Wednesday, May 28, 2014

HARBINGER #23: Death comes quickly

Editor’s Notes: NO spoilers here, unless you are reading my writings about Harbinger for the very first time.  If you have been following this book, then you are already aware of what is about to happen and you probably pre-ordered a copy through your favorite local comics store.  If you’ve been reading my tribute reviews of the entire series as it draws to a close - - and haven’t been persuaded to check it out for yourself - - then get down to your comics store asap and pick up Harbinger Issue #22 and Issue #23 (just released today) before they sell out as I suspect they will.  This is a series conclusion that everyone with any interest in a genuine dramatic event (no hoax) will want to read.

HARBINGER #23 (Valiant Entertainment, May 2014) Written by: Joshua Dysart. Art by: Clayton Henry and Khari Evans. Color Art by: Brian Reber. Letters by: Dave Sharpe. Covers by Mico Suayan, Khari Evans, and Zach Montoya.


          Death is a subject that is often taken lightly in comics, particularly in stories of individuals blessed or cursed with super-powers.  Death is often not permanent, only a pause or absence in the story of a popular character, done for dramatic effect and also with a marketing motivation to increase sales.  When it was announced that Harbinger would end its successful run with Issue #25, and that the events leading up to that would include the death of a major character the usual suspicions crept in.

          That apprehension was reduced somewhat when writer Joshua Dysart explained his purpose in an April interview with Comic Book Resources:  “I”ve always tried to remind readers that these are kids and they’re in over their heads and they’ve never been very good at what they do.  There’s just repercussions to this kind of behavior, even if you have superpowers.  That’s what we’re moving toward, we’re moving toward that final statement – really saying that strongly for the reader = ‘This is what the story was always about.’  It was about inexperience in the face of great danger.”


Dysart is one of the most accurate portrayers of character in comics today.  In spite of the fantastic situations, his characters seem more grounded in reality and react and make decisions as normal teenagers finding themselves in this position would.  His characters are not perfect.  The leader of the Renegades is mentally disturbed, although taking great measures to control himself and put his powers to greater use.

          Knowing this, I fully expected him to handle the announced death in dramatic and realistic fashion.  He does.  It happens just as it does in real life, quickly and unexpectedly.

           Valiant could have persuaded Dysart to milk the situation until the final issue, hoping to build interest and sales - - but they didn’t.  Death doesn’t wait for the right time to occur.  It is sudden and immediate, and doesn’t follow a schedule.  The death occurs at a logical point in the story.  This is beyond what we comics readers are used to.  There are still two issues remaining!


          There are three beautiful covers to help bookmark Harbinger #23.  Just don’t expect the covers to reveal the shocker that occurs inside the pages. I n fact, there are no clues to be found anywhere in this story arc or prior.  Truth to tell, every one of the Renegades is in over their heads, and any member is capable of making a fatal mistake or just becoming a mere victim of circumstance and consequences.

          This death leaves little doubt that there will be any sort of recovery.  That is highly unlikely.  The actual image may leave a imprint on readers memories that replays every time they think about this book.  It is that breath-taking, graphic and moving.

          I have a feeling this is not over.  I would not be surprised to see more characters find death before the end of this story.


          Without telling too much, in Issue #23 the Renegades continue the offensive against Toyo Harada’s Pittsburgh headquarters.  Each member of the team has a specific mission as they separate into several groups in their attempt to cripple the Harbinger Foundation. You won’t want to miss the awesome art by Henry and Evans.  They really enhance the events and perfectly depict the natural facial expressions and reactions.  This is pure dynamite.

          Other things to note (again, no spoilers here):  Peter makes a dramatic statement to Kris, that may be foreshadowing upcoming events ( I hope not).  Harada pushes the envelope with his mental abilities and powers like never before.  The death will prove a turning point for several characters, whose values and attitudes are certain to be impacted. They aren’t likely to remain the same after this.  A weaker-powered member of the Renegades acts decisively and has a large impact on final results.  Two less official members play important roles.  Don’t miss the coda in the final pages of this issue!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

JOHN CASSADAY comes to the 2014 Baltimore Comic-Con

from the April 19, 2014 official press release . . . . . . .

