While I have been into comics since the early 90’s, it may come as a surprise that I have never participated in the Free Comic Book Day events over the last 14 years so by agreeing to go this year I did not know the breadth of the events lined up or the just how many shops in the Valley were participating! To give you some background, I had heard that comic stores have to pay for the “free comics” so I was going to make sure I “donated” by buying something in the stores where I picked up the “free comics” this year. Also, from a few article out there (io9’s tease of the new Avengers or their guide to the best free comics, and Nerdvana’s coverage of Mesa activities and some of the comics available or full coverage of the Valley) I was looking to pick up just 3 comics, new Avengers #1, the new DC Comics Divergence #1, and of course Secret Wars #0 plus I knew there were a LOT of places that I could have the opportunity to do so. Finally, one of the reasons I decided to go was being able to hang out with some of my friends, a great Nerdvana duo of Bob Leeper and Russ Kazmierczak Jr., and the chance to get to see a lot more friends along the way on our journey!
We started out at 9:30 in the morning, 30 minutes prior to Gothan City Comics & Coffee opening their doors and starting the festivities that Bob listed in his Mesa article for Nerdvana, and there was already a line of at least 50 people at Gotham so we went to Book Gallery next to it instead which I had never visited before (this will be a reoccurring theme). Here I picked up an old book regarding Navajo culture because I had been able to snag Secret Wars #0, the first of my conquests, and we hadn’t even visited an actual comic book store yet so I was really stoked!! Seeing the longer line at Gotham, 50 people were now 100, it had us wandering down the road to a local record shop, Asylum Records, which is that and so much more with all the memorabilia and other odds and ends they have available, plus it was my first visit to this place as well! I was able to get Avengers #1 and then met the writer of the Slayer comic book, bought a copy of it from him and had him personalize it to my future brother-in-law because he is a HUGE Slayer fan (it was also the 3rd anniversary of Jeff’s Hanneman’s passing, so that was a somber moment but very cool he put that into the personalization too). Then we headed to Lo Fi Coffee for a quick drink stop because it was starting to be a pretty hot day and we had not packed anything to drink, but luckily that also gave me the chance to grab the Valiant 25th Anniversary Special which I wasn’t looking forward to as I have not been a big Valiant guy but since they are going to be on the big screen a bit soon it is a good time to review their history, with just a pop as the donation. Overall, I thought everybody downtown did a good job with the event as more than 20 businesses involved that you wouldn’t think of participating in FCBD at all, including a scavenger hunt of “Secret Avengers” hidden in all the shops which is a great way of getting people into the shops plus cashing in on how hot the Avengers are right now!
As we thought the line at Gotham was too long to get into it any time soon, we called an audible and jumped in the truck to head towards downtown Phoenix! You may get to hear some of our conversation on Russ’ podcast, but you can boil it down to 3 nerds being able to nerd out right after Age of Ultron had debuted so we were pretty stoked to talk about it with “our people” that had a lot of history with the genre and Avengers in particular too! Did you know Ultron was originally a shadowy figure called the Crimson Cowl at first, and that his being draped in red while talking to the Maximoffs was likely a homage to that?!? I didn’t either, but Bob clued me into it during our ride!! Before we could make a comic stop, we agreed we needed to fuel up a bit and hit up a place Russ knows called Zookz which had panini type sandwiches that were REALLY good! Of course that was another first for me on this trip, and if I find myself in the neighborhood again I’ll return!
Onto All About Books & Comics on Central Avenue and it was a madhouse. It was crazy. It was pretty AWESOME! First time there, and I was impressed with how helpful the staff was and that these guys were giving away comics that were NOT on the FCBD list and you could get 3 comics for free and 5 comics if you spent over a certain amount! I was able to get Divergence #1, Savage Dragon Legacy #1, Tales of Honor #0 from this year’s FCBD list and also Avengers World #14 (so I could get a taste of that series) plus AXIS: Revolutions #4 which features Dr. Doom on the cover so I was able to get the last item on my hit list! This was really cool because I had said to the guys before we arrived that I was also on the lookout for Rage of Ultron since I had enjoyed the Age of Ultron storyline last year, and I found it here! Did I pay full price when maybe I should have waited to find it cheaper elsewhere? Yeah, but I wanted to get a couple more free comics AND contribute to the owners putting on a pretty good show with face paintings for the kids and cosplayers ALL over the store! I think I’ll go back to that place when it isn’t so crowded so I can take it all in since there was a LOT of stuff they had I had never seen before, but I wasn’t that interested in it since the “mission” was “free comics” that day. As you’ll see, I may have gone off mission a bit… Next up was Samurai Comics on Camelback and of course it was my first visit to the store, but I was surprised how big the store was and how much stuff was in the store! There was a LOT of things going on for FCBD with artists, Phoenix Comicon staff, lots of people in costume (including Ghostbusters out front!), plus a food truck too! I was able to snag several free comics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles FCBD from this year, Top Cow’s Rise of the Magi #0 from last year, and Legend of the Shadow Clan with an exclusive cover for Samurai from 2013 which all looked interesting and in exchange I picked up Marvel’s Darth Vader #1 because really it is an awesome cover and you can’t go against a villain like that!
