I Think I Can Manage is a weekly column by retailer Steven Bates, who manages Bookery Fantasy, a million dollar retail operation in Fairborn, Ohio. This week Bates gives his Free Comic Book Day account:
Free Comic Book Day has come and gone. Most reports are optimistic, if not downright ebullient. Customers poured into stores, in many cases at twice the rate of a normal Saturday.
Numbers alone don't tell the whole story; demographically, Free Comic Book Day brought out a higher percentage of moms, grandmas, and kids than a normal weekend at the comic shop, not to mention a fair number of young female readers curious to see what was new for them this go-around. These curious comics irregulars were interested in more than just freebies -- sales were up, by most accounts, and some stores had trouble restocking fast enough to accommodate the crowds (not a bad 'problem' to have). Coast to coast and from overseas, the consensus seems to be that Free Comic Book Day was a huge success.
At Bookery Fantasy, we experienced pretty much the same thing. A line began forming outside the store an hour before opening. While we finalized preparations inside, Mark Thompson, the Publisher at Checker Book Publishing Group, set up his display in our alcove out front. Checker raffled off numerous collections during the course of Free Comic Book Day, giving away a graphic novel or set of trade paperbacks every half an hour. Fans were astounded by the diversity and quality of the offerings from Checker, ranging from Milt Caniff's Steve Canyon through Gold Key's Star Trek and Alan Moore's groundbreaking Supreme. One teenaged girl won a set of Clive Barker Hellraiser collections, which Checker politely offered to swap out for something more age- and gender-appropriate, but the girl's father snatched them up before she could say anything (don't worry, he offered her ice cream in exchange). Checker Book's generosity certainly helped make Free Comic Book Day more rewarding for a lucky bunch of our customers.
Local comic book artist Justin Wasson, publisher of Gemini Serials, once again produced a very special FCBD mini-comic, featuring yours truly. Justin's commitment to both Bookery and Free Comic Book Day is outstanding. Just two days prior to the event, Justin was in the hospital with internal bleeding, yet he still came out to sign copies and knock out free sketches for our customers! His above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty attitude was surpassed only by his indomitable-or should I say abdominal?-fortitude.
Free Comic Book Day also gave the revived Classics Illustrated, Jr. an opportunity for exposure. John Haufe, representing Jack Lake Productions, passed out several hundred sheets of Snow White stickers. Customers were surprised and delighted to see that Classics were back. John also doubled as 'traffic cop' and maitre d', welcoming and directing the line of customers to the table filled with this year's free comics.
All told, our Freebie Team passed out several thousand comics to hundreds of excited customers. Most popular were Dark Horse's Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith Prequel and Marvel's Spider-Man/Fantastic Four team-up, though Gemstone's Uncle $crooge reprint and Archie Comics' Betty & Veronica were also in demand.
Many of the alternative titles were in high demand, but we regulated distribution because of some mature content. As some lower-ordered titles dwindled in the latter part of the day, we substituted with leftovers from previous Free Comic Book Days. No one minded, and a few actually scored a couple of gems they had missed last year.
Free Comic Book Day was a huge success, thanks to a great effort by the Bookery staff, industry pros like Checker, Gemini Serials, and Classics Illustrated, Jr., and a handful of volunteers who made the day go smoothly. I only hope everyone who participated in FCBD had as much fun as we did. Special thanks to Lanny, Holly, and James, who not only volunteered, but also fed the staff with barbecued pork and homemade apple pie. Now what could be better than free comics, free food, and fresh apple pie?