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Well, our shipment of Free Comic Book Day books has (mostly) arrived at our shop, and oh good gravy there are Too Many Comics:
That’s just a couple of the stacks of boxes that comprised Mike’s Magical Comics Fort that I built behind one of the counters, whilst I popped open cartons and did inventory counts.
Every year, as I go through the FCBD inventory, I have the simultaneous feeling of “I’ve ordered way too much” and “ooh, I hope this is enough,” and the worry sets in about covering the costs, even though we’ve never ever ever lost money on a Free Comic Book Day event. It’s just the worrywart inside me, or just barely inside me since it’s usually pretty obvious when I’m being distracted about stuff like this. However, it looks like a pretty good selection of books this year, and if you can only get one, I’d recommend Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: A Matter of Some Gravity from Fantagraphics, featuring a couple of great Don Rosa stories…you know, as if there were any Don Rosa stories that weren’t great. (But what kind of store would only offer you one FCBD book? Sheesh.)
Now, I said the books had “mostly” arrived, since, even after receiving this enormous shipment that probably put a few new creaks in our UPS guy’s bones, there is still one box out there, wandering about, alone, on the mean streets. Or, perhaps, sitting on a dock somewhere. So, even after spending hours breaking down and counting the order, there are still more FCBD books headed our way, and even on top of that I’m thinking of bolstering our stock with some selective reorders of some books on which I feel I may not have received sufficient quantities. Because, you know, I’m completely insane.
I still have about a box or so of leftovers from the 2013 event, and I think I’m actually completely out of any leftovers I’ve had from the years prior to that. I do have some other stuff I’m thinking about using for further giveaways at the shop as well. Also, while working on my personal comics inventory, I went through the stacks of FCBD books I had in the Vast Mikester Comic Archives and pulled out the ones I wanted to keep, and am returning the rest to the general giveaway stock for this year’s event. If any customers missed that copy of the Transformers: Infiltration freebie from 2006, now’s their big chance!
I wasn’t deliberately trying to hoard comics…I took one of each for review, to decide which comic went into which age-appropriate bag (explanation here) and then I’d be lazy and forget to bring ‘em back and they’d just sit in a box at home, unloved. Well, I don’t do the bag-sorting anymore, as I prefer to stretch the stock out a bit by putting everything out on the tables and letting folks take what they want, so I don’t need to do that extensive of a review anymore. A general “for God’s sake don’t let kids take the Avatar book” type of warning to the employees monitoring the freebies was good enough last year, and it’ll probably be good enough again this year.
And like I always do every year, I peek in on the eBay to see who’s already selling this year’s FCBD books despite the retailer order form having this to say:
“By buying FCBD editions, you agree that you will give them away for free on May 3, 2014, with no purchase required.”
…And of course, there are plenty available at some optimistic pricing. “We’ll give some of these Rocket Raccoon comics out for free, but we’ll charge five bucks apiece for the rest! …Hey, they didn’t say ‘give them all away!’” Okay, maybe it’s not retailers doing this, maybe it’s just plain folks anticipating being able to grab stacks of free books they can sell later. Sure, why not.
…just like that one year when Marvel didn’t have a movie opening in May, but it did in July, and God forbid we not have a Free Comic Book Day that wasn’t tied to a Marvel movie. Anyway, as I promised way back when, all those two months ago, here are some of the other photos taken by Semi-Occasional Employee Mark of this year’s FCBD event:
A shot of one and 1/3 tables loaded with comics, just prior to opening the doors to the waiting hordes:
A slightly blurry photo of the slightly blurry Employee Timmy and Employee Aaron and Employee Aaron’s moustache:
Kempo, wife of Employee Aaron, doing terrible things to comics with her mighty elbows:
And here I am, crashing Kempo’s photo op with my ridiculous head of hair:
Goku finally meets the one foe he can never defeat:
And here is Goku again, back in happier times prior to his terrible beating:
So there we go…a little scrapbook of additional Free Comic Book Day memories, to keep with us in our hearts until the abject horror of having to prep for FCBD 2014 seeps in.
