What is Free Comic Book Day? Imagine record store day, but for comics. Oh, and they're free. The massive annual event for the comics industry takes place at stores across the world on Saturday, May 7. We've read the free issues on offer from your local stores this year, and here is a full run down of what's on offer, plus our hot picks.
The Amazing Spiderman: Writer Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos give everyone's favorite web slinger an intro to his upcoming Spider Island arc, plus a brief backup opens up the current Fear Itself event.
The Mighty Fighting Avengers: Before Captain America and Thor get the big screen treatment this Summer, the two heroes team up in an entertaining time traveling galavant, aimed firmly at younger readers.
Hot Pick: Chris Samnee draws like a young Mike Mignola (Hellboy), which is a big plus, and there is just enough silliness in this medieval romp to win kids over.
Green Lantern: Pulling his secret origin from the Geoff Johns-penned Green Lantern issue 30, DC puts their own Summer movie star front and center, followed with a sneak peek at their own major event plotline, Flashpoint.
Young Justice/Batman: The Brave and the Bold Super Sampler: Plucked straight from the DC Kids line and their own TV show on Cartoon Show, the new look Teen Titans get a tween-friendly one-shot. Meanwhile the Flash and Batman are both brave and bold in the back of the book.
DC Heroclix 50 Set Green Lantern: Ever wanted a tiny Ryan Reynolds on your desk? Pick up a figure from the successful tabletop game.
Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse (Fantagraphics): In his 45 years of drawing the plucky round-eared hero, Floyd Gottfredson did as much to define Disney's iconic character as anyone else at the House of Mouse. This reprinting of 1935's Pluto at the Race is one of the absolute must-haves this year.
Hot Pick: Mickey was a street-fighting hero, and Fantagraphics have restored the pulp look and feel of his gangbusting heydays for this tribute book.
Darkwing Duck/Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers (Kaboom): Straight from the decade of anthropomorphic adventure, two of Disney's classic eighties cartoons get the glossy reboot.
Baltimore/Criminal Macabre (Dark Horse): Horror noir genius Steve Niles was in Austin recently and mentioned that Free Comic Book Day would include his first collaboration with artist Christopher Mitten. The result is a fun Frankenstein tale. Flip the book and it's the latest from Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, with their grim adventurer Captain Baltimore continuing his despairing trip across a monster-raddled WWI Europe.
Hot Pick The cover says it all: This is supernatural horror at its finest.
2000 AD (Rebellion Publishing): After 34 years, the British anthology title is still as oversized and overstuffed with snide humor and gruesome genius as ever.
Mouse Guard/The Dark Crystal (Archaia): Jim Henson's tale of Skeksis and urRu remains one of the great forgotten joys of fantasy. So it's a perfect compliment to David Petersen's brutal but enthralling Mouse Guard. The super-secret bonus is the first art for Henson's lost script, A Tale of Sand, being adapted as a graphic novel to be released Sept. 20.
Hot Pick: Mouse Guard may be the best fantasy title being published at the moment, and this sharp one-shot is an ideal taster.
Worlds of Aspen 2011 (Aspen): The tragic and premature death of founder Michael Turner in 2008 could have ended the company, but this quick guide to the Aspenverse shows the firm's continuing strengths.
The Darkness II: Confession (Top Cow/2K Games): Jackie Estacado, the anti-hero star of Top Cow's supernatural line, gives a high-speed grave-side "the story so far" precis before the launch of his second video game, due Oct. 2.
Hot Pick Hey, we're as surprised as you, but the painted panels by Michael Broussard and Romano Molenaar are a combination of Clayton Crain' magnificent work on X-Force and modern gothic at its finest.
Loose Ends/I.C.E. (12 Gauge): Two gritty, pistol-packing, southern-fried previews from the publishers of Boondock Saints. Get ready for Doug Wagner's trigger-happy tribute to immigration enforcement to raise some hackles.
Silver Scorpion (Open Hands Initiative/Liquid Comics): The polar opposite of I.C.E.: Created by 23 Syrian and American teens with disabilities, this is the best attempt to create a truly international hero this year (and, yes, that includes Superman giving up his passport.)
The Tick (NEC): Spoon! Ben Edlund's brilliant satire on super heroes hits a quarter century this year, and a special short story introduces an excerpt from the upcoming update Circus Maximus. Finally, the nigh-invulnerable hero finds out what a comic book is
Spontaneous (Oni) * local signing: It may be bold to give away issue one of a new mini-series away, but with Joe Harris (winner of Wizard Magazine's best mini-series of 2010 for Ghost Projekt) on scripting duties, this noir-tinged tale of spontaneous human combustion could be this year's break-out hit.
Jake The Dreaming (Radical Books): Less a comic and more a brief preview of the upcoming illustrated young adult novel from Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin. Andrew "Android" Jones' spellbinding splash pages, both fantastical and epic, make the wait for the full edition (due December) seem unbearable.
