee Jeff will be at the wedding, too, so who knows.
Everyone out there, please give Aaron and Kempo your best wishes for their wedding day, as I certainly do. Also, I totally plan on calling Aaron repeatedly during his honeymoon to ask him ridiculous work-related questions. “Hey, do you remember what Superman’s secret identity is?” You know, stuff like that.