NOTHING ON FREE COMIC BOOK DAY IS EVER REALLY FREE: The 2017 Edition

24 May

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Over at EARTH 2, my friendly neighborhood comic book specialty shop, I had a few words for my fellow comic book buying brethren who swarmed in like a dust cloud of locust to get their hands on any FREE COMIC BOOK DAY editions that they could. Their limit was to five copies per customer. Which is really generous, considering that nearly every other independently operated comic book store were handing out two per customer out of the 53 titles printed specially for this monumental celebratory day (the day after the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 movie was released and was slated to make 73 million buckeroos in a single day) which has been aptly designated as FREE COMIC BOOK DAY has been a tradition for the past decade and half and happens to fall on the first weekend in May whenever a major big budgeted comic book super hero movie is released).

BUT I found a surefire way to circumvent that 2 – 5 limit per customer (what is this? Last call at my local pissing hole?). For those who follow my blog on a regular basis, you pretty much know I followed the same YONDU colored blueprint as last year as chronicled in this two parter NOTHING IN LIFE OR ON FREE COMIC BOOK DAY IS EVER REALLY FREE & NOTHING IN LIFE OR ON FREE COMIC BOOK DAY IS EVER REALLY FREE – THE DRAMATIC CONCLUSION.

But I shall reiterate in smaller sound bytes this time around.

For the past previous years, I’ve become increasingly frustrated that for every FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, I had to visit at least seven to eight store in the Metropolitan Los Angeles area to accumulate at least half the offerings. From early Saturday AM, I would traverse from the San Fernando Valley to Santa Monica to Hollywood to Culver City. I The whole arduous sojourn would take me from early morning to early evening. I noticed more stores would be cutting back on the limit of what a customer would take. OF COURSE I would take up the effort to least buy a little something to patronize their business. But by last year, I realized I’m up nearly to my mid-fifties and I’m quickly running out of stamina, I can’t go galvanizing all over the city to seven or eight store and only yield less than half of the available output. There had to be a better way.

And the answer had been staring me locally all this time. I knew Carr d’ Angelo, the owner of Earth 2 Comics in Sherman Oaks (and now a 2nd location in Northridge) for nearly two decades now. He opened the store near my house near the Sherman Oaks Galleria sometime in 2000 back when both owners of the store I used to manage in North Hollywood called Rookie & AllStars Cards & Comics LAUGHED at me when I said that SHERMAN OAKS, the hot HOLLYWOOD AGENT capital of the SAN FERNANDO VALLEY  would be the best venue to open a comic book shop in (where the hell are they supposed to park without paying the meter??). When word spread that EARTH 2 was packing in customers by the truckload, just by the sheer volume of WALK-IN TRAFFIC, it was I who had THE LAST LAUGH. As previously mentioned, Carr had been generous enough to allow 5 copies of FREE COMIC BOOK DAY EDITIONS per customer. IF YOU WANTED more, Carr simply whipped a jar full of dollar donations to the charity organization who call themselves THE HERO INITIATIVE – which is an organization that Wikipedia states more eloquently than I:

The Hero Initiative, formerly known as A Commitment to Our Roots, or ACTOR, is the first federally recognized not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping comic book creators, writers and artists in need. Founded in late 2000 by a consortium of comic book and trade publishers, including Marvel Comics, Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Wizard Entertainment, CrossGen Comics and Dynamic Forces Inc., the 501(c)(3) charity aims to assist comic creators with health, medical, and quality-of-life assistance.”

The Hero Initiative utilizes many methods of fundraising. Foremost is their annual art auction, auctioning donated original comics art-work at fan conventions. Year-long, they sell donated art and special edition comics at conventions and through the Dynamic Forces website. Artists, writers, and publishers are invited to donate work, and fans are invited to donate money directly to the fund. ACTOR also sells a green Excelsior! wrist-band similar in design to the Livestrong wristband.”

Also, they are the developers of the Dick Giordano Humanitarian Award given out each year at the Baltimore Comic Con Harvey Awards. Their headquarters is based in West Los Angeles.