After that, we flew over to Ken Brown’s Drawn to Comics in Glendale and did you know there is a small side shop for Drawn to Comics that features issues that are I would say anywhere between 6 to 24 months old, plus TPBs, at 50% off cover price?!? Of course I had to snag a couple Star Wars books (Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows and Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin) and then I proceeded to the main store thinking that I was all set to get a few free comics. Well. I had to snag a few more items like Spider-Gwen #1 for my niece (she and her family are big comic book/movie nerds and she had just enjoyed the Days of Future Past and Dark Phoenix Saga books I bought for her birthday) and Star Wars: Kanan – The Last Padawan #1 for myself because I enjoyed Star Wars Rebels and the new novel A New Dawn featuring Kanan. Then I picked up one of my FCBD duplicates this year, Secret Wars #0, and The Intrinsic: Singularity Zero which may have been from a previous year’s FCBD selection because I think we had arrived too late to get anything “worthwhile” that interested me so I browsed around a bit to find the first Black Science TPB on sale! In line, which was pretty long because they were pretty busy, I was looking at the part of the TPB section we were next to, and ALMOST pulled the trigger on the first Spider-Man 2099 volume 2 TPB but since Bob had snagged issue 1 for me months ago, and this only had 4 more issues in it, I couldn’t justify $18 for it even with the 20-30% off of TPBs. Walking out the store I picked up a few first look books by the front entrance, The Valiant and Ivar, Timewalker #1, and then finally left the store going back towards the truck but saw Russ in the small side shop I spoke of earlier, so I went back in to just take another look around because I hadn’t really looked in ANY long boxes this whole trip. Used to be, I’d love, LOVE, going through a long box to find stuff, but lately it bores me and I was pretty surprised when I saw Spider-Man 2099 volume 2 (yes, volume 2 is important to me, since I have pretty much the ENTIRE original run of ALL 2099 books) #2 just sitting on top of a long box. Intrigued, I started to riffle through a box or two until I found MORE from the same run! I was able to get a variant cover of #1, then #2-5 of Spidey 2099 plus a variant cover edition of Spider-Man #100 all for less than the cost of that TPB I saw 5 minutes earlier! Me thinks I’ll be back to the small shop of Drawn to Comics again in the not so distant future! (I was promised a street closure here, but the street was only closed until noon, and that would be a theme we would see as well later on with events winding down way too early in our minds!)
Then Jesse James Comics, and the short stack of comics I had practically became a short BOX of comics by the time I left! As the theme goes, I had never visited Jesse James Comics before, but it is certainly on my radar after offering TONS of old comics as FCBD offerings with a limit of TEN so you could mix and match the things being offered and the older comics, yet strangely enough I didn’t see a single issue from this year’s FCBD list. Maybe it was because we got there later in the day, and the shop had been open since midnight and was going to be open for 3 straight days without closing their doors once! If I couldn’t get any of this year’s FCBD comics why is this going to be a yearly visit for me on this hallowed day? The 50% off trade paper backs. You read that right. FIFTY. I was in heaven, but my wallet was in hell because this is what I ended up walking out with:
House of M #2 of 8 (Free)
Araña: The Heart of the Spider #1 (Free)
Star Wars Tales: A Jedi’s Weapon (Free – From FCBD 2002!)
Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #13 (Free)
Amazing Spider-Man #16.1 (Free – Variant Edition of a May 2015 comic!)
Moon Knight #12 (Free – An April 2015 comic!)
