John Riley of Grasshopper's Comics in Williston Park, Long Island (in business since 1992) found that the date made this year's Free Comic Book Day a tougher sell:
Free Comic Book Day 3 has come and gone and leaves us with an important decision to make as an industry. Do we continue to schedule FCBD to coincide with the release of a comic-related media project in order to 'gain the attention' of the general public, or do we begin to schedule FCBD on the same date annually and let it stand as an event by itself?
While some retailers seem to have had extraordinary FCBD 3's, it seems that the scheduling this year has hurt many of us. Our store, Grasshopper's Comics, has been a very strong supporter of FCBD from the beginning and we have put a tremendous amount of effort into promoting all three, including joint promotions with our local movie theatre (which is not an easy task in our area). During FCBD 1 we gave away over 1,000 comics within the first 3-4 hours alone. Our numbers this year ran perhaps 25% of that amount despite having the same heavy level of promotion.
For us a July 4th weekend date simply cannot work. Colleges are out of session. Local schools (with which we did promotional work in past years) are closed. A large percentage of the children in our area had already been sent away to summer camp. And in our area the 4th of July weekend means travel to the beaches. Despite the level of promotional effort we put into each year's FCBD, it's impossible to get a strong turnout when such a huge percentage of the population is either gone or occupied with holiday events. Most of the stores in our area didn't even bother to open the entire weekend. While I am still happy with the opportunity to turn on as many people as we did to comic books, I know the impact we had on the community could have been much bigger.
It's time for FCBD to stand by itself as a recognized national promotion with a consistent schedule. I know some will be opposed to this, but I ask them. Do you really have so little faith in the magic of our medium that you don't think you can get people excited about FREE comics without some big movie hype? Or do you need the movie tie-in to lend FCBD some kind of credibility?
During the past few years we've gotten spoiled with the success of comic-related movies. Spider-Man 2 is setting all kinds of records and has garnered rave reviews, but what happens when the only movie to tie in with is a total unknown? Do you want to chance hitching the FCBD promotion to a movie that might be a total dog? Or what happens when a string of bad comic movies comes out and the genre loses its appeal? At that point it may be too late to try to establish FCBD as a promotion in its own right. It's time to set a standardized date for FCBD and let it stand on its own. We should be promoting the magic of our own medium, not trying to hitch a ride on another.
While I totally understand that some retailers had banner years (how I would have loved a parade down my street!) I believe that a standardized date set earlier in the year, before schools let out, is beneficial to all of us in the long run.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.