It’s 7:15 AM on Saturday, May 6 and I’m standing at the end of the line outside Midtown Comics on West 40 St. The store won’t open for another 45 minutes, but the line already stretches down the block. Within 5 minutes, the line will grow by another 25 people. Despite the early hour and gloomy weather, fans stand undeterred, patiently waiting for their bags of free comics. Midtown is known for their generous Free Comic Book Day policy of giving fans bags full of all the Free Comic Book Day comics that Midtown ordered for their stores. There was a collective hope that the skies would stay dry and we’d avoid a continuation of the monsoon that plagued New York City the day before. Nothing ruins the joy of getting bags of free paper products like a torrential downpour.
Fans come from all over for Free Comic Book Day. The two people in front of me, David and Miko, travelled from Connecticut and the Bronx, respectively. When asked why he made the trek all the way from Connecticut, David tells me that the closest comic book store to where he lives is 30 minutes away. Since he takes the train there, he figured he might as well take the train into the city and check out the stores here. Like many fans on the line, Midtown is only his first stop of the day. He plans on travelling to Forbidden Planet, just south of Union Square, once he finished here. David likes that Forbidden Planet, like Midtown, gives fans big bags of FCBD comics. Between the two stores, he figures he’ll get the full lineup of FCBD comics and have duplicates of the Marvel and DC books to share with his son. David has been coming into the city for Free Comic Book Day since its first year.
This is Miko’s first Free Comic Book Day. She’s a big Batman fan and is hoping one of the free comics features Batman. If not, she says, she can always buy a Batman comic when she gets inside the store. When David and I mention that Midtown gives out a big bag of comics, she’s excited for the variety. She’s newly returned to comics after years of absence and hopes she’ll find a series she likes.
Miko asked what I thought about the investment potential for the comics we’d get today. “If I put these away for five years, think they’ll be worth anything?” she asked. I told her that I honestly didn’t, and that while she might see people flipping these on eBay in the immediate future, my general opinion for the investment value of new comics isn’t great. She said she remembered people selling The Death of Superman back in the day for a lot of money. I replied to her that those days were long gone. “You might get the occasional The Walking Dead #1, where the comic becomes this cultural juggernaut, but for the most part, you’d have a hard time selling most new comics for even cover price once you’ve walked out of the store with them.” I mention to her that a couple of years ago at Jim Hanley’s, they were giving away first printings of Superman #75, The Death of Superman issue, and people were passing over it in favor of one of that year’s FCBD offerings.
I like Dave and Miko. It’s always great to talk to fans who have an enthusiasm for comics. I try to make our trio a quartet when I turn to the guy behind me and compliment his Guardians of the Galaxy t-shirt. He grunts at me in reply and returns to staring at his phone. So much for us becoming the Fantastic Four. The Terrific Three it is!
A Midtown Comics employee promoting the upcoming Five Points Festival handed out Dunkin Doughnuts to anyone in line who wanted one. I didn’t think her box would reach our group, but a surprising number of people turned down the free doughnuts. Miko and I didn’t. Miko tells me she just wishes they handed out some coffee to go along with the free doughnut and free comics.
At around 10 to 8, Rob, one of the founders of Midtown Comics, comes down the line handing people tickets to ensure no one cut in at the last minute. He takes a few seconds to say hi to everyone waiting on the line and ask them how they are doing. In a world where the public at large tends to picture the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons when they think of comic book store owners, Rob in the antithesis of that. I have shopped at Midtown since the late 90s and he’s always been a friendly face.
The line starts moving right at 8 AM. The Midtown staff keeps everything orderly and before we know it, Dave, Miko, The Grunter and I are at the front of the line. A staff member hands me two big bags of comics. I thank him, make my way to the stairs leading up into the store proper, because especially on Free Comic Book Day you buy some comics. I look for David and Miko, but I’ve already lost track of them. I hope they had a good Free Comic Book Day.
Billy Henehan writes for The Beat. In his free time, he likes to hunt down foreign language reprints of Todd McFarlane Spider-Man comics.