Locke & Key (IDW): Speaking of splash pages, Gabriel Rodrigeuz evokes Jeff Darrow at his finest. This sliver of volume three of Joe Hill's magical teen horror (Crown of Shadows) teases the upcoming TV adaptation, appearing on Fox this Fall.
Super Dinosaur (Image): Robert Kirkman wrote one of the best deconstructionist super hero titles ever with Invincible, so now he's just appealing to everyone's inner child. How so? His new series features a nine foot tall, super-smart T-Rex in power armor. Sold.
Atomic Robo (Red 5 Comics): Kirkman does not have the only cybernetics-and-dinosaurs title on the shelf this year. Their free issue also includes glimpses of Red 5's new version of the EC character Moon Girl and their original tale of goldrush adventure, Foster Broussard.
Top Shelf Kid's Club (Top Shelf Comix): Pure black-and-white joy, aimed at younger readers, with previews of six of their titles. Seriously, who can resist Pirate Penguin vs Ninja Chicken?
Hot Pick: Owly and Korgi may be two of the best ways to introduce kids to visual storytelling.
Pep Comics Featuring Betty & Veronica (Archie Comics): A quick four-color morality tale from the longest-running gang in comics, plus word scrambles.
John Stanley's Summer Fun! (The John Stanley Library): Canada's Drawn & Quarterly put Nancy, Sluggo, Tubby and the gang back onto pulp paper where they belong.
Rated Free For Everyone (Oni): Sneak peeks at a pair of super-powers for awkward kids. J. Torres' Power Lunch shows the value of nutrition in a non-preachy way, while Joshua Williamson's Sketch Monsters is a chalk-drawn joy.
Hot Pick If the previews are anything to go by, both titles will make perfect all-ages Christmas stocking stuffers when they are released later this year.
The Intrepid Escapegoat/The Stuff of Legend (Th3rd World Studios): Ideal for any child that likes their reading material a little darker but still safe for bedtime. Escapegoat is an old-fashioned pulp adventurer, while this excerpt from the magnificent but terrifying excerpt from the upcoming Stuff volume A Jester's Tale will either give kids nightmares or hook them forever.
Geronimo Stilton (Papercutz): 47 volumes in, the tales of Edizioni Piemme's investigative reporter mouse are some of Italy's best-selling children's books. A quick preview of volume seven, Dinosaurs in Action comes with a Smurf backup strip.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Ringchasing antics, courtesy of the fastest hedgehog in gaming.
Bongo Comics Free-For-All 2011 (Bongo): Don't let the name fool you. This is all Simpsons, all the time. Worth it just to see Sergio Aragones (Groo the Wanderer) taking a crack at drawing Bart.
Inspector Gadget/Johnny Test (Viper): Two cartoon licenses with an emphasis on oddball science, one classic, one contemporary.
Kung Fu Panda/Richie Rich (KiZoic/Ape Entertainment) *local signing: Two short stories from Jack Black's high-kicking animated alter-ego in the front, the world's richest kid gets a sci-fi revamp in the back.
Avatar: The Last Airbender/Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Dark Horse Comics): Two major franchises with colons in the title. Fans of Aang will definitely want to pick up the pair of 'lost tales' found here.
Michael Moorcock's Elric: The Balance Lost (Boom!) *local signing: The eternal champion gets a new look, courtesy of Francesco Biagini, as Chris Roberson (owner of the locally-based MonkeyBrain Books publishing house and writer of some indie comic called Superman) pens the history of the sword-wielding albino.
Things to Come/The Mis-Adventures of Adam West (Bluewater Comics): The kings of celebrity bio-comics take a turn for the weird with a time-jumping Adam West (yes, that Adam West), while Star Trek's Walter Koenig pens a disturbing post-apocalyptic backup tale.
Path of the Planeswalker II (Wizards of the Coast): If the people behind Magic: The Gathering don't have spare artists around, who does? An ashcan snippet of this summer's upcoming graphic novel.
Witch & Wizard (Yen Press): A manga-style adaptation of James Patterson may not appeal to a lot of comic fans, but since the point of Free Comic Book Day is to get non-comic readers into comic stores, just be ready for the stampede.
Civil War Adventure (History Graphics Publishing): An academically accurate illustrated text about the war between the states – with added white lightning hallucinations and a step-by-step guide to battlefield amputations.
Hot Pick: Who knew history was this much like an EC Comic?
Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators/Top 10 Deadliest Sharks (Discovery/Silver Dragon Books): Did you know that the real name of the supercroc was Sarcosuchus? Or that Great White Sharks are camouflaged? More gruesome but fascinating nature facts with gorgeous painted artwork in an ashcan edition.
Hot Pick: Sharks and crocodiles and great art? What's not to love?
Overstreet Guide to Collecting Comics (Gemstone): What's the difference between a comic reader and a comic collector? Collectors know Overstreet, and this pocket preview of the upcoming 41st edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide includes grading info, a calendar of conventions and more.
Come back tomorrow and we'll tell you were you can pick up your free comics in the Austin area, plus the details on those local signings.
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