On Saturday, May 5, while bar hoppers from Miami to Minnesota will offer a Margarita Slurpee toast to Cinco de Mayo, (a holiday of which I would wager many don’t even have a clue about), geeks, fanfolk and freeloaders will revel in their own celebration: Free Comic Book Day!!
All of us in the world of Comic Book fandom know the drill: “Free Comic Book Day is held the first Saturday in May each year in which comic book dealers nationwide give free (select titles of) comic books away to anyone who wants them (while supplies last) to help promote the appreciation and awareness of the comic medium……blah, blah, blah…” okay, fine, give me my Avengers and Mouse Guard.
However, this is more than just the opportunity let your kids — and yourself — mooch a few colorful freebies. This is an excellent opportunity for geek and non-geek parents and their children to grow closer as a family.
As such, I give you, on this fifth day of the fifth month, five reasons why ALL moms should enthusiastically participate in Free Comic Book Day:
• Comics are a stairway to reading “actual books.” You don’t have to tell me comics are a viable form of literature (I have a garage filled with long-boxes to back me up here). However, who doesn’t want to see their kids pick up and take on a classic tome. Give them a good Carl Barks “Uncle Scrooge Adventure” that mentions Jason and the Argonauts, and they might pick up a book on mythology. Or, look at the characterizations of Busiek’s “Astro City” and Brubaker’s knack for action in his “Daredevil” series and this might lead to picking up Tolkien, Verne or Lewis Carroll in the future. Get them into Iron Man and they might want to learn more about modern weaponry design and the annihilation of their enemies. Okay, maybe the latter wasn’t such a good example, but you get my point.
• Unleash the artist/writer within. Many Free Comic Book Day events are celebrated with other activities such as character appearances, local (or even national) comic book writers and artists, costume contests and other events for shops to draw people into their fine establishment. This will really help let flow kids’ own creative juices. Whether or not your child shows a “natural tendency” as an artist or writer, there is something therapeutic and calming about taking a pencil to a clear sketchbook and seeing an image form or letting words spill out into a journal (or computer screen as the case may be for some). Not everyone may have a knack for realism or plot development, but everyone can draw or write. “Talent” may vary, but creativity is universal. Don’t waste it.
• Great excuse to get out of the house. Fight the popular assumption that comic book readers are lonely little pizza-stained couch potatoes. Get your kids off said couch and away from the game console or television (stay with me gamers; we all need to get up every now and then) and take a family outing. A stopover at the comic book shop could lead to an entire afternoon’s adventure. Grab your books, pick up a hamburger or ice cream (or pack a picnic) and take your reading to a local park. It’s May and springtime, after all. If you happen to live in a city like Chicago, New York or San Francisco, take a comic book tour of the city and compare sights and places where action takes place. It’s great to learn more about your own town. I live in the Southwest on the edge of West Texas and New Mexico, not too horribly far from where a couple of little comic properties like “Thor” and “The Avengers” were recently filmed. Do I hear road trip?
• Remind your offspring you were once (and in many ways still are) a kid yourself. I defy any adult not accustomed to entering a comic book shop to not get some twinge of nostalgia for a well loved (or even much hated) piece of pop culture from his or her own childhood. I love getting into cool conversations with my daughter about the evolution of Batman through the years or why Brian Michael Bendis is the best thing to ever happen to the depiction of the character Nick Fury. Start talking about, bragging about or even making fun of really bad comics from the past (cough “Dazzler” cough) and next thing you know the generation gap is gone, at least for a short while. I recently had a fun discussion with my nine-year-old on whether JLA or Avengers have the best archer; we miraculously agreed Hawkeye rocks and Green Arrow is a little too touchy-feely for our taste. Trust me on this one; imagination knows no age limits.
• The conversation starters are limitless. If you feel it is hard to get your kids to open up to you on any issue, you can find pretty much whatever is plaguing your ‘tween or teen or peaking the curiosity of a younger child in comics today, from “playing nice with others” to discovering your life purpose. Pick a topic and it’s there somewhere: family values, war and peace, racism, love vs. lust, loyalty, trust, really cool technological advancements, stereotypes…need I go on. Also, from the point of view of a mom with girls, it is great to see less and less of the female characters are merely eye candy. These gals can finally hold their own, and drop kick anyone who says otherwise.
This Free Comic Book Day, venture into that comic book shop even if you’ve never set foot near a bag and backboard before and open your kids up to new venues of imagination. Who knows, you might even have (shhh, don’t tell anyone) fun!