This is slightly delayed coverage given that Free Comic Book was last weekend on the 2nd, but there was such a great response at Onehunga's Gotham Comics (one of NZ best comic shops) that I felt the results were worth sharing. For those not familiar with the event, Free Comic Book Day was started in 2002 with the aim of growing the audience and general public awareness of the medium.
Free comic Book Day at Gotham Comics: featuring a clown (the non-Heath Ledger variety).
On Saturday Gotham Comics saw a turnout of around 800 people (nearly double last year's number) and gave away a massive 3000 comics! Store manager Jeremy Bishop was also taking gold coin donations for extra books, raising around $500 for the Onehunga Primary School to help fund it's library. This community connection saw a good increase in turnout for younger readers (which comics desperately needs these days) and parents looking to encourage their kids to read. As Jeremy observed, "it also allows the parents to go back to their childhood as well, so allowing a connection between the parents and kids".
The store also had a clown on hand for entertainment, performing tricks and making balloon animals (which means it's probably safe for clowns to show their painted faces in public again after 'The Dark Knight' gave them a bad rep!).
The free comics themselves were also in fine form this year. DC Comics launched it's 'Blackest Night' event with a zero issue which was in hot demand while Marvel offered an Avengers story by Brian Bendis with Jim Cheung teaming both the 'new' and 'dark' Avengers teams for a smackdown with a frost giant, promising 'terrifying consequences for the Marvel Universe!" (are there any other kind?).
The real treats however would have to be the independent offerings. Personally I was completely charmed by Drawn & Quarterly's Melvin Monster/Nancy comic, previewing stories from their forthcoming John Stanley collections. Reprinted on thick newsprint that perfectly imitates the original presentation it was a joy to behold in all it's dot coloured glory! Top Shelf put out an Owly issue featuring James Kochalka; Fantagraphics provided a Love & Rockets Sampler (featuring a keen Kirby influenced story by Jamie Hernandez) and Mirage Studio's reprinted the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for it's 25th anniversary (suddenly I feel ancient..).
Local cartoonist Richard Fairgrey also got in on the act with a free colour preview of his Blastosaurus series.
The most popular titles at Gotham Comics according to Jeremy were: Simpsons, Wolverine and the DC Kids Sampler.
So congratulations to Gotham Comics and be sure to mark the date on the calendar for next year and hopefully your local comic shop will experience this kind of success and community involvement.
Drawn & Quartery's 'John Stanley Library featuring Melvin Monster & Nancy' (covers by Seth).