“It’s a thank you to comic readers”: Shops across Canada host Free Comic Book Day

A preview of Free Comics Day
WATCH: Mark Fardella from SBT Comics and Games talks about pop-culture and Free Comics Day

It’s that time of year again!

We don’t mean the first week of spring, and we certainly aren’t referring to tax season. No, today is Free Comic Book Day, and lovers of the genre around the world are coming together to celebrate their shared passion — and pick up a bit of extra reading material while they’re at it.

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“It’s really two things,” Mark Fardella from SBT Comics and Games in Kingston told Global News. “It’s a thank you to comic readers from comic shops for supporting the business, so we’re giving exclusive stories out for free on Saturday. And the second thing is, it’s a way to entice new people into what are probably the greatest stories out there today.”

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Comic books can trace their roots back to the 1800s, when newspaper strips were first collected into a magazine format, according to Andrew O’Malley, an associate professor of English at Ryerson University.

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“It was really only in the ’90s, with the boom of the graphic novel, that there was a widespread recognition that there was a literary and artistic quality to these materials,” he said.

The very first Free Comic Book Day took place in 2002, making the holiday 17 years old today. The idea was originally proposed by Joe Field, the owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, Calif., which he opened in 1988. He was working as a columnist at the time and decided to run with the idea after proposing it in one of its columns, and receiving an enthusiastic response from readers.

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Since then, pre-selected, specially-printed editions of comic books are handed out by participating comic shops every year on May 5. If you’re a regular comic reader, you know the rules, but if you’re a newbie, listen up. Here are some things you should know before hitting up your favourite shop.

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Participating Shops

Shops aren’t obligated to participate in the event. The best way to find out if a comic book shop near you is partaking is to use the store locator on the website, or call the store ahead of time.

There are several stores in every province and territory that participate in the event regularly.

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According to a Canadian comic book news site, there are currently about 321 comic shops across Canada as of January, 2017: Two in Newfoundland; 15 in Nova Scotia; 11 in New Brunswick; two in Prince Edward Island; 137 in Ontario; 13 in Manitoba; eight in Saskatchewan; 36 in Alberta; 52 in British Columbia; three stores in the territories; and about 40 in Quebec.

Only 52 titles are handed out, and every shop does it differently

Every year, 52 titles are selected and printed as special edition titles, which are then given out for free at participating stores.

Not every store will be carrying all 52 specially-printed comics. While some stores will lay out their options and let you pick, others will hand you a sampler pack. The books usually span from all-ages to mature ratings.

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Buy a little something while you’re there

While the idea of Free Comic Book Day is to get free comic books, it’s generally considered good etiquette to make a small, complimentary purchase to support local business owners.