|Pic ℅ Filbar's|
The genius of Free Comic Book Day
By Rick Olivares
Remember how Serbian basketball star Vlade Divac learned to understand and speak English while watching cartoons on television? It sounds crazy but it does make perfect sense. You use something mundane or uncommon to hook a person into trying out something new.
And that is the genius of comic books and Free Comic Book Day (celebrated on the first Saturday of May). FCBD is a promotional effort by retailers throughout the world to bring in new comic book readers.
“As a kid, comics were one of the means for me to try out other reading materials,” shared writer Jason Inocencio. “Here you had all kinds of colorful action with some exceptional plots and stories that would sometimes last for months before they were resolved. I know a lot of people used to deride comics as a shallow form of entertainment, but I always thought that any medium that can get you to read cannot be half bad.”
According to Sandy Sansolis of Comic Odyssey, this year’s FCBD was the biggest one since he began participating in the promotion. The lines of people looking to avail of the free copies of four-colored delight lasted until the late afternoon. “We ran out of the free comic books designed for this event,” he related. “I had to drive back home to pick up several thousand comics to give away because you do not want to disappoint the people who took the time to line up.”
The Philippines’ oldest comic book specialty store, Filbar’s, designed a unique method of dealing with the long queues. Comics fan/blogger and Filbar’s publicist Jerald Uy noted that the “Flash Pass” – a pass that gives regular customers a 10-minute window to pick up their freebies without lining up as well as a raffle stub that for the entire 2015 FCBD grab bag - made life easier for fans.
“It’s a far improvement to do away with the long lines during FCBD,” noted Uy. “The idea is to make the experience better for the customers, while maximizing customers' stay in the store. The store also has overcome space limitations from scheduling artists' appearances, quickly moving on to artists interested in working with Filbar's, creating solutions for guests who almost were unable to attend due to work, and providing premium giveaways to the participating artists.”
“Ideally, you want to convert those walk-ins to regular readers and not just simply avail of freebies,” offered Sansolis. “And in our branch at the Fort, we had a large number of newbies who aside from availing of the free stuff went up to our store to buy a comic or two. For the first time, we had more newcomers buy comics that day than the regular customers.”
Sansolis believes that the reason for the sudden surge in popularity of comics isn’t solely the film adaptation that routinely break box office records but because of the diversity of the printed medium. “Years ago, the comics were written mostly for a male audience. Now you have titles geared for girls as well as for kids. There are comics featuring characters of different races so people feel represented. Nowadays, it isn’t only superhero titles that are popular as well, but also other genres from horror to teen to fantasy stuff. And we aren’t talking about the usual Archie fare.”
The local celebration of FCBD also finds the growing participation of creators from the burgeoning scene where they not only sell their own indie-released titles but who also take the opportunity to sketch for fans.
The Filipino indie scene also reflects that diversity with styles inspired by American comics and with a distinct local flavor.
Bukidonon-native Harvey Tolibao who has made a name for himself drawing popular western comics such as X-Men, Danger Girl, Green Arrow, and Ghost to name a few says that the local scene finds some fans who purchase only the homegrown “komiks.”
“Yung mga lokal kasi mga one-shot or limited series. Hindi siya on-going na mahaba and mas mura siya for others na naka-budget,” noted Harvey. “Nabibigyan ng chance yung mga lokal na creator mag-shine o ma-discover.”
Inocencio concurred, "Free Comic Book Day is one of the few times in the year that comics and comics creators are total rock stars. To see it grow annually warms my heart because it means more and more people are learning to appreciate a medium that I've loved since I was a kid. And to see so many Pinoy artists showing off their talent on this day blows my mind. The free comics aren't throwaways from the American publishers because they see FCBD as a way to entice new readers to give their respective books a try.”
Shared Filbar’s Creative Director Ivan Guerrero: “After all the lines, the sales and the hype, Free Comic Book Day is really about passing on our love for reading and comic books to the next generation. We go to sleep tonight, tickled by the thought that today we started many young'uns on the path to becoming lifelong readers. "