Did you enjoy comic books as a kid? An early and voracious bookworm, I also greatly enjoyed comics. Not only did they feed my love of reading and expand my vocabulary, they instilled important values, like a love of diversity and the classic axiom “with great power comes great responsibility”. Bereft of alien heritage or mutant abilities, I nonetheless appreciate the great power the average citizen of a rich, modern first-world nation wields, taking that responsibility very seriously, within my own community, in supporting people in need around the globe such as my Haitian foster children, and in how I treat the Earth itself.
So naturally I encourage my own children to explore the world of comics. Yet that could get expensive! I recall when comics cost 15 cents, then went to 25 and later 35 cents. In later years, my occasional forays into a comic shop to check up on a favourite character shocked me as prices climbed past two or three dollars. Granted, the quality of print and stories has vastly improved, but still!
Yet thanks to the comic industry, kids can now get into comics for free. One way is Free Comic Book Day. On the first Saturday of May each year, many comic stores offer free products to anyone who visits. Special new issues are printed to freely distribute, while some stores give away back titles. In the Barrie area, Big B Comics on Essa and Rebel Comics on the west end of Innisfil Beach Road both enthusiastically participate.
Free Comic Book Day also features special activities. One year Big B hosted Ed the Sock and Liana K; my 3-year-old daughter and I made and brought our own sock puppets to meet them. Another year the kids posed with costumed Superman, Batman, and Imperial Storm Troopers. Some years have sketch artists on hand drawing custom images of your favourite heroes; my daughter had herself drawn as her Kryptonian idol. Last year at the Niagara Big B I met Captain Canuck creator Richard Comely, who signed all my C.C. comics and the poster gracing our wall.
A special initiative Big B has pioneered is “Comics for As”, on now until the end of March Break. Children can bring in their official school report card and receive a free comic from the entire back catalogue for each A grade they earned. What a great reward for diligent school work!
This past Halloween we bought stacks of special discount mini-comics at Big B to distribute to trick-or-treaters instead of sugar candies; kids’ eyes lit up when those when into their loot bags!
Having watched comic book prices climb all my life, now I’m really encouraged by these various literacy-promoting free comic initiatives you can access. As Mary Jane said to Peter Parker, “Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!”
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "Free Comic Book Day a fun way to promote literacy"
Erich the Green’s secret identities include father, writer, editor, politician, and volunteer.