I became lured to their cause, because it’s one that identifies with me. I, too had moments of despair in the early nineties when I thought back to my twenties living the California dream wasting away many valuable brain cells to the beach life of San Diego and thinking just because I had it good with a sound engineering gig in North San Diego didn’t necessarily mean that had the chops to make it in Los Angeles. So after a year of failure, I came back penniless to live on the beaches of San Diego, realizing those who once took me in ended up throwing my panhandling carcass out to sea. I couldn’t get my old place and job back, so after three weeks of sleeping on the beach, a friend of mine ran into me by chance and let me stay with him until I got my shit back in order. It was at his little cottage in Ocean Beach that I turned back to my first true love: reading and writing comic book scripts. In 1992, I got a letter published in Comics Buyer’s Guide and that sort of launched me into a new direction. And when I raised enough money to give LOS ANGELES a second try, IT WAS THESE letters that I had gotten published in CBG that won over these wo sixty- something year old businessmen who were opening a comic book shop and they began relying on my historical knowledge of silver and bronze age comic books (not to mention my skills of navigating through a price guide) that helped planted the mold.

Another key motivator in my support for the HERO Initiative was going to several giant conventions, most likely Comic Con International in San Diego, that I would run by their booth and you would get to see comic book professionals such as Peter David, Jim Valentino, and Mark Waid help out, BUT it was writer Steve Perry (not the singer from the band Journey) whom I often see managing the booth who clutched my heartstrings. Perry, once the writer of many animated episodes of Thundercats, Silverhawks, and Batman: The Animated Series, as well as the creation of Time Spirits, an Epic/Marvel comic book series, was found tragically decapitated by his roommate and girlfriend in his home state of Florida. Perry was nearly dead broke (blame it on animation writers not getting their due residual payments). Perry relied upon help from the HERO INITIATIVE for him and his young boy when he was nearly destitute himself.

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So I proposed to Carr last year, in exchange for the ENTIRE LOT of Free Comic Book Day editions – which I know he orders all that are available, why don’t I contribute a GOOD sized donation of more than $100 to the Hero Initiative? That way, I feel I’m doing good to give back to the comic book community that has spawned me? I have the cushy Hollywood position that I’ve searched highland and Hollywood boulevard low for – I can do it as long as I remain GAINFULLY EMPLOYED.  Last year, I donated in cash $120.00. This year I went for $150.00 as you can see by the picture up above of the money order/cashier’s check I bought from my bank to show that I MEAN BUSINESS.

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FREE COMIC BOOK DAY could also be looked upon as PILOT SEASON for most comic book publishers, as its’ timing coincidently falls in lockstep with most cable and television networks rolling out their schedules for next fall as they delve deep into hoping with lavish parties and giveaways (i.e.; SWAG!!) in presentations that they like to refer as the UPFRONTS that will hopefully entice you to tune into their new shows. FREE COMIC BOOK DAY is in most ways designed for me to sample the new wares and to be talked about as the big man among this summer comic book convention circuit. I wouldn’t have become fan of either IDW Publishing’s ROM or Archie Comics’ The Black Hood had I not read them first in FCBD sample form

So, anyway – rather than go through the rigmarole of making this a two-parter like I did last year, I’m just going to go through the pile of what I’ve read so far of this year’s sacrificial four-color digital offerings and say a few words.

It seems as less companies got less involved this year. There were only fifty-three titles available this year. A couple of companies who I wish would have got involved with prepping up some pilot presentations would have been Aftershock Comics (who publish their high quality wares DIRECTLY across the street from Earth 2. I’m particularly fond of two titles from their line, Rough Riders – which is a secret society historical super team up of President Theodore Roosevelt, Houdini, Thomas Edison, Calamity Jane, and Casey Jones,  and then there is American Monster by 100 Bullets creator Brian Azzarello – which is details the tragic events of a Viet Nam veteran who’s been physically transformed from the devastating effects of Agent Orange comes back to his southern hometown for revenge on those who did him wrong before enlisting.

I sorely lament no Hermes Press edition of collected Phantom stories from the Charlton and Gold Key eras this year.

And just once, JUST once, I wish Titan Comics would stop it with a DOCTOR WHO edition every year. In case you missed it, I was all a flutter with their new line of comics based on their crime mystery novels that the London company publishes called the Hard Case Crime Comics line. In the previous set, they published two mini-series based on popular Hollywood director and writer Walter Hill’s unmade film, Triggerman and one mini-series based on his new LOWLY distributed movie based on the screenplay of The Re-Assignment starring Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez about a mob hitman who forcefully undergoes a sex operation (I haven’t seen it yet. It went in and out of theaters within a week out here in LA). There was also a series by Christina Faust called Peepland, its’ last issues still buried someplace in my independent must read pile.

