Article by Erin Power

If the words “comics” and “free” sound like your cup of tea then Saturday, May 2nd is the day for you!

For the past fourteen years, the first Saturday in May has been heralded all over North America as Free Comic Book Day! Coordinated by the comic book industry’s single largest distributer, Diamond Comic Distributers, Free Comic Book Day was designed as a way to bring new readers into independent comic book stores. With over 40 titles available, there is something for everyone, from comics by smaller creator owned companies to the big name comics of Marvel and DC. “Any comic could be a person’s first comic,” says Jason Conway, owner of Downtown Comics, an independent comic book store located on Duckworth Street in St. John’s, “They are great for young readers,” states Conway, but he adds that comics are enjoyed by people of all ages. “I’ve still got customers who are coming here seventeen years,” he shares, “and now they’ve got their kids who come with them. A lot more people are into it now then there were even a few years ago.”

So what makes reading and collecting comics a life long love? According to Jason, there are numerous reasons. First, he says that people enjoy the routine of it. “They come down every week and get the comics that they collect and keep them all organized and together.” Then, of course, there is the secondary value, adding that some comics, for example, Walking Dead, early editions, are selling for up to $1000. But Conway cautions new readers against buying titles solely for resale value. “Just read what you love and if it happens to be something that people want down the road, then that’s great,” he suggests.

Free Comic Book Day will be taking place in many comic book stores around the province and so Conway offers a couple of tips for those new to the event. All the comics are laid out at the start of the day so getting there early means that you will get the best pick of the batch. His shop opens at 11:00am. Also, at Downtown Comics, there is a cap of 5 free comics per person to ensure that the greatest number of people get to sample the selection. This number of free comics may vary at different stores.

While running a thriving downtown business, Jason is also keen on supporting and developing the local comic industry. Downtown Comics sponsors the monthly BREAKDOWN Comic Jam at the Anna Templeton Centre, which Conway explains is “for young artists who want to get together and draw and talk comics as a group.” Wallace Ryan hosts the jam on the first Friday of every month from 7pm – 9pm and all are welcome. When reflecting on his store, that has been open for almost 20 years, Jason says, “I love it. You know, I’ve got to work and pay the bills somehow and this is the most awesome way I know how.” Free Comic Book Day is a great time to stop in to the shop, to check out the comics and to support local business.