How To Ruin Free Comic Book Day For Just About Everyone (But Especially Seven-Year-Old Children)
My nephew Connery is seven years old. And as his uncle, this is super duper exciting for me, because he’s Just About That Age™. That special age when he starts liking stuff, when movies like Star Wars and Transformers and The Avengers really start exciting him.
That makes me really jazzed because all the stuff I liked when I was his age, he’s starting to figure out, is really, really, really cool. One of those things is comic books. This past year, he started reading some titles that I’ve sent his way, and has fallen in love with Skyward and Hero Bear and the Kid.
This past weekend, the comic book world celebrated Free Comic Book Day, a day when comic shops across the nation give away titles — for free, as the name suggests — specifically geared to get new audiences into shops to discover the wonderful world of comics.
My sister took my nephew into their local shop to let him experience many firsts. His first visit to a comic shop, his first Free Comic Book Day, and his first time buying his own picks of books with his own allowance.
He was so excited! He had a friend with him, who was also experiencing all of these amazing firsts. And the two looked wide-eyed around the store as they saw titles for everything he likes. Star Wars! Transformers! The Avengers! All of these cool things he likes are actually comic books!
He picked those titles up with joy and excitement, and hopped in line with his friend and his mother. The lines on Free Comic Book Day can get long, because everyone gets very excited. It’s pretty much a holiday that all comic book fans love to celebrate. And here he was, celebrating his first.
When his turn in line came up, his mother — my sister — encouraged him to pull out his brand new wallet and pay the kind man behind the register for the comics. He fumbled a little getting it out… After all, he’s seven, and this was his first wallet with his first allowance that he was using to buy his first ever comics.
Behind them, two younger adult males began complaining. Loudly.
“Oh man, really? Come on…” said one.
“Really, she should just pay the guy, she should know there’s people in line waiting…” said the other.
“It’s not like they’re really fans of comics anyway,” said the first. “They’re just in here for the free stuff…”
“That kid probably can’t even read yet,” said the second.
They giggled like Beavis and Butthead as they talked about my sister like she wasn’t literally in front of them, complaining that a child was taking longer than they felt like waiting to buy comics.
This is complete bullshit.
Now, my sister is, after all, my sister. She’s grown up dealing with my big brother bullshit. So this kind of ribbing ordinarily wouldn’t be even a drop of water in the proverbial bucket. But, this was her son. And you do not screw with my sister’s kid, for any reason. And furthermore, this was a SEVEN-YEAR-OLD CHILD buying his first ever comic book.
So on behalf of new fans everywhere, she turned around and plainly stated “This is their first time buying comics in a comic book store, and they are excited because they saved up their own money. Thank you for being patient.”
The guys blushed and got quiet.
My nephew paid for his comics and was beyond excited to read them. The day had its intended effect…for him.
But for my sister, who used to frequent comic stores just as much as I did when I was a kid but hasn’t been in one in nearly fifteen years, this put a blemish on what was otherwise a great day in her kids’ budding geekdom.
Here were two jerks, acting like jerks, in a comic store. And unfortunately, this isn’t just a localized instance of just two jerks who happened to be in this one store this one day. In my experience and many others’ this is a far more common occurance than any of us like to admit.
And I know, because I used to be that guy. In fact, you may have read a very (in)famous piece of mine stating crap just like this.
I categorically admit, here and now, that that piece and my entire attitude behind it is bullshit.
I wrote that piece because, very frankly, I felt my identity as a person and as a fan was being violated because new fans, of any gender or age or demographic, hadn’t “paid their dues” the way I had. That’s the problem with validating your existence with external stuff. At some point someone takes it, or invites themselves to the party, and you feel violated.
You’ve confused being an expert in everyone else’s creations with being your own person. And now that everyone’s liking this stuff you find your identity as a person being diluted. You feel invaded. It’s unfair. Et cetera and so on.
But reality is, you’re NOT. You just FEEL that way. This stuff does not belong to you, anymore than it belonged to someone before you showed up and liked it. And if you can come to terms with that you will be a much happier person.
The time has come to realize it’s everyone’s stuff now. And the hard part is to realize that it’s always been.
Plus, getting exasperated with a child buying their first ever comic book is just plain shitty. If you can’t spare an extra two minutes to let an excited seven-year-old boy pull out his new wallet and pay for his first comic with his own money, you might be a bad person.
Fandom isn’t about being more of a fan than anyone else. Fandom is about loving the stuff you love. When someone else decides to check it out, that doesn’t LESSEN your love for it. It just multiplies it. There’s an old saying that art gets more valuable the more eyes that are on it. The same is true with just about anything.
The more people come into shops and buy comics, the more money there is for comic book publishers and distributors and editors and writers and artists and colorists and letterers. This is also true of comics-related movies and sci-fi and just about everything else.
Do you honestly think that The Avengers and Iron Man and Captain America could have been made so great in this day and age if the market for them hadn’t swelled to a point that justified the budget? No? Well then, let’s talk about that first Punisher movie (or, the other two for that matter).
There’s plenty to go around for everyone. And the more everyone gets to see, the more there will be.
Besides, there are these things called manners. And when someone decides to visit your house, you should know better than to be a crappy host. Comics and fandom are your house. Be polite when people come by and check them out.
On a much broader scale, when a seven year old child decides they want to pull out their brand new wallet and pay for comics with their own money, that moment is precious. You should be able, within yourself, to find that moment when it was you doing this at a grocery store turnstile or at your local comic shop or flea market.
There’s magic in this world we’ve all fallen in love with. Quit hoarding it. Share it. It just leads to more magic.