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - The Baltimore Comic-Con returns to the Inner Harbor's Baltimore Convention Center for its premiere inaugural three-day event September 5-7, 2014.

We are extremely pleased to announce, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment, the return of superstar artist John Cassaday to the Baltimore Comic-Con in 2014.

Cassaday, who started his career at the small press Caliber Comics in 1995, began working for Dark Horse Comics in the following year providing art on Ghost, and then Desperadoes.

He went on to work for "The Big Two", with prolific stints on DC's Planetary and Marvel's Astonishing X-Men, X-Men, Captain America, and Uncanny Avengers, and has recently done work on Dynamite Entertainment's Doc Savage.

Cassaday has both been nominated and won numerous prestigious industry awards including Eisner, Eagle, and, for his work on Astonishing X-Men, a Spike TV Scream Award.

His recent work can be found in the pages and covers of Dynamite Entertainment's Doc Savage, and on covers for Marvel's Miracleman, Magneto, Savage Wolverine, and Captain Marvel and Image's Starlight. Find him at the Dynamite Entertainment booth at the Baltimore Comic-Con in 2014!

"It's been a number of years since we've had John at the show," said Marc Nathan, promoter of the Baltimore Comic-Con. "His work is so iconic and recognizable, and he's so popular with the fans, we're thrilled to have him!"

This year's previously confirmed guests for the show include: Marty Baumann (Pixar artist); Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl); Mark Buckingham (Fables); Dave Bullock (Batman Black and White); Greg Capullo (Batman); Bernard Chang (Green Lantern Corps); Sean Chen (Amazing Spider-Man); Jimmy Cheung (Infinity); Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman); Frank Cho (X-Men:  Battle of the Atom); Richard Clark (House of Gold & Bones); Steve Conley (Bloop); Alan Davis (Wolverine); Rachel Deering (In the Dark); Todd Dezago (Tellos); Tommy Lee Edwards (Star Wars); Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys); Ray Fawkes (Constantine); David Finch (Forever Evil); Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (All-Star Western); Dave Gibbons (Watchmen); Bryan JL Glass (Mice Templar); Michael Golden (The Ravagers); Cully Hamner (Animal Man); Dean Haspiel (The Fox); Fred Hembeck (Garfield); Adam Hughes (Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan); JG Jones (Green Lantern Corps, Batman Black and White); Justin Jordan (Luther Strode, Green Lantern: New Guardians); Barry Kitson (Empire); Aaron Kuder (Action Comics); David Mack (Shadowman); Kevin Maguire (Guardians of the Galaxy); Alex Maleev (Moon Knight); Billy Martin (Vitriol, The Hunter); Ron Marz (Witchblade); Bob McLeod (X-Men: Gold); Tradd Moore (Deadpool Annual); Mark Morales (New Avengers); Dan Parent (Archie, Veronica, Kevin Keller); David Peterson (Mouse Guard); Joe Prado (Justice League); Brian Pulido (Lady Death); Tom Raney (Incredible Hulk); Ivan Reis (Aquaman and The Others); Budd Root (Cavewoman); Don Rosa (Donald Duck); Craig Rousseau (Perhapanauts); Joe Rubinstein (The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe); Andy Runton (Owly); Alex Saviuk (Web of Spider-Man); Louise Simonson (Power Pack); Walter Simonson (Thor); Andy Smith (Superman #23.1: Bizarro); Allison Sohn (sketch card artist); Charles Soule (Thunderbolts); Jim Starlin (Thanos: The Infinity Revelation); Ben Templesmith (The Memory Collectors); Peter Tomasi (Batman and Two-Face); John Totleben (Swamp Thing); Herb Trimpe (GI Joe:  A Real American Hero); Billy Tucci (Shi); Rick Veitch (Saga of the Swamp Thing); Mike Vosburg (Lori Lovecraft); Mark Waid (Daredevil); Lee Weeks (Daredevil); Bill Willingham (Fables); Renee Witterstaetter (Joe Jusko: Maelstrom); Thom Zahler (My Little Pony); and Mike Zeck (Secret Wars).

