What it is!
I'm surprised to say that this is the fourth year – yes one, two, three, FOUR – that I've written up my Free Comic Book Day experience here on the Cool Kids Table. As you're probably well aware, I'm a big proponent of the annual industry promotion both as outreach to new customers and a celebration of the old school ones (read more from me on this here).
Like last year, I threw together a video chronicling my stops for your viewing "enjoyment," but my goal for this year's event was to try and stop at as many different Chicago area locations that I HAVEN'T ever been to in order to expand my base of shops where I can pick up stuff and chat up all the amazing folks who dedicate their careers to feeding my funnybook addiction. With that in mind, I had a few other thoughts outside the clip reel above to share on what I was up to. Let's get crackin!
Aw Yeah, Comics – just north of my place in the suburb town of Skokie. I'd actually heard the store was opening a few weeks back when I traveled to the UPS store in downtown Skokie to mail back the video camera CBR used for C2E2 to Uncle Jonah in LA. As I was filling out the address label, the guy who worked there saw "Comic Book Resources" and just excitedly launched into a "You know they're opening a comic shop right across the street!" conversation. I'd made a mental note then to come back and investigate, but when I heard it was Art's store, that cemented it.
Aside from getting to chat the guys up, I also nabbed a Kid Devil sketch, which has been a favorite character for my girlfriend Jami and I since meeting one of Art and Franco's young fans at the first C2E2.
But yeah, I definitely plan on heading back to Aw Yeah, Comics before too long.
Evil Squirrel Comics in Rogers Park. I'd actually been to the shop once before as it was the closest Chicago store that carried my friend Sam Humphries self-published series Sacrifice (Where's issue #4, bro?), and I enjoyed the visit. Though, unsurprisingly, there were a lot more folks filling up the shop this time. Plenty of kids were in attendance, but this was the first time I'd gotten a feeling for Evil Squirrel's core customer base as a lot of dudes there seemed to know each other and were chilling in the all ages-esque reading lounge that makes up the store's bay window area. Tucked away next to an underground theater and some other kind of bohemian-looking shops and such, this seems like it'd be a fun store to go to each week if you were nearby.
Oh, and I should mention that I tried to buy some comics at the shops I hit up for the first/second time on this trip. Here, I got a copy of James Robinson and Nicola Scott's new Earth-2 series, which I think has some legs.
Third Coast Comics in Edgewater was a really nice store for a few years now, so I was psyched to pencil it in on my tour this year. The place did not disappoint. In a way, this felt like a more established version of the store Evil Squirrel (which I believe has been open for a year) is working to be. Third Coast had a nice sitting area up front with a few local artists plying mini comics and prints and a big section of high-end art and hardcover comics (flipped through Womanthology for the first time in person here) as well as a deep local mini comics rack.
their Edgewater location.
While each location in the chain has its own particulars, all the Graham Crackers I've been to really do feel like part of a chain – similar set up and even shelves and what not. But they're always run by very friendly staff and seem to be full of folks. One thing I noted this year (and I think MAYBE you can tell this in the video above) is that for the DC New 52 FCBD special, Graham Crackers had special covers printed for their chain with the store logo on the cover rather than the traditional "White spot for mailing labels" that most shops get. Being a big account with Diamond has its perks, huh?
Alley Cat Comics in Andersonville is a relatively new store (less than a year), though since I've got a friend in the area, I've been in a few times. As you can tell by the video, the store is situated off the main street in the very busy neighborhood by way of a long alley next to a Potbelly Sandwich shop. I'd often wondered whether being set off only by some (very classy) iron lattice sign work and a sandwich chalk board on the street meant that Alley Cat had trouble getting foot traffic. But it sure as hell didn't seem like that when I stopped by Saturday.
There were a ton of people in the store whose best fixture to my mind is a very well-curated kids comics section (only place in town I've found copies of Princeless), and the manager was saying to a regular that it was even crazier earlier in the day. Aside from picking up some free books, I also dipped into the $0.50 bin at the shop and got Stephen Platt's final issue of Moon Knight from the '90s (FACT: I am an unashamed fan of both that artist and that character). Solid!
Chicago Comics (sorry, I'm too tired to come up with a more clever transition). I've written about the pleasures of this very well stocked shop in the past, so I'll just add here that you should watch the video above to see how many people were coming in to ask the staff behind the counter for their three FCBD book picks. And the guys working were pretty hilarious in their calling out for comic requests.
Challengers Comics + Conversation. As in year's past, Patrick and Dal tapped some of the local cartoonists with books available on the day to do a signing. This time out it was Chris Mitten signing Oni's Bad Medicine and half of the Four-Star Studios team in Tim Seeley and Mike Norton (each of whom had two upcoming series previewed in Images releases with Witchblade, The Atomics and their team-up series Revival. Early in the day, I saw on Twitter that Challengers had a line going out the door for people showing up, and surprisingly, they still had free books when I got there shortly before the signing ended around 6:00. I was witness to Seeley signing the last two copies of Witchblade in stock as Mitten had maybe just a dozen Bad Medicines left. So yeah, Challengers orders just the right amount of free books, it seems.
Crazily, there were a few more stores I wanted to hit on Saturday that I just couldn't get to including two of my regular shops in Dark Tower Comics and Variety Comics, and I'm pretty bummed I didn't get to check out G-Mart Comics for the first time. But there'll be plenty of time on FCBD 2013 to hit them up. Hell, I think I'll end up doing it before then.