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.
And yes, I know that’s Goku…don’t send me emails.
Go get your free comic books already. And send your best wishes to me, as I give a bazillion comics away at our shop
I’ll let you know tomorrow or Monday how it went. In the meantime…enjoy some comic books!
…In case you needed reminding. Also, pal Dorian runs down the FCBD books
for this year.
In other news:
So there were a couple of questions/comments/whatevers for my last post regarding Free Comic Book Day, and I thought I’d address them here, since I was apparently too lazy to actually respond in the comments section:
• • •
- Snark Shark sez that my new strategy of de-emphasizing pre-bagged distribution of the FCBD books would “save [me] all that needless bagging!” Honestly, I wouldn’t say it was “needless,” as such…there is a measure of convenience to the customer, yes, but there is also the unfortunate fact that…well, how should I put this? You know how cable companies resist the idea of à la carte subscriptions, picking and choosing what channels you’d want and pay for? To steal the explanation from Wikipedia, “when channels are bundled into large subscription tiers, less popular niche channels are more likely to survive because their cost is borne by both viewers and non-viewers, alike.” In other words, if given the opportunity to pick and choose, subscribers would probably overwhelmingly support the Wrestling Bikini Girls Channel, or the Paranormal Horseshit Passed Off As Something Worthwhile Channel, while less popular channels like the Something Actually Educational Channel would wither away and die.
So what I’m saying is that by slapping together bags of the freebie books, I’m distributing certain comics to people who, possibly, may not have picked the book up on their own. And half the battle to get folks to even look at certain comics is won just by getting them to take the darned thing home with them. Thus, it’s not completely needless…but it is a lot of work, and it does get rid of a lot of comics maybe a little too quickly. I’m interested to see how our new emphasis on “build yer own FCBD bag” distribution will go.
- Casey notes “Mike, it seems you get quite a kick out of this FCBD business,” and, yeah, I do. It’s a lot of work, a lot of money up front, and a lot of frustration hearing about other retailers totally fouling it up…but the actual day of the event is a blast, always very busy and it’s a lot of fun chatting about comics with excited people all day. Plus, I get to write obsessively long blog posts about the behind-the-scenes planning, and you folks know I always enjoy writing obsessively long blog posts!
- The amazingly-named ScienceGiant asks “if you did have to make a purchase what would be your age appropriate recommendation for an 8 year old? (Daughter, if relevant).”
Well, that can be tough, because you never know what kids will want. I think it was on the Twitter where I noted that a while back I had a couple of young girls, probably 8 to 10, come into the shop and buy a bunch of Hulk comics…this was before the Avengers movie, if you wondering. So, you never know.
If your local shop has ‘em, Amelia Rules is a good one to try, or that perennial favorite Bone. Also, Ptor mentions a comment or two later that Owly is a good’un, too. If she’s looking for superhero-y stuff (or if that’s all that’s available locally), point her at the (unfortunately now cancelled) Superman Family Adventures, or back issues of Teen Titans Go. The rereleased Smurfs books are a lot of fun, too. Be sure to tell her those are better than the movie.
This actually came up on Sunday, when I had a dad looking for comics for his 7-year-old daughter, who wanted Wonder Woman. There aren’t any current Wonder Woman comics that any parent would be comfortable giving his or her child, so I had to dig back into the back issue bins to find some issues of Adventures in the DC Universe, and some 1980s pre-Crisis Wonder Woman. I would have pulled out some of the Justice League comics based on the animated series, too, had it come to that.
Or you can have her just look at the new comic rack and see what catches her eye. Kids being kids, she’ll probably gravitate to the absolute last thing you’d want her reading, but some trial and error will narrow things down to something she’d like.
- Snark Shark returns with “what would be appropriate for an obnoxious 40 year old?” and boy, the jokes just log-jammed in my head, there. Everything from “a swift kick in the pants” to “[WRITER'S NAME REDACTED] has a new comic out this Wednesday!” to “just spin around a few times in the middle of the shop with your eyes closed and your arm pointing out, and see what you’re pointing at when you stop.”