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bob’s Burgers animated series becomes a comic book

from the official press release . . . . . . .

D.E. Comic Page Template.eps

May 16th, 2014, Mt. Laurel, NJ:  Dynamite Entertainment is proud to announce that Fox's hit Animated Series - Bob's Burgers: The Comic Book series, will be coming to comic stores everywhere this upcoming August, and the series will be written, drawn, and overseen by the writers, animators, and producers of the TV Series.   Now you can read about the Belcher family (parents Bob and Linda, and their children Tina, Gene and Louise) in brand-new in-canon stories, appearing exclusively in this comic book series. Bob's Burgers is an animated sitcom that airs on Fox television with other hits such as The Simpsons and Family Guy.

          The very first issue of the Bob's Burgers comic book includes hilarious installments of: "Louise's Unsolved Mysteries," "Tina's Erotic Friend Fiction," "A Gene Belcher Original Musical," "Letters Written by Linda" and "Bob's Burgers of the Day."

          "If you like Bob's Burgers and you like comic books then you may feel like you're living in one of the greatest times in human history because Bob's Burgers and comic books are coming together in the form of the Bob's Burgers Comic Book.  But of course we could really mess it up.  Then you'd feel like you were living in one of the worst times in human history.  Either way, we hope you'll check out the first few issues.  We tried to make something that's true to the show and true to the form without being a sad knock-off of either." said Loren Bouchard, the cretor of Bob’s Burgers.

D.E. Comic Page Template.eps

           "When we announced Bob's Burgers at San Diego Comic-Con last July - and the fact that Loren and his entire team would be involved in every detail of production - the response was huge," says Dynamite CEO/Publisher Nick Barrucci.   "And the results are fantastic - the creative team over at Bento Box Entertainment has put together some incredible stories and artwork, perfectly suited for the comic book format.  We're grateful for their dedicated involvement, and eagerly anticipate that the Belcher family's comic book shenanigans will draw in fans from outside of the direct market."

         Bob's Burgers #1 will be solicited in Diamond Comic Distributors' June Previews catalog, the premiere source of merchandise for the comic book specialty market, and slated for release in August 2014.  Comic book fans are encouraged to reserve copies of Bob's Burgers #1 with their local comic book retailers. Bob's Burgers #1 will also be available for individual customer purchase through digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, iVerse, and Dark Horse Digital.

Friday, May 16, 2014

TERMINAL HERO by Peter Milligan to debut at Dynamite

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Peter Milligan is one of the most original creators in comics, with a generous list of books to his credit.  Anytime he gets to create from scratch and write his own story is something that deserves notice. With a generous buyback policy for comic shops and an attractive list price,  this certainly looks worthwhile. Great Jae Lee cover art.  And Piotr Kowalski is a great artist to assign to the interiors . . . . . .

from the official press release . . . . . . . . . .


May 16th, 2014, Mt. Laurel, NJ:  Dynamite is proud to present the second book in a series of creator driven comics, featuring all new characters from the industry's best and brightest.   TERMINAL HERO is written by the acclaimed author Peter Milligan, working with us for the first time, and accompanied by the incredible art of Piotr Kowalski.  Single issues in this line will be priced at $2.99 MSRP, allowing fans the opportunity to affordably try all of the new series.  And to help retailers stock up with confidence, each launch issue will be completely returnable.   To sweeten the deal for fans and retailers alike, TERMINAL HERO #1 will feature covers by the legendary Jae Lee.  Be sure to look for TERMINAL HERO, coming this August to retailers and digital platforms.

          In TERMINAL HERO #1, Rory Fletcher is a good man.  The problem is, he's dying of an inoperable brain tumor.  And then his best friend introduces him to the mysterious Treatment Q.  This strange and forbidden therapy might just save Rory's life, but its nightmarish side effects could make him question just how good he really is, and just how much he really wants to live.


          "TERMINAL HERO is the book I had to write, right now," says writer Peter Milligan.  "It's simply unlike anything I've ever written--or read.  This book laughs in the face of fear.  The journey is dark, the road is littered with horrors, but it's one hell of a ride."

