Free Comic Book Day 2011 and Jill Thompson!

Free Comic Book Day 2011 has come and gone. This was my first actually, despite being the tenth one for the rest of the world.
I never really had an interest untill this year as my LCS was having Jill Thompson for a guest signing to coincide with the event.  But more on that later.

I hope that this event works, in that it brings in new lasting fans of the medium or brings in returning fans, but I don’t think I have ever really seen evidence of that.  Most of the shop owners that I speak to say they rarely see any real lasting bump from the event.  I would imagine that if 5% of the people who come and are new or returning readers actually make more trips after the day to buy more stuff, that would be a good result.  Based on what I have seen and heard from others over the years of speaking to shop owners, the majority of people who come in on FCBD are existing fans looking…

a. To score free books.  My LCS has the 2 book per person rule.  If you wore a comic book flavored shirt, you got five.

b. To get a sample of something they have not read.  Many of the companies that participate, use the occasion to announce new and upcoming titles, while Marvel and DC use the chance to hype an event coming up in many of their established books.  If I had to pick, this would be where I think the main benefit from FCBD is felt.  Expanding the average reader’s pull list and spread the money out.  I have doubts on the helpfulness of this.  Most people only spend so much on books each month, so if they find something new they want to read, the eventual likelihood is that they will drop an existing book from the list.  Not really a bad thing, as it is a great example of fair competition in the free market.  But the industry has made a lifestyle choice for decades now that amounts to the cannibalization of its readership.  They seem content to recycle the same few readers over and over.  New readers enter the industry and then leave at almost the same rate it seems and the overall number of readers never really varies much.

This year there were 37 different titles available to choose from.  My choices, as I was wearing my old Mage shirt (as in Mage by Matt Wagner, also known for Grendel and some amazing work at DC over the years, not least is Trinity) were a pretty mixed bag.  I grabbed Worlds of Aspen from Aspen Comics publishers of the Michael Turner series Fathom.  BOOM Studio’s newest licensed book, Elric, based on the Michael Moorcock character.  This is the one I was most hoping to grab as I have been a fan of the books and the author for years.  Then there was the FCBD edition of The Tick from NEC.  Really, how do you NOT grab The Tick?  This one is a primer for the current series as a jumping on point for new or returning readers.  I was one of the very few that had read the original run long before there was a cartoon and failed TV show.  Used to love it.  We will see if the new book grabs me.  Then I got the FCBD edition of Locke & Key from IDW, a series I have been wanting to try for a while now.  Last was the DC book.  Unfortunately it is just a rehash of Green Lantern:  Secret Origin.  They really missed an opportunity there.  Either they could have hyped the upcoming film (if they wanted to stay with GL) or the new Flashpoint event.

Most of what I saw was not the kind of thing that suited me.  But at the same time, I don’t think there was much that would have been of great interest to a casual or new fan either.

The bright spot for me was Jill Thompson.  I have been a fan for many years, so having here sign books was really a nice treat.  I took my Absolute Sandman vol 3 for her to sign and a copy of the new Lil’ endless book, Delirium’s Party. 

I got the Lil Endless signed and when she grabbed the large Absolute volume she lit up very slightly and said something about making magic and proceeded to do a fantastic sketch inside…

It was done using a white out pen on the black inside paper just before the title page of the book.  It took maybe 3 minutes to do and looks great!

As an extra bonus, I dug out my first Thompson sketch from nearly 20 years ago…

This was from a signing that she did with Neil Gaiman when the Brief Lives arc of Sandman was coming out.  She was not announced as a guest in advance that I had been aware of and was doing sketches on the back of the flyer for the signing.  This year when we spoke briefly while she was creating the sketch in my book, I mentioned that.  It was an event she recalled quite clearly, stating that she had been really sick that day and was on the road with Neil to several shops in a couple of days and had not been able to do much to feel better.  Not that she showed it then though.  She is a pro.  I also was reintroduced to a number of her earlier works at the signing yesterday that I had all but forgotten.  The work she did for Comico on the early Bill Willingham title The Elementals, was something that I had read when it was released and not recalled her part in it. She also told a great story from her early days as a teenager in the industry.

Winding things up was a hardcover book written by Evan Dorkin, of Milk & Cheese fame.  The book is called Beasts of Burden and was released last year.  That is just one of the many things I have grown to enjoy about cons and signings.  No matter how familiar I am with a particular creator’s work, I always manage to find something that I did not know about.

So I will leave you with the cover to the book and look forward to the next thing I feel like blathering on about for 1000 words or so…

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