Monday, May 05, 2008

What It Was: Free Comic Book Day in Rochester, NH

Free Comic Book Day was a rainy, grey Saturday in Southern New Hampshire. As we drove in to Rochester, NH, we saw groups of teens walking the downtown streets. Everyone had a comic in his/her wet hands.

We parked the car by the Jenny Wren Gallery and walked in.

I've never been to the Jenny Wren Gallery, but thanks to FCBD, I did. There were a lot of terrific things to buy there by local artisans, and at inexpensive prices. We went there for the free Archie comic book. There were different comic books at different downtown stores. And my wife bought some cool earrings (that were not free, natch, but reasonably priced).

So, the only way to amass all the free comic books was to take a walking tour of Rochester and enter many of the participating businesses since there were different free comic books at different downtown stores. Jetpack Comics had a list of what stores you could go to at their Web site. By entering the stores and grabbing your free comic, you could qualify for even more free comic book-related goodies from Jetpack.

Jetpack itself is a small shop and was honestly so crowded I could not get in. There was a large tent set up in the back parking lot with tables of cartoonists to meet and stuff to buy. I met Anthony, one of the team that puts together a local comics zine Severed Head Presents. These guys are all working hard, making their own comics. And I met 35-year veteran comics writer Ron Fortier, who lives nearby!

All day long, kids, teens, families with strollers, etc. were out walking down the main drag, going in and out of the downtown Rochester shops. Free Comic Book Day may have started out as a nice promo for comic book shops, but here in Rochester, it turned out to be a good day for downtown businesses.

Above quick cartoon inspired by this quote for which I am indebted to Dirk Deppey at Journalista!:

“2) SPIN POSITIVE. It’s possible that you will be asked ‘Why is this event being held? Are comics selling THAT badly?’ While no one questions Baskin-Robbins’ fiscal health on Free Scoop Night, many folks cynically assume the worst when your store gives something away for free. The best answer is a positive answer: ‘We want to remind people of how great comics can be. You know, as a culture our reading rate is dropping drastically. Ask anyone who works in book, magazine, or newspaper publishing: People are reading less. So we’re trying to get people reading again, with great stories told by talented writers and artists.’ Such an answer negates the assumed negativity in the question and puts forth a positive image. It also adds context, pointing out that most traditional print media are adjusting to the digital pop culture dynamic.”
- From a “talking points” document found at
the Free Comic Book Day website


Daryll Collins said...

Ha! Love the man on the street's comment...
"They're givin' 'em away! Business must be bad."

Also, I enjoy Meet The Creator events. You'll always have someone telling you what a good "draw-er" their cousin Denny or Dewey or Delbert is. And how he can draw Garfield without even looking at the funny pages!

Josh Blair said...

I sent some of the Candy or Medicine Free Comic Book Day specials to Jetpack. It's nice to see it had good business that day.

Jenny Stimac said...

Hi Mike / thanks for all your wonderful comments about FCBD! Just to let you know, we were so impressed by everyone who came in the polite and fun they all were... I only had to remind a few to say thank you! It was so much fun to find out what was their favorite comic was, or character they saw. We can't wait for next year! Jenny

Mike Lynch said...

Hey Daryll. Yeah, there's a lot of people who think "it's all about THEM." Thanks for the kind words about the dopey guy who takes one look at what's happening on Free Comic Book Day as a sign that comic books/manga/graphic novels are OVER/FINITO/DOA. The woman talking to the very patient comics creator is just one of those people we all know; someone who sees any time as a good time to talk about themselves. Ugh!

Josh, FCBD was HUGE in Rochester. I only wanted a few of the free comics, but Jetpack was way too crowded to get into. You work probably flew outta there before noon. Oh, and no one cared that it was a rainy, cold, New Englandy day. Comic book fans are hardy!

Jenny, what a lovely surprise to see your name here. Your shop had my favorite: the Stan Goldberg-drawn Archie comic. Stan is a great guy and I'm glad to say he's a friend. Maybe we can coax him up to Rochester for a gallery signing next FCBD! He's much more pleasant to have around than Jabba the Hut!