          "Peter Milligan is one of the greatest comic writers of all time, and he's bringing his unique vision, in this hard-edged look at the nature of life, death and ultimate power." - Joseph Rybandt, Dynamite Senior Editor.

          "We're extremely excited about our Creators Unleashed line," states Dynamite CEO/Publisher Nick Barrucci.  "This line of books are all new worlds and characters that are creator driven, and with a line-up featuring Peter Milligan, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Rick Remender, Duane Swierczynski, James RobinTerminalHero01-02_col_fson and more to be announced, we couldn't have a better roster of creators.  With Peter Milligan launching one of the first series, fans and retailers can see that we're targeting the Vertigo and Image audience with our line up.  This is an exciting initiative for us working with new creative voices, and I cannot wait for fans to read and enjoy."


          TERMINAL HERO #1 will be solicited in Diamond Comic Distributors' June Previews catalog, the premiere source of merchandise for the comic book specialty market, and slated for release in August 2014.  Comic book fans are encouraged to reserve copies of Issue #1 with their local comic book retailers.  TERMINAL HERO #1 will also be available for individual customer purchase through digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, iVerse, and Dark Horse Digital.

Friday, May 9, 2014

HARBINGER WARS: Month Two - What Happens In Vegas, . . . .

          Everything heats up in Round Two of the Harbinger Wars as all trails lead through the torrid Nevada desert towards the general direction of smoldering Las Vegas.  While there is still a good amount of panel space devoted to scene setting and exposition, as a group this second round of books is faster paced and contains a lot more action .  I’ll try to cover the main story points for unfamiliar readers here (attempting to avoid spoilers) while also identifying what makes it noteworthy . . . . . . .

HWARS_002_CVR_HENRY                   HWARS_002_PULLBOX_LAROSA

HARBINGER WARS #2  (Valiant Entertainment, May 2013)  Written by: Joshua Dysart.  Story by: Joshua Dysart & Duane Swierczynski.  Art by: Clayton Henry with Pere Perez.  Color Art by: Brian Reber.  Letters by: Dave Lanphear

            In the same way that HARBINGER WARS #1 pulled us immediately into the action via flashback, Issue #2 continues the same way with the ongoing interrogation of Project Rising Spirit (P.R.S)  acting director Morris Kozol by federal defense directors . . . ..

    “Regarding the Las Vegas incident, Mr. Kozol . . . Why don’t you tell us how a bunch of kids fly a military-grade helicopter into the most populous city in Nevada?”


          The second group of young psiot escapees from the P.R.S. facility, led by Cronus and now calling themselves Generation Zero, decide to make a stand (and a statement to humanity) from the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas (where they haphazardly landed their escape craft).  Used to a life of being treated like captive zoo animals, the group is appalled at the selfishness and hedonism on display at the hotel.

      Meanwhile, the second group of children are led by Bloodshot to a desert ghost town, which he has fortified in advance against attacks.  Issue #2 plays out in much greater detail the confrontation between Toyo Harada and Bloodshot that was introduced in Issue #1.  Seems like P.R.S. did some advance planning as well, and some protocols that were programmed into Bloodshot years earlier take effect as a nightmarish face-ripping battle between the two ensues in exquisite detail provided by Clayton Henry’s great art.  Through the ingenuity of the young psiots, the gravely wounded Bloodshot is salvaged during their flight from the town.  Harada, also seriously damaged, reveals his true loyalty to Harbinger as he puts his salvation ahead of a team member. (All very brutal, and very bloody.)  HWARS_002_VARIANT_PERGER

       Kozol re-activates the long-deactivated H.A.R.D. Corps (Harbinger Active Resistance Division) strike team and sends them to Vegas to return the escapees to their compound.

       One of the most helpful assists provided by Valiant is the re-cap page which summarizes the story, and in this issue describes and lists the various members of all groups involved: The Renegades, The Harbinger Foundation, Bloodshot & his group of escaped psiots; and Generation Zero.   I love the dark silhouettes of head and/or body that represent each team member.  The cast of characters is definitely getting bigger, and this is a great scorecard.

