Free Comic Book Day, the first-ever industry-wide promotion for comics, was held May 3, 2002 across North America and around the world.  We asked comic retailers to tell us how it went, and they did!
Joey Boyack, owner of Comic Kings, Virginia Beach,VA
Our day turned out pretty good today, as we saw a lot of new faces that came in looking for the free comics.  I sent out the press release along with the free comics and some store t-shirts to the 3 major news stations, the local paper, and the major rock radio station here.  I also placed an ad in the newspapers' classifieds section and ran it all week.  We got some plugs from the radio station, and the newspaper came out and did an interview but it was mostly questions about the Spider-Man movie.  The reporter was in the store for about an hour talking with customers and me and one of my employees.  Parts of the interview made the paper but nothing was mentioned about Free Comic Book Day.  The store name got in the paper so that was cool.  Anything is better than nothing.  I kind of had my doubts going into the weekend but I actually was surprised about it.  We gave away 1 each Spider-Man, Star Wars, Tomb Raider, JLA, and the Matrix books to each customer and we had about 5000 issues of '90's type back stock out where everybody could also pick 5 free books from there.  We also gave away 3 mini busts in a free drawing -- Spider-Man, Green Goblin, and the Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Everybody seemed happy and the customers that just happened to come by not knowing anything about FCBD were happy.  I'd definitely do it again and thanks to the companies for all getting together for this!!
Tom Davis, owner of The Bookshelf,Tallahassee, FL  My name is Tom Davis and I own The Bookshelf in Tallahassee, FL. There are 3 comic shops here.  I was concerned about the lateness of the media coverage nationwide and didn't know what type of response I'd get.  However due to a front page photo and article on the Saturday AM paper we had a huge turnout -- over 200 sets of free comics given away -- 90% to kids 12 & under!  It was great.  Besides the free comics we had a back issue sale, all toys 10% off and Bella the Clown to do face painting (full-face Spidey masks for kids going to the movie were the most popular).  Hope this becomes an annual event.


Darin Batten, co-owner of All-Star Comics & Games, Mishawaka, IN

My name is Darin Batten and I am one of the co-owners of All-Star Comics & Games in Mishawaka, Indiana (right next to South Bend, IN and the University of Notre Dame).  We had an awesome turnout for FCBD!  About 75-100 people were in line to get into our store before we opened on Sat. at 11 A.M. and took us nearly 4 hours to clear the deck to a manageable number!  We used the press release kit that Diamond and FCBD provided to get the word out to the local media outlets.  Our local paper ran a very nice article with a picture of our store interior and Spider-Man goodies on Friday.  We added a scrolling line to our regular TV commercial mentioning FCBD the week prior to the event.  And my business partner was on the news at 8:30 A.M. to promote FCBD on one of the weekend news shows.  In addition, our weekly email lists and web page updates for the last 10 weeks have been hyping the event so we had very nice coverage.


From 11 A.M. to 8 P.M., when we closed, the store had people in looking at the other goodies as well as getting their free comics.  We dug into our storeroom and pulled another 3000 or so issues that we were 'overly blessed' with and converted them to part of the FCBD materials in addition to the goodies that were branded for the event.  Everyone was pleased with the day (X-Men/Micronauts #1 rules as a give away book!)


The biggest upshot was that Saturday was our best single day ever!  Sales were awesome!  In addition to the free comics, we were running demos of the Marvel HeroClix game all day long too.  I must have had 4 or 5 tables filled most of the day with guys learning the game and that translated into sales.  So all in all FCBD was a very good tool to bring people into the store.  Once they were here probably 1 in 5 bought something else.  The true test will be if any of the new people that visited our store will be back.  Only time will tell!


John Stangeland, owner of Atlas Comics, Norridge, IL

Saturday was a solid success at our shop here in Norridge, Illinois just outside Chicago.  We were able to wrangle a cover blurb on our suburban papers (total circulation around 100,000) with a photo and feature article covering Spider-Man, Free Comic Book Day and our store remodeling and sale.


There were about 25 customers waiting on Saturday as the doors opened, and we remained busy with many walk-ins throughout the day.  Our Free selection consisted of 30 comics (25 mainstream and 5 'indy' titles) from which customers could choose any two.  Spidey was of course, the undisputed champ with the Ultimate reprint and 2 other Spidey books from overstock flowing out the door like water.


A lot of the 'Free' folks were first timers, and we're hoping that at least a small percentage of them will become fans.  The register ring for the average 'newbie' wasn't very high (maybe about $5 each), but it was enough to justify the work on this promotion even if they never return.


All in all, a pretty good weekend for our store and for the industry.  It was far more successful than the opening of the X-Men movie, which created nary a ripple when it was released.


Now what do we do about the Hulk?


For reactions and comments by Joe Field, the retailer that came up with FCBD, see 'Joe Field on Free Comic Book Day.'

For other comments, see:

'Anthony Furfferi from Empire Comics on FCBD'

'Ron's Collectors World and Acme Comics on FCBD'

'Captain Comics, World of Comics, Amazing Fantasy and Alternative Factor on FCBD'

'Tim Davis of Alternate Reality on FCBD'


For background on FCBD, see 'Free Comic Book Day on May 4' and 'Expectations High for Free Comic Book Day.'