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Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Free Comic Book Day in San Francisco

National nerd holiday originated from the mind of a Gator
Matt Orso
A customer grabs a “Micronauts” comic book at Comix Experience on May 3, 2024. (Matthew Ali / Golden Gate Xpress)

Across San Francisco, the rest of the United States, and 60 other countries around the world, comic book shops are preparing for what some nerds call “the best day of the year:” Free Comic Book Day (FCBD), which this year falls on May 4.

Conceived in 2001, this informal celebration sprang from the creative mind of Joe Field, a San Francisco State University graduate and the proprietor of Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff in Concord, California.

In 2001, while writing for “Comic and Games Retailer,” an indie trade magazine, Field wanted to help the comics industry, which had, according to Field, fallen into a slump and been in decline since the late ‘90s. Field saw a long line stretching out from a nearby Bakiin-Robbins on free scoop night. After talking to a franchise owner, he adapted the idea for comics.

According to Field, after his column was published, the response from those in the industry who saw the article was unanimously positive. Then, Field got to work on planning this annual event.

Since 2002, comic book stores have given away free comics every year on the first Saturday of May. Shop owners specially order these comics to promote the local stores and help grow the community.

“Think about it. Free Comic books, I mean, there aren’t a whole lot of things better than that,” Field said. “It was a rare chance for everyone working in the comics fields, from artists and writers to publishers and distributors to comic shop owners, to all work together toward the common good. And that was, that had never happened in the comics field before.”

Field is still very involved in FCBD. He leads a committee that selects the books for the event, and is involved in the event’s marketing and advertising and consults with other retailers who participate.

The storefront at Comix Experience on May 3, 2024. (Matthew Ali / Golden Gate Xpress) (Matt_Orso)

This year, six comic book shops are participating in San Francisco and giving away free comics. Comix Experience, Isotope, Amazing Fantasy, Invisible Jet Comics, Mission: Comics & Art, and Things from Another World.

Comix Experience in the Castro is one shop that will give away free comics on May 4 this year. This pop-culture holiday requires extensive preparation.

“It’s been twenty-something years, so I think we’ve pretty much got it down to a science at this point. I mean, it’s a lot of work — a lot of work,” said Brian Hibbs, owner of Comix Experience. “It’s a pretty big production number. I’ve been doing it for decades, so there’s no real trick to it at this point. It’s just a lot of moving parts.”

While the comics are free for everyone, stores purchase the free books to give away on FCBD. Participating stores often hold events in conjunction with other local businesses.

“It’s just like an almost block party vibe,” said Katt Kelly, an SFSU graduate and digital media coordinator/graphic novel retailer at Comix Experience. Everyone’s excited to be there, excited to get a sort of taste of this medium that is maybe mystified or historically been a little more gatekeepery. That’s why I like this day; it’s sort of like inherently the opposite of what has kept people out of comic shops in the past.”

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of FCBD’s inception. It has become a cultural staple and inspired many other “holidays” geared toward nerds, such as Record Store Day, Free Roleplaying Game Day, and National Trading Card Day.

“It’s the happiest day of the year. It’s a free comic book, and it’s in its name,” Hibbs said.

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About the Contributor
Matthew Ali
Matthew Ali, Staff Reporter
Matthew Ali is a reporter for the Golden Gate Xpress. He is a journalism major and works as a wedding and portrait photographer. He is from Los Angeles. He is also of a particularly nerdy persuasion. He enjoys comics, video games, fantasy novels, and tabletop games. He also aspires to write fiction and eventually comic books for DC and Marvel Comics.

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