HARBINGER #12  (Valiant Entertainment, May 2013) Writer:  Joshua Dysart.  Art:  Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine.  Inks:  Khari Evans and Stefano Guadiano.  Colors:  Ian Hannin.  Letters:  Rob Steen.

     There’s a nice bit of contrast in Issue #12 as the story moves back and forth between two different conflicts in different time periods.  We learn about the early days of Harbinger in the late 60’s as they join in partnership negotiations with Rising Spirit Securities (a.k.a. P.R.S. later.)  Then, we  follow the present day first meeting of the Renegades (who get their official name this issue) and Generation Zero.  Two uneasy alliances, and one or both likely to prove fatal.


    Toyo Harada’s words to Leopold Carter, director of Rising Spirit Securities, at the end of the first round of negotiations in 1969 prove to be prophetic and make an ironic segue into the next page which jumps ahead to present day Peter Stanchek and company heading towards Las Vegas:   “ . . . I don’t trust you or your company, Mr. Carter. So listen to me very, very closely . . . I will not allow a world run amuck with activated psiots.”   Before the issue ends, Harada has a new plan for what he wants to accomplish in the next round of negotiations.

       Back in the present day the Renegades encounter no obstacles to their entering the town, and waltz right through a military blockade thanks to the mental powers of Peter (dubbed Sting as his code name by Faith/Zephyr.)  To keep events from becoming totally serious, some geek references are name dropped (a popular 1990’s alternative rock band and a famous line from a classic space opera - - thanks, Faith!)  as they pass through the roadblock checkpoints.


          They arrive in the hotel Bellagio lobby, and see right through the physical psychic projections being used to maintain a hostage situation inside the property.  Peter gets a meeting with Cronus and learns that his team will stop at nothing to protect their interests, including killing several strike teams that try to break in.   Cronus, in reflecting on the makeup of his team, has become determined to make a better, easier life for the children.  All escapees from the P.R.S. facility had bombs implanted in their brains, and Cronus realizes that their time is short, as the explosives could be reactivated once P.R.S. restores all their data systems.  He’s a bit like Harada in his determination to give his kin a needed break while making a point of killing as many adults as possible in their remaining time in Las Vegas.  This makes Peter a little wary and guarded.  Renegade members pair off and get acquainted with Generation Zero members, but this interaction breeds a little conflict and stirs the pot more, which is slowly coming to a boil.  And, one of the psychics gets a premonition/vision that the “psiot killer” Bloodshot is on his way to Vegas.

BLOODSHOT #11  (Valiant Entertainment, May 2013) Writer:  Duane Swierczynski.  Penciler:  Barry Kitson.  Inkers:  Stefano Gaudiano with Barry Kitson.  Color Art:  Brian Reber.  Letters: Rob Steen.


          The violent head-to-head battle between Bloodshot and Harada that was featured in HARBINGER WARS #2 is expanded here to occupy almost the entire issue - - and readers benefit from the extended version.  All the skills that scripter Swierczynski brings to play in depicting the monthly exploits of a ruthless one-man vigilante against a city of gangsters (in X, for Dark Horse Comics) help make the battle here just as bloody, vicious and desperate.  In addition, artist Kitson knows just what to focus on to make these scenes effective and memorable.  The ruthlessness of Harada is matched by the extremes that Bloodshot is willing to go to protect a group of young psiots.  (He does get some help from his programming). 

    The band of youngsters has also experienced a change in attitude.  Formerly distrustful and in disagreement with Bloodshot on motives and subsequent actions - - they now rally behind him, look to his leadership, and more importantly are willing to step in and use their powers to assist and/or defend/save him.  Member Katherine, who shares a telepathic linkBS_011_VARIANT_CLARK with her brother James, became separated from him during the P.R.S. breakout.  James, now with the other group (Generation Zero) send a mental message to his sister, and she persuades her companions to change direction and head for Las Vegas.