Ultimate Spider-Man #64 (Free)
Ultimate Spider-Man #96 (Free)
Secret Invasion #3 of 8 (Free)
Thunderbolts #106 (Free)
Uncanny X-Men #500 (For just 99 cents!)
At this point, I think my wallet was screaming, and no not because I was sitting on it either smart alec (hopefully you aren’t Smart Alec), but it was not done being abused since we visited Pop Culture Paradise in Tempe which was yes another first visit for me and found yet another 50% off TPBs deal!! Too good to pass up!! By this point the massive pile of books I had in the front seat was starting to fall over, but I didn’t care I needed to add to it! Here I added:
Amazing Arizona Comics FCBD 2015 (Free)
Mercury Heat (Free)
Transformers: Robots in Disguise #0 (Free)
Dark Circle Comics (Free)
Neil Gaiman’s Lady Justice (Free)
And Then Emily Was Gone #0 (Free)
Worlds of Aspen #1 (Free)
2000 AD FCBD 2015 (Free)
Legendary Star-Lord – Face It, I Rule TPB (Issues #1-5)
Lazarus – One TPB (Issues #1-4)
Doomwar TPB (Issues #1-6)
Avengers – X Sanction TPB (Issues #1-4)
Ultron Unbound TPB (West Coast Avengers #89-91, Annual #8, Vision #1-4)
They had a LOT of the comics from this year’s FCBD still available late in the day, I was able to pick up several TPBs featuring Dr. Doom, Ultron (after Age of Ultron (movie and TPB last year) how could I pass this up?), Cable (against the Avengers as a prelude to Avengers vs. X-Men which I enjoyed too!), AND Star Lord PLUS Lazarus from Image which was getting some pretty good reviews with an interesting premise! Again, there was supposed to be events going on here for FCBD, but only until 4 and we had just arrived there probably 30 minutes too late! Oh well, maybe next year since I think this will be one of my highlights for next year based on how much I got and saved as a result!
Were we tired and exhausted and about to quit yet? Heck no!! We ventured over to Ash Avenue Comics & Books (yes, a first visit again!) and while it seemed small from the outside, there was quite a bit of stuff inside! I picked up Street Fighter Super Combo Special, Legendary Comics FCBD Preview, the other FCBD duplicate Mercury Heat, The Stuff of Legend, Dark Horse Comic’s Fight Club, and also bought Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 which is a new series and continues my Ultron theme of the day! I was ready to call it a fairly awesome and complete FCBD, far beyond my wildest dreams, but we were NOT done yet! We visited another Samurai Comics, this one in Mesa, but the shop was pretty cleaned out on their FCBD offerings AND there were no mega deals like I had found at other locations, so I actually skipped getting anything for the first time all trip! Remember how the lines at Gotham were too long for us to even attempt to get in? Well we rectified that by swinging (like Spider-Man or Spider-Man 2099) back to downtown Mesa to visit Gotham and possibly be able to enter the drawing for the Secret Avengers giveaway! Unfortunately the giveaway closed about an hour before we got back, let alone having time for finding all the Secret Avengers in the shops, but we did visit Gotham anyways (another first for me) and I saw a few things I might have bought on a regular day (like this Infinity Gauntlet) but I was pretty well past my limits (which started out at like $20 for food only) so I walked out without getting anything. Or so I thought, since I got outside and Bob had bought me a VERY cool Cthulhu art print from local artist John Cebollero who was at Gotham, but I didn’t even see it on his table or else I might’ve bought it and ruined Bob’s plan! (Thanks Bob!)
To close the day, we walked back to our cars, chit-chatted about our day, how we thought our hauls were, and how much fun we had together going from place to place and generally nerding out together along the way. My first FCBD was in the bag, or all the bags, and I had thoroughly enjoyed it!! Now I will be abstinent towards buying comics for quite some time because I have A LOT of stuff to read, and I think I’ll start with my targets from FCBD and let you know what I think of them, but I will also be looking forward to returning to the scenes of the crimes (to my wallet) during FCBD next year! I know there will be more Dr. Doom, Ultron, Star Wars, Exiles, and Rick Remender for me to collect next year and I’ll be there!
Want to see some of the sights we got to see during our day? Check out Bob’s photo wrap-up!
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Do you enjoy Blizzard games? Check out my regular feature on Nerdvana, the Blizzard Blitz!