Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne looks at the best timing for Free Comic Book Day promotions and notes some creeping change.

By my count, the 23rd annual Free Comic Book Day took place this past weekend (thanks, Joe Field, for pushing the whole thing to get started). For us, foot traffic was double that of a normal Saturday but sales were only at the level of a typical strong Saturday. More work, more people for about the same amount of profit. However a number of other stores reported record foot traffic and sales with several reporting their “best FCBD ever.”

Both Marvel Comics and DC Comics used Free Comic Book Day to launch their big summer crossovers, Blood Hunt and Absolute Power, although to my mind DC did so a bit better than Marvel did (see "DC Details Absolute Power Event"). Marvel released the first Blood Hunt issue the Wednesday before FCBD, while DC’s Absolute Power storyline starts this July.  DC can use the buzz generated from its FCBD release to create interest in the not-yet-released Absolute Power series, while Marvel already has a copy of issue one of Blood Hunt on the racks.

In an ideal world, stores would have seen Free Comic Book Day Blood Hunt arrive with original material and with huge buzz for Free Comic Book Day, then Blood Hunt #1 (which follows directly from the events in FCBD Blood Hunt) arrives in stores the next week or week after while interest is still high in the book.  I still expect Blood Hunt to sell well, but the synergy of the timing would have helped.

Absolute Power gets the timing right, but with a release date of two months later for the series, most of the excitement for the series generated by the FCBD preview will have dissipated.  We did order plenty of extra copies of Absolute Power and will put them near the comic racks as its release date gets closer, but a May or June release date would have taken far more advantage of the FCBD buzz.

I think the best use of Free Comic Book Day buzz was 2009’s release of the Blackest Night series.  The FCBD release featured all new material which led into the first issue, which released in a timely manner after FCBD, and we sold far more Blackest Night than we normally would have (see "DC To Release Blackest Night Brightest Day Boxed Set").

One additional thing I have noticed is the trend for companies to release their books in bundles rather than single copies.  This is proving problematic because for years stores have ordered FCBD books in terms of single copies.  However, for the past couple of years the Big Two, Marvel and DC, have offered their books in bundles of 25. This is fine since the companies very clearly state it in their solicitations.  However, some of the smaller companies are adopting this method as well and not making it as clear that an order of 1 means 1 bundle rather than 1 copy.  I missed this when looking over Kodansha Comics’ solicitation for the company’s Initial D book and ordered 10.  Unfortunately, it turned out I ordered 10 bundles of 20 each.  Now, while I hope that Initial D is a huge hit upon its re-release, I really did not think I had enough local interest to move 200 copies.  However, I do expect to see more publishers moving to this model as long as they make it clear in the solicitation that we are getting a bundle of comics instead of the traditional 1.

Comments?  Send them to

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of