Also to note, it seemed that a lot more of the big companies doubled down with the their FCBD editions. DC Comics had two different variations of Wonder Woman to offer in anticipation of the new movie with a reprint of Wonder Woman Rebirth Issue 2 and the kid friendly Super Hero Girls. Archie Comics wants to make sure you’re really checking out the new Riverdale series by proposing you check out the Riverdale special edition (which could be handy as a series guide as the book lists profiles of the characters in the show) and a Betty & Veronica reprint of issue one of that stand alone series. In addition to Doctor Who from Titan, there was a Monster High edition for the kiddies. Dark Horse gives out a two-fer in the so-so debut of the world of Avatar by Sheri Smith and Doug Wheatley with Brian Wood’s Brigg’s Land as back up and another book with Buffy The Vampire Slayer with a back up featuring video game favorite Plants & Zombies. For the hard-core anime enthusiasts, Viz Media passed out one book on Dragon Ball Z and another featuring Zelda: Twilight Princess. Papercutz showed what they’re doing lately with the Nickelodeon Brady Bunch x 2 inspired The Loud House written by the animated show’s creator Chris Savino and another featuring Barbie, which gave me the oddest looks from fellow subway riding commuters when they caught me reading it.

Just remember: there’s nothing really bad to say about any of the titles. All took tremendous work and tender loving care to put out with hardly any ample compensation from the creative top to the local neighborhood retailer who’s most likely taking a financial hit in order to present the book to-day for zero profit. All genres were well covered this year, there was a book for practically everyone this year and if you are a giant fan of diversity – such as I am, you were definitely a happy camper.

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Let’s get the preliminaries out the way. We all know that they was the big grubby grabber. Stores were probably giving them out by the truckload. I haven’t had the chance to read it. I assume it takes place between issues 1 & 2 of the mini-series which is still in my Marvel reading stack – so that’s where I stuck it.  Marvel also released a Guardians of the Galaxy FCBD edition to herald the debut of new writer Gerry Duggan and to break in the fans of the movie franchise. Again, that went in my Marvel reading stack in the GOTG sub category which also includes a Jim Starlin mini-series and a couple of GOTG Vol 2 related one shots that I haven’t touched yet.

I’d like to go on a whole spiel of how I think it’s stupid for both the comic book industry professional and the public to constantly throw writer Nick Spenser under the proverbial bus, but I might have to save that until the Secret Empire mini-series is in full swing (as of this posting, the series has had a zero issue and two issues out of nine) and I’m just sick and tired of this event series getting the worse possible publicity reported and commented on by people WHO ARE NOT READING THE GODDAMN THING and all seem to be lately but Trump supporters who are suddenly experts on everything that is Captain America. I’m going to weigh in on this topic in a later blog during the summer that I’ll probably won’t get around to writing until Comic Con rolls around.

So onward to the books I’ve enjoyed the most and honorable mentions to those that were published in the same genre that I probably liked or didn’t liked, however since they were free – THEY’RE ALL GOOD!! So technically, there’s really no stinker amongst the batch.

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Skottie Young – once upon a time Rocket Raccoon artist provided us with “I Hate Image” one shot featuring Fairyland girl killing off every last one of those Image super dork doofuses that’s ever existed even the entire cast of the Walking Dead, that is, if anyone is still keeping track. Image also passed a separate pamphlet of a glimpse into the kid friendly Kid Savage graphic novel by Man of Action’s Joe Kelly and artist Ilya, which is sort of cross between Quest of Fire and Lost in Space.

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DC Comics gave out the debut issue of Superhero Issue (little knowing that it was based on a series of Youtube shorts made specially by WB Animation. Both the one shot from last year and the animated shorts was such a success that it spawned an animated series on Cartoon Network and a popular series of YA novels. Unfortunately, since I was committed to stopping at other stores in the San Fernando Valley, I missed the creative team of Shea Fontana and Yancy Labat coming by later in the afternoon to Earth 2 to get my copy signed.

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As revealed in this comic book issue, HILDA is on its’ way to becoming a Netflix series. Since I’m already a big fan of GON, another independent comic book property brought to CGI animated life to stream on Netflix, I’ll definitely be in the queue to check this out as well.

