Free comics tomorrow

Every year at the beginning of May, there comes a special occasion that beats the pants off Easter, Mother's Day, and Earth Day combined: FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

The gig was put together a few years ago by the responsible minds in the comics industry who, after a decade of declining sales for the medium, were looking for a way to reinvigorate their franchises by turning new readers onto comics. And really, is there anything better than free funnybooks? (Well...)

The only major issue with FCBD is that the issues are, well... free. And you get what you pay for. While many publishing companies take the opportunity to put together tasters of some of their less-recognized works (Slave Labor Graphics' compilations usually kick ass), the bigger franchises can use the day as an excuse to dump trashy product onto the market as a "token" gesture (see last year's just-pre-Revenge-of-the-Sith Star Wars tie in).

Each year there are dozens of titles to choose from, which include the top-line franchises and the bottom-dwelling indies. This year, my smart money (or lack of same) is definitely on the Runaways / X-Men crossover issue, written by Brian K. Vaughan. Runaways and Astonishing X-Men are easily the two best titles in the Marvel stable these days, so this giveaway is sure to be a real highlight.

(The Runaways, incidentally, are a pack of Los Angeles teenagers who discovered that all of their parents are supervillains, and it's my current favourite title across the board. And if you don't know who the X-Men are, then just never mind.)

In Toronto, the gold-standard for comic book shops is the Silver Snail, on Queen West. It's going to be an absolute madhouse tomorrow, so be prepared for jostling - not only will they have a squad of comic writers in-store to participate in the event, but they'll also be giving away a customized Silver Snail anniversary poster drawn by Hellboy mastermind Mike Mignola. (I can't wait.)

A word to the wise, though: the Snail tends to limit its free comic giveaways to 2 per customer, while other stores may give the run of the joint. Plan your process accordingly. I tend to drift to as many stores as I can during the day anyway, just for the fun of it. And somehow, in spite of it being "free" comic book day, I always end up spending about a hundred dollars. Go figure.

Alternate stores, should you so desire:

Golden City Comics (for the Scarberians)

Atomic Age Books (for the Danforthers... no web site but they're at 497 Pape)

1,000,000 Comics (for the midtowners)

The Beguiling (Annex without being truly Annex, as St. Dan pointed out last week)

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