Arts & Culture

Holy cowabunga, Batman! It’s almost Free Comic Book Day

C.J. Jones, right, and Jeff McNeil bag comics at Atomic Empire on Tuesday.
C.J. Jones, right, and Jeff McNeil bag comics at Atomic Empire on Tuesday.

It’s nearly the first Saturday in May meaning it’s Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) — a day where publishers, distributors and retailers shelve profits to offer a variety of comic book titles for free.

The turtle man himself, Kevin Eastman — the co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — is one of the many artists scheduled to appear at local comic book stores on Saturday, May 6. Comic book shops around the country, and locally, will have guest speakers and artists, autograph sessions, live music, sales and, obviously, free comics scheduled throughout the day.

Ultimate Comics Durham

The big-ticket item for FCBD at Ultimate Comics Durham, located at 6120 Farrington Road, Chapel Hill, is the Eastman autograph session. Fans of the heroes in a half shell can purchase a $25 ticket for two autographs from Eastman, which includes a special FCBD Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic. Only 250 tickets will be sold and proceeds will go to St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The store opens at 10 a.m. with the Eastman signing from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Several other artists will also be on a hand for signings and sketching in addition to live music from heavy metal band Mega Colossus, comic book sales and a 5k race. Free Comic Book Day is akin to a mini comic convention and it’s a chance for people to be re-introduced or introduced to the medium, said Alan Gill, president of Ultimate Comics Durham.

“Comics still exist,” he said. “The biggest thing you hear from people who are not reading comics is ‘Oh I didn’t even know they made these any more,’ because you don’t see them at convenience stores like that any more like you used to back in the day. It’s a medium that is kinda out-of-sight, out-of-mind, but the big takeaway hopefully they will come, find something for free to pick up and figure out it’s a valid and very progressive entertainment form.”

Other guest artists and creators scheduled for Ultimate Comics Durham include Tommy Lee Edwards (Batman Eternal, Mother Panic), Brockton McKinney (Ehmn Theory, Gingerdead Man), Richard Case (Doctor Strange, Doom Patrol), Billy Fowler and Branson Ragan.

Atomic Empire

Superhero writers and artists will be on hand at Atomic Empire, located 3400 Westgate Drive, Durham, for FCBD along with the 105th Squad, a regional cosplay (short for costume play) group.

“Generally we just like to have an air of festivities,” said Atomic Empire Owner Jennifer Bedell. “Obviously, we will have free comic books. There are some specialty items we only put on sale for Free Comic Book Day like comic book grab bags and ‘geek lootboxes’ where we combine a bunch of merchandise in a mystery box.”

Writers Samantha Bryant (”Going through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel”) and James Maxey (“Nobody Gets The Girl”) and comic artist, illustrator and graphic designer Jamal Walton are some of the creators scheduled to appear on FCBD beginning at 10 a.m. Bedell also stressed FCBD would be a kid and family friendly event.

“Comic books are a great bridge for kids who don’t think they’re readers or who don’t read recreationally,” she said. “Because it bridges that gap from TV, which is entirely passive viewing into reading and imagery together which can bridge over into reading novels. I’m always trying to get kids into comic books because I feel like it’s a gateway drug to novels.”

Other nearby events:

If you're willing to drive out of Durham and Orange counties, you'll find a number of comic book shops also hosting FCBD events. Here's a short list:

  • Game Over Comics, 139 E. Front. St., Burlington
  • Capitol Comics of Raleigh II, 5212 Holly Ridge Drive, Raleigh
  • Fight or Flight Comics, 6675 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh
  • Ultimate Comics Cary, 1301C Buck Jones Road, Raleigh
  • Ultimate Comics Raleigh, 6320 Capital Blvd., Raleigh