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There was a massive crowd waiting outside Earth 2 that Saturday morning because one of the actors from the show that the comic was based on was signing copies (was it Randall Park? I wasn’t sure, since I’m not a big fan of sitcoms. And you can yell at me until you’re blue in the face and call me an idiot LIKE MY SISTER DOES for not watching a single episode of Big Bang Theory. I fucking loathe all sitcom shows with laughtracks.) Boom! Entertainment also gave out a book with a trio Hodge podgy tales featuring the ever flawless Mouse Guard by David Peterson, Brave Chef Brianna by Sam Sykes & Selina Espirtu, & ending with Coady and the Creepies by Liz Prince & Amanda Kirk.

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Out of all the kids related titles – the lead story in this issue was my favorite. It was an undersea tongue in cheek homage to the FREE COMIC BOOK DAY event in itself with a lot of heart and humor ending with a lesson in humility of Free Comic Book Day itself  Bongo Comics also released its’ traditional Simpsons free for all comic and American Mythology Comics is currently  breathing new life into Casper, the Friendly Ghost & the rest of the Harvey Comics gang along with long time Saturday morning cartoon stalwarts, The Pink Panther and the brand new Underdog comic book series, who’s photo graces the introduction of this entry.

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The appearance of Miraculous entices me to either check out the dvds I see selling for cheaply at your neighborhood Target or see streaming on Netflix. I am sorely in need of some summer Saturday cartoon fare. Other dishwasher safe fare also included IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that sort of serves as a jumping ground for new readers as the main story contains a little background intelligence of practically each major and minor TMNT character who’s ever graced all its’ multiple publishers and series. New England Comics held its’ 6th annual FCBD issue of the Tick. Instead of Grumpy Cat last year, Dynamite Entertainment is trying to lure young viewers who are fans of the online game of Animal Jam to read up on its comic book adventures. Tokoyopop has The Descendants – which is a Disney property detailing the adventures of the children of Disney villains Maleficent, Cruella de Vil, Jafar, & The Evil Queen and the good they try to do in their evil predecessors’ rampaging wake   I wasn’t aware that Disney had licensing out their characters for manga, but apparently there are plans for more on the way.

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This issue was a treat as well. The creations in this book: Moomin & the Brigands, Anna & Froga, Elise Gravel, & Kitaro could easily be at home on Adult Swim.  Drawn & Quarterly also doubled down with a truly Middle Eastern slice of life in real life despair with the double feature book, Guy Delisle’s Hostage & Brigette Findally’s “Poppies of Iraq” which was fascinating insight that brought back memories of haunting lessons once learned in Joe Kubert’s Fax from Sarajevo graphic novel.

Speaking of Adult Swim, One Press has been publishing comic books based on the cult hit, Rick & Morty, which is going to take some getting used to since I just literally started watching the series on Hulu. I wonder if Oni Press has the drunken courage to publish a series based on The Venture Bros?

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This free comic book day gave us two rare looks into some European imported fare. Above is Tex: Patagonia imported from Italy courtesy of Epicenter Comics by Mauro Boselli and Pasquale Frisenda is a Western based comic book that goes back decades – was PROBABLY one of the influences to Sergio Leone in creating the Clint Eastwood starring spaghetti westerns.

Below, is a Humanoids FCBD short glimpse presentation into the world of The Incal by visionary French artist Moebius and Chile writer Alejandro Jodorowsky (Metal Hurlant Magazine). Alejandro also wrote a few episodes for the French/Belgium anthology series Metal Hurlant Chronicles that used to air for two seasons on the Syfy channel that was loosely based on the magazine of the same name that translates into Heavy Metal out there in the States. Jodorowsky once attempted to outdo David Lynch in a disastrous 15 hour remake of Dune with a proposed soundtrack to be recorded by Pink Floyd and H.R. Giger sketched storyboards that only ended up flopping like a dried up sand worm fished out of a dune from a Miami golf course on the cutting room floor and was recently chronicled in the documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”.

Today, the Incal could probably made faster and cheaper. Years, after its’ original graphic novel publication, The John Difool god chasing science fiction opus still holds fresh to this very day.

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Besides, who would be stupid enough to resist free Moebius??

Other international adventure inspired books were the 2nd annual Attack on Titan by Kodansha Comics with a brand new original story by Valiant Comics’ Faith writer Jody Houser and artist Emi Lenox. Personally, I’m one of those johnny anime come lately by getting into this show last year on Netflix. The second season is up and running and I’m waiting for it to show up on either Hulu or Netflix.

