It’s That Time of Year Again…

Last time I praised the pamphlet, the much maligned modern 32-page color comic book, and how it was good for at least one thing: it’s the perfect delivery system for getting someone to try a new (to them) comic book series. And to support this claim I placed into evidence Free Comic Book Day; anyone who’s ever worked FCBD knows just how irresistible the prospect of a free funny book can be to most people.

As Free Comic Book Day once again approaches I will again risk condemnation from my peers and suggest that someone needs to make more of an effort. I don’t mean retailers, though I do hope none of you consider FCBD an obligation because this is our day to shine; even if you can’t afford to promote it much you’re likely to see lots of new faces. OK, sure, some of those will be completists who just have to have one each of everything available this year.

But there’ll also be kids, lapsed regular readers and fence sitters who may have heard about the whole comic book/graphic novel hullabaloo and are ready to be convinced – if you have the goods and make the time to talk to and not talk down to them.

No, this year I’d like to address the major publishers and their selections. Not that there’s anything wrong with them; on the contrary, most of them are just right.

Sure there’s a couple of publishers strangely absent or under-represented. I mean, would it have killed Viz to provide us with a truncated issue of Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat (preferably a little of both in a flipbook format)? And while I can’t complain about Gladstone giving us a class Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse story it seems (to me) FCBD would be the perfect opportunity for Disney the publisher* to try and get a new generation of kids to connect with their characters (a free issue of Disney Adventures Comic Zone would be just about right).

I really have to give Dark Horse credit (though, still no free Little Lulu comic?) for using the Day as an opportunity to promote several upcoming original titles (even though the company has never had a lot of success with original characters; see Spyboy). And though I have serious reservations about its viability as a series you can hardly argue with Image offering us a free issue of The Astounding Wolf-Man by fan favorite Robert Kirkman. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer up much love to Archie for giving us a new Little Archie comic.

Marvel is giving us (what I’m going to assume) is a done-in-one Spider-Man story by Dan Slott and Phil Jemenez.

And what does DC have for us? A reprint of Justice League of America #0 and The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century (once you get over the mouthful of the title it’s hard not to notice the contents are an adaptation of the pilot — which premiered last September). They’re acting complacent, and as we all know from reading DC’s circulation numbers for February on ICv2, that’s the last thing the company should be these days.

It’s become pretty clear that Infinite Crisis failed to do what Civil War did for Marvel: launch successful new series and create new interest in old ones. Why I couldn’t tell you for sure, but if I had to guess I’d have to say that in the end it didn’t create a new reality for their universe. And good, bad or indifferent, Civil War delivered what was promised.

What would I have liked to have seen? Well a #0 issue of Countdown would have been nice and for the kids, maybe a special Cartoon Network Block Party or Looney Tunes (Time-Warner, like Disney, has had trouble getting today’s kids to connect with their classic characters, see such grotesque attempts to update them such as Loonatics Unleashed) would have been nice.

And while it’s way too early to be thinking about next year, if they were smart they’d start working on a Shazam comic book that would introduce the character and his supporting cast. With a major motion picture and an animated series in the works, wouldn’t it be nice if they had something they could shove in anyone’s hands and say “Here, this is who Captain Marvel is!”

And like I said in the beginning, what better way to do that than with a comic book?

* Anyone interested in learning more about an alternative world where Disney Comics sell more than a million copies a month should go to the Disney Comics Worldwide web site and check out an article titled “The Popularity of Disney Comics and Magazines around the World.”