As many of you may already know, I work in a comic book store. It's not just a comic book store, but one of the highest regarded by many, even comic creators themselves, and I knew all of this before ever working there. Now, every first Saturday in May, the industry has "Free Comic Book Day." While it may have been inspired by the ice cream shops having Free Cone Day, there truly is nothing else like it in the entertainment industry. I don't ever remember walking into a music store or movie store and getting free stuff on one set day, so that alone is pretty awesome. Most folks in the industry who have to work on that day are generally pensive, terrified and dread it. I actually look forward to it and have tons of fun working it... mostly.
What many people don't know is that the comic books themselves are not free to the shops. Comic book stores pay a highly discounted price, but pay FULL shipping costs on these hundreds and thousands of books to simply give away. The day exists as a "thank you" to regular readers and fans, as well as an effort to try to snag in some new readers to join the fold of awesome. Still, the word "free" does some interesting things to people in large groups. While the majority of the folks who attend are incredibly thankful, gracious and polite, there are a few that say and do things that blow my goddamn mind away. Here are a few key things that I will never get used to with the event.
- But It's Free Comic Book Day?!?!
Some people just don't get how it works. One doesn't simply walk into Mordor and start taking any comics off of the shelves and not expect to pay for them. There is a specific set of comics ordered from the distributor to give away for free. I had one woman last year say "Oh, this is just a bait and switch! I thought I could have any comic books I wanted!" I basically told her in a polite fashion that she could have any comics she wanted, she would just have to pay for the ones that aren't free. She wasn't entirely happy with that, but then she bought some stuff. Whew!
- How dare you not have everything I wanted?
You can't help but run out of free things. It's eventual. If not, it would be called Free Comic Book Week, or something. There are some offerings for Free Comic Book Day that are either going to run out really fast because they are popular or won't be found at all because no one heard of them. If you order a few hundred issues of a free comic that no one heard of, there is a chance you might get stuck with some, thus wasted some money buying and shipping a comic that no one wanted to choose... even though it was free. Yes, even at the price of 0, people still have standards. Speaking of which...
- This free comic sucks, can I have a different one?
I actually had someone pick a comic and then come back later to complain to me that the free comic they picked wasn't very good. I didn't even really know what to say, which is rare for me. The guy asked if he could switch it out for something else and I told him it really wouldn't be fair, considering there were still tons of people on the line. I mean, it was free! He shrugged and walked away, but I noticed that when he went back outside to tell his girlfriend what had happened she just started laughing. I think she had the best possible response, given the situation.
- Can I get some extra ones for a friend/kid/relative/co-worker/pet?
People don't just want free stuff, they sometimes want more free stuff then everyone else can get and are willing to put up just about any excuse to try to get some. One mother last year asked me if she could get 3 of each comic she was going to choose because she wanted them for herself and her identical twin sons. They were nowhere to be seen, that's how much they looked alike.
- What else is for free?
Free comic books don't translate to free toys, t-shirts, statues or anything else that isn't a damn free comic book. Sure, Heroclix gives out a free game-piece figure, but that's it. This goes right back to #1, where people just expect that they are entitled to get whatever the hell they want for free.
- Screw the kids!
While working the line this year, I had to correct a man who was trying to edge in before a little boy and his sister. He didn't realize that their parents were there, standing off of the line, but watching everything take place. He turned red when he heard me say, "Really, man? Are you going to try to cut in front of people that are not only a third of your age but a quarter of your size?" All he could mutter was a faint "I'm sorry," while playing dumb and acting like he simply didn't notice they were there.
- There are more polite people out there than not.
Honestly, the most surprising thing I see on "Free Comic Book Day" are complete strangers, en masse, being... nice. Total strangers were leaving the line to get others water and food, trading places on the line to let people with kids ahead of them, trading jokes, taking pictures with each other, and overall just being decent human beings. It was a true celebration of the medium that we all love and the joy that it brings us, even when we're in the middle of a long, hot and potentially smelly day. Also, this wasn't the minority. The greedy assholes were in the minority. The nice people were majority, and you just really don't expect that these days.