          Whatever happens next is sure to be exciting.  And, true to their word/mission, the Valiant creative team has kept the crux of the HARBINGER WARS storyline in the main title, and provided us with these fascinating sidebars that just enhance the total story experience.  However, you could also just read HARBINGER and BLOODSHOT solely and enjoy the story, and without feeling that the continuity has been disturbed or interrupted. That is no small task to accomplish.  Bravo.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

More images from Free Comic Book Day 2014

Things were happening at CAPTAIN BLUE HEN COMICS in Newark, DE on May 03, 2014!

corner guard    costumes in line

A character from some video game – I was too intimidated to ask more.

It’s great to see the kids dress up for the big day.

Ivy and Cat

Poison Ivy and Catwoman a.k.a. teammates from DIAMOND STATE ROLLER GIRLS, the Newark women’s roller derby team.  All of a sudden, cats and plants are two of my favorite things! 

Darth waits in line          Drat! My shoe is untied

Above left:  Even Darth Vader has to wait in line for his free comics on FCBD.

Above right:  “Drat!  My shoe is untied!”

Is my fly down

Bobb Fett to Stormtrooper: “Hey, do you mind checking to see if I zipped up?  My helmet won’t let me bend my head down far enough to check that.  Thanks!” 

hyper Harley Quinn          Shadowman

Photo left:  Hyper Harley Quin.  Photo right: Shadowman, I presume?

Lobo                  Lobo's back

Photo left:  Lobo confronts.   Photo right:  Lobo’s back! 

Mystique          Nightcrawler

Mystique and Nightcrawler.  The above four are members of, who sponsor a weekly Saturday midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show a.k.a. THE ROCKY HORROR SUPERHERO SHOW! at Cinema Center 3 in Newark. 

SW musicStar Wars sandmanStorm Trooper chat

Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars . .. da da  da da  . . . . . . . . . . . .

Pups like comics     What are you looking at

Left: Pups like comics, too!  Who knew?                Right:  What are you looking at, bub? 

Monday, May 5, 2014

If You Don’t Read This, You Don’t Know Jack

TPB:  Battlin' Jack Murdock
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Price:  $12.99

Battlin’ Jack Murdock isn’t a book I would normally pick up.  Books retelling a hero’s origin always seem to make one of two mistakes.  The first is playing the origin too true to character and failing to make a compelling case for picking it up.  The second is trying to rewrite an origin to make the story something new but then annoying the fans of the original origin who are the book’s target audience in the first place.  

The reason I did pick up this trade in particular has to do with Zeb Wells writing it.  He first came onto my radar with the amazing Carnage USA mini last year but he’s written a lot before that including various Spider-man titles, Anti-Venom and the amazing Necrosha event in X-force.  Carmine Di Giandomenico is someone I hadn’t heard of before (I’m sure I’d remember stuttering through that name on the cast if I had) but he’s mostly worked for Marvel’s Italian publisher.  Di Giandomenico also co-wrote the book with Wells. 

In this four issue mini all narrated from Jack Murdock’s perspective, we see the boxer in the ring of the fight that he has been paid to throw.  Since most people familiar with Daredevil know how that particular chapter ends, the bulk of the story is told in flashbacks.  The trade details Jack’s alcohol fueled fall from grace as a boxer and his second career as an enforcer for a low-level mobster.  Eventually, Jack’s pangs of conscience become too loud to ignore and he cleans up his act to re-enter the ring. 

Zeb Wells again wowed me with this book. The story avoids both pitfalls I detailed earlier by sticking mostly to script but fleshing out Jack as a sympathetic but fallible human being in search of redemption.  It avoids the temptation to feature Matt Murdock any more than it has to ground Jack’s experience to Matt’s major milestones.  A final revelation that Jack has at the story’s close helps to add to the origin story without changing it considerably.

The art in the book is excellent and really shines during the boxing scenes where droplets and eventually steams of blood hang in the air with amazing realism.  The lines on Jack’s face and graying temples are great little touches which convey the hard life that Jack has lived.  The overall art seems close to cover quality and compares favorably to Clayton Crain’s work, that being just about the highest compliment I could give.

