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PopMatters Comic Book Feature

Michael David Sims

PopMatters Comic Book Feature by Michael David Sims - At the very least, it'll get you in the door, which was the purpose of the whole thing to begin with.

Free Comic Book Day

Subtitle: 4 May 2003
Item Type: Comic

There Is No Try

Do, or do not. There is no try.

-- Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

Free Comic Book Day is a joke. Sure, good intentions underline the whole thing, but in the long run it does nothing for the industry. That is, it does nothing good for the industry.

If Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, Oni, and all the independents got together to fund a monstrous ad campaign -- TV, radio, print -- then I'd say it was worth while. But when the only people who know about this supposedly grand day are the ones who would have gone to the comic book shops anyway -- well, what's the point?

And that's not my only gripe with this debacle. The comics themselves -- at least the ones Marvel and DC gave away -- make little to no sense to me.

I say "little" because Marvel, at the very least, tried to tie their free comic into Friday's release of X-Men 2 by giving away Ultimate X-Men #1: a hip, continuity-less title. This book is very accessible to new readers -- and has been praised as such -- plus the characters better resemble their movie counterparts than the original Uncanny X-Men.

Okay, so Marvel tried, but trying isn't good enough. As I said before, the only folks walking into the comic shops this Saturday were longtime readers. Longtime readers, who, chances are, already have Ultimate X-Men #1, don't want or need a reprint. This may be a hard pill for Marvel to swallow, but they should have followed in the footsteps of DC by releasing an all new title -- again, a continuity-less X-Men one-shot, or even a reprint of God Loves, Man Kills -- the X-Men comic X2 is adapted from.

Sure, DC may have done the right thing by giving away the brand new Batman Adventures, but get this: it hit the shelves the Wednesday before Free Comic Book Day. Did you catch that? On Wednesday unlucky readers bought Batman Adventures #1 for $2.25, only to learn they could get the exact same book for free on Saturday. Smart move, DC -- you found another way to piss off more of your fans.

Just to make sure I wasn't seeing things, I checked Diamond Comic Distributor's website -- www.diamondcomics.com -- and sure enough, Batman Adventures #1 was on sale the week of April 30 with a cover price of $2.25. Then I took a trip to DCComics.com to double-check this, but their site says Batman Adventures #1 won't be released 'til Wednesday, May 7. So even if you believe DC's website and not this reviewer's two eyes, then you have to understand that DC has shot themselves in the foot here. Why would anyone who nabbed a free Batman Adventures #1 this past Saturday buy one this upcoming Wednesday?

What DC should have done -- and yes I know it's too late now, and yes I know I can say "they should have done this, and they should have done that" until I'm blue in the face -- was give away Batman #608: the first issue of the critically acclaimed Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee "Hush" storyline. Why? Because this week Batman #614 saw print. What's so special about that? After 65 years, after all the death and destruction the Joker has wrought on Gotham City and the world, after all the pain the Joker has caused Batman and his clan, Batman finally has him by the throat and says to himself, "He dies tonight by my hand." Any new fans who might have stumbled into a local comic shop would have seen Batman #608 for free and very well might have bought Batman #614. Instead DC gives us a cartoon Batman title. Though I'm hesitant to say it's for children -- after all, Poison Ivy is stabbed right in her heart, and they do allude to Ivy and Harley Quinn's lesbian relationship (though they simply call them "best friends") -- it's still clearly meant for a young audience.

And where are the Vertigo and Max titles? Let's say some random father -- we'll call him Dad -- is coming back from picking up lunch with his son -- we'll call him Steven -- and they happen across a comic book shop. And let's say they go in because Dad saw a sign that read "Free Comic Book Day." While Steven bounces from rack to rack, marveling at the brightly colored characters, Dad is left with nothing to look at. He's outgrown Spider-Man and Batman, Captain America and Superman, The Hulk and Wonder Woman. They're all fond memories left in his mother's attic. But now imagine Marvel and DC were smart enough to place free copies of Alias and Y-The Last Man next to the afore mentioned Ultimate X-Men and Batman Adventures. Not only did they grab another child customer but they've also re-hooked his father -- a customer lost only because he grew up, because his taste changed.

I don't know the rules of Free Comic Book Day. Maybe each publisher is only allowed to give away one free book, but there are ways around that. Lately Marvel and DC have been selling select titles for anywhere between ¢.09 and ¢.25. Simply put, either company could have released special reprints of their leading mature-audience comic for a reduced prices -- lets say ¢.25 -- and brought in Dad along with his son.

As I said before, at least Marvel and DC tried, but then again, trying just isn't good enough.

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