Free Comic Book Day 2006 has come and gone, and early reports say it was a rousing success. That was certainly the case with the shops I visited in New York City.
I began the event with a visit to Midtown Comics's West Side location, at the corner of 40th Street and 7th Avenue. When I arrived at 12:30 PM, the line to get in and receive free comics stretched westwards half a block, ending right around the entrance of the sandwich shop where I used to eat lunch on Wednesdays. According to the man officiating, it had more or less been like that all day. I bypassed the line to simply go into the shop and take a look around. Inside, Spider-Man was keeping the patrons entertained, and recommending comics (mostly those starring him; man's got a wife and aunt to feed, after all). Appropriately, a jazz piano version of the old '60s cartoon theme song played while I surveyed the scene. Patrons picking up their free books could pick and choose as many as they wanted, and several walked away with a full complement. Upstairs, by the back issues, things were calmer, and I got a chance to jot down my notes before leaving.
Next stop was Midtown East, at Lexington and 46th, at 12:50. The crowd was smaller there, with no line, but the West location has always seen more business, so that wasn't too surprising. The comics deal was similar, although the total pickings were a bit slimmer; I still picked up around half the total books, and two Wolverine Heroclix, while I was there. Weird Al's "Spider-Man" parody came on while I searched the back issue bins for the Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2099 one-shot, but the webslinger's musical presence did not cause a copy to miraculously materialize in front of me. Damn.
Jim Hanley's Universe, at 33rd and 5th, across from the Empire State Building, had the only creator signing I witnessed, with Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. Both were in good spirits, although Abel was understandably miffed at some patrons' tendency to confuse her with Jessica *Alba*. Bit of a difference there, people. Hanley's was appreciably full, while I was in attendance; the poor girl manning the bag check looked rather frazzled. The limit was four comics per customer, but the store still had a decent selection when I arrived at 1:25. I also had an interesting encounter with a mother and her, I would say, 12-year-old son, who wanted her to buy him Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I intervened quickly, explaining that it was much more violent and smutty than the movie. I'm in favor of that sort of thing, of course, but I don't think it's something a kid that young should be reading, and I'd rather Hanley's not get into trouble should Mom take it home and discover just what's in those covers.
I walked down 5th Avenue to Cosmic Comics at Madison Square. On the way, I passed some location shoot involving what I think was Bobcat Goldthwaite in a fish suit, but I had no time to check, as I was on a mission. Cosmic had been offering free Frank Miller Daredevil comics to the first fifty patrons, but I learned those had been gone after the first hour. Nonetheless, I picked up my six free comics, and also took advantage of the 30% off sale to pick up issues 1-4 of Dan Slott's Thing series for under $10. Although, I will be honest, my decision to purchase something also had a lot to do with the fact that the girl working the cash register was unbearably cute. My heart just about melted when she shouted out "Happy Free Comic Book Day!" to one customer.
After a lunch break at a nearby Wendy's, I headed down to Rocketship Comics in Brooklyn. I took my time getting there, making a leisurely walk through the East Village while switching from the N train to the F. I arrived at Rocketship at 3:30, just missing Joe Rice and his elementary school class. The store was doing well though, with a steady flow in and out of neighborhood patrons and other well-wishers. After picking up one last comic, I hung around a while, looking to lighten my wallet. I ended up getting the Showcase Jonah Hex collection, the Gravity digest, and the two-issue JLA: Cold Steel series (the one where they get mecha; it's actually pretty neat). I stuck around, gabbing with Alex and others, for a little over an hour, and the store remained comfortably well-patronized all day. I had the opportunity to use the store's facilities as well; they were clean and well-kept, although I'm not quite sure of the purpose of the shower. There was also a sidewalk sale outside.
Reviews for the 23 FCBD books I picked up will follow over the week, and probably be the only content I get around to posting, as I have other projects I need to devote more time to as well.
I hope you also had a good Free Comic Book Day; feel free to share your stories here.