- The previously mentioned Ptor explained “I’m just a customer helping out a fellow while I shop and look for a nice place to pee on your floor (which seems to be a thing).” And yes it was, once, long ago, when a child probably old enough to know better decided to answer the call of nature right on the floor in front of the new comics…this was a couple of shops ago, so there is no Memorial Urine Stain in the current storefront at which anyone may pay homage.
But anyway, the topic came up on Twitter the other night, as it does, and pal Carla up there at Metro Entertainment topped my story with her tale of woe of an encounter with a young lad in the process of twining the turkey and meeting the press. Frankly, I’ll take pee any day, he said expecting that sentence in no way to be taken out of context.
In other news…Bully, the Bull That Is Simultaneously Stuffed and Little, did another one of his fantastic Ten of a Kind posts, focusing on those classic Go-Go Checks covers
…and I helped a wee bit! Go for the covers, stay for the always-swell commentary!
So unlike the last few years, where our shipments of Free Comic Book Day comics would be split up among two, three, or four weeks’ worth of Diamond Comics shipments, this
year all the comics came at once in one giant special delivery. Thus did your pal Mike, along with a couple of employees (including formerly-former-now-at-the-shop-once-or-twice-a-week Employee Aaron and his lovely wife Kempo) spend a good chunk of Thursday opening up dozens upon dozens of shipping boxes and checking thousands of Free Comic Book Day comics against the invoice.
All the boxes were emblazoned with the sticker above, warning us not to “sell” (or, in this case, distribute…unless you’re one of those dudes already selling sets of these books on the eBay) these items ’til the actual Free Comic Book Day, which is, as per usual, the first Saturday after a May debut of a Marvel Comics movie.
I have a work set of the books put aside, to help me sort through and decide what goes in what age-group’s bag (explanation here), though I think this year I may depend less on the prebagged distribution strategy for the FCBD books and emphasize a more à la carte experience, giving away the majority of the books by letting customers pick what they want from an assortment laid out on our tables. I mean, we always let folks do that anyway, but previously we presented the choice as “HERE’S EVERYTHING IN THESE BAGS, or you can just get what you want from the tables,” whereas this year I’m going to try “PICK WHAT YOU WANT FROM THE TABLES, or if you prefer, you can just take these bags which contain everything.” A minor difference in presentation, but maybe that’ll stretch out the supplies a little bit longer this year.
Not that supplies will be in short…um, supply, this time around. Well, I think, anyway, since I think that every year, and every year we run through most of our stock. This year, I upped our orders even more on some of the FCBD selections, resulting in the previously-mentioned Warehouse-at-the-End-of-Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-esque number of crates that showed up on our doorstep Thursday afternoon. Yes, that’s a lot of money to put out for this product (and every year, people are surprised to find out that retailers do have to pay money for the FCBD books, even if it’s only $0.20 to $0.40 a copy), but every year we easily make our money back and then some thanks to in-store sales and the sheer number of people passing through our doors that day. And here’s hoping we do this year, too. We’ve built up a pretty good reputation for our FCBD in-store sales, so I think we should do okay again this time around.
And as we usually do, we won’t be restricting the number of different books customers can take (aside from age-appropriateness restrictions, of course). If someone wants one of each of the 50+ different items being offered this year…hey, knock yourself out. We usually prefer that folks only take one copy of any particular title, but we’re not hardnosed about it if they want to get an extra copy or two of a certain issue for someone who couldn’t make it.
I realize that lack of restrictions is likely why we go through so many books each year…well, that and the fact the population of the entire county seems to drop by the shop for free comics…but we haven’t limited folks on their FCBD comics in the past, and we’re not going to start now.
Also, every year I hear about someone’s store making the comics free only “with purchase.” That’s terrible. I can almost understand not wanting to give every single person who walks in the door every FCBD comic that’s available, due to monetary and supply concerns, but to tie them to in-store purchases? C’mon, man, that’s not in the spirit of things.