Youneek Studios offers up the first chapter of their Game of Thrones invigorated Malika, Warrior Queen. But sadly, that’s all it comes off as: a black person’s guide to Game of Thrones with the title character coming off as African version of Daenerys Targaryen.  Still, the ads in the back of the book sate my curiosity into their other concepts of African superheroes in their respective titles of Exo: The Legend of Wale Williams and Windmaker that’s somehow supposed to connect to this book.

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Perhaps the most ingenious concept to grace the FCBD in a freebie is a Red 5 comic featuring KEYSER SOZE, the legendary mystery man explained by actor Kevin Spacey in the Bryan Singer directing debut movie, THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Now that’s what I call digging deep into the well of licensing properties for a comic book series also features a back up of a World War II time travel adventure, The Rift which is based on some Hollywood project that involves actor Jeremy Renner – but the only listing I see on imdb for it is a Russian imported film that’s also science fiction based, but has something more to do with a monster invasion than time travel.IMG_0342

A couple of years back, local San Fernando Valley artist Joe Benitez debuted his steampunk bad girl Lady Mechanika in a FCBD edition. I was impressed enough to finally catch up to in his two full graphic novel editions when I suddenly sprouted amnesia standing in front of his table over at this year’s Wonder Con in Anaheim. HOWEVER, I regained my mental facilities JUST in time to hand over $20 for the two gloriously glossy looking volumes that. This edition reprints the same lead story from the last edition that won me over, but the second half of this edition has previews of upcoming projects such as a peek into the third trade and two new mini-series debuting this summer.

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I was harping earlier about how Titan Comics would’ve perhaps made good with the FCBD format to energize some new fans to gravitate towards their Hard Case Crime line, if they had done a sampler of their upcoming line including the new adaptation of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo novel or the Cinemax series, Quarry – but I guess F2 Comics provided the next best thing with this crime noir-ish tale written by Gabe Sunia and illustrated by Warren Pleece that takes place mainly in the dark hidden hills of Hollywood and Laurel Canyon – which is the BEST EVER SETTING for any Los Angeles based mystery. And all this crazy murder and racketeering over the rights to a jazz song.

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a sneak peek into Star Trek: The Next Generation offers a diabolical reflection of the new mini-series based on the sequel to the original show. I thought the show already covered this type of parallel universe, but IDW Publishing is revamping it with new costume designs for our happy Enterprise crew doppelgangers. Star Trek comics are not really my food replicating cup of tea, but I tip my hat to editor Chris Ryall for making me a fan of both ROM and Micronauts, a habit that was started for me by last year’s IDW Publishing comics.- both titles are still on my regular pull list.

Wrapping up, since I’m pressed for time:

more sci-fi treats abound in The Looking Glass Wars Crossfire from Automatic Publishing

Antarctic Press gave out Steam Wars: Strike Leader.

Dillion aka 2000AD offered up more Judge Dredd hijinks in the only title given out with bonus DIGITAL CONTENT (which I haven’t had time to access yet).

Chapterhouse resurrects Canadian super hero Captain Canuck in his very own one shot with a Die Kitty Die back up.

The Overstreet Guide to Collecting tells us for the umpteenth time on how to collect and store our comics.

Valiant has a X O Manowar freebie, that’s going to be read when I get around to reading my Valiant Comics care package I received at Wonder Con.

Help the CBLDF…defend comics has a lead story called Rock Stars by Jeffrey Brown is about a the discovery of prehistoric drums found in a caveman’s cave, which I don’t understand what it has to do with the defending of civil rights in the comic book industry.

Udon Capcom Comics, Street Fighter. Ho hum.

Zenescope, Grimm Fairy Tales. Double Ho-hum

If you’re a big fan of Stranger Things on Netflix, I recommend reading First Second’s preview of Scott Westerfield’s “Spill Night“. Ten Speed bike fighting black ink monsters. You can’t go wrong with that.

Oni Press – in addition to the Rick and Morty special, there was also a Bad Machinery comic by John Allison offered up a second helping by the Portland, Oregon area publisher.

Finally, Lion Forge Comics previewed “Catalyst Prime, a Christopher Priest penned independent sci-fi government and space program series that’s just as good as Warren Ellis’ work on DC’s Wild Storm. Definitely interested in checking out more.

Next week – more crazy Steven Wilson shenanigans with the double two punch release of his collaboration with Aviv Geffen on the recent released Blackfield V and his upcoming 5th solo album, To the Bone, slated for released before the end of this summer.

By the way, almost all of the FCBD editions were sponsored by:

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