Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, an event that has been a first-Saturday-in-May tradition at most major comic shops since 2001. If you haven't ever been to one, it's time to start. Here's a Q&A to help you acclimate:
Q: Are the comics really free?
A: Yes, they're really free.
Q: Who pays for them?
A: "It really is a shared cost between retailers, publishers and Diamond as the distributor," said Deborah Moreland of Diamond Comic Distributors Inc., a firm that distributes the vast majority of comics in North America. "Retailers pay a nominal fee for each comic they purchase — usually the cost to print the comic. They also handle all their costs in management and marketing of the event locally. Publishers create the comics with no compensation, other than for the printing costs, and they help to market the event. Diamond, as the distributor, donates all of its processing time to get retailers the comic books, and help oversee the overall management and the national marketing and PR for the event."
Q: Do all comic shops participate?
A: No. To find out if a shop near you is giving away free comics, go to the comic shop locator at www.freecomicbookday.com. More than 2,340 shops are participating.
Q: What is going on at the shops besides free comics?
A: Most shops hold sales, and lots of fans show up in costume.
Elsewhere: Flying Colors Comics and Other Cool Stuff in Concord, Calif., where FCBD got its start, will host creators Erik Larsen ("Savage Dragon"), Matt Hawkins ("Tales of Honor"), Liam Sharp ("Tales of Honor") and Tom Beland ("Chicacabra") for signings and sketches. Collector's Paradise in Canoga Park, Calif., makes FCBD a monthlong event, with sales every Saturday in May.
In the Twin Cities area, Source Comics & Games in Roseville will be giving away bags with free comics, snacks and pop in addition to door prizes and a sale. Comic creator appearances will include Dan Jurgens ("Booster Gold," Superman), Otis Frampton ("Oddly Normal"), Anthony Hary (A.N.A. Comics), Bennett Pisek, Carlito Quinones and Cory Fox.
Q: Will there be enough books to go around?
A: That depends on the shop you're at, and how many they ordered, and how many people show up. But your odds are good for a large selection, as retailers have set a record with orders this year — more than 5.6 million free comics will be available nationwide, a 21 percent increase over 2014.
Q: I keep hearing that comics aren't just for kids any more. But are there still comics for kids?
A: Don't worry, there's plenty to keep the youngsters occupied. Among the more than 50 free books available May 2, many are all-ages fare, many of which may be familiar from TV: "Bob's Burgers," "Bodie Troll," "Bongo Free-For-All" (starring the Simpsons), "Chakra the Invincible" (written by Stan Lee), "Cleopatra in Space," "Dark Horse All-Ages Sampler," "Pokemon," "Rabbids," "SpongeBob Freestyle Funnies," "Supermutant Magic Academy/Step Aside Pops! Combo Special," "Teen Titans Go/Scooby Doo Team-Up," "Terrible Lizard" (a girl and her T-Rex) and "The Tick."
Q: What if I'm not a youngster anymore?
A: There's plenty for you, too. Publishers use FCBD to showcase upcoming events or titles:
• Archie's "Dark Circle Comics" gives a sample of the line's quirky new superheroes: Black Hood, the Fox and the Shield.
• Dark Horse's "Fight Club/The Goon/The Strain" features the titles found in its name.
• DC's "Divergence" previews upcoming Batman and Justice League story lines.
• IDW's "Transformers: Robots in Disguise" and "TMNT: Prelude to Vengeance" showcase two of the publisher's biggest franchises.
• Image is promoting two properties, "Savage Dragon: Legacy" and "Tales of Honor."
• Marvel will preview the "All-New All-Different Avengers" (introducing three teens on the team), "Secret Wars" and "Uncanny Inhuman." Plus, they'll combine all three in a Spanish language "Día del Comic Gratis" edition.
And there's plenty more. For covers and a description of all 51 comics offered, go to www.freecomicbookday.com.