Final rating (out of 5):

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Please vote today in the RONDO AWARDS




Shame on me for forgetting about this!  

The Rondo Hatton awards are fan-voted and recognize significant work or achievement in the year 2013.  Since 2002, the Rondos have been fandom’s only classic horror awards -  decided by fans, for fan. 

Ballots are by e-mail only. Voting ends at midnight tonight - - Sunday May 04, 2014.

Go to this site for all the details . . . . . . .

From The Other Side = FREE COMIC BOOK DAY support

   The line, early in the day     a crowded store

      (Photo left, the line at 10 a.m.)                          (Photo right, inside at 12 noon)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I’m sure there are some comic books stores out there that simply put out some of the offered books on Free Comic Book Day (FCBD)  and don’t do anything else.   It’s another business day as usual, except for some increased traffic in the stores as regular and new customers turn up to score some free comics.   Thankfully, those stores are in the minority.  

Most comics stores in the immediate PA-DE-MD area do something extra on FCBD - - -  from the minimum of having at least one guest artist to sign and sketch to the maximum elaborate extravaganza that takes place each year at CAPTAIN BLUE HEN COMICS in Newark, Delaware.  As the traffic in their store started to taper off somewhat around 4:30 p.m., I heard someone state an unofficial head-count of 1,200+ customers through the doors.  That’s an incredible turn-out!                    

          As you might imagine, a day as ambitious as this requires months of planning and a lot of assistance on the day of the event.  I decided to be a volunteer this year in order to get some insight into FCBD from the other side.  My conclusion:  It’s so much easier being a customer / spectator!

worry free pilot

          While many customers may spend several hours at their favorite comic store during Free Comic Book Day, a volunteer spends far longer.  What a day!  I arrived at 9 a.m. to help with some last minute outdoor tent and table set-up, and then assumed my duties as official “door man” at the regular entrance to the store.  Once the crowds began to dwindle down after 5 p.m., I started helping with tear-down and storage right until 6:30 p.m.

(Photo left - - the worry-free Tie Fighter pilot)

Tie Figher Doorman

          Those wanting to pick up their free books needed to enter at the rear of the store, as well as get in line.  By 10 a.m. that line stretched from the back of the store down the side street to the front of the store and snaked back and forth in front of the store. By mid-day the wait in line was approximately one hour to get to the back door and get some free comics.

(Photo right: Same worry-free Tie Fighter pilot assists with door duties, in the same casual fashion)


   My job as door man was relatively easy, just reminding customers as they entered that the line for the free books started outside the store and entered through the back or giving directions, and answering questions about the events.  Throughout the day, there was free face-painting (at next door Newark Arts Alliance) as well as art and cartooning classes being offered. Obeses Spider   

Looking down the customer lines (my way to pass the time for a goodly portion of the day) I was impressed by the huge number of adults and children who showed up in costume or partial attire/make-up representing their favorite comic or pop culture characters.   At times it seemed like every other person was in costume.  There were several planned character appearances from Star Wars to Batman to Spider-Man and Captain America, to name a few - -and they showed up to greet, entertain and take photos with everybody standing in line.  There were a minimum of 3 Spider-Men who showed up, all in the classic blue and red costumes- - one a classic Ditko style including the spider-symbol on the back, a more 80’s-90’s representation and one I can only refer to as Cheesesteak Spidey (the photo will indicate why). 

artist sketching lines         Cap on duty

   (Artists sketch –one of several stations)                (Cap helps guard a FCBD stash)

      One thing I really missed about being a volunteer was having any time to visit the artists and guests and learn more about them, chat a bit, and maybe get a sketch or two.   However,  being able to see young children and adults enjoy themselves and get caught up in the wonder and excitement of comic reading and collecting made it a good day for me.  I was reminded of the importance of this original American art form and was glad to see parents helping their kids make selections and discuss the books with them. Here’s hoping those children ask their parents to make a return trip to Captain Blue Hen for more comics.  Reading doesn’t need to be a lost art - - and there’s not better way to introduce it and to build a reading habit than through comics.  “"’Nuff said!