May 1, 2014

Free Comic Book Day back for 13th super year

Capes and cowls, Spandex and scowls will rule the day as superheroes in print and in person return for Free Comic Book Day at area shops this weekend.

Capes and cowls, Spandex and scowls will rule the day as superheroes in print and in person return for Free Comic Book Day at area shops this weekend.

It’s the 13th year for Free Comic Book Day, which always is held the first Saturday in May and coincides with the release of a blockbuster superhero movie – this year “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which opens today.

Locally, six stores from Manteca to Merced are participating, with a couple having special attractions beyond the giveaway of special-edition comic books.

Bonanza Books & Comics, at 2308 McHenry Ave. in Modesto, has been participating from the start. The event always is eye-catching, as it draws costumed “Star Wars” characters from the 501st Legion Central California Garrison, including Darth Vader, stormtroopers, Jedi Knights and bounty hunters.

Also expected to be on hand posing for photos and thrilling young fans are Marvel superheroes Black Widow, She-Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man.

But Bonanza owner Jeff Allen has learned to go with the flow when it comes to who’s going to show. “Wolverine will be Wolverine if his wife let him grow out the sideburns. If not, he’ll be a storm trooper. I get lots of stories like that,” said Allen. He added that several regular customers have asked if they can dress in costume and hang out for the day, and he said of course – anyone’s welcome to join the party.

That’s really what the day is – a celebration, Allen says. While the comic books are free to visitors, the comic shop owners buy them from publishers, and Allen said he doesn’t see much of a bump in new customers from the annual event. In fact, a lot of his regular customers steer clear that day because of the crowd, choosing to come back midweek to pick up the latest issues of the titles they read.

“It’s just a fun day,” he said, a chance to let artist friends demonstrate and maybe sell some artwork, to spend time with the family and friends who help staff the shop and guide traffic for the very busy event, and to see kids thrilled at meeting superheroes and get introduced to the print medium that spawned the movies and animated shows they love.

Those comic books, of course, are the real stars of the day. Titles vary by store, but those offered this year span age groups and interests, from Hello Kitty, SpongeBob and Uncle Scrooge to Power Rangers, Teen Titans and Transformers.

A couple of the titles may be the first introduction comic readers have to characters that populate another superhero movie opening this summer: “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The comic “Guardians of the Galaxy” introduces the characters, while “Rocket Raccoon” is a brief adventure of one of the group’s members.

At Bonanza, Free Comic Book Day runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The costumed characters will be on hand from about 10 to noon, and the artists from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (209) 529-0415. Learn more at www.bonanzabooks.net and www.freecomicbookday.com.

According to the Free Comic Book Day website, other participating comic book stores include:

• Krier’s Cards & Comics. 3900 Pelandale Ave., Suite 305, Modesto. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (209) 522-0511. www.kriers.com.
• Sky High Comics and Collectables, 120 W. Main St., Turlock. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (209) 250-2126. www.skyhigh-comics.com. Owner Ray Hannagan expects to have a few costumed superhero characters and artists on hand.
• Fantastic Collectibles & Gifts, 162 W. Center St., Manteca. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (209) 647-4651. www.fantasticcollectiblesmanteca.com. • Red Sky Comics, 617 W. Main St., Merced. Noon to 7 p.m. (209) 726-0667. www.redskycomics.com. There will be a couple of guest artists at the store, including Ramon Marcus Villalobos, who drew “What If? Age of Ultron #2: Iron Man” for Marvel Comics.
• Comics Plus, 1305 Center Ave., Suite B, Los Banos. Noon to 6 p.m. www.facebook.com/pages/Comics-Plus/123443397089.

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