Sunday, May 08, 2005

Free Comic Book Day: The Stores

I'm a big supporter of FCBD; I think it's a vital component of getting the word out about comics, increasing the readership, and most importantly, hooking the next generation of kids. Most of my generation and the one immediately following just plain missed out on comics, and there's not much chance of getting them back at this late hour. It's a young person's drug, so we need to take a cue from the tobacco industry here and get 'em while they're in elementary school. (Incidentally, the comics industry is a disproof right there of the "Joe Camel" theory. We've got cartoon characters out the ass, and don't have anywhere near their numbers.)

Anyway, to the shops. As I posted below, I hit three of them yesterday. The first, Midtown Comics at 40th and 7th, is my LCS of choice. They had an impressive setup: Free comics were handed out at a table near the first of the new releases racks, not individually, but in bags. Each bag contained one of every FCBD comic. Yes, every one of them. Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, Alternative Press Presents, and a slew of independently produced and distributed titles, all in one little bag. Plus, they threw in some additional FCBD-appropriate extras that I assume they had lying around, including Marvel's late Jubilee series and Dreamwave's fancy-lookin' first issue of Duel Masters. The time costs of the bagging required a line outside and a limit of ten people running the FCBD gauntlet at a time, but the rest of the store was open for browsing, and they managed to move people through pretty quickly. Clientelle was, as is usual there, twenty-something and minority-heavy. I didn't take any free comics here, because that would have made visiting the other stores redundant. Overall, though, I give Midtown a good rating for taking advantage of FCBD.

My next stop was Jim Hanley's Universe, at 33rd and 5th, across from some building that's famous for a monkey climbing up it. Hanley's instituted a four-book limit, but had ample supplies of everything, and were also running a 50%-off sale on back issues under $15. I picked up my choices, and scoped the place out. Not surprisingly, the crowd skewed older and more urbane than at Midtown. That's the niche Hanley's has made for itself (the store is right next to a Starbucks), and it works. I did chat briefly with a guy about the recently-released Villains United mini. It looked to me like Hanley's would make some pretty good additional sales on top of luring in the Free Comic people. I give them a good rating too.

Last stop was Cosmic Comics at 23rd and Broadway, where I partook of both the Free Comics (6 of 'em) and the 30%-off everything sale. That was pretty cool. This store probably had the most diverse crowd, including a good portion of kids. Thank God for that. Sadly, didn't come into contact with any of Cosmic's fabled uberhot comics salesgirls; the one riding the register I'd seen before, isn't my type, and on this particular day had a hairstyle bigger than her actual head. I bought a TPB at the discount and moved on. Cosmic I give a good grade as well, especially for their effort in advertising the event at street-level.

I read the first batch of my comics across the street in Madison Square Park, sipping on an overpriced lemonade. Across from me was a couple and their three kids. On my way out of the park, I stopped by and let them know about FCBD, and recommended some of my haul to them. They seemed receptive, and thanked me for my... guerilla marketing, really. I hope they gave the comics a try. The more the merrier, what?

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