Regarding the stack of books I set aside for sorting purposes…I haven’t had too much time to look at them yet, so I’ve not really formed a whole lot of opinions on them so far. I have flipped through a couple, though: the best bit of Marvel’s Infinity, previewing their next crossover event, is the back-up story reprinting a Thanos short from the 1970s. And DC’s Superman: Last Son of Krypton is sort of baffling, primarily concerned with promoting the pre-New 52 trade paperback featuring Superman fighting General Zod since that’s kinda sorta like the new movie, rather than pushing their current Superman titles (aside from a very brief interview with the folks behind the forthcoming Superman Unchained).
Some good books, just from my brief glance: The Smurfs (which also contains an Annoying Orange story, something I couldn’t care less about ’til I saw Mike “Captain Jack” Kazaleh did the story ‘n’ art); Judge Dredd Classics with Brian Bolland and Judge Death; Marble Season previewing Gilbert Hernandez’s new graphic novel; classic strip reprints Buck Rogers and Prince Valiant; and the Bongo freebie is great every year, with the always-entertaining Simpsons comics.
That’s all that stuck out so far, but I’m sure there’s more good stuff in the pile. Like I said, I haven’t had much chance to do more than take note of ‘em as I was checking them off the invoice.
Anyway, in conclusion: Free Comic Book Day…that’s a whole lotta comics we have to find space for in the shop ’til May 4th.
Oh man, I almost forgot to tell you about the coolest shirt one of our customers wore to our Free Comic Book Day event. I wish I had taken a picture of what he was wearing, but instead I’ll have to settle for images borrowed from this eBay auction:
Yes, that’s right, I had a customer sporting a Ravage 2099
shirt. And no, it wasn’t an old, ratty shirt he’s been wearing since the early ’90s. He’d picked it up off the eBay still sealed in its original package, much like the auction I’ve linked to.
Okay, the exact value of “coolest” may vary depending on your opinion of Stan Lee’s finest creation, but this was the last thing I expected to see a customer wearing, particularly in this Year of our Lord, Two Thousand Twelve. It gave me a good, surprised laugh, and thus, my most sincere kudos to that customer of mine.
Well, this appears to have been our biggest Free Comic Book Day yet, giving away thousands of comics and easily making back all our expenses, and then some. In fact, it seems as if we’ve finally come close to wiping out our reserves of some of the leftover FCBD books from previous years. That giant box of Avatar Robocop
s — gone at last!
Things did go pretty smoothly, aside from some frantic setting-up in the morning, hefting boxes around and just generally getting the store ready. No weird problems, no complaints, no people asking to go through all the boxes of the porn comics…it all went great. I ended up pulling a twelve hour shift instead of my planned ten-hour stint, so I’m plenty tired, but it was worth it.
The only bit of difficulty we encountered was our usually adequate-for-the-business single register getting desperately backed-up at one point early in the day, requiring the creation of a temporary “cash only” second checkout line at the front counter. I suppose as problems go, “too many customers wanting to give us money” isn’t a bad one, but I don’t like having our customers have too much of a wait time. The situation resolved itself soon enough, but I’ll consider that a lesson learned and we’ll plan accordingly next year.
Big Bad Matt Digges, artist of everyone’s favorite comic about an awesome hospital, Awesome Hospital, announced his intention on the Twitter to pop by the shop for FCBD as part of his weekend birthday celebration, which prompted me to declare:
He did indeed come by on Saturday, and, as promised:
Gentlemen, I do not make idle threats.
Plus, pal Casie, she of this swell green drawing, came by the shop and gave us cookies and cupcakes in this lovely decorated box:
A rear view, just to show off the Swamp Thing pic:
Wasn’t that nice? And anyone who claims I ate all the cookies and cupcakes is a big ol’ liar, and besides, they can’t prove anything.
In all, it was very busy and a lot of fun, and I saw a lot of new faces and a bunch of happy kids, so what the heck, I guess we’ll do it again next year. We just have to remember to (gulp) order even more Free Comic Book Day comics than we did this year. …I guess we better start savin’ up for it now!
See you on the other side.
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